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New crop of fat actresses

December 4, 2012

We live in a world where “Mad Men” actress Christina Hendricks got mad at a reporter who called her full-figured because she is curvy. We are part of a culture where singer and actress Jennifer Hudson received more praise for getting skinnier as a Weight Watchers’ spokesperson than for winning an Oscar for her performance in “Dreamgirls.” In one of her Weight Watchers commercials, Hudson even claims that losing weight has been her biggest accomplishment. At least there ARE curvier women out there now.

Growing up, there were almost NO fat chicks out there acting on TV.

Shaking that size in Hairspray

Shaking that size in Hairspray.

I mean Ricki Lake in Hairspray was revolutionary because she was fat and she could dance right?

Nia Vardalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Nia Vardalos

The same with the My Big Fat Greek Wedding actress, Nia Vardalos. She was sexy as hell and curvy to boot.

Rosamme Barr and Rosie O'Donnell on the same stage.

Roseanne Barr and Rosie O’Donnell share the same stage.

There was Rosie O’Donnell and Roseanne Barr as well, but they were comedians with TV shows, not “actresses” — always someone to be laughed at or ridiculed.

But that was it. No “serious” actresses, no one my age, no one under, say, the age of 35ish. Cathy Bates can act, but is she a “role model” for a teen or 20-something?

Change was gradual, but it was there. The type of roles available for fat women started evolving. We stopped being just the fat friend, the funny fatty, or someone to be pitied. We stopped just being older and being mommy, or every other stereotypical fat role, and just became a character.

Carmyn Manheim in the Practice.

Camryn Manheim

First it was Camryn Manheim. (I know, I know, it was the late 90s, but, hey, to me that was where my childhood ended and my “adulthood”  began. I had to draw the line somewhere.  Don’t you judge me.)

She was a serious actress. With a love interest. In a law show/office setting.  Powerful, not a buffoon.

At the time, I was in college and a hippie, so I wasn’t really into movies or TV (other than “The Simpsons” and The Big Lebowski, that is), but I do remember the fact that Manheim’s character in “The Practice” existed got me excited when I heard it through the Body Acceptance groups I frequented.

Queen Latifa

Queen Latifah

Another 90s (and on)  fat fashion icon who can sing and act to boot is Queen Latifah. I have always personally looked up to how she dresses and carries herself. She happens to have my exact body type (minus her lovely bronze skin), so I try to emulate how she puts her outfits together. I LOVE that she is a CoverGirl model and still plus-sized.

Melissa McCarthy

Melissa McCarthy

Though I may have issues with the writing on “Mike and Molly” (waaaaaaay too many gratuitous fat jokes for my taste),  I really love seeing Melissa McCarthy on TV in a role as a real woman. A real fat woman. With a romance, who falls in love, gets romantic, even KISSES her also-fat husband on national TV. I think this kind of stuff is important to see. Fully two-thirds of the US is overweight or obese and we are NOT represented on TV. But there are, like, seven fat characters on TV shows. Something is wrong there.

Melissa’s take on body image is interesting:

I have a four and a half year-old and a 19 month, and I want them to be confident, strong, happy, healthy women and define themselves by their actions and what they do, and how they treat other people.

I’ve been up and down. I’ve been much thinner since my second baby. I’m still working on it. It’s a work in progress.

I hope I wake up at, like, 94 pounds. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

There’s so many other things to worry about. I still worry about it, but I think, my kids are healthy, I’ve got a great husband, and I go to work every day and do what I want.

Rebel Wilson

Rebel Wilson

Australian born Rebel Wilson has blown away comic and moviegoers alike with her hilariously nuanced portrayal of Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect. Since coming to the US, she has packed four movies into two years, done voices for another, and is writing and staring in a TV show called “Super Fun Night,” produced by Conan O’Brien.

She doesn’t speak much about body issues in Hollywood. She did say that once she began pursuing an acting career in Australia, she noticed her “more glamorous actress-type” friends booking jobs when she was not — even though, Wilson says, “I thought I was killing it on stage.”

She went to see an agent for a meeting. “He said, ‘Well, you’re not going to get a job on Home and Away’ as a bikini beach babe,” she said, referring to the popular Australian soap opera that has launched the career of such Aussie actors as Heath Ledger, Chris Hemsworth and Isla Fisher.

Now “Saturday Night Live” is opening doors for fat women in comedy, even though 2012 is embarrassingly late in the game. This is new ground for the sketch show and it’s kind of a big deal.

Aidy Bryant joins SNL

Aidy Bryant

SNL hired a new girl named Aidy Bryant, a Second City alum who just happens to be fat. Though SNL has long showcased the work of funny fat men like Chris Farley, Horatio Sanz, and Kenan Thompson, Bryant is the show’s first-ever fat female comedian. YAY!

In 2000, Tina Fey had to lose 30 lbs before hosting “Weekend Update,” and just a few years ago it was rumored that Casey Wilson was asked to leave SNL because she didnt lose enough weight between seasons. Cut to three years later and SNL can finally have an actual fat woman play the roles written for fat women. Finally! And so far it’s NOT all just fat jokes about how stupid, slow, slovenly or greedy she is either!

Gabourey Sidibe at the oscars.

Gabourey Sidibe

Gabourey Sidibe  burst onto the scene in 2009 with her portrayal of Precious. She is one of nine African-American actresses to be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for that portrayal. She has steadily worked since then in all sorts of roles, including movies from Tower Heist to 7 Psychopaths. She is bubbly and outgoing, and very secure in her self and body image:

I learned to love myself, because I sleep with myself every night and I wake up with myself every morning, and if I don’t like myself, there’s no reason to even live the life. I love the way I look. I’m fine with it. And if my body changes, I’ll be fine with that.

What other actresses (or actors for that matter; although fat men have always been on TV more than fat women) on the scene recently have YOU seen? Who makes you smile just for BEING on the big or little screen?

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2012 5:53 pm

    Not an actor, but she’s gotten a lot of screen time lately: Beth Ditto, the lead singer of the band Gossip. She’s a musician and a fashion mogul, and she is absolutely kickass.

    Someone else who makes me smile, even though they’re not biologically female? Latrice Motha’ F#ckin’ Royale. She’s a drag queen from Miami who was on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and I just respect her so much. She went through a whole lot with her family, she was in prison for some time, but hell. Her battle cry is “Large and in charge, chunky yet funky.” I have a gif on my tumblr from her where she says that being big is not an excuse for failure. It’s just not. I love anyone who’s comfortable with themselves, but Miss Latrice is an inspiration for me.

    • December 4, 2012 5:55 pm

      Large and in charge, chunky yet funky

      i think i am adopting that as my motto.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      December 20, 2012 6:35 am

      Agreed, love them too. I love drag queens in general. They’re so bold and brassy, so the opposite of me. It’s inspirational to watch them do their thing and say fuck what everyone else thinks.

  2. Jen permalink
    December 4, 2012 9:21 pm

    Avid follower-first time commenter

    As much as I enjoying seeing bodies onscreen that even remotely look like mine, I have a hard time getting attached to fat actresses. I never know which one will become the next diet spokesperson, and lose a ton of weight. They always seem to disappear from the spotlight after that. Have you noticed? You see them in diet commercials but not practing and perfecting their art…I don’t want fat and conflicted; I want fat and proud. I want a role model. A little off topic, but I was looking through People at my hairdressers, and it was one of those dress for your body type kind of articles. I got so angry when the word “forgiving” was used to describe a style suitable for Queen Latifah. She’s a beautiful woman; what the heck does forgiving have to do with it?

    • Kerasi permalink
      January 29, 2013 8:10 am

      I find myself disappointed a lot by women in the media who have, at one time, embrassed their curves and then, at another, decided what they really wanted was to lose weight. They talk about how they were in denial when they were spouting all of that size acceptance stuff. So then I become perplexed; should I take them off of my role model list (yes), should I only look up to their pre-purposeful weight loss selves (??), or should I just move on from them completely? I admit, I totally understand where you are coming from; however, I also understand these are women who have not yet gained the strength to stand up to the societal pressures that the media spotlight has placed on them. Still, I question the motives, and the internal struggle continues…

  3. Lauren C. permalink
    December 5, 2012 3:00 am

    I’m right there with you! I loved seeing Camryn Manheim, every week. She (her character) was smart & living her life like everyone else. To a fat girl in college, toying with the idea of law school, that was REALLY something! Queen Latifah is simply too fabulous for words!! I really liked her on living single, a plus size woman living a nice life. Her performance in Chicago was stunning. I wish Kirstie Alley would be in more things than WW commercials. I like Mike &Molly (though I have noticed the number of fat jokes being ramped up, too) a real woman who is about her daily life.
    Thanks for reminding me of these great actresses & shows! Here’s to a new year & hopefully a year with more fat actresses! We should be better represented on TV!

  4. December 5, 2012 8:03 am

    Queen Latifah is pretty awesome. She radiates such confidence and positivity on screen. I love her as a Cover Girl.

    On another note, Ms Hendricks makes me wonder about her. She got mad at being called full figured, as if that is such a bad thing. Also, does she think she’s skinny? Her dresses often look too tight but maybe she does that on purpose so her boobs will stick out more. Or maybe she is just in denial that she’s full figured.

  5. December 7, 2012 4:25 pm

    Erylin, Great post!! I’m wondering if you had seen this article in the New York Times, “Female Stars Step Off the Scale” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/arts/television/women-on-tv-step-off-the-scale.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  6. December 28, 2012 10:01 pm

    What about Nikki Blonsky of Hairspray fame?

  7. Tracy Rydzy, MSW, LSW permalink
    March 30, 2013 12:59 pm

    Reblogged this on Oh What a Pain in the… and commented:
    Finally Hollywood is catching up

  8. March 30, 2013 11:40 pm

    love this! in my case i have come to realize that most people don’t think a fat person can be sick. you are only really ill if you are stick thin. i have a terminal illness and i told someone who had this opinion ( i thought) maybe i won’t die since i am not “tragic” looking.

    thanks for posting this.

    • embrace permalink
      January 31, 2014 9:55 pm

      Don’t forget Cecily Strong and Vanessa Bayer. SNL seems to really have shifted their criteria from attractiveness to talent. I think it’s a smart move.

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