The way women view their bodies and the way society dictates women view themselves is, in my opinion, a topic that is not discussed enough. That’s one of the many reasons why I so looked forward to this panel at WonderCon, created and moderated by Leah Cevoli. We were lucky enough to discuss the topic with Leah before WonderCon, and the panel gave us insight to other women’s struggles and opinions on the topic.
The panel comprised of Leah Cevoli, Amber Krzys, Lynn Chen, Helenna Santos Levy, Miracle Laurie, and Adrianne Curry.
The panel started off with Leah describing her struggle with binge eating and, when she was an actress on Deadwood, how she evaluated being thin with being a leading actress. Ever since then she has struggled with her weight and how she’s viewed herself. What inspired her to do the panel was a recent incident when she posted a current picture of herself on her Facebook. A crew member from Deadwood made a negative comment about the picture, saying that she’s looked better. Even though that negative comment was followed by positive and supportive ones by all of her friends, it did make her reflective on the entire situation concerning her body and how she viewed herself. “Why do we do this to ourselves?” Despite the fact that what that crew member did was uncalled for, the silver lining is that it inspired Leah to bring up this topic in a public forum like WonderCon.
Actress Lynn Chen discussed that after her agent dropped her because of her change in appearance, she no longer wanted to be in a world that defined her by how she looked and now she never defines herself by how she looks. Like Leah, Lynn has also had issues with binge eating and didn’t even realize that she had that condition until someone described it later. Her condition was even more difficult to deal with because of how important eating is in a family setting in Asian cultures. Refusing food is considered rude. She had to struggle not only with how she initially viewed herself, but how that works within her culture.
The next speaker on the panel was Miracle Laurie. Miracle’s role on the television show Dollhouse was described as “heavy” and it was in her contract that she could not lose weight. Mind you, “heavy” is considered a 10 or a 12 size which is the average size of the American woman. According to Miracle during the show’s production Joss Whedon pulled her aside and told her that she embodied a “real woman”. She was very confident with the way that she described herself and how she felt about her image and her conviction with women and their body images. It is refreshing to hear someone in the industry not caving into industry expectations. According to her, the industry is nothing real and feeling sexy comes from being confident and comfortable. It is important to be the best version of yourself and “screw what everybody else thinks.”
Adrianne Curry was next on the panel. She said that she wanted to be the epitome of the opposite of the fashion industry. She spent her time in that industry and found the experiences in that industry unhealthy. Something I really appreciated about what Adrianne talked about was her past addiction to heroin. Many people are unwilling to admit to these aspects of themselves and I really admire the fact that she was so candid about it, and how that addiction related to her body image and her role in the fashion industry. Since she has removed herself from that atmosphere she has a better quality of life now. Now she cares about the opinions that matter which are of her family and friends. She believes that all bodies are beautiful and that we should spend time appreciating bodies instead of sexualizing them.
Amber Krzys is the rounder of of the website “Body Heart” and has also struggled with body image. The idea behind her web site is to empower people and how they feel about their bodies. After all, according to Amber, your body is yours and it’s the only thing that will always be with you, so why not treat it with love and appreciation? Each person picks a favorite part of their body, takes a picture with a heart drawn on that part, and talks about why it is their favorite part. Leah participated with this project. Her favorite part of her body was her throat. The goal of the site is to empower people and how they feel about their bodies.
Helenna Santos Levy was the next speaker in the panel. She is an actress and founder of the website Ms. in the Biz. She created Ms. in the Biz because she felt that their needed to be a female based online community for women in the entertainment industry. Her own struggles with body image did not relate to her size, but to the color of her skin. I appreciated hearing Helenna’s perspective because it shows that when it comes to body image it’s not just about size, it’s also about other facets such as ethnicity. As far as how society affects how women perceive their own bodies, Helenna said that advertising creates anxiety and forces us to objectify ourselves. This is one of the many causes of women constantly judging themselves. Her closing statement was an important one which which is, “Love Yourself.”
What I really appreciated about the panel was the variety of opinions on the matter and that all of the women came from different perspectives, either because of their cultural background or because of their different positions in the entertainment industry. It makes you realize that the issue of women’s self image is not just skin deep, it’s embedded in cultural practices on top of the way the media manipulates women to undermine themselves for the sake of making a profit from their supposed physical inadequacies (that are, of course, dictated by society).
We have to stop upholding our physical selves to a societal standard and punishing ourselves when we do not achieve it. We need to start evaluating our worth not by our looks, but by our hearts, our sincerity, our intelligence, and our conviction.
I am so happy that Leah was able to make this panel happen and despite the time limitations, it was still meaningful and enlightening. After all, there is a lot of power in acknowledgement and just by putting this topic into a public forum, it will perpetuate the discussion and hopefully encourage people to think about it who had not before. Thank you so much to Leah and all of the panelists for participating and discussing this issue. This is a topic that needs to continue to be discussed because as long as we keep the conversation alive, we can help to understand and hopefully one day end this self scrutiny for good.