NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
I always love when a woman with an alternate body type rises to fame in film or television. When I say “alternate body type,” I’m referring to a woman who does not possess the standard Hollywood stick-thin figure embodied by most starlets today. I think it’s good for young girls to witness other types of bodies on the big or small screen, especially since most women are not naturally a size 2 or 4. It’s encouraging to see stars that have curvier bodies but are still regarded as beautiful by society at large.
One such woman who has recently risen to fame is Christina Hendricks, the lovely actress who plays Joan Holloway on “Mad Men.” Christina has flowing flame-colored hair, alabaster skin, glowing blue eyes, and a bombshell figure which evokes comparisons to Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Her shape is a pronounced hourglass and she proudly shows off all of her gorgeous curves, both on “Mad Men” and on the red carpet. She stands out not only because she’s stunningly beautiful, but also because she looks different from most of the other women we see in Hollywood today.
A Role Model?
Christina has been receiving a lot of attention and more of it has had to do with her body type than her acting talent. While this makes her uncomfortable in some ways, she is also happy when she learns that other women consider her to be a role model:
In the beginning, it was odd to have so much attention brought to my body type. I thought, ‘Uh-oh, brace yourself.’ But everyone has been so positive. During the first season, a woman came up to me at dinner and said, ‘I just want to thank you — watching you has made me proud of my body.’ I thought, What an amazing thing for someone to say! To make anyone feel good about themselves makes me feel good.
Unfortunately, not all of the attention focused on Hendricks’ body has been positive. Detractors have referred to her in unflattering ways, including the always dreaded (and completely inaccurate) term “fat.” After Ms. Hendricks wore a peach-hued ruffled Christian Siriano dress to the 2010 Golden Globes, the New York Times published an article which included the line, “You don’t put a big girl in a big dress.” And people wonder why the incidence of eating disorders is so high among teenage girls today… When a beautiful and slim actress is termed “fat,” it’s little wonder that young women feel they need to starve themselves in order to measure up!
Healthy Body Image
I’m sure that the negative press has adversely affected Christina Hendricks at times. How could it not? According to a recent article in Health Magazine, Christina has been fighting negativity about her weight all through her career. She’s had numerous agents tell her she needed to lose weight over the years, but that hasn’t changed her personal perception of her body. She seems to have a very healthy body image, as well as a generous dose of self-esteem. The following quotes from Christina illustrate this point:
I love my body as it is. People in the industry have been telling me to lose weight for years but I like the way I look. I give credit to my mom for helping me feel good about my appearance – for making sure I never felt embarrassed about my body, because she was never worried about looking too big.
Back when I was modeling, the first time I went to Italy I was having cappuccinos every day, and I gained 15 pounds. And I felt gorgeous! I would take my clothes off in front of the mirror and be like, ‘Oh, I look like a woman.’ And I felt beautiful, and I never tried to lose it, ’cause I loved it.
A Breath of Fresh Air…
Fortunately, many more people are celebrating Christina’s body than are criticizing it. I, for one, feel that she is a breath of fresh air in the Hollywood landscape. I look at her and I see a healthy woman, someone who looks like she eats regular meals instead of starving herself. I see a woman who is embracing her natural body type and making no apologies for it. I see someone who is unwilling to bow down to the unrealistic standards of the entertainment industry, yet has managed to cultivate a successful career nonetheless. I see a role model who has become such simply by insisting on being true to herself.
I think we need more diversity in terms of the types of bodies we see on television and in movies. I feel that some progress is being made because there are women like Christina Hendricks playing sex symbols on TV, actresses like Jennifer Lopez and Queen Latifah in leading film roles, and models like Crystal Renn gracing mainstream runways (even though she is termed “plus-sized” by the fashion industry). There is even a new situation comedy (“Mike & Molly”) about an overweight couple on CBS. So some boundaries are being crossed in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue. We may have a long way to go before a variety of body types of celebrated in our culture, but it’s nice to see steps being made in the right direction.
Hopes for the Future
I look forward to the day when a woman like Christina Hendricks will lauded as much for her talent as for her body. It is my hope that one day, it will be commonplace to see curvier women on television and we will no longer think twice about seeing someone who isn’t a size 2 walking a red carpet. I also look forward to the day when the incidence of eating disorders in our society is on the decline instead of on the rise.
While I am totally in favor of encouraging healthy lifestyles and combating the obesity epidemic in America, I also believe that we should foster body acceptance in young girls and women. True change always starts from a place of self-acceptance. We need to embrace what is before we can pursue constructive goals for the future. The impossible body ideals presented by Hollywood need to change. After all, I’ve read of numerous actresses who say that they diet constantly and feel hungry most of the time. This just isn’t right, and I think it’s high time for a change!
I would love to know your thoughts on body types in Hollywood. Who are your role models for beauty and healthy body image? What types of bodies would you like to see on television, movie screens, and red carpets?
- “NY Times Thinks Christina Hendricks is Fat” (Oh Now They Didn’t blog)
- “Christina Hendricks’ Measurements: Naked ‘I Look Like a Woman’” (cbsnews.com)
- “Christina Hendricks: Curvy, Confident, Gorgeous” (Health Magazine)
- “Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks on How to Embrace Your Curves” (Marie Claire Magazine)