Representation Matters: How Rebel Wilson made me beautiful

Seeing women on screen who look like you changes everything

It’s impossible to escape ‘perfection’ online. Every newsfeed, every advert, and every movie trailer exhibits perfectly tanned, size 2 women drinking cups of vile-looking kale tea over perfect white smiles. And when that’s the only form of beautiful, it can make you hate yourself.

Including me.

Team Elephant

I’m not going to be winning any thinspiration hashtags any time soon. Growing up, I always wished that I’d look like the blonde supermodels on every H&M advert. That at the beach, in five years, I’d look a little less like the 5ft 6 and-a-half blancmange. That guys would turn when I entered a room and think I was beautiful. Typical 12 year old fantasies for a pale, frizzy haired nerd.

That hasn’t happened, and I’m kind of accepting that, at 22, I’m never going to weigh 100lb and grow another foot taller. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had the most terrifying episodes of eating under 200 calories a day for three or four months in the desperate hope of losing that last 20lb. It didn’t work. I got sick, I was tired all the time and eventually, down to that prized size 2, I looked so haggard I thought I might as well have some Colin The Caterpillar chocolate cake. And half a packet of crisps. And screw it, I want lemonade.

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Me at 118lb. I was so sick that I was having black outs.

Anyway, now I’m roughly 9st (126lb). A size US 4–8, depending on where you shop. Which is fine. I can eat cake and argue about politics without fainting. But it’s taken me years and years to accept that. It’s very difficult growing up as a woman to accept that you are never going to be what is narrowly defined socially as beautiful.

Eventually, I settled for what casting agents called me: cute, kind of pretty, or ‘nice, unusual eyes’. My favourite derrogatory compliment is very-pretty-for-a-curvy-girl. Wow. Charming.

If this sounds silly because I’m not your idea of ‘big’, just remember that when you audition you are against 25 women who are a foot taller and half your weight.

I can’t claim to be plus size, so I won’t attempt to hijack the narrative on everyday experiences of plus size women, but I’m far too big to model and I’m in that catergory of having a shape that makes bikinis look a bit weird on me. That, and my face, makes me not ‘sellable’ enough for most directors.

And my features, while definitely not horror movie inspiration, don’t meet typical blue-eyed beauty. Coming from a mixed-caucasian background, I have unusual colouring for ‘saxon-beauty’ and a bone structure that makes for a lot of questions. The idea of me playing a sexy heroine in anything seems to be met with the awkward question “Is it believable that men would want her?” I’m different looking. It’s heartbreaking the first few times, but you get used to it.

But then, different looking goddesses began arriving on TV and film.

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Rebel ‘The Goddess’ Wilson

The screen goddess that made the biggest impact on me was by far Rebel Wilson. Now, Rebel isn’t ‘pretty for a big girl’. She is stunning. She is beautiful. She is the most incredible looking woman on screen. You don’t look at anyone else when she’s in anything. Her eyes are a luscious grey, her nose beautifully centred, her hair worthy of Venus and her smile lighting up the room. I wouldn’t suggest she changed a thing. The male actors in any of her films don’t look at anyone else. She is sexy. It’s undeniable.

Which lead me to look at myself.

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Calorie counting for what, exactly?

In real life, that is, out of audition rooms and off TV screens, I’m frustrated by how much male attention I receive. I’ve never for a second realised that this is because TV directors might be a tiny, tiny bit wrong about what is actually ‘sexy’ enough for men to like.

It’s not, Mr Director, impossible for a male lead to fancy me. Film and TV is a fake world where all young beautiful blondes are madly in love with wrinkled, dad-bodied hasbeens and no one bats an eye-lid. Yet the idea that a man might like a size US6 girl with ‘big brown cow eyes’ (thanks for that) seems something reserved to a punchline in a sketch on Comedy Central.

Well screw that, I’m not your punchline. And neither is any woman who isn’t a beach blonde babe with breast implants. You’d be AMAZED at what men actually find sexy, you male-demographic crazed producers. Not that it matters what men think of you, but in theatre and film, I get you have a product to sell. Try a bit of diversity, you might be surprised.

Try a big actress, try an actress with a roman nose, try an actress with dark skin, try an actress with mouse brown hair, try an actress with A cup breasts. I’ll bet my socks that she will be able to convince the men watching that she is beautiful, desirable and sexy. Because she is. Beauty isn’t the Aryan poster you imagine it to be.

So I’m a proud member of the Elephant Club.

Because being curvy shouldn’t be a dirty word. And, like Rebel, I’m beautiful.

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Team Big Girl.

Anthropologist with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually. madelaine@madelainehanson.co.uk

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