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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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.