Red Eye Chicago
Some say the women of pop culture are getting skinnier every day
Good luck finding body fat in Hollywood.
It’s no newsflash that women are skinny in Hollywood—by far skinnier than the 66 percent of Americans who qualify as overweight or obese.
Are they getting even skinnier? Or do we just read a lot more about them as celebrity rags and fashion mags chronicle their exploits, alternately holding them up for public ridicule when their bones stick out (Attention: Kate Bosworth! Mischa Barton! Nicole Richie!) and celebrating when they lose excess poundage.
Some observers believe that yes, women in Hollywood are shrinking, even more than in previous decades.
One person who has noticed that Hollywood women are skinnier than ever is casting director Joseph Middleton, who has cast films including “American Pie,” “Go” and the upcoming “Jumper.”
“ I can’t tell you how many times producers and directors have said, ‘Well, she’s a little heavy for camera,’ ” Middleton said. “I don’t think they’re saying, ‘We want these girls to be unhealthy,’ but they sure like that thinner version.”
Us magazine editor-in-chief Janice Min, another close observer of Hollywood’s mores, agrees that extreme thinness “has definitely become an issue.” Min says for many actresses, it has come to seem like a question of survival.
“Obviously, being a female celebrity, you’re in constant competition whether you want to believe it or not,” she said. “You’re competing for roles, parts, male attention and it’s a competition primarily involving looks.”
The rest of us, meanwhile, have gotten so used to it that we’ve stopped seeing it.
“It seems inevitable that the pursuit of the most perfect body you can achieve has consumed actresses,” Min said. “You don’t want to be the one actress whose photo is taken with two skinny actresses and you look like Shrek. Everyone’s eye has adjusted to the new reality that doesn’t reflect reality in the least.”
Perhaps it’s a sign of Hollywood’s readjusted eye that whenever an average-size woman—a Jennifer Hudson or an America Ferrera—bursts into the limelight, there’s the predictable magazine frenzy over “robust” women who still manage to be successful. Of course, in the cases of Hudson and Ferrara, their curves were specific to the roles they broke out in—in fact they became a shorthand for their character’s feistiness, for their willingness to defy the expected norms of their environments.
The shrinking of Hollywood is not, of course, universal. Casting director Joanna Colbert says the women she auditions— real actresses as opposed to MAWs (model actresses whatever)—don’t look “underfed. They just look like they go to the gym all day long. It’s just something that is pervasive in any business that has to do with how you look.”
At least one top manager points out that actresses who compete most in the weight realm appear to be the same ones who live in the tabloids.
“There’s a difference between that iconography and the working actors,” said the manager, who asked for anonymity. Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, Amber Tamblyn—they all have very lovely, appropriate body types. They don’t look like they’ve come out of a prison camp.”
The skinny-minnies, the manager said, tend to be “the pop celebrities in the axis of fashion and celebrity. Instead of the fake boobs of 15 years ago, there’s a whole generation obsessed with being thin.”
Other shifts in the last 15 years have put more pressure on actresses to be thinner. As more and more actresses sideline officially or unofficially as fashion models, more appear to adopt the aesthetic of the modeling industry, which prefers stick-like female figures because they highlight the clothes better.
Party girls also tend to have access to certain drugs that are known to cause weight loss. When Lindsay Lohan was arrested last month on suspicion of drunk-
en driving, police said they found cocaine in her pocket. Paris Hilton recently told Larry King that she takes Adderall for attention deficit disorder.
Both of these drugs often are used by women hoping to lose weight. Eating disorder expert Carolyn Costin, who has treated many Hollywood actresses, says she’s seen a rise in “the drugs used for attention deficit being crumpled up and snorted,” as well as more abuse of caffeinerelated diet drugs.
Min, who makes no apologies for making weight loss and gains a staple of Us magazine, points out that anyone would go a little nuts if pictures of themselves flooded the Web 24/7.
“Being a celebrity is a form of narcissism in itself. If you saw pictures of yourself any time of the day where you could study your body, wondering, ‘Is it toned enough?’—it could lead you to insanity,” she said. “In the same way that psychologists often describe celebrities as a bottomless pit of need, the desire to be thin is part of that. You can never have a perfect body. There is always one more part you can Botox, laser, tone, or do lipo.”