Mind your own beeswax, not who’s fat

Hollywood commentators choose to dissect stars’ weights instead of their work, revealing a startling problem: No one minds his or her own business.

Hollywood commentators choose to dissect stars’ weights instead of their work, revealing a startling problem: No one minds his or her own business.

We’re a few months into a new year and already finished with one season: award show season – but several smug Hollywood personalities continue to remind us that the tradition of criticizing the body size of other media figures has not faded.

Picture 5

Comedian Joan Rivers, who normally tears any and all actors’ red carpet fashion to shreds, was somewhat supportive of Oscar-nominated actress, Gabourey Sidibe, during her E! Fashion Police special.

“All the jokes going around about this girl, that they shot Avatar against her – so mean, so mean,” Rivers said during the special.

But her support didn’t stretch to the entire Hollywood community. Rivers still felt the need to point out that Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet has “a weight problem” and that pop singer Mariah Carey looked like she was “about to explode” in her red-carpet dress, followed by, “somebody needs to tell her that she’s chubby.”

Sidibe, like people of similar body sizes, is aware of her larger body size. Society’s need to continuously remind those people of this fact is not only disturbing, but very telling of our society’s often unnecessary concern for the weight – or other issues – of other people.

The Monday after the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, shockjock Howard Stern made it clear that Precious actress Sidibe was not immune to weight criticism.

“That’s the most enormous, fat black chick I’ve ever seen,” Stern said on his Sirius satellite radio show. “Everyone’s pretending she’s a part of show business, and she’s never going to be in another movie. She should have gotten the best actress award because she’s never going to have another shot. What movie is she gonna be in?”
But a week earlier, Showtime cast Sidibe in its new show, The Big C.

The criticism of people deemed overweight becomes even more complicated when establishments enforce policies that isolate and harm people for their body sizes. Last month, director and actor Kevin Smith said Southwest Airlines kicked him off a flight for being overweight.

“Dear @SouthwestAir – I know I’m fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?” a post from his Twitter account reads.

Southwest Airlines indeed has a customer-size policy, which has been enforced for 29 of its 38 years in business. The company created the policy because passengers did not have “full access to the seat purchased due to encroachment by a large seatmate whose body extended into the neighboring seat,” according to a description of the policy on the airline’s Web site.

Customers “unable to lower both armrests and/or who compromise any portion of adjacent seating” are expected to purchase additional seating. If a customer has a discounted fare for advanced purchase, the policy states, then the second seat is sold at the same discount fare. If a customer purchased a low, unrestricted full-fares seat, the second seat will be sold at the child’s fare.

The fact that customers must purchase additional seating, no matter the price, is humiliating. Even more humiliating for the passenger in question and for our society is that policies like this exist.

Rivers’ and Stern’s harsh criticisms and Southwest’s policy translate to this: We as individuals cannot be content simply worrying about our own bodies. Instead, we criticize others for their body types.

The obsession with weight – even when the intention is noble, i.e., losing it for health reasons – is creating a culture that encourages phobias of any body type that is not thin or “normal.”

Celebrity gossip blogger and TV personality Perez Hilton recently defended Sidibe in a post

“As long as she is healthy, vital and above all, happy, we don’t care how much weight she gains or loses,” Hilton wrote.
For Sidibe and everyone – regardless of body size – health, vitality and happiness should be all that matters.

Josh Fernandez can be reached at josh@temple.edu.


  1. Here’s how you solve the fat guy sitting in his seat and half your own problem…box the seats with armrest sections that don’t retract and create a “box” for you to sit in. Can’t fit? Then you have to pay for a special row seat that has retractable seats. Sidibe Cinnabon and Kevin Smith ate their way to an extra seat. I didn’t force that Twinkie into their mouth, so they should not complain when I don’t want to sit next to them rubbing their waddle on my arm.

  2. The fact is these people are leading unhealthy lives. They have addictions to food. Do we tell heroin addicts, its ok your great the way you are and you should just keep being you? no, we get them help and try and make them better. people that are not just, a little overwight, but morbidly obese are a serious health risk to themselves. no one will tell you its healthy to weigh 350 lbs. like Gabby. and as to the point that she won’t have a hollywood career, she most likely will not work that much. Of course she has a few roles now, she was just nominated for an oscar, of course theres going to be something now, but in a few years, what will she do? how many roles for 350 lb. people are there in movies? at the oscars, was there anyone even close to being that fat in the room? no there wasn’t, and those are the people who are succesful in hollywood and who work all the time. name one moribdly obese actress who had more than one or two character roles….. you can’t. and the point is the way she lives her life, eating whenever and whatever she wants and not exercising and being that weight, she will probably be dead sooner than later.

  3. get on a fucking treadmill !! fucking people are now making excuses for being lazy and unhealthy.. unreal.

  4. People become overweight for a variety of reasons, stress, genetics, illness but also eating disorders to say its automatically their fault isn’t justified.

    I personally am not and I think that requiring someone to purchase two airline seats isn’t censoring their free speech of body image/physical space, its just regulating it. I don’t think manufacturers should keep expanding their products for our expanding waistlines. Just as news media shouldn’t give their audience celebrity and other fluff news or even keep writing to a 5th grade reading level. We should encourage an positive alternative that isn’t about making people who are obese skinny but helping them manage their life at a reasonable size which may still be “plus sized”.

  5. It continues to astound me that so few people acknowledge the gendered nature of these comments about Gabby’s weight and alleged health risk. There are also, remember, fat male actors and comics in the world. I can’t recall any disucussions like this about any of them. How much does Cedric the Entertainer weigh? How much did Biggie Smalls weigh? (Jamie Foxx’s obnoxious “Notorious Precious” comment illustrated perfectly the gender-based double standard at work here: Biggie used his weight as a personal trademark, even trading on it for his stage name. As a man, he was allowed to do that, and we all went along with the joke without thinking twice.)

    Certainly there were few, if any, such discussions about Jackie Gleason or Orson Welles (both of whom lived into their 70s, by the way, and both of whom found –or created for themselves– a wide variety of roles to play over the course of their careers).

    Yes, there are heatlh risks associated with obesity. And I’m sure that if Gabby finds it necessary for her health, she’ll make the necessary changes. But fatness is not necessarily a death sentence. Aretha is still with us, gracing us with her music; her contemporary Solomon Burke (who weighs about 400 pounds these days) is also still working and souinding great. As I mentioned, both Welles and Gleason lived pretty long lives; ditto, if I’m not mistaken, Shelly Winters.

    Why don’t we wait to see when –or if– Gabby finds that her body is telling her to make some changes. Then we can wish her all the best in her attempts to do what she needs to to in order to stay healthy and strong. It’s her acting talent that “we the people” should be concerned about.

    Personally, I’m more concerned about Oprah’s recent comments that Gabby’s “snarky” behavior at the Ocars created some negative buzz about her. As much as I admire Gabby, that “giggly girly-girl” routine of hers has gotten on my nerves, and her public displays of her various “crushes” have beome embarrassments. She needs to project an image of greater maturity and dignity if she wants to really be a role model for young women, whether fat OR thin. And again, I’m saying that as an admirer and a supporter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.