Being a role model doesn’t mean looking like a model — and these actresses, singers, and comedians know it. They’re working to break down our norms of how women should look, with honest talk about being healthy, finding true happiness, and the mind-boggling amount of work (and makeup artists, and personal trainers, and Photoshop) that goes into creating the Hollywood version of female beauty. Check out some of our favorite body image quotes from 14 amazing women.
1. Jennifer Lawrence
“Why is humiliating people funny? I get it, I do it too. We all do it. … But I think when it comes to the media, the media needs to take responsibility for the effect that it has on our younger generation, on these girls that are watching these television shows and picking up how to talk and how to be cool. … So then all of a sudden being funny is making fun of the girl that’s wearing an ugly dress.
And the word fat! I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV. I mean, if we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”
As she showed in the Barbara Walters interview quoted above, Jennifer Lawrence is the opposite of a celeb you love to hate — if anything, she’s the star everybody loves to love. Yet another reason to love her is her regular insistence that Hollywood be held accountable for the kinds of messages it conveys about size, beauty, and femininity. She famously refused to lose weight for The Hunger Games, instead focusing on working out and getting strong — and she caught flack for it from critics (yes, female as well as male). The New York Times wrote that Lawrence’s “womanly figure makes a bad fit for a dystopian fantasy about a people starved into submission.” What does J-Law have to say to that? She told Elle, “I’m never going to starve myself for a part … I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.'” For a star who’s beloved for her ability to laugh at herself, she takes her position as a potential role model seriously — all the more reason to love her.
“I love food and hate exercise. I don’t have time to work out… I don’t want to be on the cover of Playboy or Vogue. I want to be on the cover of Rolling Stone or Q. I’m not a trendsetter, I’m a singer. I’d rather weigh a ton and make an amazing album… my aim in life is never to be skinny.”
Adele doesn’t pull punches when it comes to taking down exes in her music, and she doesn’t have time for body critics either. As it turns out, her success has landed her the covers of Rolling Stone and British music mag Q… as well as Vogue, Elle, and Cosmopolitan. Adele’s uncompromising attitude and belief in her talents has definitely worked out for her.
3. Amber Riley
“Hollywood is a very hard place to be in. It really is. Being the person that I am, you know, being the size that I am, being a woman, being a black woman, there’s not a lot of roles for us. … I was being offered the girl who sits in the corner and, you know, eats all day, the girl who wanted to commit suicide ’cause she was fat. It was never anything that I felt had a good ending. I never wanted to play a character that hated herself. I wanted people to know that those aren’t the only kind of roles for women like me, normal girls. Going to the auditions, and hearing the casting director say ‘you need to lose a little weight,’ I didn’t understand why people couldn’t accept me for who I was. … I’m not gonna conform and hurt myself and do something crazy to be a size 2.”
She’s known for playing the uber-confident Mercedes on Glee, but before landing that role Amber Riley had given up on Hollywood and decided, with the support of her parents, to go back to being a regular high school student. Luckily for us, she eventually decided to try again and found a role that let her shine without having to compromise.
4. Kate Winslet
“I resent that there is an image of perfection that is getting thinner and thinner. I hope that in some small way I’m able to say, ‘I’m a normal person; I’m doing all right. I’ve got a lovely husband and children, and I didn’t lose weight to find those things, and those things are what should be important.’
This Brit has always been open about her struggles with body image and comparing herself to other Hollywood actresses. Her words are not only important criticisms of the standards set out for female celebs; Winslet also wants to be sure she’s sending the right message to her own daughter. “As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body.’ … So I make sure to say it to Mia, because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”
5. Kelly Clarkson
“[E]veryone in the magazines is Photoshopped! Beyoncé is one of the most beautiful girls in the world but she gets Photoshopped too. We’re all human! … It affected me when people were saying about me and some other artists that we were the ‘thicker’ ones. I’d be a liar if I said I was always fine with it. But I’m wise enough by now to know that you’re never going to please everyone so you may as well stop trying.”
Clarkson has come a long way since winning American Idol more than a decade ago, and throughout her career she’s faced intense scrutiny for her weight fluctuations (including a scandal when Self Photoshopped the singer to appear extra skinny on the cover of their “Body Confidence” issue). No matter what her size though, Clarkson has always been vocal about calling out Hollywood’s unrealistic standards and the importance of loving yourself.
6. Gabourey Sibide
“‘Gabourey, how are you so confident?’ It’s not easy. It’s hard to get dressed up for award shows and red carpets when I know I will be made fun of because of my weight. There’s always a big chance if I wear purple, I will be compared to Barney. If I wear white, a frozen turkey. And if I wear red, that pitcher of Kool-Aid that says, ‘Oh, yeah!’ Twitter will blow up with nasty comments about how the recent earthquake was caused by me running to a hot dog cart or something. …
If I hadn’t been told I was garbage, I wouldn’t have learned how to show people I’m talented. And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn’t have figured out how to be so funny. If they hadn’t told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable. So when you ask me how I’m so confident, I know what you’re really asking me: How could someone like me be confident? Go ask Rihanna, a–hole!”
Earlier this year at a Ms. Foundation gala, the star of Precious gave an unbelievably inspiring speech about finding confidence and inner strength in spite of people — from internet commenters and fashion reporters to her grade school classmates and family members — who dismissed her based on her appearance. It’s definitely not the only time that Sibide has confronted Hollywood’s beauty standards head-on, but there’s a reason this very personal speech went viral: It’s incredibly heartfelt and moving.
“You shouldn’t be pressured into trying to be thin by the fashion industry, because they only want models that are like human mannequins. They know that if we see an outfit on a mannequin in a shop window we will love it and want to buy it whatever size we are. That’s why they have size zero models — they want to sell clothes. But you have to remember that it’s not practical or possible for an everyday woman to look like that. Being size zero is a career in itself so we shouldn’t try and be like them. It’s not realistic and it’s not healthy.”
So why is Rihanna so confident? RiRi is real with herself about the expectations placed on women, and as she told the UK’s Daily Mail, she’d rather be herself than try to force herself to fit others’ expectations.
8. Mindy Kaling
“I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?'”
We loved her as Kelly on The Office, we adored her hilarious memoir, and with statements like this, it’s hard not to fall head over heels for the real Mindy Kaling. Kaling works hard to keep it real (like in this quote from an interview with Parade magazine), and regularly uses her star status to give the world some straight talk about body image.
9. Amy Poehler
“[W]e’re all different, everybody’s different, every body is different. There’s only, like, five perfectly symmetrical people in the world, and they’re all movie stars, and they should be, because their faces are very pleasing to look at, but the rest of us are just a jangle of stuff, and the earlier you learn that you should focus on what you have and not obsess about what you don’t have, the happier you will be. You really will be happier in life if you let go of the things that you will never have.”
Actress Amy Poehler might be mom to two sons, but with Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls (“Change the World by Being Yourself”), she’s an amazing surrogate mother to girls (and women) everywhere. This quote from her YouTube “Ask Amy” series is but one small example of how empowering — and endearing — Poehler is. Leslie Knope would love Amy Poehler.
10. Margaret Cho
“If you’re a woman, if you’re a person of color, if you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, if you’re a person of size … then you’re considered a minority in this world. And it’s going to be hard to find messages of self-love and support anywhere. It’s all about you have to look a certain way or else you’re worthless. For us to have self-esteem is truly an act of revolution and our revolution is long overdue.”
Comedian Margaret Cho has always been outspoken on a wide variety of topics, but in recent years, she’s become more vocal about warped standards of beauty and the impact they have on people’s lives. Cho goes out of her way to use public forums — from her stand-up act to her Twitter account — to speak out against rigid and sexist beauty standards, and to call out those who judge women solely by their looks.
11. Rebel Wilson
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“There are so many glamorous actresses — but in the real world, nobody looks like that. I want to inspire girls who don’t think they’re cool or pretty. To do that, I need to put out a realistic version of what it’s like to be a girl who looks like me. Sometimes that means getting broken up with by a dude who says, ‘You’re too fat.’ That way, when my character wins, it’s gratifying.”
Her Super Fun Night may not have won over viewers (many felt it relied too much on making fun of the actress’s size), but Rebel Wilson still deserves props for being consistently, unapologetically herself. She told InTouch she credits her appearance with helping her succeed in Hollywood: “[N]ot looking like anyone else has made things easier for me, because I’m distinctive.”
Confidence makes a woman sexy. Women should not get caught up in someone else’s definition of beauty. We are too obsessed with what a perfect nose is, or perfect hair, but there is nothing more beautiful than loving yourself and being confident.
As Kelly Clarkson pointed out, Beyoncé is an astonishingly beautiful woman and yes, she gets Photoshopped. But Queen B doesn’t let her get it down — and she doesn’t think you should get hung up on that stuff either, as she told Very magazine.
13. Melissa McCarthy
Sometimes I wish I were just magically a size six and I never had to give [my weight] a single thought. … But I am weirdly healthy, so I don’t beat myself up about it — it wouldn’t help, and I don’t want to pass that on to my girls.
Melissa McCarthy is known for playing crazy, off-the-wall characters, but when it comes to body image, she is downright sane. Pretty much every interview she does involves answering questions about her size, but she keeps the conversation focused on physical and emotional health, as here in Good Housekeeping. And in the meantime, she continues to steal every scene in pretty much every movie she’s in.
14. Kristen Bell
“I recently saw a picture of myself in a bikini in [a tabloid magazine], and they circled some bumps on my bottom and said, ‘We didn’t see any cellulite when Kristen was filming Forgetting Sarah Marshall.’ I looked at the picture, and I laughed so hard! I thought, I look good — really fit. Who cares if there are lumps on my thighs? I’m guilty of having human legs made up of fat, muscle and skin, and sometimes when you sit, they get bumpy! If I had not been a normal weight, they would’ve said, ‘Oh, she’s way too skinny.'”
Though she’s played heroes (Veronica Mars) and villains (Sarah Marshall) on screen, the general consensus is that in real life, Kristen Bell is a total gem. Another reason to love her: She’s totally down-to-earth about her body, and refreshingly honest about Hollywood’s skewed standards. Bell’s quote is something to think about when you look at a picture of yourself — you are human. Give yourself a break!
Featured photo credit: Gage Skidmore via flickr.com