On Being Invisible and Drop Dead Diva

I have heard some talk about my new show “Drop Dead Diva.” People are concerned that we are making fun of fat people or that it is a show about fat jokes or something ridiculous like that. I want to reach out and assure our potential audience that I would never condone or be involved with a project like that. The reason I took the job in the first place was because it dealt with issues of body image with such respect and grace. I have been affected negatively by ‘fat jokes’ and the status quo of women’s bodies for as long as I can remember. I almost killed myself dieting, once in my early twenties, after being told by network executives that my ‘face was too full’ to play the role of myself on my first television show, “All American Girl.” All I wanted to be was thin enough to – well, play myself! I didn’t eat for weeks and exercised day and night and wound up in the hospital. My TV show was eventually canceled – and replaced by Drew Carey’s show – you know, because he is so thin.

“Drop Dead Diva” is a show about us. For those of us who struggle to be visible. I never lived up to the thin, blonde beauty queen ideal – the image I saw in magazines and movies and television. Because of this, I always felt invisible. “Drop Dead Diva” is about learning to become visible. Through the character Jane Bingum, played masterfully and eloquently by Brooke Elliott, we triumph because we see her beauty, we share her beauty, we show everyone her beauty. Sometimes when I have a break in a scene, I will go behind the camera and watch Brooke on the monitors, and I want to cry because she always wins, she always shines. She makes me feel like I exist. And she is beautiful. Save your judgments until you watch our show. Do it for yourself and all the young girls out there who feel like they don’t exist because they are not a size 0.

21 Comments. Add To The Mix…

  1. To be thin enough to play yourself. What a perfect allegory for body issues and eating disorders.

    Women and men who have been told by the executives of life that they are not even good enough to be themselves.

    To help people feel as though they exist- what an admirable undertaking.

  2. I admit, when I saw previews for the show (not aware you were in it) i scoffed at it. But with your assurance, I feel a little better about it. I know I’m not a woman, but I’ve been troubled by image as well. Maybe this show will be a positive outlook for everyone?

  3. I follow you on Twitter, and that is how I found my way here.
    I really enjoyed this post & I look forward to getting to see ‘Drop Dead Diva’. I don’t have cable, but maybe I can find it online?

    Thank you for being you & helping me to remember that I am ok the way I am, even though I seldom feel ‘ok’.

    xoxo
    http://twitter.com/tallulah13

  4. Margaret,

    I can not tell you how excited I am to see a show on television that speaks to me. I am an actress, living in LA, and the worst thing that has happened to my career is loosing 100+ pounds. That is when I officially became “invisible”. Being a size 6 has been great, except now that I’m the normal sized woman “with a pretty face”, I can barely get arrested. I too am working on changing that, and writing some stuff for myself, but it is going to be great knowing there is someone/ something else on television making space for the rest of us. I’m sending my stuff to Susan Edelman today – this is a project I would give an eye teeth to be a part of.

    Just because I want to be VISIBLE… here’s my info:

    http://twitter.com/elite_qt

    http://www.sag.org/iactor/TamikaKaton-Donegal

    http://www.imagineedit.com/clients/tamika.html

    Thanks for reading.

    xoxo

    Tamika Katon-Donegal

  5. I just love you. Your stuff got me through some hard times. I’ve dealt with body image forever. The problem being I’ve always loved my body just the way it is, but I have always felt pressure to be rail thin because I was “pretty enough to be a model”. Grrrr. I’m not fat. I’m a normal woman. Sheesh. I went to Hawaii with an actor friend that was guesting on a show filmed there. He would just watch me eat at restaurants because he said women never ate in L.A. it had actually become a fetish.

  6. I’ve been following you on Twitter (that sounds so guerilla-stalking like!) and became aware of Drop Dead Diva that way. Had I not been cognizant of your history and character, I may have believed this show to be another cheap-shot full of awful presentations of overweight people. But I have followed your career and knew immediately that you wouldn’t attach yourself to anything that tawdry.

    Good luck with the show. I anticipate a real and humorous and portrayal of weight issues in our culture,

  7. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this! It’s so hard to feel good about yourself when you’re being bombarded from all sides by everyone asking, “So, when are you going to get weight-loss surgery because it’s helped SOOOO many people and maybe you should consider it because you never look happy when I bring up the subject…hey, where are you going?” Everyone is different. If we all looked the same or weighed the same, the world would be a VERY boring place.

    I’ve written about the “Invisible Fattie” syndrome…it’s such a bizarre, hopeless feeling to occupy space and yet be made to feel so insignificant.

  8. Can’t wait for the show. Became interested quite honestly b/c it’s filming just a few miles from where I live and the ‘talk of the town.’ After realizing what the show is about, feel it’s a great message.
    I have several kids including two beautiful asian daughters who will never be the blonde and skinny (and believe me where I live is nice, safe, but way too many stereotypical blonde and folks concerned w/ appearance in my opinion of course…).
    Can’t wait to see the show!
    Thanks for the blog.
    I too follow you on twitter and fb.
    Best wishes for the show.

  9. Being a bigger guy all my life, I really can relate. I still struggle to this day with my weight. My biggest pet peeve are fat jokes or even when a skinny person uses the word FAT!!

    It is good you are out there telling people it is okay to be yourself and you do not have to be skinny to be beautiful… Being a big guy in the gay world is tough as well…

    Love ya margaret :)

  10. I grew up in a place where being blond was a crime worthy of bieng shot at, or hit in the head with bricks, both of which happened to me. Heh. So I guess it’s ironic? But growing up I often wished and prayed that my hair would turn dark brown. I was called a whole in the 6th grade, and all those “slutty, stupid blond” jokes were repeated constantly on the playground, often accompanied by slaps, kicks, or spit.

    So I guess the only point I’m making there, really, is that people can suck and be racist, image-oriented assholes anywhere. :/ And little girls can learn to hate themselves for things they cannot help anywhere too.

    As for your show, I wanted to say thank you do much for this. I really hope that it WILL be a positive force in the world, especially in a time where sociopathic, cruel behavior is encouraged and lauded on the ‘net, which is where many folks get their information from these days. And it’s very culturally acceptable to bash on “the fatties” and assume that they DESERVE it because they are clearly greedy and just not TRYING hard enough. Because understanding the science behind weight, hormones, metabolism, the endocrine system, genetics, and different body types is a lot harder than hating and fearing anything you don’t understand.

  11. Just received a Margaret Cho News email and was checking out the previews of you in Drop Dead Diva. It looks like a wonderful show. They are so lucky to have you acting in it as Teri. Loved that line ‘brains trump Botox’. I love it. Loved the movie trailer for ‘Beautiful’ too, and you are.

  12. As a more-than-merely plus sized attorney, the show’s premise definitely caught my attention. Attorneys are judged on their appearance by their partners, colleagues, judges, clients and juries. Some will not hire a plus sized attorney, some will (unconsciously or consciously) require you to prove yourself above and beyond the level required of other attorneys. The times it has been assumed that I am a court reporter or secretary, as an attorney cannot possibly be as fat as I am, are too numerous to count.

    I applaud the show for calling attention to some of the stereotypes facing plus sized attorneys (and plus sized individuals in general), but I deplore some of the images portrayed. A scene where the dead blonde stares longingly at donuts during a meeting, to the extent that she is distracted from the conversation occurring with a client, is neither realistic nor professional — an attorney (fat or not) would never do this, regardless of the desire for a donut. Showing the dead blonde unceremoniously shoving the donut into her face as she walked down the hallway back to her office was demeaning to all types of fat people. Showing the dead blonde waxing poetically at a client’s dinner meeting about the merits of fried calamari was similarly unrealistic, and made it seem as though her life was food-centric, not client-centric. While I personally do not suck down liquid cheese, I expect everyone does have their own stress-relieving methods — so that one I found less offensive or unrealistic.

    The show would be more compelling (and would be the subject of less criticism) if it focused on the discrimination (overt and covert) that the attorney (or fat person in the general population) faces, not on the way a person becomes fat. Some things people do that they think are being helpful are often hurtful. I think the show was trying to accomplish this (eg the assignment of the divorce case with the mousy client because the fat attorney would understand her insecurities) — but I think it has a long way to go. I suggest they get some advice from the legal community regarding this issue.

    We have discussed this show on an American Bar Association listserve for small and solo firm attorneys — http://www.solosez.net, and anyone can see the discussion threads if you go to the archives. Attorneys often have a different perspective on these issues, and you might find it interesting to see what we think.

  13. Hi Margaret…I have to tell you i’ve always enjoyed your work.

    I am really liking the new show…I do wish they would get Brooke’s character some new clothes…instead of hiding behind boxy jackets maybe they could show off her curves a little more…just a thought :)

    Keep up the good work and so sorry to hear of the loss of your pet.

  14. I think this show is a great way to show everyone how it feels.

    Trying to be super-smart to make up for the way we look– is a classic line right out of a page in my book. I have always been “bigger-boned”, “heavier”, “heftier”, “chunkier” than my colleagues. I have been overlooked for a promotion, a job opening, an invitation-to; I really want someone to look me in the eye and tell me that is not true.

  15. Hey I didn’t even know you were a part of this show! When I read this article I got even more excited! You have always been an inspiration to me. Your crazy jokes and your creative ways of taking negativity has always rubbed off on me. Although I never thought of you as a “fat” girl.. I’m glad that there is a Margaret Cho for women like us to look up too. I may not be fat but I sure as hell ain’t skinny. Life is good! Keep up the GREAT job.

    I live on Guam so the show airs every Monday and I make sure i’m home by the time it airs . It’s been my Monday night unwinding ritual lately. Super love it!

  16. i loved the pilot for “drop dead diva” – would love for some of the actors to do a guest post for my blog, “the actors diet,” about what actors eat with a focus on positive body image (www.theactorsdiet.com)

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