It’s no secret Hollywood doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to size diversity and inclusivity. For years, celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Lopez and Ashley Benson, have talked about being body-shamed by directors and being told to lose weight for movie and TV roles.
And though times are changing, with more diversity and inclusivity on screen, these celebrities’ stories show that can’t come soon enough. Ahead, hear from 12 celebrities who were told to lose weight for roles and why they’re taking a stand against Hollywood’s sexism and historic preference for stick-thin body types, even when it makes no sense for the character. Be empowered by these stars’ takes against Hollywood body-shaming.
In a 2012 interview with MTV’s How I Made It, the Glee star talked about how she was continually told to “lose a little weight” by casting directors, and why she finally stopped listening to those wanted her to be a “size two.” “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,” Riley said. “I’m not gonna conform and hurt myself and do something crazy to be a size 2.”
After her breakout role in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Sister of the Traveling Pants 2, Tamblyn was told by her agent that she needed to lose weight to become a huge star. “I think at that point I was 128 pounds and I’m 5-7. I remember my agent saying to me and she was a woman, ‘You have a real choice here. You can either be Nicole Kidman or you can be a character actress,’” Tamblyn told The New York Times in 2018.
Tamblyn didn’t listen to her agent but that didn’t mean what her agent said didn’t hurt. She explained that she had been hearing the same advice for her whole life, which made it that much more painful. “And at that time, I was like 21 years old, so if you look at that and use that as an example and imagine that for over two decades, forms of that from when you’re a child to all the way up, it does something to you,” she said.
Even as the star and writer of her 2015 film Trainwreck, Schumer still told to lose weight. She talked about the experience on a 2016 episode of The Jonathan Ross Show, where she recalled being told she would “hurt people’s eyes” if she didn’t slim down. “The only change was that it was explained to me before I did that movie that if you weigh over 140 pounds as a woman in Hollywood, if you’re on the screen it will hurt people’s eyes,” Schumer said.
Even when Benson was a size 2, she was still told she was “too fat” for certain roles. In a 2016 interview with Health, the Pretty Little Liars star talked about the pressure for actresses to be rail-thin and why she thinks “all sizes are healthy.”
“It’s come up a few times in the last few years, like, ‘You’re too fat for this.’ And I’m just sitting here like, ‘Wait, what? Do you want a skeleton?'” she said. “But I feel good. I don’t want to lose 20 pounds, because I don’t need to. You feel pressure to be skinny to get acting work? I get told all the time to lose weight. I got that a month ago. It’s just weird. With my stuff recently, it’s been, ‘You have to be skin and bones or you’re not getting it.’ There was a point where it was getting to where a size 2 was great. I’m a size 2, but I think that a size 4 is healthy. I think that all of these sizes are healthy.”
For 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, Blunt said she was told to lose weight to look “edge-of-ill” thin. Blunt talked about the experience in a 2010 interview with The Los Angeles Times, in which she said she was told to become thinner to play a image-conscious fashion assistant.
“I was definitely encouraged to lose weight—not because I was overweight but because I was playing a character who was edge-of-ill thin. She literally doesn’t eat. I couldn’t turn up with love handles, but it wasn’t like doughnuts were snatched out of my hand,” Blunt said.
At Elle’s Women in Hollywood event in 2017, Lawrence talked about how she was told to lose 15 pounds in two weeks for a film. She even said that a female producer made her stand next to women who were thinner than her “as inspiration for my diet.” “During this time a female producer had me do a nude line-up with about five women who were much, much, thinner than me. We are stood side-by-side with only tape on covering our privates,” Lawrence said. “After that degrading and humiliating line-up, the female producer told me I should use the naked photos of myself as inspiration for my diet.”
When Lawrence complained to another producer, she was met with sexual harassment, which made her feel “trapped.” “He said he didn’t know why everyone thought I was so fat, he thought I was ‘perfectly fuckable,’” Lawrence said.
Lopez is known for her curvy body. But when she was starting out as an actor, not everyone was a fan. In a 2018 interview with InStyle, Lopez said that she was often told to “lose a few pounds.” However, she also said the criticism never affected her. “They didn’t bother me at all. But I got a lot of flak for it from people in the industry. They’d say, ‘You should lose a few pounds,’ or ‘You should do this or do that.’ It finally got to the point that I was like, ‘This is who I am. I’m shaped like this,’ ” Lopez said. “Everybody I grew up with looked like that, and they were all beautiful to me. I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I still don’t!”
When Beckinsale was told by director Michael Bay to lose weight for 2001’s Pearl Harbor, she didn’t understand it, given that she was playing a 1940s nurse.
“I think he was baffled by me because my boobs weren’t bigger than my head and I wasn’t blonde,” she said on The Graham Norton Show in 2016. “I’d just had my daughter and had lost weight but was told that if I got the part I’d have to work out and I just didn’t understand why a 1940s nurse would do that.”
As a teen actor on That ’70s Show, Prepon has heard comments about her weight for her whole career. In a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Social Lounge, the actor recalled being told to lose “30 pounds” for a role in her early career.
“So I would have this pressure of being on camera and I had the best job in the world and I’m literally living my dream and I was stressed out every day about my weigh,” she said. “I would literally leave crying. At a young age I was told I had to lose 30 pounds, and this is like a pressure in our industry.”
In a 2016 interview with TV Week, Robbie said she was told to lose weight for her 2016 film, The Legend of Tarzan. However, she fought back, refusing to lose weight after questioning why a researcher in the 1940s would need to look so thin. “It’s the 19th century [in the film] – if she’s got a bit of weight on her, it’s probably a good thing,” she said. “I’m not going to look thin just for the sake of it.”
In a 2018 interview with StyleCaster, Holt talked about how she’s been asked to both “lose” and “gain” weight for roles, which she said created a complex in her head and heart about what her body type should be. “I’ve struggled with figuring out exactly what my body type is and going back and forth between feeling too skinny or too thick or too this or too that,” Holt said. “Being a gymnast, I had a lot of issues with feeling too broad in my shoulders or too thick in my thighs. It’s heartbreaking that we have to feel this way, especially as women in a world where we already feel put down by so many others.”
She continued, “I’ve been told by many producers, ‘You need to lose X amount of pounds if you’re going to be a part of this project’ or ‘You need to gain this amount of pounds if you want to be a part of this project.’ That really messes, not just your headspace, but your heart.”
Turner is another actor who has been told to lose weight for a role, even if it makes no sense for the character. She talked about it in a 2017 interview with Porter. “There are often times when I have done jobs and they’ve told me that I have to lose weight, even when it has nothing to do with the character,” she said. “It is so fucked up.”