“I basically stuck with fruit, vegetables and fish (to slim down for the movie). I wouldn’t recommend that. Emily Blunt and I would clutch at each other and cry because we were so hungry.” – Anne Hathaway on losing weight for The Devil Wears Prada
Two days ago, post-photoshoot-from-Hell, I received a call from the executive producer of the film, who had just come out from a meeting with the photographer. After very succinctly telling me that he didn’t like the hairstyle I had for the shoot and that there were, essentially, no photos that he found ‘perfect’ enough, he asked, “Have you gained weight since your last movie?”
That question, and the conversation that followed, is the very reason disclaimers exist. When he first informed me three weeks ago that he was going to arrange a photoshoot for me, I wasted no time in telling him that (a) I do not photograph well, (b) I have gained a significant amount of weight in the three years since filming The Wait, and (c) I am generally very uncomfortable in front of the camera. My protests very clearly fell on extremely deaf ears, because now, three weeks later, he’s saddled with a slew of photographs depicting a fat girl with bad hair.
Nevertheless, there were two outcomes of that conversation. The first is a severe diet over the next few weeks in an effort to diminish what the producer very tartly called my ‘chunky arms’ and ‘thick waist’. The second is that any belief I’ve ever had in my friends’ insistence that I look good in photos is now officially out the window.
I’ve always found it baffling when people — both friends and acquaintances — tell me that I should be a model. I find it even more baffling when we look at the exact same photograph of myself and see completely different things, especially since I have no illusions about my looks and have always made very transparent the fact that I am not photogenic. So when I met up with Yuh Wen, the girl who also acted in The Wait with me and whom I hadn’t seen since right up until last weekend, and she said that I should consider trying out for this year’s Miss World Malaysia pageant, I had to laugh. And then I was completely taken aback when I realized she meant it, not in the least because she had been in last year’s pageant and knew the thinner, taller competition I’d be up against, but she declared that I have the face, body, and verbal abilities for it. “You haven’t seen what’s under this dress!” I retorted.
Obviously, I am not about to be a part of any pageant, not only because I’m neither tall nor thin enough, but, more importantly, also because I’ve made it my lifelong principle not to be stereotyped as an events girl or pageant girl, two labels that are synonymous with the terms ‘uneducated’ and ‘Chinese-speaking-only’ (with Yuh Wen as the sole exception). But I’m still going to try to lose weight, if for no other reason than to stop the producers’ ceaseless complaints. The probability of this rather haphazard diet succeeding is, naturally, extremely low, due to the uncharacteristically big-boned frame and weight problems I inherited and battled all my life and my own aversion to diets, and the probability of me reneging on said diet out of rebellion is increasing exponentially.
Disclaimer (because it seems so important these days): I am well aware that this is how the entertainment industry thrives — on the notion that one can never be tall enough, thin enough or pretty enough. I am also aware that no matter how bravely the rest of the world is trying to embrace women’s curves, the survival rate of women’s social lives in this country is still precariously linked to how not curvy they are.