7 times women in Hollywood pushed back against the pressure to lose weight


It's no secret that actresses are regularly asked to lose weight so they can better fit the absurd body standards that still pervade Hollywood. But they're not the only women in the entertainment business who feel that pressure.

Shonda Rhimes, the creator of long-running shows like Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, wrote a newsletter about her weight loss, and how she hates that it's automatically linked to attractiveness.

"Women I barely knew gushed. And I mean GUSHED. Like I was holding-a-new-baby-gushed. Only there was no new baby. It was just me. In a dress. With makeup on and my hair all did, yes. But … still the same me.
But even more disconcerting was that all these people suddenly felt completely comfortable talking to me about my body. Telling me I looked 'pretty' or that they were 'proud of me' or that 'wow, you are so hot now' or 'you look amazing!' After I lost weight, I discovered that people found me valuable. Worthy of conversation. A person one could look at. A person one could compliment. A person one could admire."

Rhimes hits the problem right on the head — thinner and fitter equals better looking in the public eye, especially in Hollywood where looks seem to matter most. While no one requested Rhimes lose weight, she's obviously not immune to the pressures other women in Hollywood — and everywhere — regularly face.

Even though body image isn't an easy subject to open up about, that hasn't stopped Rhimes. Regardless of her reason for doing it, it's inspiring, because it affects everyone, not just people in entertainment. Projecting an unrealistic body image as the standard of beautiful can trigger low self-esteem and eating disorders in children and adults.

Her candor about the ugly side of weight loss makes her one of a handful of women who are getting real about Hollywood's unhealthy obsession with skinniness.

Here are seven other women in entertainment who pushed back on body expectations.

1. Viola Davis

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When Viola Davis won the first ever #SeeHer Award at the 2017 Critics Choice Awards, her speech directly addressed her struggle with body image and acceptance.

Interestingly, the example she gave had to do with her role on Shonda Rhimes' How to Get Away With Murder, but her message is no doubt one with which Rhimes would agree.

"You know, when I was handed Annalise Keating, I said, 'She’s sexy, she's mysterious, you know?' I'm used to playing women who gotta gain 40 pounds and have to wear an apron. So I said, 'Oh God, I gotta to lose weight, I gotta learn how to walk like Kerry Washington in heels, you know, I gotta lose my belly.' And then I asked myself, 'Well, why do I have to do all that?'
I truly believe that the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, and I just recently embraced that at 51."

2. Betty Gilpin

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Looking at Betty Gilpin, it's hard to imagine she grapples with the size and shape of her body. But, thanks to a piece she wrote for Glamour, she made it clear that even girls who look "perfect" to the outside world can be screaming on the inside.

Gilpin spent her adolescence and much of her adulthood wanting to disappear inside her body, which was hard to do when she "gained 30 pounds of thigh, booty and certified American jugs."

When she started acting, her body image was always on her mind, largely because of the often sexist working environments.

"Sometimes a TV set can be a shame-and-fear obstacle course for an actress. Ten points if the sexist-gargoyle producer tries to flirt with you after you've gone through hair and makeup, so you don't disgust him. Don't make eye contact with the Philly cheesesteaks they bring out for the crew."

Then she got cast on GLOW and everything changed.

"I saw power and care together for the first time. Seeing women possess those two things simultaneously was a huge lesson for me ... This created the constant sense of: You are loved and celebrated — and now that you're comfortable, please give us your goddamn guts and soul so we can make the best thing possible."

3. Amy Schumer

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Amy Schumer also struggled with her body image throughout her life. However, being a comedian, the issue was front and center on stage in front of a live audience all the time. Still, she's not afraid to talk bluntly about it, as she did with host Maria Shriver in an on-camera interview in 2015.

"It's an emotional thing. It's been a struggle for me my whole life, and especially just being in the entertainment industry. Standing on a stage in front of people, I can't perform my best or be confident if I'm not sure — if I'm pulling at something [I'm wearing]. Sometimes I would just want to throw in the towel and be like, 'I'm not gonna go do standup tonight.'"

As such, she's made it her mission to dispel the myth that everyone in Hollywood is naturally, or comfortably, skinny. She might go a little far sometimes, but hey, that's a comedian's prerogative.

4. Kirsten Dunst

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When Sophia Coppola's film The Beguiled started to garner attention at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, a story emerged about how she asked Kirsten Dunst to lose weight for it. However, the reason it got so much attention is actually a good one, because of how Dunst handled her director and friend's request.

"I'm eating fried chicken and McDonald's before work," Dunst told Variety with regards to filming in the South. "So I'm like, 'We have no options! I'm sorry I can't lose weight for this role.'"

While Dunst wasn't necessarily trying to make a statement with what she said, her casual decline definitely earned body positivity points. That said, the conversation might not have been so easy if her director hadn't been a friend and female.

5. Emma Thompson

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Thompson made a point of standing by Hayley Atwell, her 25-year-old co-star in Brideshead Revisited, when producers told the already tiny young actress she needed to lose weight.

This came out when Thompson spent an evening with Atwell during which she refused to eat anything. When Thompson asked why, Atwell explained the producers told her she had to slim down for the role. Infuriated by this, Thompson called the movie's producers and threatened to quit until they took the weight loss requirement off the table. Miramax clearly didn't want to mess with the Oscar winner and they immediately backpedaled.

6. Jennifer Lawrence

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Not even Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence is safe from body shame in Hollywood, but she's refused to let it mess with her career. In a 2013 Harper's Bazaar UK interview, she said someone told her she needed to lose weight or she could be fired from an acting gig.

"They brought in pictures of me where I was basically naked, and told me to use them as motivation for my diet," Lawrence explained. "It was just that."

While she didn't divulge what she said in response to this unnamed person, she told the Harper Bazaar UK reporter, "If anybody even tries to whisper the word 'diet,' I'm like, 'You can go fuck yourself.'"

She's obviously not someone who's ever going to stand for body shaming.

7. Jennifer Lopez

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J-Lo's curves, along with being a triple-threat performer, are part of what make her who she is but that still didn't prevent her manager from telling her she had to trim them down. She explained the situation in a feature interview with Glamour back in 2011, and how she handled it like a boss.

"That was so mean and closed-minded. I was like: 'No, this is who I am and this is the type of woman that I grew up with and it's beautiful. There's no reason to be anybody but myself.'"

She fired him after that.

More and more women are speaking out against these ridiculous body expectations and the sexist double-standard that makes them more susceptible to criticism.

If statements likes these continue to be made, it will be much harder for a "perfect body" image to exist.

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