Hollywood often gets a bad rap for fueling unhealthy, and often unattainable, standards of beauty. Thankfully, a new generation of stars are pushing back, focusing on choosing self-love over self-criticism. Challenging Hollywood to become more inclusive, these body positive celebrities are shifting the conversations on appearance. Check out our list of self-love game changers, and the secrets behind their confidence.
1. Mindy Kaling
Despite being considered one of the most powerful voices in comedy today, Mindy Kaling has often been criticized for her looks. The actress, writer, executive producer, and director has said that one of the biggest drives in creating her material was that she rarely saw characters onscreen whom she could identify with.
This inspired her to create the Fox/Hulu comedy The Mindy Project. Additionally, Kaling has become a fashion icon. She recently received widespread acclaim for posting a picture of herself wearing a two-piece bathing suit with the caption “wear a bikini if you want to wear a bikini. You don’t have to be a size 0”. The Office star also suggested that other women should post pictures of themselves in their bikini, and to not feel ashamed of their bodies.
2. Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson may possess what Esquire called “the best voice in the history of pop music”. But for most of her career, her body has been the focus of media attention. Clarkson has been open about the criticism she has faced along the way, revealing that she was once shown magazines of nude women in order to pressure her into changing her appearance.
Clarkson, who has said she doesn’t “obsess about my weight” hopes to inspire fans to be confident, body positive, and love themselves. She has stated that “it’s up to artists to really push back” against unrealistic beauty standards, and is thankful that she has achieved success despite not adhering to societal beauty expectations. The accomplished singer believes that “people should just concentrate on their own lives and their own health and their own happiness” .
3. Rebel Wilson
While comedic actress Rebel Wilson’s figure has often made headlines, it also helped pave the way for her career. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, the Australian actress revealed that her agent was so impressed with her look that they signed her immediately. Wilson believes that as someone in the limelight, she has the ability to inspire others to be self-confident by being “brave and bold” and “enjoying her life”.
The actress understands the pressure placed on women to look a certain way, and for that reason she feels it’s her responsibility to be a role model. She feels “really lucky to be the body type I am”, and has even designed a clothing line featuring a diverse range of sizes to flatter all women. The body positive actress hopes that her confidence will help other women develop their “self-image and self-respect”.
4. Sarah Hyland
Celebrities often encounter criticism centered on their weight. Much of the negative attention towards Modern Family actress Sarah Hyland has been focused on her changing appearance due to her severe medical issues. The award-winning actress has been open about being diagnosed with kidney dysplasia, caused by the organs not fully developing while in utero. She’s undergone transplants, and has had to take a plethora of medications.
Hyland’s condition often means that she has trouble maintaining muscle mass and weight, and has even caused her hair to fall out. After 16 surgeries, the actress was left with a small bulge around her kidneys. Although this bulge has often caused social media users to comment negatively on her appearance, Hyland tells fans: “Love yourself and be patient. We are all stronger than we think we are.”
5. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore has always been open with her struggles. From handling sobriety to publicly addressing her troubled childhood, the star has never held back. Now in her forties, Barrymore has brought her honesty to social media, often posting pictures of herself without makeup, and chronicling her fitness journey.
Barrymore has stated that she chronically battled her natural body type, but has embraced her changes, becoming more body positive. The actress has called her weight fluctuation “a challenging, but beautiful ride”. She implored her fans to stop comparing themselves to celebrities who’ve immediately lost their baby weight, saying, “If I looked decent on anything I have done since I had my two kids, I have clawed my way there”.
6. Dascha Polanco
Before she was on Orange is the New Black, Dascha Polanco was an aspiring nurse in New York City. Although the Dominican-born actress wanted to pursue acting, she “always doubted auditioning because of [her] weight”. Polanco credits becoming a mother with her changing views on her body. The actress realized that the only way to “instill in my kids self-acceptance and self-love” was by modeling a body positive attitude.
Fans have fallen in love with Polanco’s candid social media posts, where she posts tips to increase self-confidence and self-care. The actress isn’t afraid to post pictures of herself, often showing unedited photos. She hopes to join the “web of body positive advocates” and believes that self-love is a process, saying “you can love yourself without liking everything all the time”.
7. Gina Rodriguez
Gina Rodriguez has defied body stereotypes throughout her career. The actress says that she once believed she would never become a “leading lady” because they are often “way skinnier” than her. Proving naysayers wrong, the actress became an award-winning star though her role on the dramedy Jane the Virgin, and was the leading actress in the action film Miss Bala.
The actress has also lent her voice to the shows Carmen Sandiego and Diary of a Future President. Rodriguez hopes that her body positive attitude will help reduce the pressure Hollywood puts on women, saying “there is no way in this world things are only allotted to certain people because of their figure.” The actress is also against Photoshop: “Let me keep my curves, you know? My birthmark. I want to look like myself.”
8. Christina Hendricks
As an actress on the AMC drama Mad Men, Christina Hendricks’ acting abilities were often overlooked due to an undue focus on her appearance. While fans have often expressed their praise for her curves, Hendricks revealed that her body type often prevented her from landing the acting jobs that she wanted. Passed over for roles such as doctors or policewomen, Hendricks declared “there should be a million different body types [on television]”.
The actress, who initially began her career as a model, realized that after gaining weight, she felt “more womanly and sexy”. She credits her mother with helping her feel “completely comfortable with my body”. Doubling down on her body positive message, the Good Girls actress declared: “I was born with this figure, and I’m very proud of it.”
9. Demi Lovato
Despite her young age, Demi Lovato has dealt with a variety of issues in the public eye. Never one to shy away from her struggles with sobriety, eating, and mental illness, the actress-turned-singer has made it her mission to use her platform to inspire fans to be more body positive. The actress, who has struggled with her weight and body image, is now striving to embrace herself without “trying to look a certain way or fit a certain mold”.
Lovato has used her Instagram to share unedited pictures of her body, much to the delight of fans and other celebrities. Claiming that she was “tired of being ashamed of my body”, she uploaded an unedited photo of herself in a revealing bathing suit. Lovato hopes that more people will realize that they are “more than a number on a scale” and that she can help foster a more positive discussion on body issues.
10. Jessica Simpson
Pop sensation Jessica Simpson is no stranger to body scrutiny. In 2009, her weight made headlines across the world after she was photographed at a chili cook-off. The “Irresistible” singer, who already suffered from disordered eating, said that the media focus on her weight made her disorder worse.
She believes that the public’s obsession with her Daisy Duke look, more than a decade ago, has defined “the ‘before’ for every ‘is she fat or is she thin’ story for the rest of my career”. Today, Simpson focuses on her health, and making her fashion line accessible to women of every size. She says that her comfort in her appearance has been largely due to wanting her daughter to “feel safe enough to love herself and the body that God gave her”.
11. Winnie Harlow
Working in a call center, model Winnie Harlow never believed that she would one day be strutting down the runway. For most of her life, Harlow had been bullied because of her vitiligo, a skin condition causing lack of pigmentation. Her future changed when she was invited to model for some friends, where her images captured the attention of Tyra Banks.
The America’s Next Top Model host invited Harlow to participate in the show. Despite being eliminated, Harlow has continued modeling. She is an outspoken advocate for increasing diversity in the fashion world, using her platform to educate others on her skin condition with a video on YouTube called “Vitiligo: A Skin Condition not a Life Changer”. The model has become a champion for body positivity, saying: “You need to first love yourself before you have anybody else love you.”
12. Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy has always been vocal about the struggles she has endured in Hollywood regarding her weight. The actress, who has been “every size in the world, from a six to a 22”, has had to battle intense criticism aimed at her personal appearance. McCarthy finds the public’s obsession with her weight “dumb and boring”, and believes that men aren’t subjected to the same level of scrutiny as women when it comes to weight.
Rejected by many designers, McCarthy decided to create her own line of clothing that would be more inclusive for women of every size. McCarthy’s body positive message is: “As long as everybody’s healthy, enjoy and embrace whatever body type you have.”
13. Iskra Lawrence
In the sea of highly polished and edited images dominating social media, model Iskra Lawrence is hoping to add a sense of realism. As the face of one of the biggest lingerie lines, Aerie by American Eagle Outfitters, Lawrence is in a unique position to inspire women to accept themselves. Lawrence, who has been modeling since she was a teen, has publicly discussed her battle against body dysmorphia and dieting.
Since then, she has made self-love and body positivity her mission. Lawrence has openly criticized the popularity of “thigh gap” photos, by showing how easy it is to fake the look, in a now-viral Instagram post. The model frequently posts unedited pictures, showing stretch marks and her exercise routines. Lawrence is confident that her approach to self-acceptance will help others, saying: “You are meant to be you and no one else. Your body is your home so love and respect it.”
14. America Ferrera
As the star of the inspirational film Real Women Have Curves, America Ferrera revealed how she ironically felt insecure to be seen in lingerie during one of the film’s pivotal scenes. The actress admitted that unlike her character, she did not have the same confidence regarding her body.
Luckily, the actress now celebrates her body — not just for how it looks, but for what her body has achieved. Ferrera credits training for a triathlon for the shift. Instead of focusing on her appearance, she was forced to focus on her strength and athletic ability. The intense training, and the birth of her son, helped her to “finally understand that my body is a miracle” and that she is “attempting to love it unapologetically as it is”.
15. Serena Williams
On the court, tennis star Serena Williams has no problem hitting back, but intense public criticism has often had her running for cover. Despite being considered one of the best players in the sport, Williams has often been at the center of negative commentary regarding her appearance. Today, the athlete feels more confident than ever about her body, telling critics, “If you don’t like it, I don’t want you to like it. I’m not asking you to like it.”
Feeling excluded from most of the fashion world, Williams decided to create her own fashion line. The line has been incredibly successful, and has featured several sold-out pieces. Williams hopes that her body positive message will resonate with women, telling them that “you can be whatever size you are and you can be beautiful inside and out.”
16. Tess Holliday
Plus-size model Tess Holliday has often lamented that curvy women are typically “always the punch line, the comic relief, or the best friend. We’re never the love interest.” Today, the model hopes to speak out against the unfair stereotypes assigned to women of her size, by showing women that glamour doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all package.
Holliday began her modeling career with the plus-size fashion brand Torrid. Years later, she has made a name for herself after landing the covers of popular magazines such as People, Cosmopolitan UK, and Self. She asserts, “I love myself in a world where people tell me I don’t deserve to feel love.” The model claims that the pressure to help women such as herself move to a more body positive mindset is what motivates her.
17. Jonathan Van Ness
For many, issues involving body image are typically limited to women. For Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness, the radio silence on male body image issues made his disordered eating worse. In a revealing interview with Allure magazine, Van Ness realized that “this system doesn’t fit me. It’s not that I don’t fit the system.”
After spending much of his life believing he “had to look a certain way to be found attractive”, Van Ness developed issues surrounding food. Today, the reality television star has worked hard to accept himself, and hopes that his honesty will help other men feel comfortable expressing themselves. As he mentions in his book Over The Top: “Imperfection is beautiful.”
18. Lena Dunham
When Lena Dunham first undressed on the HBO dramedy Girls, viewers were both celebratory and critical. The actress, who has often been lauded for her self-confidence and refusal to conform to Hollywood’s beauty standards, admits that even she has struggled with her self-esteem.
As Dunham’s physical appearance changed, the criticism became harsher, finally prompting the actress to publicly address the health issues that have impacted her body. She revealed that she was suffering from a chronic illness, and has accepted that her body “is an ever-changing organism”. She praised fans “who demand that life be more than a daily weigh-in, who know their merit has nothing to do with their size”.
19. Oprah Winfrey
Throughout her long and storied career Oprah Winfrey has never been embarrassed to talk about her struggles with weight. In an interview, Winfrey admitted that food became a way to de-stress during her time as a talk show host on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Her highly publicized battle with weight led to what she considered “wasted time, abhorring the thought of trying on clothes, wondering what was going to fit, what number the scale would say”. Eventually the media mogul found a healthy way to enjoy her favorite food items, without feeling shame or guilt. Now in her sixties, Winfrey feels that she has “finally made peace with food”. She now feels more comfortable with herself, and healthier.
20. Chrissy Teigen
One of the most popular body positive celebrities is model-turned-television personality Chrissy Teigen. Fans have praised Teigen for her posts and pictures, depicting the less-glamorous side of childbirth and being a woman. Teigen made headlines when she posted a video of herself, zoomed in to reveal her stretch marks, captioning the clip: “Mom bod alert!”
The social media-savvy former model realizes how apps like Instagram can distort our perception of what people should look like, saying: “I know how hard it can be to forget what (for lack of a better word) regular ol’ bodies look like when everyone looks bonkers amazing.” Teigen hopes that her frank discussions on women’s bodies will help foster important conversations around how women are portrayed in media.
No conversation about body positivity would be complete without a mention of Lizzo. The flute-playing, singing, rapping, twerking musician has captured the hearts of fans across the world with her talent and self-confidence. Unfortunately, Lizzo has also been at the receiving end of criticism directed at her body.
First, social media platform TikTok removed clips of the musician in her bathing suit without explanation, leading Lizzo and fans to wonder why her bathing suit videos were pulled while others remained. Then, former celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels commented on the singer’s body. Lizzo, however, would prefer the focus to be on her music, saying “I’m so much more than that.”
22. Ashley Graham
Ashley Graham made headlines as the first plus-size model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine, just one step in her body positive career. Graham has made it a point to challenge the stereotypes that women need to be “flawless”. The model frequently posts unedited photos of herself, showing her cellulite and stretch marks, garnering endless praise from women around the world.
Graham is driven to make a change in the fashion industry. As the face of mainstream campaigns such as Revlon cosmetics, she hopes to inspire young girls, wishing, “I hope they look in the mirror and say, ‘I am beautiful’.” Graham has designed a size-inclusive lingerie and swim line and has served as a judge on America’s Next Top Model. She hosts her own talk show, where she has opened up about her battles with self-esteem.
While Rihanna may appear bold and confident on stage, the singer has often struggled with her self-esteem. In an interview, she described herself as having a “fluctuating body type”, which influences how she dresses in order “to hide” certain parts of her body. This insecurity led her to create a lingerie line called Savage X Fenty, and her own makeup line called Fenty Beauty.
Both Savage X Fenty, and Fenty Beauty, have made it a point to cater to a diverse variety of skin tones and body shapes. Seeing customers become emotional at finally being able to find a cosmetic product in their shade made Rihanna realize the importance of being inclusive. Rihanna has hired a diverse cast of models to walk the runway of her Savage X Fenty show, an apparent affront to Victoria’s Secret size-restrictive runway show.
Looking at images of Beyoncé performing, it would be hard to imagine the talented musician as feeling insecure. Yet according to a revealing interview with Vogue, the singer felt pressure to lose weight after the birth of her firstborn. In the past, the singer has also revealed that her body shape led to many high-end designers not wanting to dress her. This eventually led her mother to create most of her costumes and dresses.
Today, the star credits age, and motherhood, with teaching her to see her worth beyond just her physical appearance. She also recalls how she has become more confident with age: “I now feel so much more beautiful, so much sexier, so much more interesting. And so much more powerful.”
25. Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez has become synonymous with discussions about diverse body types in Hollywood. The triple-threat star is often credited with inspiring women to feel more confident about their curves. Although she seems to ooze self-confidence with her many stream of selfies, the road to body positivity wasn’t always easy.
In an interview with W, Lopez noted she “never appreciated my body or my looks when I was in my 20s” and that she often found herself in unhealthy relationships because she felt so insecure. Thankfully, time and success have brought her the self-confidence she openly displays today. Lopez works hard on her physical appearance and health, believing that “when you are happy and feel joy and love, you radiate beauty”.
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