Having a career in the spotlight puts a lot of pressure not just on how people perform, but also how they look. The expectation for the people we see onscreen to have certain body proportions or wear a certain size can be harmful to those in the limelight as well as those of us in the audience.
A lot of celebrities feel pressured to lose weight in order to "help" their careers — no matter how talented, conventionally attractive, or connected they are.
However, some people in Hollywood are fighting back against these expectations and proving that they can have successful careers exactly as they are.
Here are 16 celebs who were told to lose weight for their careers and refused:
Some entries mention eating disorders and suicide.
1. Early in her career, Jennifer Lawrence "was told by producers of a film to lose 15 pounds in two weeks."
However, in 2012, 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.'"
2. Early in Amber Riley's career, casting directors would tell her, "I think you need to lose a little weight." She was only offered harmfully stereotypical roles like "the girl who sits in the corner and eats all day" and "the girl who wanted to commit suicide because she was fat."
She "didn't understand why people couldn't accept [her] for who [she] was," but she decided to stop going to auditions because she didn't want to "conform and hurt [her]self" to reach a certain size.
She went on to have a main role on Glee from 2009–2015. She's also played important roles in several movies and plays, and she's set to star in the upcoming NBC series, Dream.
3. Despite her success and show of range on Saturday Night Live, Aidy Bryant was only offered mediocre and offensive roles. She told AdWeek, "There was one where — and I don’t think it has ever seen the light of day — a man was in prison and the other guys in prison were like, 'You’ve got to get an ugly girl to be your prison wife and she’ll come and bring you food and have sex with you!' And then they were like, 'And that would be you.'"
She said, "Those were some of the moments where I was like, 'Is this what it is in Hollywood? I think I might have to write for myself...'" — and she did.
Rather than accept the roles she was offered or try to change herself, she created the right role for herself. She co-created, co-wrote, and co-executive produced, Shrill, in which she stars as Annie.
4. In 2019, Sam Smith opened up about working to overcome the pressure to change their body. On Instagram, they said, "In the past, if I have ever done a photoshoot with so much as a T-shirt on, I have starved myself for weeks in advance and then picked and prodded at every picture and then normally taken the picture down."
They continued, "Yesterday I decided to fight the fuck back. Reclaim my body and stop trying to change this chest and these hips and these curves that my mum and dad made and love so unconditionally."
5. When Gigi Hadid was starting her modeling career right out of high school, she "still had [her] volleyball body," and "people were hard on [her] and tried to say that [she] didn’t have a runway body."
However, in 2015, Jean Paul Gaultier became the first designer to put her on the runway in Paris, and he was also among the first to "put [her] in an outfit that didn’t cover a lot."
During that Paris Fashion Week, she faced a lot of judgment about her body. On Instagram, she said, "I represent a body image that wasn't accepted in high-fashion before, and I'm very lucky to be supported by the designers, stylists, and editors that I am: ones that know this is fashion, it's art; it can never stay the same... Your mean comments don't make me want to change my body.'
6. When Beyoncé was 19, she "started hearing people criticize [her] after [she] had put on some weight."
However, she "woke up one day and refused to feel sorry for [her]self" then wrote the Destiny's Child song, "Bootylicious."
7. When a fan on Twitter asked Lili Reinhart if she thought Riverdale was "contributing to unrealistic body expectations [and] body image issues," she responded, "Actually, not everyone on this show is perfectly chiseled...I've felt very insecure due to the expectation that people have for women on TV, what they should look like."
However, she "did a recent bra and underwear scene and felt it was [her] obligation to be strong and show confidence in [her]self, looking as [she does]."
8. Lizzo's parents "taught [her] at a very young age how America treats Black people. How it treats Black women. And [she] saw very quickly how we treat fat people."
She told People, "I wasn't supposed to survive. I wasn't supposed to make it this far. I wasn't supposed to be a millionaire. I wasn't supposed to be a sex symbol."
9. Director Sofia Coppola advised Kirsten Dunst to never "fix [her] teeth," but she wanted her to lose weight for Beguiled.
However, Dunst refused, and thankfully, Coppola was understanding.
10. After 19-year-old ballet dancer, Misty Copeland, went through late puberty, the American Ballet Theatre asked her to "lengthen" her body by losing weight, but she didn't comply.
She told Self, "Being told to lose weight, and being African-American, not having anyone else around who looked like me, caused me so much doubt."
Copeland went on to become the first Black dancer to land the lead role in Swan Lake. She was also the first Black woman to become a principal dancer — aka the highest designation in ballet — at ABT.
11. Ashley Benson gets "told all the time to lose weight" and has heard "you're too fat for this" several times over the years.
She told Health, “I feel good. I don’t want to lose 20 lbs., because I don’t need to...I think that all of these sizes are healthy."
12. Kelly Clarkson called out the fact that "no one actually cares about your health...they just care about aesthetics."
She told RedBook, "It’s when I’m fat that I’m happy. People think, Oh, there’s something wrong with her. She’s putting on weight. I’m like, 'Oh, no! I’m sorry, but that represents happiness in my emotional world.'"
13. Early in her modeling career, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley "was told [she] had to get into better shape." She "can remember being asked to lose weight and battling with the advice."
However, she didn't let the criticism keep her down, and "there was a point where [she] found [her] voice, effectively."
14. When 19-year-old Kate Upton landed her first major magazine cover, critics "were discussing whether [she] was fat or not."
Reflecting on the experience, she said, "I have to thank the people who did that because it really made me sit back and find out who I was and what meant something to me and how I thought about my body."
15. When Glee actor, Alex Newell, auditioned for the lead role in Kinky Boots, the director "said [Newell's] weight would inhibit [them] from playing the role, which is not true."
Newell told Stylecaster, "I was like, 'This is a show where they’re encouraging you to be who you want to be. Don’t let them tell you who you should be.' They literally looked me in the face and told me I was too big to play a role. There’s no limitation. My weight does not prescribe what I cannot do."
They later made their Broadway debut as Asaka in Once on This Island.
16. And finally, after a modeling agent scouted Ashley Graham in a local mall, he told her to lose weight — and he wasn't the only one.
"The really hard moment was when my dad said, 'Honey, if an agent is telling you to lose weight, then maybe you should lose weight,'" she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
However, her mom offered a better perspective. Graham said, "She told me, 'You’re like all of the women in our family. You’re like so many women in the world.'"
The National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.