Her larger size first made headlines in January and the story was just resurrected for the June issue of Vanity Fair, in which oh-so-observant writer Rich Cohen asserted that "her extra pounds had gone back to wherever they came from, existing only in a few dated pictures on the Internet. Jessica was skinny again, in dark pants, velvety coat, and high heels." Ugh.
And therein lies the problem with most celebrity attempts to promote positive body image. Sure, they can talk about self-acceptance and authenticity. But to get a platform, they have to get thin first. They have to prove that they are still attractive (by Hollywood's ridiculous standards) and bankable before they can go out and talk to fans about how important it is to just be healthy and be yourself. It's a pattern we've seen before.
1. Jennifer Love Hewitt was the target of tabloid photographers, who published unflattering photos of her in a bikini. Her public response was to tell the world how outraged she was that girls everywhere were struggling with their body image--and to reassure everyone that she was an itty bitty SIZE 2! A few months later, she appeared on the cover of Us to talk about how she "lost 18 pounds in 10 weeks!"
2. Tyra Banks also found herself the victim of swimsuit snark, so she went on her show to tell those haters to "kiss her fat ass." She just happened to be wearing the same exact swimsuit she was photographed in, simultaneously making the case that her ass was nowhere near fat.
3. Debra Messing was on the January cover of Shape magazine. In the article, she candidly discussed how awful it was to have to deal with the pressure to lose weight right after she gave birth to her son.
"It was written about in the tabloids a lot...On one page it showed all the actresses who got skinny in six weeks or less, and on the other page was me! I was so depressed and frustrated."
Messing tried to shed the pounds quickly, but the stress of working out constantly was too much. So she went with a slow and steady approach and took the weight off over three years. That does sound very reasonable, but lets' not forget the context. The cover line reads: "Debra Messing: How I lost 42 pounds." To the left: "Weight Loss Made Easy!" Above it: "Slim Down Special" Below it: "Get Firm and Sexy in 28 Days."
Stars are often forced to play this weighting game to stay on top of their game. And that makes it very, very difficult to walk the positive body image talk if they want to keep walking the red carpet. Will Jessica Simpson's show break the mold? I'll set my DVR and wait to find out.