What Melissa McCarthy Has Said About Weight Loss and Body Positivity
Melissa McCarthy has acted and produced her way to one of the biggest paychecks in Hollywood, and now she’s up for a Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of celebrity-biographer-turned-forger Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me?
It’s a surprisingly dark role for the beloved comedian, who’s previously played break-out characters in Bridesmaids, Mike & Molly, The Heat, and Spy. But McCarthy’s not only about exuding confidence and crushing life on-screen. She’s also made it clear she couldn’t care less about what people think of her weight — a topic she’s been asked about time and time again as she churns out hits.
“I’ve been every size in the world, from a six to a 22,” McCarthy told The Guardian in 2016. Here’s what she’s revealed about her weight-loss journey over the years.
On Her Childhood:
Born in rural Illinois, Melissa McCarthy spent her early years on a farm first performing for her mom in their laundry room. “I do think I worried about weight too soon, when it was only little-kid weight,” she told Rolling Stone. “I thought I battled weight throughout high school, but I look back at pictures of me as a cheerleader, doing sprints, lifting weights, doing gymnastics, playing tennis, and while I wasn’t reed-thin like some girls … I was a size six the entire time. So what on Earth was I freaking out about?”
A later move to L.A. (where she joined improv troupe The Groundlings) posed more of a challenge. “I stopped walking and ate shitty food. I was in good shape, then suddenly I gained 25 pounds,” she revealed.
On Crazy Diets:
A few years after McCarthy landed her first big role on Gilmore Girls, she attempted a doctor-supervised all-liquid diet, which led her to lose 70 pounds in four months. “I’d never do that again,” she told People of the experience. “I felt starved and crazy half the time.”
On Her Recent Weight Loss:
McCarthy’s received lots of questions about her noticeable weight loss over her career (a rumored 75 pounds), but she’s since revealed her “secret” was really just changing her lifestyle. “No trick, nothing to tell, just super boring life,” she said to Extra in 2016. “You bring it real down, you don’t do anything fun, and you go to bed at 7:30 — that’s the trick.”
The actress isn’t trying to hit a certain number on the scale though. “I have [lost weight], but I’ll be back again,” she told Refinery29. “I’ll be up, I’ll be down, probably for the rest of my life. The thing is, if that is the most interesting thing about me, I need to go have a lavender farm in Minnesota and give this up. There has to be something more.”
On Choosing Her Roles:
But between warming hearts as Sookie on Gilmore Girls and steamrolling competitors as Michelle Darnell in The Boss, McCarthy’s characters have always stood out on screen for a reason.
“It wasn’t like I ever wanted to play the stunning-girl lead part who just says 17 dry lines,” she revealed to Rolling Stone. “That didn’t seem like fun to me. But you go through everything, like maybe if I was taller, prettier, thinner, would I be going out on more auditions? But then in the back of my head, I didn’t want to do those parts.”
On Sexist Standards:
It isn’t lost on McCarthy that Hollywood’s unfairly obsessed with her weight. “I just find it dumb and boring. I really do,” she said to AARP last year. “No one’s asking a man, how do you keep your legs in shape? Which I’ve been asked. I think every time we categorize people — by weight, by race, by gender — we put them in boxes and it’s not a good thing for the world.”
On Body Image:
McCarthy has two daughters — Vivian, 11, and Georgette, 8 — with longtime husband and partner Ben Falcone, and she knows that that conversation starts all too soon. “There’s an epidemic in our country of girls and women feeling bad about themselves based on what .5% of the human race looks like,” she told Redbook in 2016. “It starts very young. My message is that as long as everybody’s healthy, enjoy and embrace whatever body type you have.”
On the Fashion Industry:
For an actress who’s received noms for an Academy Award, BAFTA Award, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards, McCarthy had a surprisingly hard time finding gowns for award shows. “Two Oscars ago, I couldn’t find anybody to do a dress for me,” she told Redbook in 2014. “I asked five or six designers — very high-level ones who make lots of dresses for people — and they all said no.”
And the available selection left a lot to be desired. “At a certain size, clothes just became tarp with a hole in it,” she said to The Guardian. “Everything was so mother-of-the-bride. I couldn’t ever put anything on and be like, ‘I love this!’ All I could say was, ‘Well, it’s on and it’s not a garbage bag.’”
On Designing Her Own Clothing Line:
McCarthy’s frustrations with her wardrobe led her to take things into her own hands — not all that surprising when you learn she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) before pursuing stand-up. Now she’s found success in both, selling her Seven7 line across the country in department stores and online.
Instead of the usual fare found in the plus-size section (“it was always kind of like a grandmother or a 14-year-old hooker-type look,” she remarked), McCarthy embraced patterns and colors in sizes 4 to 28 — and ditched the idea that “plus size” should be its own category or section in the store.
“Seventy percent of women in the United States are a size 14 or above, and that’s technically ‘plus-size,’ so you’re taking your biggest category of people and telling them, ‘You’re not really worthy.’ I find that very strange,” McCarthy told Refinery29 in 2015. “It’s like, if you open a restaurant and you say, ‘We’re primarily gonna serve people that don’t eat.’ It’s like, what? You would be nuts. Yet, people do it with clothing lines all the time, and no one seems to have a problem with it. I just don’t get why we always have to group everything into a good or bad, right or wrong category. I just think, if you’re going to make women’s clothing, make women’s clothing.”
On Being a Role Model:
Given her success, it’s no surprise McCarthy has built up quite the fan base. “The letters I really love are from young actresses who were worried they had to fit a certain look. They say I’ve opened it up. And I don’t just mean plus-size girls,” McCarthy told Us Weekly.
“I know I am not the ‘norm.’ It never occurs to me in terms of being a role model, though, because I don’t know any perfect women,” she said to Refinery29. “If I, off the top of my head, name 20 of the most amazing women in my life, it’s all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, jobs. I can only go off my reality.”