body positivity

25 Famous Women on Body Image

“If I want to have a cookie, I’ll have a cookie.” —Laurie Hernandez Photo: Getty Images, BFA

It’s never been easy for women to deal with ever-mutating standards of female beauty. But in the golden age of social media, where anonymous troll armies roam the internet, body-shaming people on whim, dealing with these standards has reached a whole new level of crazy — and nobody understands the pressures more than those who live in the public eye.

Everyone from Olympic athletes to first daughters has been put through the wringer. In March, President Obama even commented on the issue, telling Time, “I mean when you’re a dad of two daughters you notice more … the enormous pressure that young women are placed under in terms of looking a certain way. And being cute in a certain way. And are you wearing the right clothes? And is your hair done the right way … it’s part and parcel of a broader way in which we socialize and press women to constantly doubt themselves or define themselves in terms of a certain appearance.”

But in the face of constant judgment, many celebrities choose to embrace positivity. Below, famous ladies like Tracee Ellis Ross, Hari Nef, and Serena Williams get real about body image.

Tracee Ellis Ross

“On Girlfriends I kept complaining to the costumer, saying, ‘The cleaners are shrinking all my clothes.’ Finally she said, ‘I know that’s what you keep saying, but I want to be clear with you: Your body has changed, and we need to buy you bigger clothes.’ It took me out for a minute. In the context of our world, sizes 8 and 10 are teeny, but not for Hollywood. I had to ask myself, ‘Do I want to be somebody who worries about what I’m eating? Or do I want to find a balance where I can be healthy and not consumed by that and maybe have to buy some larger pants?’ I bought new pants.” —Glamour, September 2015


“I do have body-image problems, for sure, but I don’t let them ruin my life at all. And there’s bigger issues going on in the world than how I might feel about myself and stuff like that. There’s only one of you, so why would you want to look like everyone else? Why would you want to have the same hairstyle as everybody else and have the same opinions as everybody else?” —SiriusXM Town Hall, November 2015

Lena Dunham

“I have sort of a Zen body philosophy, I’m sort of like: We’re one weight one day, we’re one weight another day, and some days our body just doesn’t even exist at all! It’s just a vessel I’ve been given to move through this life. I think about my body as a tool to do the stuff I need to do, but not the be all and end all of my existence. Which sounds like I spent a week at a meditation retreat, but it’s genuinely how I feel … I think, if I can do anything, as cliche as it sounds, to aid in the comfort of a woman accepting her form, then I want to do that. I think every girl that’s a little curvy can tell you it doesn’t stop you from having sex, it doesn’t stop you from doing anything, unless you decide you should hide in a shame pit because you don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel.” —Gothamist, January 2014

Hari Nef

“In all of my modeling work, I just have to meditate on it. Like, really ask myself in the most objective way possible, ‘Why should I feel ashamed about my body?’ If I feel this body is different, unbeautiful, grotesque — if I feel that, can I really justify it to myself? I just kind of replay that confrontation in my head, over and over again when I’m standing in front of these people in a beige leotard and black hot pants. It’s like, here’s my body, what are you going to do about it? … I just try to manifest an acceptance and love of my body by accepting and loving it, and it works a lot … I still try to manifest normalcy and casualness, even if I feel super insecure inside … I have to manufacture this confidence a lot, but it helps me through … If I had a secret ingredient to my recipe, it’s not, ‘Fake it ‘til you make it,’ it’s, ‘Fake it ‘til it’s true.’” —Teen Vogue, February 2016

Misty Copeland

“Showing that I can execute and do all of these things — that it’s possible to have any skin complexion, to have a healthy body image — for the ballerina body, I think it’s given me more of a voice. And I think it’s forcing a lot of these top tier companies to address the lack of diversity and diversifying the bodies that we’re seeing in classical ballet. It’s really forcing that conversation to be had.” —Time, March 2016

Jane Fonda

“I was raised in the ‘50s. I was taught by my father that how I looked was all that mattered, frankly. He was a good man, and I was mad for him, but he sent messages to me that fathers should not send: Unless you look perfect, you’re not going to be loved … I wasn’t very happy from, I would say, puberty to 50? It took me a long time.” —Harper’s Bazaar, August 2011

Gaby Hoffmann

“I grew up in a very naked world. I’m a very naked person. I just don’t think it’s a big deal …When people want me to talk about whether I think the bush is back, and if that’s great for feminism, I’m like, ‘You know what’s great for feminism? Respecting everybody’s own choice’ … I don’t give a shit if people want to wax everything off. If it makes you feel comfortable, by all means, do that. This is how I feel comfortable.” —The Telegraph, May 2016

Laurie Hernandez

“You see women all over magazines and Instagram, and they all have these flat tummies and you’re like, ‘Wow that’s great’! I don’t think I’m exactly flat — I have a big build, and I love it. It shows that I’m strong and that I’m able to wake up and eat healthy. But if I want to have a cookie, I’ll have a cookie, and it’s OK. But I do love the way I look. I love my build, and I love that I’m strong. It’s important to love yourself because no one can really do that for you.” —Shape, August 2016

Meryl Streep

“For young women, I would say, don’t worry so much about your weight. Girls spend way too much time thinking about that, and there are better things. For young men, and women, too, what makes you different or weird, that’s your strength. Everyone tries to look a cookie-cutter kind of way, and actually the people who look different are the ones who get picked up. I used to hate my nose. Now, I don’t.” —Time, April 2014

Laverne Cox

“Years ago, at the beginning of my transition, I would walk down the street and I would hear people yell, ‘That’s a man,’ and I would be devastated. It took me years to internalize that someone could look at me and tell that I am transgender. That is not only OK, that is beautiful. Trans is beautiful. All the things that make me uniquely and beautifully trans, my big hands, my big feet, my wide shoulders, my deep voice, are beautiful.” —The Daily Front Row’s Fashion Media Awards, September 2015

Jennifer Lawrence

“I was young … Somebody told me I was fat, that I was going to get fired if I didn’t lose a certain amount of weight. They brought in pictures of me where I was basically naked, and told me to use them as motivation for my diet … [Someone brought it up recently.] They thought that because of the way my career had gone, it wouldn’t still hurt me. That somehow, after I won an Oscar, I’m above it all. ‘You really still care about that?’ Yeah. I was a little girl. I was hurt. It doesn’t matter what accolades you get. I know it’ll never happen to me again. If anybody even tries to whisper the word ‘diet,’ I’m like, ‘You can go fuck yourself.’” —Harper’s Bazaar UK, November 2013

Zadie Smith

“We are fixated on our own image, utterly deluded about our own bodies, about the whole realm of the physical. It’s perfectly normal to open a magazine and hear from an eighty-five-pound woman that starvation is her personal choice, from a woman about to undergo breast augmentation that major unnecessary invasive surgery is a dream come true, or from a prostitute that she loves her job, that she wouldn’t swap it for anything in the world. It’s a pretty extraordinary situation. And these are just the cosmetic struggles — there are women all over the world who live like medieval slaves. So — how to lighten up this answer — well, I guess the really interesting and difficult thing about writing women characters is that you have to deal with the idea of people who lie about themselves constantly and lie to themselves constantly and are maybe so deeply invested in that lie that there really isn’t anything resembling truth left. So that’s tricky. Also, there’s some bleak humor in the gap between women’s ideas of themselves and the reality of their actions.” —Penguin

Ashley Graham

“To some I’m too curvy. To others I’m too tall, too busty, too loud, and, now, too small — too much, but at the same time not enough. When I post a photo from a ‘good angle,’ I receive criticism for looking smaller and selling out. When I post photos showing my cellulite, stretch marks, and rolls, I’m accused of promoting obesity. The cycle of body-shaming needs to end …What type of example are we setting for young girls and their self-esteem if grown adults are on Instagram calling other women ‘cowards’ for losing weight, or ‘ugly’ for being overweight? … I refuse to let others dictate how I live my life and what my body should look like for their own comfort. And neither should you … My body is MY body. I’ll call the shots.” —Lenny Letter, August 2016

Diane Keaton

“I was very opinionated when I was young about women, and what was attractive in a woman. To me, it was your model look: The wide shoulders, no hips, and long, long legs. And, you could wear anything, right? … By the time I was 50, when I adopted [my daughter], I’d already seen that we come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s really pretty spectacular. The curvaceous female form, which I used to consider contentious — now I just can’t believe how gorgeous it is. So, women come in all sizes and shapes, and I’m into all of it. Every bit of it, and I really mean that.” —Refinery29, May 2015

Melissa Stockwell

“Getting back into competitive shape after having my baby wasn’t easy, and I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. My post-baby body makes me feel both beautiful and strong. Sometimes I’m out running with my dog and my son in the jogging stroller, and I get double and triple takes as I run by with my prosthetic leg. Once someone yelled out the window that I was a ‘badass mom,’ and it stuck with me. The biggest compliment is when someone says I look like an athlete and that I look strong. To me, strong is beautiful.” —Shape, August 2016

Melissa McCarthy

“Pretty much everyone I know, no matter what size, is trying some system. Even when someone gets to looking like she should be so proud of herself, instead she’s like, ‘I could be another three pounds less; I could be a little taller and have bigger lips.’ Where does it end? … You just have to say, It’s pretty damn good. I am right here at the moment, and I’m OK with it. I’ve got other things to think about.” —Good Housekeeping, November 2012

Mindy Kaling

“I get so worried about girls with body image stuff. And I feel like I have been able to have a fun career and be an on-camera talent and be someone who has boyfriends and love interests and wears nice clothes and those kinds of things without having to be an emaciated stick. And it is possible to do it. In life, you don’t have to be that way and you can have a great life, a fun life, and a fulfilling love life.” —Teen Vogue, February 2014

Jennifer Lopez

“Early on, my family really made me love who I was and what I looked like. My body was nothing out of the ordinary in my neighborhood … When I first started on television, people, and even my own manager at the time, would tell me I had to make all of these changes. But you have to stand up and say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me or my shape or who I am, you’re the one with the problem!’ And when you can really believe that, all of a sudden other people start believing too.” —Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Winter 2013

Kate Winslet

“We all focus on our bodies in our late teens and our early 20s, in a way that is just not cool or healthy. In your 30s, you become aware of staying fit. Now I view my physical self as an instrument that I have to keep going because I’m a mother, and I have to be as healthy as I can for those three people who need me — more than I need for myself to be in a fucking nude scene.” —The Wall Street Journal, September 2015

Stevie Nicks

“Part of me is feeling extremely old now, and part of me is feeling extremely young. Because I look at these pictures and realize I worried about things that I shouldn’t have been worrying about. Like the fact that I had little marionette lines around my mouth when I was 29, and I was complaining about them. I wouldn’t go out to the beach without a sarong from my neck to my ankles. Now I see a picture of myself from that era in a bikini and I’m like, ‘You looked great. And you missed out on a lot of fun vacations, because you were so sure that you were fat … [so] spend more time in a bikini! All the little girls in their 20s, they’re terrified of looking like they’re not 16. And I’m like, ‘Oh, just get ready for what’s to come.’” —Billboard, September 2014

Roxane Gay

“Most of us have these versions of ourselves that terrify us. We have these imperfect bodies we don’t quite know how to cope with. We have these shames we keep to ourselves because to show ourselves as we are, no more and no less, would be too much. In my closet, in the closet containing the clothes that shroud my cowardice, I have 40 or 50 pairs of dark jeans, an absurd number of black t-shirts, and six or seven nice dress shirts. These are the clothes I feel safe in. This is the armor I wear to face the world, and I assure you, armor is needed. I tell myself this armor is all I need. I tell the worst lies to myself. I suspect most of us do.” —GOOD, November 2015

Christina Hendricks

I guess my mom raised me right. She was very celebratory of her body. I never heard her once say, ‘I feel fat.’ Back when I was modeling, the first time I went to Italy I was having cappuccinos every day, and I gained 15 pounds. And I felt gorgeous! I would take my clothes off in front of the mirror and be like, ‘Oh, I look like a woman.’ And I felt beautiful, and I never tried to lose it, ‘cause I loved it.” —Health, July 2010

Cheryl Strayed

“Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea.” —the Rumpus, February 2011

Serena Williams

“I love my body, and I would never change anything about it. I’m not asking you to like my body. I’m just asking you to let me be me. Because I’m going to influence a girl who does look like me, and I want her to feel good about herself.” —Self, September 2016

Ronda Rousey

“I swear to God, if anyone calls me fat one more time in my life, I’m going to kill them.” —the New York Times, October 2015

25 Famous Women on Body Image