Why Hollywood Needs More Curvy Rom-Com Leads

Work it, Gabby.

Hollywood has a big fat problem and love has everything to do with it. The other day, I watched American Horror Story: Coven as Gabby Sidibe’s character, Queenie, stood in the dark and basically begged a Minotaur to love her. She spoke heartrendingly of her invisibility and loneliness to a beast because her romantic invisibility caused her to feel less than human. Granted, AHS: Coven is a boundary-pushing horror television show, but Queenie’s plea struck a nerve.

Where is the love for full-figured women in Hollywood?

I am afraid that we cannot envision these women in love because we are too busy laughing at them. I am sure Rebel Wilson is a smashingly talented comedienne, but previews of her show just make me cringe. I am wary of a comedy that makes her the butt of her own jokes and relies too heavily on fat-conscious, self-deprecating humor in the guise of acceptance. Nearly every curvy actress I can name plays or has played a comedic role in a sitcom. But romantic interests in movies, even supporting actress roles, are reserved for willowy damsels-in-distress, never women who are thicker than your average A-lister. 

I watch romantic comedies because I like love. Unfortunately, rom-coms usually get “love” all wrong. They reinforce the worst stereotypes about desirability and mating, holding up thin, perfectly coiffed, “America’s Sweethearts” as paragons of beauty. Somehow, I still find myself a hopeless romantic about most of the films, tuning in only be turned off by disappointment. 

The entertainment industry focuses its gaze on size only to laugh at it, pity it, or to change it (i.e. Biggest Loser and other weight loss “challenges”). But to love it as it is? Never.

I recall a kerfuffle a few years ago when Marie Claire contributor Maura Kelly complained that sitcom Mike and Molly grossed her out showing “obese” people doing things that people in love do. She was roundly and soundly criticized for the comments, but she spoke an ugly truth about America: many of us do not believe larger people are worthy of love. They undoubtedly experience it, so why aren’t more curvy women cast as the leads in romantic comedies?

I believe we are drawn to films representing our internalized images of attractiveness, and let’s face it, Paula Patton is pretty to look at. So is Katherine Heigl. And Channing Tatum. But they are not the only beautiful ones loving and living and worthy of screen time, and it is high time we change our stale pictures of what love looks like.

The movie wasn’t great, but Just Wright was just what I needed to see.

Besides Last Holiday and Just Wright, both with Queen Latifah, when was the last time Hollywood produced a romantic comedy starring a full-figured black woman? If women of size are marginalized in general, black curvy women are even more invisible in that regard. I want to go see Best Man Holiday and Baggage Claim because I have a soft spot for seeing black love on screen. But even black romantic comedies are scripted and cast predictably like their mainstream counterparts. The industry often typecasts larger black women as sassy sidekicks but rarely the heroine.

The fact is that representation in Hollywood both mirrors and affects societal views. One good role can influence other directors to cast rom-coms differently. Deliberately choosing an actress who is deemed “plus-size” would mean considering who her love interests would be. That every sentence from her mouth would not be a fat joke. That falling in love happens to all women, and not just the ones who can fit into a size 4 or less. We might actually have to see naked, curvy skin (gasp!).

Hollywood needs more full-figured rom-com leads because Gabifresh is more my style heroine than Carrie Bradshaw. Because Afrobella has her own Cinderella love story. Because it’s not just plus-size women who need to see themselves reflected in a happy ending, but America needs to see it. We need reminding that people falling in love–at every size–is always a beautiful thing to behold.

13 thoughts on “Why Hollywood Needs More Curvy Rom-Com Leads

  1. It’s so interesting to see how the “standards” of beauty change. Marilyn Monroe was a size 10 and is still considered by some to be one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. Not too long ago people were petitioning that models under a certain weight (or BMI?) to be banned. I think the media/Hollywood is starting to shift to the more “normal” ideal of weight (especially for women), but there’s a long road ahead. OAN: I don’t think Paula Patton is that pretty either. 🙂

  2. I just want to correct one of your statements. You are correct that AAs have a higher risk of developing diabetes. However, diabetes is NOT “a direct result of obesity” AT ALL; that is a myth. Being overweight or obese is ONE factor that could lead to diabetes, but there are many other factors that cause a person to be at high risk of developing the disease. More information can be found at http://www.diabetes.org – if you’re interested.

  3. Meh, Paula Patton isn’t really that pretty to me. Yep, there needs to be a lot more diversity in casting in Hollywood. But, I usually get my film fix from watching indie films. They can be hard to find but it’s worth the work as they often go off the beaten path with casting and story.

  4. Thank you so much for your thoughts. I don’t know enough medically about weight and obesity to comment on whether they are limited to a definition of health. But what I can say is that, no matter their health, I still think that full-figured people deserve love. I don’t know if it’s more important for kids to see love in all sizes (and not just for skinny pretty people) or perfect role models on TV.

    At any rate, I wish the best health for our people, always. In the middle of striving for our best selves, we can also love ourselves and others. Lighters up, indeed.

  5. Dear dtafakari,
    Its understandable that you would vouch for leading roles of full figured woman and to put it precisely, you have every right in doing so. Born U Truth(But) Riddle me this black Queen. It’s in our (Black People) genetics to be physically and mentally equip. Any signs of diabetes and heart problems is a direct result of obesity, am i wrong Queen? According to CDC, and their vital statistics; African Americans are leading in the disease call diabetes, and heart attacks due to excessive weight. I view some of our physically fit actors and actresses as role models to the young sisters and brothers who inspire to reduce their body weight and eat nutritional meals daily. We’ve lost a few iconic figures (Big Pun, Heavy D) because of their excessive eating habits and that tragic loss should be used as a catalyst for the youth in the African American and Hispanic communities for dietary change. Knowledge of potential health risk enables us to be habitual nutritionists and take our health more serious. So for all the over weight Brothers and sisters in Hollywood who refuse to change their food intake portion, just put your lighters in the air for Big Pun and Heavy D.

    Peace Sister
    Your Brother @akapowerful

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