In 2007, Britney Spears insightfully spoke about her relationship with the media.
In her hit “Piece of Me,” which was arguably one of the best songs on her album Blackout, she sang, “I’m Mrs. She’s Too Big/Now She’s Too Thin.”
In this simple phrase, she summarized the paradox facing many female celebrities in Hollywood: You need to look good, but you’ll never look good enough.
Hollywood loves to take pictures of celebrities in bikinis; their cellulite showing they’re “just like us.” Pop culture website TMZ has an entire section devoted to celebrities’ weight loss and gain (which includes men and women, much to the chagrin of celebrities everywhere).
But the everyday weight loss/gain conversation has taken a somewhat unusual turn surrounding Giuliana Rancic, whose apparent weight loss has raised what media outlets call “concern.”
This time around, there’s no celebrity confessing to an eating disorder, a la Lindsay Lohan.
There’s no one losing a lot of weight for a role, as Anne Hathaway famously did for "Les Miserables." Instead, the media outcry is over the weight of a woman who has suffered from cancer, and may simply have trouble gaining weight as a result of her cancer medications.
Yes, she looks like she has an eating disorder. No, this doesn’t mean she actually has one. But Hollywood and the media are quick to make critical claims, because you can never win in Hollywood.
You either need to lose a little weight or you have an eating disorder. If a celebrity doesn’t fit in either category, she’s placed in one.
This is what seems to have happened to Giuliana, because claiming she has an eating disorder is sexier than discussing her bout with breast cancer.
While we don’t know for certain what the actual source of her weight loss is, Giuliana has said she tries to gain weight. She told Dr. Oz on his television show she doesn’t “want to lose weight,” and doesn’t “think it looks attractive” to be so thin.
She also indicated she eats as much as she can, but the weight won’t stick.
She went so far as to say,
“It’s killing me to look in the mirror.”
The reality is, she doesn’t owe anyone answers.
If she does have a problem, media scrutiny will only make it worse, for her, and anyone suffering from an eating disorder.
Los Angeles-based registered dietitian Kristy Morrell states “just putting it out there creates more of a problem, for anyone dealing with an eating disorder.
We know some of the story, but not all of it, so people are just speculating. You don’t want to create a story around something that isn’t true.”
Under the media lens, you're too thin or too fat -- there is no in between.
As most females know, it’s hard enough to feel great about your body on a day-to-day basis. Imagine having the media focus on it even more than you do. That’s what Giuliana must now deal with.
For women with eating disorders already, the excessive coverage of Giuliana can only be triggering, and potentially worsen symptoms. Responsible media coverage of eating disorders involves avoiding “graphic images” and sensationalism.
Dramatic, potentially Photoshopped pictures of Giuliana, and comparisons of her thin frame with other allegedly underweight celebrities, won’t help people who have or are susceptible to such disorders.
The catch-22 of the situation is also concerning. If and when she does gain weight, the media is liable to speculate on how, and why. Remember when Christina Aguilera made headlines for going from scrawny to curvy? What about Jessica Simpson?
It’s a losing battle. Even when these celebrities are praised for looking “healthier,” the attention to their weight gain is in no way pleasant for them.
Would any of us “normal people” like it if our friends and family regularly called attention to our weight gain, especially if it was a reluctant, post-eating disorder process?
Celebrities are just like us. They’re only human. But the media’s treatment of Giuliana’s weight loss, and any celebrity weight gain or loss, demonstrates utter disregard for any feelings they may have. Calling attention to people’s problems won’t make them better.
It doesn’t improve eating disorder awareness, and it doesn’t inspire people to get help.
If you won't define your body, Hollywood will do it for you.
What it does do is serve as a reminder of massive problems with Hollywood’s attitude towards women’s bodies. Women like Nicole Richie (who recovered from an eating disorder), Bethenny Frenkel and Emma Stone regularly fend off eating disorder accusations.
Alongside these women are the actresses many consider overweight, like Rebel Wilson or Melissa McCarthy. The media rewards them because they’re able to find fame despite their more voluptuous figures. It’s part of their “image.”
And then there are those “non-skinny” celebrities who aren’t in comedy. For them, there’s only scrutiny. Although Mindy Kaling fits the mold of a female comedian who is not a stick figure, she has famously spoken out about how confused people are by her success in Hollywood as a non-white, non-skinny female.
The moral of the story is, you can’t be super thin in Hollywood unless you have an eating disorder (or you’re a model).
And you can’t be average or even somewhat heavy unless you’re funny.
In showbiz, this is the name of the game, and Giuliana Rancic is unfortunately the latest, and certainly not the last, victim.