Hollywood is a known for size 2 waifs and perpetuating body image problems. But, there have been several notable plus-size stars in recent years who have not only bucked the trend, they have been highly successful and garnered Oscar nominations. But, one such plus size nominee, Melissa McCarthy, has pointed out that top Hollywood designers would not dress her for the 2012 Oscars and raised the question of whether other recent larger size actresses had similar designer prejudice problems.
When she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy approached several designers about making her a dress for the ceremony. She told the June issue of Redbook magazine that five or six top-level design houses that typically dress women for the big occasion told her “No.”
The 43-year-old actress wound up attending that year wearing a dark pink gown from Marina Rinaldi, a plus size clothing line. Since then, the star of The Heat and the forthcoming Tammy took the rejections as inspiration. Acknowledging that when she goes shopping, “most of the time I’m disappointed,” McCarthy has taken matters into her own hands and is forming a clothing line of her own.
Melissa McCarthy’s comments have raised awareness of the prejudice plus size actresses face when seeking designer garb that would be the norm for their petite peers. When it comes to Hollywood, there clearly is a difference between a big star and a “big” star.
McCarthy’s experience begs the question of whether the other plus-size women – and there actually have been several – who have been nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes in recent years had similar experiences. Jennifer Hudson may have found Weight Watchers, but she clearly had not yet when she received her Oscar for Dreamgirls in 2007. Mo’Nique won an Oscar and Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for Precious in 2010. Octavia Spencer beat out McCarthy when she received her Oscar for The Help in 2012. Most recently, Adele earned an Oscar for Best Song for Skyfall in 2013.
Actually, Octavia Spencer did tell People in 2012 that she too had trouble finding appropriate awards ceremony attire. The week before the Golden Globes that year she had not found a dress to wear for the event. Spencer made it clear too that “I’m just a short, chubby girl … and no designers are coming to me,” she told the press.
In 2007, Hudson had help from an editor at Vogue, who helped dress her for events throughout the awards season. Adele also received help in 2009 for her first Grammys from Vogue.
Sidibe received attention for her lack of designer support in 2010. It was suggested that she was too plus sized, compared to Adele and Hudson. One high-end boutique owner said dressing Sidibe would be problematic for designers. “She doesn’t ‘fit’ who they design for,” the anonymous owner quoted by Fox News remarked.
A stylist quoted by Fox said dressing someone plus size “is more of a challenge.” She also noted, “They have other clients to work with.” Clearly, they do not welcome the business or fear being known as a plus-size designer.
The good news looking at the recent nominees is that Hollywood is showing more variety in casting women who wear not just about a 4, but very far above. Now, if only the designer prejudice that creating clothes for these well-off, well rounded women in the public eye would go away and plus size actresses like Melissa McCarthy will receive comparable kudos and couture as others.
By Dyanne Weiss