Awardees give full-figured women reasons to rejoice

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Chandra Wilson couldn't wait to bring her Screen Actors Guild Award home to her daughters. She was eager to tell them, "Look, with this skin and this nose and this height and these arms, you know, I'm here!"

Reed Saxon, Associated Press
Jennifer Hudson, with her Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role for her work in "Dreamgirls," knows her curves and dresses accordingly.
Click photo for larger image.

The "Grey's Anatomy" star, accepting the trophy for best female in a drama series Sunday, was among the changing bodies of Hollywood in the winner's circle Sunday night, along with "Ugly Betty's" America Ferrera and "Dreamgirl" Jennifer Hudson.

They fit the mold of Ferrera's breakout movie, "Real Women Have Curves," stealing the focus from the usual red carpet questions about eating disorders and teaching real women that talent and glamour are golden in any shape or size.

Wilson's little mention of "these arms" drew memories of Camryn Manheim, who in 1999 declared, "This is for all the fat girls!" when she took home the Emmy for her supporting role on the ABC legal drama "The Practice."

Not to say that "fat" -- known as the "f-word" in the Rosie O'Donnell household (take note, Mr. Trump) -- was fitting.

When SAG winner Forest Whitaker joined Ferrera on stage as a presenter, he said, in a scripted but apt moment:

"So, you're Ugly Betty? ... More like America the beautiful, really."

Ferrera and Hudson, dual winners for Golden Globes and SAG Awards, are young women who know their curves and dress them accordingly, wearing gowns that show busty and beautiful women how it's done when it's done right -- something 2002 Oscar nominee Queen Latifah has been doing for years on music and movie red carpets.

These women, of course, are still the exceptions. "On Grey's," for example, Wilson is surrounded by women such as Dr. Grey herself, Ellen Pompeo, who could easily slip into model-sized samples. And Hudson's size played into her role as the big-voiced Effie -- seen in contrast to Beyonce Knowles, who actually lost weight for her Diana Ross-inspired role.

Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said the celebration of all body types is as much a result of the democratization of the media as it was inevitable.

"The demographic of people who don't look like Calista Flockhart is significantly larger than people who do," Thompson said yesterday. "That demographic -- in the age of democratization of the media with the Internet and reality -- wants to be represented."

In 2000, Glamour magazine entered the "real woman" debate with a report on the relative sizes of three Kates: actress Kate Winslet and models Kate Moss and Kate Dillon, the latter a plus-sized model.

Winslet, at the time, was 130 pounds at 5 feet, 8 inches.

Chris Pizzello/Associated Press
Chandra Wilson won awards for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series and for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series for her work in "Grey's Anatomy."
Click photo for larger image.Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty
America Ferrera won best actress in a comedy series for her role in "Ugly Betty" at the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. She also won a Golden Globe for her work in that show.
Click photo for larger image.

In the Kate-weight-debate, Winslet, 30, tells OK Weekly magazine, "This skinny thing, it angers me so much. It disturbs me. ... I don't understand the fascination with it. The interest in certain people, like Nicole Richie, in regards to weight, is incredible, and it's a mystery to me.

"I'm lucky in the sense that I've never been particularly vain."

The curvy Brit recently did a nude scene in "Little Children," a rule for which she is Oscar nominated.

Tyra Banks put extra pounds on her 5-foot-10 frame from the days when she was a Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl, and the tabloid press immediately printed images of her on a Sydney, Australia, beach, accompanied by disparaging headlines.

Bottom line, said Banks, is that "I'm not the healthiest eater," and she isn't as weight-conscious because she's not required to "live up to that model standard anymore."

That "model standard" is in a state of flux. Recently, the fashion industries here and abroad have taken steps to curb the appearance of coveting anorexic-looking models.

Thin isn't out on the runway or red carpet, but too thin isn't necessarily in, either. Lindsay Lohan took grief not long ago for looking painfully thin, and "Pirates of the Caribbean" star Keira Knightley filed a libel suit against the publisher of the Daily Mail concerning suggestions that she's anorexic.

Syracuse's Thompson noted that real change won't come until the lead actress in a show with a title like "Ugly Betty" is actually, well, ugly.

"It will be a real change when we, in fact, start casting people who are actually ugly," he said. "Betty has braces and bushy eyebrows, but a 10-minute segment on 'Extreme Makeover' would make Betty a strikingly attractive woman."

At the SAG Awards, where actors celebrate their peers, the weighty discussion was about the 12-pound "Actor" statuettes.

"It's the heaviest of all [the awards]," Helen Mirren -- who won two, for the movie "The Queen" and HBO's "Elizabeth I" -- told the Associated Press.

"It's also the most beautiful."


Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen contributed to this article. Sharon Eberson can be reached at 412-263-1960 or seberson@post-gazette.com .


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