Idol Chatter

katewinsletpic.jpgOver at Entertainment Weekly, a writer is now calling shenanigans on “super-skinny actresses who insist they eat like lumberjacks and never get off the couch.” The hook for this particular declaration is Kate Winslet’s lawsuit against the Daily Mail for libel, stemming from an article that “claimed that the star had underplayed the amount of exercise she needed to stay in shape.” That story was in response to a quote Winslet had given Elle: “I don’t go to the gym because I don’t have time, but I do Pilates workout DVDs for 20 minutes or more every day at home.”
EW writer Christine Spines used the story as a launchpad:

[…]at this point, it might be refreshing if she’d just cop to wanting to cut a super-fit figure and working her butt off to achieve her abs of steel. That might actually make her a healthier role model for the girls and women who use screen goddesses as a sure fire way to feel crummy about themselves. Wouldn’t the world of celebrity obsession be slightly less toxic if stars came clean about the actual money, effort, and time it takes to look so ravishing? […] I’m always more interested in stories of struggle and effort rather than the prodigies and natural-born virtuosos.

Personally, I’m with Christine. When I was growing up, I never wanted to hear how easy it was for other girls to get in shape, because it made me feel like there was something wrong with me for finding it difficult. The message should be, “It was hard, but I did it. And you can also do it, but it will also be hard.” But celebrities– who travel in an unreal world of privilege with personal assistants, chefs and trainers and are high-profile even when they don’t want to be– can usually reach fitness goals that the rest of us just can’t.
But today I also ended up having sympathy for the scrutiny that celebrities undergo, and how having a life in the spotlight doesn’t mean that you won’t struggle with your appearance. It came to me via RSS feed: extremely unflattering photos of first American Idol Kelly Clarkson (titled “Kelly Cartman,” a reference to the corpulent misanthropic, anti-Semitic kid on “South Park”), accompanied by the nastiest commentary from both the site’s writers and commenters trying to outsnark the original post. I’m so appalled, I don’t even want to link to it. The photos even had me wondering if there was such a thing as “reverse airbrushing.”

But whether these photos are an accurate portrayal of Kelly’s weight or just an aberration of bad angles and lighting, I don’t care– it doesn’t change my perception of her talent. But I realize I am not the norm, and perhaps commenters, like the ones who scroll through all the classic fat jokes about sandwiches and being assigned your own area code, are.
Celebrity stories put body image in a confusing light for anyone struggling with weight and body image issues. When a celebrity claims to be a big eater with a minimal workout routine, that sends a message. When nasty comments dominate an online posting about a bad series of photographs, that sends a message. And even though I’m in my 30s, sometimes I still feel for today’s teenage girls, and wonder what kinds of messages are getting through to them, living in today’s culture of celebrity.
Kate Winslet at

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