It’s no secret that Hollywood demands a lot from its performers, mostly from its ladies. Women in the profession often tell stories of the demands placed upon them by executives who want the starlets to alter their appearance. From fad diets to cocaine diets to full blown eating disorders to weight loss sponsorships and plastic surgery, it appears that some women in the industry feel the pressure so immensely that they are choosing to conform in ways that are unnatural and potentially harmful to their bodies.
Increasingly, women in the industry are speaking out about the destructive narratives that pervade Hollywood. This past week, three mega-talented artists spoke candidly about their struggles with their appearance in relation to Hollywood standards, which they all feel don’t allow women to be themselves — physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
In an interview for ELLE magazine, for its annual Hollywood issue, Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer talked about being bullied by a producer who clearly didn’t respect her as an human:
“Early on I had to stand up to a producer – I won’t say who, but he is famous, famous. He dressed me down in a crowded office. I told him right there in front of a hundred people, ‘You don’t know me well enough to use that tone’ … And then I ran to the bathroom and cried like a baby. But he never addressed me that way again. And he is known as a yeller.”Spencer’s situation is certainly not unique as many people across all industries can attest to their boss yelling at them or a co-worker, but there is no excuse to belittle a person, whether it’s in public or private. Spencer sucked it up and continued to show dignity in the face of hostility although it will probably happen again since Hollywood normalizes chain of command abuse when depicting war, business, and sports — a discourse rooted in efficiency, conformity, and violence.
After appearing in Precious, Gabourey Sidibe undoubtedly is a reference point in the black community for everything opposite of attractive in a woman: fat, black, intelligent, and eloquent. Speaking openly about her weight — which is rare — at the 2012 Women In Entertainment (WIE) Symposium in New York, Sidibe explained how her upbringing helped her prepare for her breakout role and with the hoopla in the aftermath:
“I didn’t really get to grow up hearing that I was beautiful a lot, or that I was worth anything nor did I grow up seeing myself on TV. Then at some point when I was 21 or 22 I just decided that life wasn’t worth living if I wasn’t happy with myself so I just took all the steps that I could to figure out how to love myself and become confident. Truthfully speaking if I hadn’t found this person before that movie [Precious] I wouldn’t have even be in that movie.”Seeing herself on the cover of magazines have been a gift and a curse for the 29-year-old Oscar-nominated actress. Gabby actually voiced her concern with untrue, salacious headlines, stating that they, sometimes, can make her feel insecure:
“People see me as a confident person but I get shaken a lot, especially being in this business. A few weeks ago I was on vacation and I went into a CVS and as I’m paying I see a picture of myself on the cover of a magazine and they’re guesstimating what my weight is? The headline was ‘Gabourey Sidibe 250 pounds’.”Keeping her cool, Gabby shrugged the incident off, but how many other people who may see themselves in Gabby, or in her current role as Andrea Jackson in The Big “C,” and not know how to heal themselves healthily. But Gabby wrapped up her insightful comments with a little hope for folks who are going through life without any constructive ways of dealing with weight issues:
“I have to keep going and living my life, so when things like that upset me I have to find things that build my confidence back up. Because I don’t want to wait for work I want to make work.”Unfortunately, most people think that bigger women are the only ones dealing with body issues. Contrary to popular beliefs, even a fashion icon and widely recognized “beautiful” woman (they are all beautiful in this writer’s opinion, hence the quotations) can feel the vitriol of Hollywood executives.
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