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February 3, 2009

Weighty Issue: Jessica Simpson case

I’ll admit, I’m a tabloid-reader. Not the grocery store-aisle ones, however; I like my online tabloids, like and I like to read the “stories,” keep track of how many Brangelina babies there are, how much plastic surgery Shauna Sand has had done this week, and so forth. Photos of celebs decked out in their best are inspiring, and in their worst are giggle-inspiring. Most of the time I don’t take any of it seriously, and figure that as long as everything gets taken with a (huge) grain of salt, it’s essentially innocuous.

That basic belief changed for me this week, with the published photographs of a seemingly-heavier Jessica Simpson, taken at a Chili Cook-Off in Florida. Reports were everywhere; even Fox News and CNN felt the need to comment that there seemed to be more to Jessica to love these days. Reader’s glued themselves to their keyboards, anxious to make comments about Jessica’s new figure; as you can guess, most of these comments were negative. There were comments about her “love handles,” about a possible “Taco-Bell-diet,” about how Jessica has “let herself go” and now is “fat and ugly.” Yes, those are real, actual comments found on different gossip websites.

I was surprised when I saw the photos, but more because of the change, not because she looks worse now. Putting aside the (admittedly) hideous outfit, my first thought was that Jessica finally looks really healthy. I remember when the Dukes of Hazzard movie came out, Jessica’s take on Daisy was essentially a dancing skeleton. You should see her bones poking through her skin; it was not only that she looked creepily unattractive, but also that she looked ill. The pictures of Jessica from this week showed curves, actual flesh, and an actual happy-looking woman. Rather than looking like someone slowly dying of self-induced starvation, Jessica looked like a confident, beautiful, comfortable-in-her-body kind of woman. It was extremely refreshing to see.

What repulsed me was the reaction of the public – they couldn’t wait to cut her up, call her fat and ugly, and guess her weight. As “consumers” of the Hollywood industry, we are all constantly made to feel fat and unattractive by women like Keira Knightly or Nicole Kidman. Here was a celebrity who really doesn’t look much different from the average North American woman body shape-wise, and rather than embracing her and supporting her healthy size, people were mocking her and ridiculing her.

No wonder so many women have body weight issues. If we can’t even recognize a healthier frame in another person, how could we possibly hope to recognize it in ourselves? It’s so much easier to look at someone rail-thin and hate ourselves, than it is to be healthy in our own right and move beyond the pressure to be thin. I’m not sure what has brought about these changes for Jessica Simpson, but as long as she’s healthy, I applaud her whole-heartedly. It’s time we stopped listening to what Hollywood tells us is beautiful – let’s tell Hollywood that curvy is beautiful too.

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