Olivarius: Kate Moss was right

Culture Quotient

Kate Moss is one of my heroes. Not because she is a total babe or a successful career woman, but because she is honest. When asked about her modeling mottos a few months ago in an interview with WWD.com, Moss replied that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” The media’s reaction was quick and brutal. Health advocates, US Weekly and The Guardian criticized her irresponsibility, saying that she was promoting anorexia. Model Katie Green argued that her statement was especially “shocking and irresponsible,” because Moss has a daughter.

I am going to take a stand for Moss. Not because I agree with her mantra, but because I applaud her bravery to say, so plainly, what everyone already knows but doesn’t really want to engage with: Women are paid to be thin — in Moss’s case, $8 million last year, according to Forbes.

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Amelia Sargent
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And in a country where nearly one-third of the population is obese, she’s also one of the few Hollywood women talking about food issues honestly.

In Maxim magazine last year, January Jones, Mad Men’s long-suffering Betty Draper, stated that she has a crippling weakness for Dairy Queen. Angelina Jolie, mother of six, can’t live without McDonald’s. Nicole Richie, mother of two and former party girl, just loves junk food. They’re all beautiful, albeit emaciated, women, who apparently indulge their desires all the time.

Maybe. But I am going to wager that the last time any of these women ate any of their “favorite foods,” let alone a carrot stick, was at their fifth birthday party. I am also going to guess that they, with assistance from their publicists, have calculated answers to the “What is your favorite food?” question.

Why lie? You see, they have to. Their careers depend on it. It is their job. In a world where Angelina Jolie actually has little in common with the average female American, answers like these humanize her just enough to let people identify with her. If she said that she dieted like a fiend and runs six miles on the treadmill when she can’t sleep at night, she would sound absolutely crazy. There is something shameful about denying yourself food and exercising compulsively. Every teenage girl knows that.

Men don’t have to lie. On his Web site “j.k.livin,” Matthew Mc-Conaughey blogs about his cardio and ab regimen. The paparazzi love photographing him with his shirt off, sweating profusely after a run. Hugh Jackman told reporters about the workouts he had to do to get into shape for “Australia” and “Wolverine.” Almost no women in Hollywood talk about their exercise regimens.

There is a cultural pressure on women that states you must look a certain way, but must also not bore on about dieting. Men don’t like listening to diet talk and find women who do it uptight, and there is nothing worse than an uptight woman. Except a fat woman.

Women then perpetuate the “Myth of Excellence” in which celebrities are born — not made — goddesses. They can eat what they want, have babies that enhance their careers and be effortlessly hot at 40. That is why they are celebrities and we aren’t. Female celebrities are like those kids in your micro class who never go to lectures but still get As on all the exams. Of course, there are naturally thin, beautiful people, just as there are people who are naturally good at economics. But the majority of both groups are lying to us about how hard they actually have to work to reach their goals.

Would it make us feel more insecure to hear the truth about Jennifer Aniston, a woman we idolize for being perfect, because it would mean that actually she is really just like us? That her beauty is anything but effortless? That she, like many other rich women, has millions of dollars to spend on pomegranates and organic bok choy at Whole Foods or on a personal trainer? And that she, in turn, is paid millions of dollars to be thin? But we want to indulge in her fantasyland, in which she can eat grilled cheeses and look like Helen of Troy. People Magazine sales prove it.

Kate Moss essentially admitted that being an ultra-thin woman requires living in a state of semi-starvation, and that it’s worth it. The backlash she has faced is unfair: She just told the ugly truth about a big, fat lie. The real problem with American body image is that we are constantly misled about what it actually takes to be a size 2. You can’t eat Dairy Queen and have Betty Draper’s waistline. Nor can we pretend that blasting a celebrity for revealing her “secrets” is addressing the problem of weight in America. We might keep buying the pictures and tips of diet divas, Mary-Kate, Kate and Tara, but we must also start buying into the idea that tackling the nation’s eating problems requires more than that.

Kathryn Olivarius is a junior in Branford College.


  • awesome_article

    great great great op/ed! excellent. it makes me so happy that there are people out there who can construct rational, well-thought-out and sophisticated editorials about stuff that actually matters rather than just string GRE words together and call it a day.
    SO happy about this column, kathryn!

  • Yale 08

    “Almost no women in Hollywood talk about their exercise regimens.”

    Hogwash. At the supermarket, I spied roughly 6 covers advertising the latest butt sculpting, cardio blasting, adrenaline pumping workouts popular with various Hollywood female celebs.

    Kate Moss might do cocaine and starve herself, but there are plenty of actresses who get hard bodies from healthy eating/exercise.

    And how would Miss Olivarius address the insane popularity of the VERY curvy Joan Holloway from Mad Men?

  • Finally…

    a YDN opinion piece that actually says something interesting and says it well. Why can’t the opinion editor find more writers like this one for the op-ed pages? A lot of the other pieces in our paper are often filled with factual errors and massive abuses of logic.

  • FailBoat

    I guess I heard about celebrity fad diets like the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet from women who didn’t fit conveniently into Ms. Olivarius’ delusions.

  • 2011 female

    This is a great article. Just one note: Staying away from tasty foods that make you gain weight (McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, potato chips, Sunday sundaes) is hardly “a state of semi-starvation.” It says something about our attitude toward food when cutting out junk is put anywhere near the frame of starvation.

  • y’11

    Haha — this is very funny and well written. Good job YDN and Olivarius.

  • Hmm

    I think if you looked a little, you’d find more Hollywood women talking about the demands their career makes on their bodies. I remember reading an interview where Kate Beckinsdale talked about commiserating with Ben Affleck after the producer of Pearl Harbor told her she was too fat (she had just had a baby) and the grueling exercise and diet regimen it took to get her looking the way they wanted her to look. And what about when Jamie Lee Curtis publishes photos of herself without makeup and retouching, or when Kate Winslet refuses to lose weight before doing a nude scene?

    The difference is that the way Beckinsdale says it, we can commiserate. It sounds awful. We can think she is being mistreated. When Moss says, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels,” it smacks of something she’s proud of. Honest though it may be, I don’t really think you can paint her as the lone voice of honesty in an industry of women sculpted by their managers the way you have.

  • ’11

    Kathryn you’re awesome. Best Op-Ed I’ve read in a long, long time.

  • Kate Moss

    You were on the right track, but I think you lost your way a bit. Rather than promote honesty, can we stay true to the nature of the quote and promote human-sized living?

    Here’s to eating just enough and no more!


  • alum

    wonderful piece. Very entertaining and interesting.

    YDN, please print more fun articles like this and less articles where students pose as experts in fields they actually know little about.

  • Interested Bystander

    Very nice piece, great illustration, intelligent comments. Way to go, YDN!

  • Yale 08

    Here’s to Yale!

    Where gluttony and vanity are praised out of different sides of the same mouth!

  • Chase O-M

    I commend the author for bringing to light an important issue that is so often overlooked.

  • Chase O-M

    The author of this column must, again, be commended. The subject that she tackles is a tough one; doubtless, she’ll face vicious attacks from political machines on the right and the left for her original, challenging moral arguments.

    She has shown such courage; I hope she knows that Yalies, nay, that people, everywhere, are moved by her words, better for reading them, and animated by the hope that this miracle of a column might be repeated.

  • 2012

    I admit that when I read the first few lines I thought this was going to be another hackneyed piece about body image making the same points that everyone already knows. I was surprised instead to find my own opinion stated much more articulately than I could have put it. Kathryn really gets it.

    “Men don’t like listening to diet talk and find women who do it uptight, and there is nothing worse than an uptight woman. Except a fat woman.”

  • Chase O-M

    It is seldom that a column can, so perfectly, articulate the terrible nature, perilous parameters, and immortal stakes of this issue: this issue that, like a villain and the promise of our sins, threatens the soul of our very Union.

    I implore the author of this truly salutary column to write again. While the hundreds hurl, at her slender feet, condemnation as harrowing as their intentions are violent, she cannot be deterred from using the weapon that will, they know, be their devastation: her voice, her words, her dissent.

    I am moved. I am honoured.

  • Anonymous

    So this is what counts for intelligent thought these days at Yale? Could we actually get some opinions about things that actually matter, rather than a rehash of tabloid gossip? YDN editors, do your jobs, please…

  • CC12

    great article. i do have to make one comment though: one way that many people lose weight and keep it off is portion control. so perhaps those celebrities who say that they love mcdonald’s or can’t live without certain unhealthy foods actually DO get to eat it – just in *very* small portions.

  • thank you

    I found that quote recently and had the same reaction: refreshingly honest.

  • @17

    This *is* intelligent thought… much more than a lot of the drivel that gets published in the news’ view and other editorials. Just because the topic isn’t something you’re used to learning about in formal classes, that doesn’t mean that body image and eating disorders aren’t very potent social phenomena. There’s certainly a lot more to be said, but i think that Kathryn gets at a very interesting idea – the hypocrisy of celebrities who pretend that they eat what makes you fat and are somehow miraculously thin. It is a myth.

  • CC’09

    I shouldn’t be surprised by attitudes like #17’s, but I still am. 17, you do realize that what you’re saying is “Women’s lives and health don’t actually matter,” right?

    Kathryn, thanks for a terrific article that even the nutjobs here in the comments can agree is great!

  • aaron

    Great article

    re: anon, glad to see that comment is the one like it in a list of more responsive and open comments

    re: hmm- i like the characterization of Moss as hero, this article makes her seem like a voice who can describe the culture in question. Beckensale sounds like a reluctant victim.. Moss sounds like a realist. whether she said her comment knowing how biting it would sound coming from her emaciated frame, or not— it is wonderfully shocking and jarring image

  • Lichtenstein

    Your wit and sound logic already vaults this op-ed over half of what I come across in the YDN and nearly everything in my local Memphis paper.
    But I’m so glad to see this because anyone who dares to be a realist and speak true like Moss never gets enough props.
    The illusion that emaciation is easy, pretty, or natural is extremely lucrative; and the threat of debunking it buys someone hellfire. Bravo. Support for the honest is expensive and rare.

  • S

    Thank you, Kathryn

  • HP

    “Men don’t like listening to diet talk and find women who do it uptight, and there is nothing worse than an uptight woman. Except a fat woman.”

    I’m a man and I hate to admit it, but this is the cold, hard truth. We want women to look great, but we also want to believe that their appearance is basically effortless. Kudos to Kate Moss for cutting through the bs, and kudos to the author for a great editorial.

  • 2011

    Great points all around, but putting them through the lens of Kate Moss somehow cheapens them…you know there’s nothing healthy about Kate Moss…

  • X

    Good piece, but…

    “Men don’t like listening to diet talk and find women who do it uptight, and there is nothing worse than an uptight woman. Except a fat woman.”

    The feminist movement asks men to refrain from objectifying women. Comments like this attack men in a similar way, by lumping us all into the same category. Not a good path to discussion.

    More glaringly, however, the comment ignores the role that women play in judging other women. I’d wager that making it all look effortless is far more important to the female magazine-reading demographic.