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Bodyshaming celebrities can lead to internalized shame

Bodyshaming celebrities can lead to internalized shame

Bodyshaming celebrities can lead to internalized shame
February 03
12:00 2023

Content warning: The following story contains language related to eating disorders.

Since the dawn of the silver screen, actors and actresses have graced movies and television shows with various body types. For almost just as long, there has been a stigma surrounding how those in these films should look, from the length of their legs to how many inches their waist should be.

With any occupation, certain expectations exist for how one should perform in their field. In the entertainment industry, those expectations extend from actresses’ performances on-screen to their physical appearances. 

Having demanding expectations can create body-centric issues in both celebrities and their admirers. As of 2020, 52 percent of girls and 45 percent of boys reported they skipped meals or did another kind of disordered eating habit, according to a 2020 Mental First Health Aid study. 

What starts as an expectation turns into intense scrutiny of these performers’ bodies. If those bodies change in even minutely noticeable ways, the public swoops in to pick apart the different things they notice — even though, on average, most adults’ weight will fluctuate five to six pounds per day.

Singer and actress Selena Gomez endured intense public scrutiny when she attended this year’s Golden Globes award show as a nominee. Despite being nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series-Musical or Comedy for 2023, the public focused on her weight gain.

Unhappiness with how one’s body looks is called body dissatisfaction. It differs from body dysmorphia, where a person constantly thinks about their flaws and what they want to change about their body. This obsessive thinking can lead to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), and a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found 51.85 percent of females and 48.15 percent of males between 16-18 believed some feature of their body was ugly and caused extreme concern. 

In the wake of the body-positivity movement, which focuses on increasing the representation and acceptance of people with a higher body mass index, many brands and media producers have focused on inclusion. However, most consumers believe acceptance of different body types allow for an exception to obesity. 

According to the World Health Organization, obesity is an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that could risk an individual’s health. It is also calculated based on weight and the BMI scale, where a score greater than 30.0 means obesity. 

However, in recent years, critics, including Medical News Today, accused the BMI scale of skewing the view of numbers to exaggerate certain features depending on height and failing to create a scale that can differentiate between muscle and fat.

The culture of what is and isn’t acceptable is constantly fluctuating: because of that, many will look to celebrities to see what they should look like. What is essential in this new age of body positivity is when celebrities like Selena Gomez or “Truth Hurts” singer Lizzo fight back against expectations for their bodies. 

While the media scrutinizes celebrities for gaining weight, it also criticizes them when they lose drastic amounts of weight. English singer, Adele, lost nearly 100 pounds while gearing up for her ’25’ album tour in 2016 after being in the public eye as a heavy-set woman for most of her career.

In general, the response to this drastic weight loss was positive. However, many fans felt her weight loss was a response to her finally caving in to pressure for her to lose weight.

Whether positive or negative, weight fluctuations among women in the entertainment industry have been under a microscope for hundreds of years. In comparison, there is also a focus on men having body type expectations with role models like Zac Efron, Jason Momoa and Henry Cavill.

While many weight loss stories in Hollywood center more around beauty standards than a personal desire to lose weight, women like Rebel Wilson and Adele have become positive role models for weight loss. 

Adele’s weight loss was primarily due to her fitness routine, which shows that a healthy balance between food and exercise can decrease weight and extremes are unnecessary to drop pounds. The most critical part of these particular celebrity’s journeys is their weight decrease was all self-motivation, not because society pressured them to ‘lose a few pounds.’

Young women and girls look up to women in media, and seeing themselves represented or torn down will define how the next generation of women grows up, and whether they are comfortable or controlled by the media.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

About Author

Gianna Ortner-Findlay

Gianna Ortner-Findlay

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