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Female celebrities during award season: Keeping it (too?) real

By February 23, 2012 4 Comments

I’m all for celebs getting real about what it takes to look as good as they do. Hell, I’ve even been known to enjoy me a little of US Mag’s “They’re Just Like Us!” section because it pokes holes in the perceived perfection of A-listers.

What I don’t like, however, is Oscar nominees Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy sabotaging their own moments of recognition and glory by dishing about their shapewear snafus.

It isn't terribly awful to wear Spanx, but it sure is to feel like you have to out yourself about it before somebody else does.

According to People.com (in an article that ran under the headline “Octavia Spencer Dons Triple Spanx For Red Carpet”), Spencer has “taken to reinforcing her red-carpet attire with Spanx and doesn’t always stop at one pair.” In fact, she announced to the world on the Ellen DeGeneres Show that she often “triple spanx.”

This bothered me 1) because it seemed to reveal her inner insecurity about her body, and 2) because it demonstrates that “to spanx” has entered the pop culture lexicon. (A verb! About how women girdle their bodies! It’s just not right!)

During her chat with Ellen, Spencer went on to recount how when she and Melissa McCarthy ran into each other at a recent awards show, they commiserated about how uncomfortable they both were.

Funny, fearless… and fretting about foundation garments.

Said Spencer: “I could not party that night because I was being pinched in places that I didn’t know it was possible. I said, ‘Oh my God, Melissa, I’m about to die. My Spanx are killing me.’ She said, ‘I just went to the bathroom and took mine off.'”

Sigh. I get it. No one knows better what women go through to look fierce and fabulous than other women. But right now, these two actresses are being lauded as trailblazers. A woman of color up for an award in an important film about civil rights, sexism, and racism, and another repping the game-changing answer to the question “Can women do comedy and big box office?”

I think it would be great if they both didn’t feel the need to talk about the elephant in the room–by that I mean the fact that neither Spencer or McCarthy fit Hollywood’s thin and perfect beauty ideal.

I mean, can you imagine George Clooney or Brad Pitt detracting from their time in the spotlight by self-body-snarking? And correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t come across any press of Nick Nolte or Christopher Plummer calling attention to their wrinkles.

The comments Spencer and McCarthy have made regarding their own bodies suggest to me that they think they’re somehow less worthy than other actresses nominated. That they have to call out their own flaws before the merciless press—and we—have the chance.

Ultimately, I wish I could tell Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy (a longtime favorite of mine! Has anyone else ever seen her perform live with The Groundlings in Los Angeles? She’s brilliant!) that their bodies are their business—not the public’s. And that I wish they’d work harder at accepting themselves than keeping it real.

Audrey D. Brashich is the author of All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty.