Of all the important news stories you read this year, none will be more compelling than this: a woman has gained weight, and a famous woman at that. Kirstie Alley is on the cover of the new issue of People, talking about her “blame, shame, and regret” over gaining 83 pounds. Note that it is very, very important that we know exactly what she weighs and how much she gained. The cover has an earlier picture of Alley next to a current photo; the first picture has the line “Sexy & Slim in 2005” above it, just so readers can be completely sure that this means Alley is definitely not sexy now. Never mind the fact that Alley’s 2005 picture would probably be used as the “before weightloss” picture for any other celebrity, because the tabloids aren’t really okay with a woman being at Alley’s “slim weight”.
Oh, and the headline reads “Kirstie Alley Weight Saga”. “Saga”? How ambitious! People‘s coverage of this saga reads like the Beowulf of fat-shaming.
Everything Alley says plays right into the magazine’s cherished tradition of obsessing about weight and slamming anything that is not a
size 6 size 00. Alley describes herself as “disgusting” and “schlumpy” and you can practically hear the editors rubbing their hands together in glee that she’s using these words — this way, they can fat-shame without actually being the ones held liable for using such words. Instead of trying to counter Alley’s assertions about how she looks, or even trying to point out that her worth is not based on how many pounds she’s gained, the magazine just pumps her for details on how she got so “disgusting”:
Okay, how did this happen?
[Alley] It started with New Year’s , right after leaving Jenny Craig. When you’re a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, there’s responsibility. You have a person every week standing over you when you get on the scale, and I did it naked because those panties could weigh 30 lbs.! It was amazingly successful. But the first nail in the coffin was that I didn’t have to weigh in. I just sort of went wild.
I have to say, that image of Alley being weighed so she can be a spokeswoman is pretty upsetting. I get that she signed on for the Jenny Craig gig, but I’ve endured my own weigh-ins and they are absolutely humiliating.
Naturally, the magazine is sure to get the obligatory details on exactly what she was eating. Alley is asked, “Did you go right back to indulging in cakes and pies the way you did the first time you let yourself go?” Cute. “Let yourself go” is such a precious euphemism. Apparently, this time Alley indulged in different foods: pasta and popcorn and Chinese food. The horror, the horror!
People also thinks everyone should know Alley’s goal weight: “I have to be below 140 to really look good.” Oh Kirstie, that is not true. Look good to whom? She adds, “When I’m overweight I will not go out. With my closest friends, yeah. But you wouldn’t see me at a premiere.” (You will see her on the cover of a magazine, however.) The reporter then says, “But you seem ready to turn your life around.” No, losing weight does NOT equal turning your life around. And please, let’s not pretend that this story is about health because the article doesn’t mention things like cholesterol or blood pressure or anything of the sort. It only talks about Alley’s weight in terms of how it makes her look.
Every tabloid rag is constantly talking about the weights of famous women, and People is the one that truly drives me insane. They pretend to be a respectable publication, and they have a very large subscription base. And they are fixated on weight. The Alley cover comes one week after their annual “Most Beautiful” bullshit issue, and you will notice that their cover girl for that issue (it’s always a woman) is never anyone who is even close to the average weight for American women. They also enjoy running stories on the “detox/cleansing diets” stars use to get red carpet-ready, and all of those features on how women lost the baby weight (hint: trainers, starvation diets, and giving birth to the tiny human that’s inside of you). Oh, and their weekly “Body Watch” feature once reported on Allegra Versace and her attempted recovery from anorexia. Classy.
Of course, they will run the obligatory headline “Too Skinny?” every once in a while, in which they feign concern for the women who have gone too far in trying to achieve the ideals that their magazine tirelessly promote. Then they go back to fat-shaming. I imagine that at some point later this year, they will feature Alley on the cover again with a headline that reads something like “How I Lost the Weight and Reclaimed My Life!” And I imagine I will write another rant. And I imagine that nothing will really change.