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Plus-size Hollywood

By Martina Rebecca Inchingolo

“Love is not a fairy tale, people like us don’t get that. Look in the mirror, we are no Julia Roberts.” 

This line is from the new upcoming rom-com Isn’t It Romantic? the story of a girl who doesn’t believe in love. She finds herself stuck in a romantic comedy when she hits her head in a New York subway. What makes the meta film new and refreshing is not only its story, but its choice of leading actress; the Australian Rebel Wilson. Wilson now finds her name amongst the short list of plus size women who make up comedic lead roles.

Martina Rebecca Inchingolo looks at how the Hollywood industry is changing for the better, but still has strides to make in representing the plus-size community.
Credit: The Independant

Romantic comedies tend to tell the same story over and over; stunning girl meets handsome boy and they lived happily ever after. One beloved moment in rom-coms is the make-over scene, such as in The Princess Diaries. All it takes for Anne Hathaway’s character to be considered pretty by the popular guy, is to straighten her hair, pluck her eyebrows and get contacts. Every time I would look to those sort of scenes, I couldn’t help but think how it took her one day to be perfect and respect society’s beauty standards; no crazy diets, no exhausting workout sessions, just a good hairdresser. 

Don’t get me wrong, I adore romantic films, when I was younger I was addicted to them. I probably have the biggest collection of rom-coms ever; Sleepless In Seattle, Maid in Manhattan, Notting Hill and the list goes on. But it wasn’t until a cold winter night that I finally turned on my TV and I was able to relate to what I was watching. The year was 2005, and Bridget Jones’s Diary was my life. I know what are you thinking, a little inappropriate, I was around 10 years old when I watched it the first time. But I can explain. 

Bridget Jones was clumsy and curvy, she would wear compression garments, attempted to stop smoking and drinking and started to exercise, only to then stuff her face with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and start from scratch the next day. Who doesn’t relate to that? She was a real woman. She didn’t look like she came straight off the cover of Glamour magazine. 

Bridget Jones was a large success at the box office, she was funny and different. It was the first time that I had seen someone that looked so familiar and genuine to me. I would watch it every time I would feel insecure and self-conscious; I still do. That film wouldn’t have worked if Renée Zellweger was just the umpteenth skinny blonde girl, unaware of how pretty she was. 

Thankfully, Bridget Jones is not the only powerful curvy woman you can watch in films when you turn on your TV. Another famous name is Queen Latifah. She plays the lead role in many romantic comedies, Last Holiday, Just Wright, Valentine’s Day and many others. 

Credit: themoviemylife.com

Something beautiful about her films, is that being overweight sometimes wasn’t even mentioned. Her body and the way she looked like had nothing to do with the story. She wasn’t the usual thin girl and that did not matter, because she was funny, kind and smart. Much more than just being skinny. 

In 2007, she was starred in the remake of Hairspray. Her character Maybelle Stubbs was a confident woman in love with her body and the unconventional way she looked. Maybelle was a show host that never counted her calories in order to look good in TV. She already looked beautiful without changing herself and she knew it. 

But what is really plus size according to Hollywood canons? 

Actresses from size 14 UK and up are apparently considered overweight. I remember once reading an interview where Jennifer Lawrence said people called her plus-size all the time, especially in the early stage of her career. We should not be telling girls that to be considered perfect, they must be a size 0.

This is why having plus size women as lead role in films is really important, for everyone to feel included. Usually, plus size characters are unapologetic, confident women, everything they wear and do is a f**k you to society. 

A famous actress who is not afraid to embrace herself and show is Amy Schumer. She reached fame with her film Trainwreck, the story of a promiscuous journalist reluctant to love. This film destroyed the perspective of gender stereotypes and gave us a strong, curvy character who didn’t need to change in order to find a man. 

Credit: Empire

I remember buying the DVD, regardless of the fact that I had never watched the film before and I didn’t know if it was good or not (which from someone like me, means a lot). All I wanted was to see someone that looked like me on my screen. Amy Schumer never kept secret the challenges that comes for an actress that doesn’t look like a Victoria Secret’s model nor how easy is to lose confidence in a world that gives women just one way to be. 

This summer Amy Schumer was back on the big screen with I Feel Pretty, the story of Renée, a woman who deals with her insecurity on a daily basis. One day during a Soul Cycle session she falls and hits her head. When she finally wakes up, she sees herself as the most beautiful woman in the world and her self-doubts finally disappear. 

I could see myself in Renée, every time she would stare, unhappy, at the mirror or when she looked at other girls, wondering what it feels like to be “undeniably pretty”. 

After her cycle injury, Renee gets everything she always wanted, proving that what we need is not to lose weight to be happy, but to be more confident and believe in ourselves to get what we want in life. 

That’s so true, everyone thinks that our weight is their business, something they can talk about, making you feel awful for that domino’s pizza you ate last night. Instead of shrinking in our shells, we should own our bodies and realize that there isn’t such a thing as one kind of beauty. 

We need more plus size women representation in films and maybe one day we’ll be able to turn on our TV and see ourselves in the characters, instead of adapting ourselves to be those characters.

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