The media cops the flack but what about celebrities themselves?
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, Hollywood it-girl Jennifer Lawrence revealed she was going to get fired if she didn’t lose weight for a movie role. She refused, telling producers to stick their ultimatum where the sun don’t shine. In an interview with Yahoo, the 23-year-old spoke out against the media’s portrayal of women’s bodies.
Lawrence refers to the way magazines often retouch a picture until the person is barely recognisable. Miranda Kerr came under fire for posting an airbrushed picture of herself showing a teeny tiny waist, not realising the original had been published earlier. It’s not just magazines – there’s a furore over Kim Kardashian’s digitally altered waist in Kanye’s latest film clip for his new single Bound 2.
It’s easy to blame the media but body image is multi-faceted and there’s no one culprit. The problem is like a giant spider web with many silk strands tangling into each other. Not many look at the role celebrities play in this web. While many like Jennifer Lawrence are happy to speak out and blame the media, there are also many who are happy to endorse the latest diet or extreme exercise workout.
It’s no secret that news outlets and magazines are often only able to publish “approved” images – ie ones that have already been retouched by the celebrity’s team. For us, seeing these bodies highlighted as “ideal” affects us mentally (like body bashing) and physically (as we try to follow suit and slim down too).
While it’s easy to look at pictures and see a “perfect” body, what we don’t see is how much it messes with people’s health. “Losing lots of weight quickly is really taxing on bodies and causes a great deal of stress to major organs, as well as wreaking havoc on their skin elasticity,” says nutritionist Pip Reed from flamingopink.com.au.
“It can also really mess with their metabolism, making it increasingly difficult to control their weight.”
It also becomes problematic when celebrities have to slim down for a movie role and all we see is the the final result taken out of context. We barely hear that the weight loss wasn’t because they weren’t happy with their body, it was for work. Take Beyonce, she went on an extreme lemon juice and cayenne pepper diet in order to lose 20 pounds (9 kilos) in less than two weeks for her role in Dreamgirls back in 2006. We bet no one knew she lost the weight for a movie, but most girls could recount what was in that juice and had contemplated drinking it, if not drinking it altogether.
Oscar winner Natalie Portman also shed 20 pounds from her already petite frame with intensive five to eight hours of training a day for her lead role in Black Swan.
The effects of this on us as consumers of media cannot be underestimated. According to Pip Reed, “Expectations of body image becomes disillusioned, this in turn could lead to body dysmorphia or anorexia,” she told The Newsroom.
Psychologist Richard Keegan from University of Canberra agrees. “Seeing a time lapse film of an actor losing weight might not induce much reaction or feeling at all, but stretch it out over weeks and months and accompany it with in depth commentary and gossip, it can easily start to feel like weight and body shape really matter, especially if your friends all read the same coverage and talk about it.”
So, how can we become more confident with our bodies. How can we stop ourselves from looking at a photo of a celebrity’s body and thinking, “Ugh, I’m so hideous. That’s it, strict diet starts right now”?
Keegan suggests that it can be as simple as changing your conversations. “Next time each of us wants to talk about an actor’s incredible weight loss (or gain), we might want to stop and consider if who we’re talking to really needs to hear that conversation,” Keegan told The Newsroom.
Rather than talking about celebrity weight issues with your friends, talk about your plans for the weekend, your work – anything! This will go a long way in helping you like the reflection in the mirror without having to give in to fad diets or photoshop.
Don’t let the drastic measures most celebrities take for Hollywood in regards of body image – whether it be losing weight or photo editing – affect your expectations of your own body. Channel your inner “Girl on Fire” (AKA Katniss Everdeen, AKA Jennifer Lawrence) and tell the diet police to “go f**k themselves”.
Remember the wise words from American comedienne Jessimae Peluso, “You will never look like the girl in the magazine. The girl in the magazine doesn’t look like the girl in the magazine.” – Heba Dandachi