Commentary: Why Octavia Spencer's Weight Matters

Kudos to the Oscar nominee for admitting that her extra pounds are "not healthy" and that she wants to lose some weight.

Posted: 02/10/2012 03:35 PM EST
Olivia Spencer, obesity, weightloss, Health News, The Help

A few weeks ago backstage at the Screen Actors Guild awards, Oscar-nominated actress Octavia Spencer told People that she would like to lose a few pounds:


"I am not healthy at this weight. Anytime you have too much around the middle, and then there is a problem. [And] when you reach a certain weight, you are less valuable."


And while it was clear to me that when she said "less valuable" she meant that Hollywood's obsession with being stick thin, which means that actresses Spencer's size are often overlooked for roles and are looked at as "less valuable" than thinner actresses.


Yet the minute these comments hit the Internet, media outlets interpreted her comments very differently. They accused of her being worried about her weight, apologizing for being larger and trying to accommodate to this mainstream standard of beauty. Upset by the misinterpretation of her comments, Spencer took to Facebook to set the record straight:


"Here's what I am not doing ... I am not worrying about my weight," Spencer writes. "I am not trying to conform to an unrealistic model of beauty. I am, however, being proactive in being the healthiest I can be. And before you ask, no, awards season is not the reason ... Right now, believe it or not, I'm pretty damn healthy! Twenty LBS (max) is all I intend to lose."


It's completely unfair that the media has this double standard with weight.


On one hand, they will tell underweight actresses that they look amazing despite having "bobble heads" and bones protruding from places that they probably shouldn't be. Yet, they have the audacity to put larger actresses on the spot about their weight or try to instigate drama between them and smaller actresses.


But what is getting left out of this dialogue is that Spencer's message about the connection between one's weight and overall health is not only rare, but a valuable one and should not fall on deaf ears, especially in our community.


Looking at our numbers, African-Americans bear the brunt of the obesity epidemic in the U.S., not to mention we disproportionately suffer from a range of illnesses such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers. It can no longer be denied that what we weigh, what we eat and how active we are impacts our health and overall quality of life.


And no, Spencer isn't saying that you have to be stick skinny and fit into some white standard of beauty in order to be beautiful. (She is only losing 20 pounds and that's it.) What she is reminding us of is that that there is nothing wrong with wanting to lose a few pounds for the sake of your health.  


Instead of criticizing her, we should be applauding her.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.

 (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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