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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 08/15/2006

Why We Should Stop Sizing Up Starlets

By Liz Kelly

Jessica Simpson visits MTV's "Total Request Live" in July. (AP)

Some photos of Jessica Simpson have been making the rounds lately accompanied by breathless commentary about how she's packing on the pounds.

This photo in particular has at least three blogs I normally read mercilessly proclaiming her chubby and predicting a huge future for the singer, if you get my meaning.

I can't say I'm blameless when it comes to making sport of a celebrity's physical appearance, but I think weight is an entirely different issue. One that is likely to inflict damage on the starlet in question and others, such as the scores of adolescent girls who idolize and look to these women for fashion and beauty cues.

Lindsay Lohan goes from curvy to skeletal to curvy in the space of a year (Exhibit A | Exhibit B). Nicole Richie and Kate Bosworth are practically non-existent at this point. Willowy Gwyneth Paltrow is rumored to be feeling "fat" after the birth of her second child. Janet Jackson, who put on a considerable amount of weight following her Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction", is again a svelte cover girl.

The livelihood of these women is largely dependent on their looks and, as such, they're constantly critiqued by employers, fans and the press. No wonder eating disorders are a common occurrence. I'm not suggesting we ignore yo-yo-ing weight or malnourished starlets, but I am suggesting we stop using their waistlines for punchlines.

I think Jessica Simpson is kind of a ditz. I can't stand her music and she definitely loses to Nick Lachey if I had to pick one or the other, but I wouldn't want irresponsible comments about her weight turn her into the next walking stick person.

And for what it's worth, she's not fat.

By Liz Kelly  | August 15, 2006; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities  
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I agree with you Liz, and even though I don't like Jessica either, that photo of her here is not the greatest. That outfit she is wearing is awful! It does not flatter her at all, which is probably why people think that she looks fat.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2006 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I appreciate this blog posting a great deal. It is nice to hear you give starlets a break. Yes they are rich and beautiful, but they are people too (somewhere deep down under all the silicone). I have been working hard to loose weight, and I struggle to have a realistic goal. While it would be great (why, i'm not always sure) to be a size 0, I know that it will be much healther, and i think more attractive to be a size 10.

Posted by: 20-something Weight Watcher | August 15, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Amen to that sister!

Posted by: Here! Here! | August 15, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

She is guilty of bad taste, not bad thighs. I kind of like her a little "healthier". I have seen these girls in the "flesh" and that's all they are, flesh and bones. too scary.

Posted by: vicki Pasadena, CA | August 15, 2006 11:38 AM | Report abuse

When you think that the camera adds 10 pounds, then Jessica Simpson is definitely not chubby. She's a short (about 5'2" I think) curvy girl. Being one myself, I know that it's pretty darn easy for a short, curvy girl to look "chubby" even if she's far from it.

I probably outweight Jessica by 20 pounds and I look healthy and am healthy and fit. I can only imagine by how much I outweight Nicole Richie and Kate Bosworth!

Posted by: alexva | August 15, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I agree with vicki. Simpsy's not fat, but the pattern on that outfit looks like something I might choose in a t-shirt, which is why my wife won't let me dress myself if there's any chance I might need to go outside.

Posted by: byoolin | August 15, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Another starlet who's fallen for "thin is in" is Keira Knightley -- compare her cavernous cheeks and bony chest in "Pirates of the Caribbean 2" to her more buxom appearance in "Pirates 1" (not to mention that she looked like a normal girl in "Bend it like Beckham")!

Posted by: phranql1n | August 15, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

So that's fat? Then I wish there were more "fat" women like that. 20-something Weight Watcher makes an interesting point: she wants to be a size zero, but can't explain why and she thinks a size 10 would be healthier and more attractive. If you can figure out how to convince yourself that you should opt for healthy and attractive please let me know. I would like to know your secret so I can use it on my wife. It's ok for girls to look like girls, but women should look like women.

Posted by: JC | August 15, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

It doesn't help that she's wearing hot pants. It's nearly impossible to look good in those, and she looks better than most.

Seems to me it would be better if people/celebrities actually wore clothing that flattered them, rather than whatever happened to be trendy (leggings, gah!).

There was an incredibly interesting article in US Weekly or Star last week (I know, I know) but it was all about how men rated Jennifer Aniston as having the "best" legs and they went on and on about how her legs are "chunkier" (!) and men are into that. The men rated her and a few others as "best" legs but the women all liked and wanted Victoria Beckham's scary-toothpicks-that-sometimes-resemble-legs.

Posted by: ML | August 15, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I weigh more than I have ever weighed in my life (I'm 5'4" and I weigh about 130), and my husband loves it. He brings me ice cream if he ever thinks I'm losing weight!

I'm not sure why there's this disconnect between what men find attractive and what women aspire to be.

Posted by: va | August 15, 2006 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Skeletal women are NOT attractive, no matter who they are. Simpson's "fat" photo looks like a normal woman to me. Women need to stop obsessing about their weight and focus on what's healthy for them instead of what someone thinks about how they look. What's most disturbing is Lohan with the cigarette in her hand, not her weight (or lack thereof).

Posted by: John | August 15, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

The white horizontal stripes on black give the impression that she is heavier than she is, but she still doesn't look overweight.

Posted by: Mandy | August 15, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree. Her outfit is just really unbecoming to her. If she doesn't have a stylist, she needs one. If she does, he/she should be fired.

Even though I think Jessica's talent would not fill up a thimble, she looks like a normal, healthy person. Talentless, yes. Fat, no.

Posted by: pnina | August 15, 2006 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Word to celebs *and* producers: Thin is ugly. Just using the linked pictures above, you'll find that *all* guys prefer the "heavier" versions.

Of course anyone who bothers to watch movie credits these days has noticed that most *casting* directors are women, so this may be another example of female-on-female sabotage.

Stop it ladies!

Posted by: Spike | August 15, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm not so concerned about her weight but she certainly looks like the poster child for skin cancer.

Posted by: Eeww. | August 15, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Heck no! Jessica Simpson is teeny tiny!! In fact, a few extra pounds would compliment her just fine. I'm with you...say what you will about bad choices, bad music, bad movies...but never discuss weight!

Posted by: Alexandria | August 15, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for this column. I have long believed that the snarky comments by celebrity news writers have fueled the ever-escalating disappearance of starlets. How many of us would want to read how fat, how ugly, how old we look time after time in print or hear it on t.v.? Most actors and actresses are less, not more secure than their fans.

What's more, there's a double standard. Tom Hanks and other male actors his age are getting older and gaining weight too, but I rarely read comments about their looks, unless they're related to a part.

I love reading about celebrities and looking at all the beautiful clothes they wear, but all in all I am much more worried about the state of the world than the size of their waistlines.

Posted by: fedup | August 15, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

So which photo of LL is the skeletal and which is the curvey?

Posted by: katekat | August 15, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse

No, she's not fat but she IS chunky. Why not say the truth? She is what she eats.

Posted by: Maribel | August 15, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

First off, women do hate women for some reason, so we're always snarking about some other "her" being fat. It's sick, and I'm not doing it.
Secondly, accept that the camera adds 10 lbs. Maybe more. So any "fat" celeb is probrably regular, and scarily, any "skinny" celeb is skeletal.

I had the pleasure of meeting Iman, back in the day when she was a Top Model. (She's still Diva-licious!) I was totally unprepared for how thin she'd be in person, because she just seemed lean in photos. I swear, a gust of wind could've blown her over -- and that was the Skinny of the early '90s!

Posted by: miss belle | August 15, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Whoa spike..."thin" is not ugly. I am 5'8" and I am a size four and I think that I look fine and healthy thank you very much. And I am happy with the way I look. I think what you meant to say is that "emaciated" is ugly.
Its perfectly fine to be thin, it is NOT perfectly fine to look like you are starving.

Posted by: Not ashamed to be thin | August 15, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

What's with the idea that it's out of bounds to make comments about the weight or body shape of starlets.? We all seem to agree that it's not their talent that gets them noticed--it's how they look in hot pants. If discussions about their faces and bodies are off limits, there's really nothing to discuss.

And I'm not buying that old "the camera adds 10 pounds" story. Maybe the cameras of 40 years ago did but I don't believe it happens now. Certainly photos don't add 10 pounds to pictures of anyone I know personally (including me).

Jessica's chunky by starlet standards but about average for the real world. The big problem here is the outfit--it doesn't fit her.

Posted by: Maggie | August 15, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse

simpson isn't talented and seems to be a half wit. But give me a break - she isn't fat. The outfit is a big yuck and wouldn't flatter anyone.

Hey- work to be as fit and trim as possible at any height and weight - and love yourself from the inside out.

Posted by: Mainer | August 15, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Gee, on my version the picture is right next to an ad for the South Beach Diet.

Posted by: Jim | August 15, 2006 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Maribel, Jessica Simpson is most likely not chunky. We are all accustomed to seeing size 0 women (or smaller) in front of the camera. When a normal-sized girl's picture is taken, we jump to the conclusion that she must be fat--or if not fat, then at least chunky. And if we are what we eat, are you saying all Jessica eats is peanut butter? Oh please.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

As a "fluffy" chick myself, what I've learned is that the real crime is not in judging people as FAT, its in judging people. There is NO need to say that either fat or skinny is ugly - we are who we are. Yes, there are health concerns for the too large and for the too small - but those are private issues, even for celebrities. I am ALL for making fun of their clothes, their relationships, etc. - but as a veteran of their body wars, I say - let's keep our nose out of other people's weight.

Posted by: Alison | August 15, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse of this topic. we are a horribly judgmental society when it comes to WOMEN, not men. and what's more sad is that ALL of the valuable time and money women have spent agonizing over every "extra" inch is time and resources we could have been using for a better cause. women are absolutely cruel to each other. i cannot listen/read/hear any more about weight. i've fought this battle every second (or so it feels) since birth and i just want a day, no an HOUR, where i love myself....but comments by people like Maggie and Maribel are more accepted by people than not.

Posted by: ChickieBaby | August 15, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Gotta say, I agree with a lot of the posters ... these girls need to start dressing differently if they don't want attention paid to their poochy belly, or a bit of extra jelly in the rear. As a young lady who has both, you learn not to wear short short jumpsuits, with belts at your natural waist which accentuate the negatives. DUH!

Posted by: stinkerbelle | August 15, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse

she's fat but she is cooked to a crispy brown. That's what makes her look unhealthy - not her weight.

Posted by: i agree w/ ewww | August 15, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

she looks good except for the rapidly approaching skin cancer

Posted by: a dude | August 15, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

At least let's start critiquing the menfolk as well. Someone mentioned Tom Hanks looking not-so-youthful these days - I'd like to agree, and assert that he looks positively pudgy. I was shocked the last time I saw him in a T.V. interview...

And Ms. Simpson? Fabulous, but badly dressed. I wish I were that lusciously toned and bronzed (I'm assuming it's a bottle-tan).

Posted by: Maritza | August 15, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I agree with all the posts above. The outfit is bad, Simpson is not fat, not eating is extremly unhealthy, and the bigger health concern for Simpson should be the fast apporaching skin cancer. Yikes! Do these girls not care what they look like in 10-15 years?

Posted by: Melissa | August 15, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see some goldfish in them shoes.

Posted by: Huggy Bear | August 15, 2006 4:43 PM | Report abuse

It's hilarious that you wrapped up the column with a gratuitous insult to thin people ("next walking stick person") -- just couldn't help yourself, could you?

Posted by: Burke | August 15, 2006 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Jessica Simpson is certainly not fat or chunky. Having a shape and/or curves should not be considered chunky. The media has certainly changed everyone's views on what is acceptable and attractive.

Posted by: washdc | August 15, 2006 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Let's restart the conversation by blaming women for their own problems. I have never met a single man who thinks that anorexic women look good -- in real life or on the screen. Someone's driving this trend, but it ain't dudes. Women's own cattiness leads them to criticize starlets for being "fat," which in turn makes the starlets anorexic so US Weekly won't publish unflattering pictures, which in turn makes 12 year old girls think anorexic is "hot," which in turn leads us to have anorexic starlets that succeed but are criticized by catty women, which in turn means that Lindsay Lohan (who was on track to be GORGEOUS) is now skinnier than Ally McBeal was ten years ago. And now every guy in America has to deal with an insecure headcase of a normal-sized girlfriend who won't eat. Thanks, ladies.

And spare me the "double standard" whining. Tom Hanks may be pudgy these days, but he's not running around with his shirt off. The man's in his 50s, he should be pudgy. Yet I'm sure someone like Usher wouldn't be able to gain 20 lbs without everyone getting grumpy about it (namely, US Weekly).

Posted by: Just a guy | August 15, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the old guys do run around with their shirts off and they get made fun of for it.

Val Kilmer:

John Travolta:

Now, I will agree with you that yes, it is probably our own faults as women to some degree. Men presumably idolize slender-ness, but it's women who are ruthless about it. I've never heard a guy say to me, "Man, she is getting chunky!" unless it is a woman that I noticed was "getting chunky" six months earlier. But I also think that beauty magazine editors push an unattainable standard onto women and they go crazy trying to reach it.

I myself am embarrassed to report that I'm completely guilty of spending WAY too much money to attain the flawless skin that I see everywhere I look in the media. Never mind that it was professionally applied and weighs 10 pounds (the extra 10 pounds from the camera perhaps?) or was photoshopped. I've seen it and my brain thinks it can happen to me if I try hard enough. No one is being catty to me about my pores, but I'm still trying to make them invisible, no matter what it takes. That's why I really liked Dove's True Beauty campaign. Even if it was a marketing ploy, at least they recognized that I don't want to feel bad about myself in order to buy a product. I want to buy a product or eat a meal that makes me feel *good* about myself. If only more people recognized that, maybe things would change. Oh, and maybe if we stopped being catty too.

Posted by: ml | August 15, 2006 5:23 PM | Report abuse

"First off, women do hate women for some reason, so we're always snarking about some other 'her' being fat."

Uh, no. Maybe you've dealt with this a lot but most of the women I know are supportive and great. I've never understood that tired cliche that all women hate each other--that hasn't been my experience at all.

And forget Tom Hanks--look at John Goodman! He has gotten *morbidly* obese in the last few years--he must be pushing 400 lbs. Has he gotten anywhere near the attention Kirstie Alley did? Of course not.

And nasty swipes like "thin is ugly" just perpetuate the problem. The point is not that fat is great and thin is ugly--the point is that HEALTHY is great, and UNHEALTHY is bad. Ectomorphs do exist, and it's just as rude to point fingers at thin people as it is at fat people.

Posted by: NYC | August 15, 2006 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't recall any magazine mocking starlets for being overweight. I've generally seen them giving starlets a hard time about being underweight.

The only magazine I've ever seen that outright mocked someone's weight in a cruel fashion was Star magazine. They had published a story that Reese Witherspoon was pregnant. She said she wasn't and sued because Star claimed she was lying to the producers of her movies (and losing those roles could cost millions, blah blah). So what did Star do? In the next issue, they took an entire inside page in the first part of the magazine and essentially said, "Reese Witherspoon not pregnant, just getting fat."

It was horribly cruel and Star's editor-in-chief is a man. But his boss is Bonnie Fuller, and she's just evil.

My point is that unless someone is unhealthily overweight, as NYC mentions, they're unlikely to get any major coverage, though I have seen a ton of coverage devoted to the starlets that are wasting away.

Posted by: ml | August 15, 2006 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Fat, no. Chubby--getting there. Horrendous that some people might be embarrassed into losing weight....lord knows there are just too many skinny people in the United States, and we shouldn't stop until everyone feels good about being obese!

Posted by: Come On | August 15, 2006 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Fat? Nope. Gettin' chunky? Maybe.

Not size zero, but normal? Sure.

Once one admits to the fact (ask the AMA) that waaaayyy too many (most, in fact) Americans are overweight or obese these days ...

Let the flame begin!

Posted by: D | August 15, 2006 5:47 PM | Report abuse

John Goodman may be pushing 400 lbs, but what was he before, 350? Kirstie Alley got attention because she was a sex symbol in the 80s. She also got attention because she exploited her weight problems to make money for herself in Jenny Craig commercials and her stupid show on Showtime.

Women are still crazy about these things either because they're naturally crazy about these things, or because of other women. It's not the men's fault.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2006 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Well...She is chunky...and by regular standards "chunky" is average. That's the truth; as time goes by, "average" becomes bigger. Plus, it is better for this country to have these feelings about getting thinner. The problems are the eating disorders, and those should be dealt with accordingly. Without the constant feeling that one should lose more weight, I think the US would be even bigger than it is. Then again, it's just what I think.

Posted by: Patricia | August 15, 2006 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Exactly - America is too fat for it's own taste. The "average" American woman is 140+ and 5 feet 4. That's chunky, chubby, call it what you want, but NOT skinny. People who are saying that Jessica Simpson is skinny, are people who are probably fat. You see her as skinnier than you, and think she's "skinny" by definition. She's not - she's "chunky", chubbier, pleasantly plump, whatever. But that's not a bad thing. Being fat is a bad thing - for health reasons, money reasons, and self-esteem.

Posted by: Sarah | August 16, 2006 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Burke, you said:

"It's hilarious that you wrapped up the column with a gratuitous insult to thin people ("next walking stick person") -- just couldn't help yourself, could you?"

I think it's important to point out that I'm not insulting thin people. Being thin is fine, healthy and attractive. What Nicole Richie and Kate Bosworth are is not thin -- it is the equal opposite of morbid obesity -- perhaps morbid emaciation?

Posted by: Liz | August 16, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Patricia that too many of us in the U.S. (I include myself) are overweight due to lack of exercise and poor food choices. People in the '50s, '60s, and '70s were much slimmer and probably healthier than we are now. (Though I'm not sure, a lot more people smoked then, didn't they?) The "fitness" craze came into full bloom in the '80s -- but so many people went the other way!

But that doesn't mean we should now all aspire to be size zero or follow every new weight-loss celebrity diet. I like that Kirstie Alley lost weight by exercising as well as doing Jenny Craig. She tried to show that if you MOVE you will feel better and lose faster than if you go on some crazy denial diet.

The messages women are sending out there is that to be successful you have to be rail thin. I'm seen women admire photos in magazines that men then completely criticize by saying things like "She has no breasts or butt!" and yet the women still want to look like that particular celebrity. I used to work with a woman aged 40 who I (privately) thought looked old, stringy, and dried out because she was so thin. Yet other women in the office envied her and constantly said they wished they could look like her!

Another woman was watching a TV show with me and she started commenting on how "fat" a young female celebrity was getting. Yes, another size 2 celebrity had gone to size 3, so now this woman called her "fat". There was a young girl in the room and I hated for her to hear this so I said things like "I think she looks great! Really healthy and fit!" We have to counteract the ugly messages women send out to other women and girls especially.

Posted by: Joann | August 16, 2006 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I think it's interesting to see the men in this discussion saying they prefer more fleshy, "normal" women. But I see men around this town and others with tall, blonde model types who looks like a breath could blow them over, yet you should see these men. these women arent' necessarily beautiful and JLo would outrank them any day but these men look like they're wearing a diamond watch or something. so what's up with that? is it these men in particular? if normal is what you want then why do you see men with anorexic model types.

I just don't like all the blame being put on women for this. When you see a guy at a party with this type of woman every guy envies him and women want to be that girl.

Posted by: Jamie | August 16, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

that photo makes her look like a guy in drag.

Posted by: frankiefrisch | August 16, 2006 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Nobody should make fun of Jessica Simpson's weight. It distracts from the real problem, that hideously mannish face of hers.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 17, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Face it, she's fat. You chicks are in denial.

Posted by: Coulter | August 17, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you 100%. It's ridiculous to look at Jessica and call her fat. She's no where near being fat. When she lost a lot of weight before and you could see her ribs protruding, guys thought she was hot. I guess it's preferable to constantly look like a stiff wind could blow you away or better still to have your collar bones and scrawny legs on prominent display when wearing a swimsuit.

If they look like women with curves, they get slammed.And that is not right, we're women we're suppose to have some size, curves, whatever you want to call it. The issue is being healthy and staying active.

As a former stick figure I find that gaining some weight has made me look better. I'm also healthier, I didn't just put on some weight I started exercising being out in the sun and I'm better off for it.

Posted by: ttaylor | August 17, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Jessica Simpson is not at all fat. She looks normal, healthy and toned, not rail thin but certainly not fat. I'm a presonal fitness trainer and I know fat when I see it, and Jessica is most certainly not fat. Fact is, when I saw this picture in question my first thought was that she has amazing definition in her thighs and calves. She looks to be a healthy example and I think sends the right message to young girls that you don't have to be unhealthy emaciated crack ho thin to be sexy. Go Jessica!

Posted by: Scott | August 20, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse

To all the posters who say Jessica is fat, do YOU all have perfect bodies yourself? I doubt it and I bet you don't look a tenth as hot as Jessica. So if any of you think you look so much better have the guts to post a pic up on the internet then give us the address so we can all talk about how fat you look. Jessica rocks and your just haters.

Posted by: frederick | August 22, 2006 12:24 AM | Report abuse

well well, i must be a real fat pig cuz i look like Jessica. And i work out too.I'm curvey- big boobs and round butt. Oh well. My guy loves my curves. i guess he will just have to settle for a fattie like me- I'm not getting anorexic anytime soon

Personally, i think most girls who say Jess is fat are just jealous and self- loathers. Question: why do u hate your curves so much, gurls?

Posted by: curvey | September 10, 2006 7:00 PM | Report abuse

to anyone who thinks she looks fat....
jessica simpson is beautiful. you think she looks "fat" for celebrity standards. i dont think so. look at beyonce, and jennifer lopez, they can embrace their curves. they, however, have huge butts while jessica simspon has huge breasts. having large breasts makes clothes difficult to look "perfect" in, especially when they aren't proportional to a smaller body.
also, there is no way she is average to our normal standards. go stand next to her, see how fat YOU will feel.

Posted by: so dumb | September 30, 2006 12:24 PM | Report abuse

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