Learning to Love Our Bodies

Learning to Love Our Bodies

Garcelle Beauvais is a Celebrity Blogger for People Magazine’s Moms & Babies blog. This post first appeared here.

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Recently, I posted a picture on Instagram of the iconic Marilyn Monroe. In it, she’s lounging back in a yellow bikini.

Ms. Monroe didn’t have steel arms or abs. Her stomach was soft. Her thighs were luscious. Her breasts responded to gravity, and she was known as one of the most beautiful women in history. The note with the picture encouraged women to celebrate this type of body and embrace their own figures.

So today I want to ask: Where did the wonderful appreciation for natural, womanly curves go? Why are we all trying to be skinny skinny skinny? I mean, really, who decided this was the only way to be beautiful or worthy? Seriously, I’d like to talk to them.

As an actress, I portray characters that are supposed to resemble real people. But I have to ask: In what version of real life is every woman a size 2?! Shouldn’t characters — like people — come in all shapes and sizes?

The pressure to look trim and taut all of the time is getting worse. Women aren’t even cut some slack for being pregnant. In a very disturbing trend, all of these body-after-baby ads heap pressure on new moms to lose the weight as quickly as possible. The messages in the media seem to tell women that they should head directly from the delivery room to the gym.

I’d like the message to become: How to get healthy after baby!

I must admit that I bought into it and succumbed to the pressure, too. Just eight weeks after giving birth to my twin sons Jax and Jaid, I was photographed in a cutout bathing suit, saying, “Look what I did!” As if losing the pregnancy weight so rapidly was just as important as the birth of my precious babies.

I’ve always loved Drew Barrymore, but I admire her even more since she’s given birth to her daughter Olive. I loved when she recently told PEOPLE, “It took nine months to build it, and it will take nine months to unbuild it.” She’s taking her time to lose the weight, and she’s not falling for the societal demands to do it quickly.

In my line of work, appearance matters. There’s no way around it. I show up for a job and immediately meet with the wardrobe person. Within two minutes of walking on set, I’m stripping down in front of her and maybe a couple of her assistants.

Actors have to try on clothes and be photographed in them so the director can see the selections. So every time I go to work, I feel utterly exposed. God forbid if I’ve gained five pounds — under the prying eyes of a film crew, it feels more like 30! Coupled with the fact that the camera adds 10 pounds, this can really make you insecure.

I read somewhere that Gwyneth Paltrow works out for two hours a day, but who wants to do that? Yes, she’s beautiful and she looks great, but personally, I’d rather spend that time with my kids, or go shopping, or eating or seeing friends. I’d pretty much rather spend two hours doing anything but grunting and sweating at the gym!

When I was growing up, I went to the movies and saw women onscreen who had curves, butts, and soft edges. Unfortunately, the term “curvy” in this business has come to denote anyone who is not bone thin and flat. I’ve even heard models who could probably wear a size zero refer to themselves as “curvy.” Yikes!

It’s funny to me when I see actresses transform from the way they look when they first started working to how they begin to look as soon as the skinny seed is planted in their heads.

Now it seems that everyone who is on TV or in magazines is toned to the max with firm arms, hard tummies and a defined six-pack. Just once, I’d like to hear one of Jennifer Aniston’s characters say she’s having a FAT day.

I grew up in a Haitian household where we ate rice and beans and plantains (fried bananas) every day. We feasted on chicken and beef cooked in rich sauces. I’ve always thought that carbs were my friends, but now of course, I know better.

I can’t help but wonder if there’s a double standard when it comes to weight? Because it seems that men such as John Goodman, Kenan Thompson and Kevin James can have great careers and still be on the heavier side. Don’t get me wrong: They’re great actors and I’m glad that they’re successful. But why can’t it be that way for women?

When you think about it, it’s ironic because when you’re working on set, there is so much delicious food around. Craft service provides tons of tempting selections for lunch, dinner and extra meals for longer shoots. Food is always available. So what are we supposed to do? Just walk past the tables or just pick out a carrot and water? I think not.

I know that I have chosen a profession where looks are extremely important. But I see this message — that being skinny is of the utmost significance — spreading well beyond the confines of Hollywood. This worries me.

For someone who always wanted to have a daughter, in a way I’m happy I don’t because the pressure starts early for little girls. Recently, a 6-year-old little girl at my sons’ school asked me if the box of raisins in her hand was fattening. That broke my heart because this cycle of weight obsession continues and affects girls who are so young.

Ladies, I think we’ve done this to ourselves. We never spoke up and said, “Enough.” Instead, we started competing with each other to see how skinny we could get.

Whenever someone loses weight we say, “Wow, you lost weight…” And even before you finish the compliment the person says, “Thank you!” We base our success on our size. When you think about it, doesn’t that seem ridiculous?

I wish we would say to each other, “Wow, you look healthy!” And not just say it when we think someone has lost weight. Why not say it when we see someone with glowing skin and a big smile?

My first step in changing my own mindset has come in the dressing room. I no longer care what size the label says in my clothes. If the jeans or dress or bathing suit that I try on fits and looks awesome, there is no number or letter on the label that will influence my decision about whether or not to buy it.

So I have an idea: Let’s start a trend and put our health above just being skinny. Let’s support each other. Let’s demand roles in film and television for women of all shapes and sizes. Let’s not talk about our obsession with dieting in front of our kids. And let’s build each other up rather than use size to compete and tear each other down. Change is possible. But it has to start with us.

Be confident girls: you are HOT, you are sexy — you are a Marilyn. So don’t let any man, media or moment of judgment ever take away your confidence!

I would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions on spreading the word.

Garcelle xx

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Comments

  1. Amen sistah, you nailed it! We really need to reach these young girls who are putting so much focus on their weight when they should be focusing more on how much fun they are having, how much they are learning and making memories in their youth. To have that precious time wasted on weight worries is a sad and disappointing realization of what our culture is communicating. Its wrong! I would love to see a program developed that goes into schools and teaches boys and girls alike about health, fitness and how to make positive choices in their lives to be healthy….not skinny! I would love to see celebrities get involved and speak to the kids about their pressures and the realizations they’ve come to about what is important vs. what media says is important and throw some concrete data behind it. How many women are actually size 2 and are runway model size compared to the average woman. Give them someone to look up to as a healthy role model, not all the celebrities that are suffering from eating disorders. They’ve got the wrong role models, as did I as a kid growing up. Its time for a culture change!!

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