I’m coming into this post knowing that most of you will probably skip over it entirely, and those that do read it will fall into two camps: one camp of people will just scream “WHO?” and comment about the photos without reading. The second camp – a determined minority – will read and discuss. To those people: Hello! I wish there more of you! So, who is Romola Garai? She’s an English actress that I adore. She’s been in such films as Angel (with Fassbender!), Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Atonement, One Day and Glorious 39 (which I recently watched and it freaked me the f—k out). Like many English actors, she moves with ease between films and TV projects, and she’s might be best known to American audiences for her critically acclaimed role in the British TV show The Hour (also starring Ben Whishaw and Dominic West), which airs on BBC America here in the states.
Beyond her outstanding career, Romola is sort of known as “one of those slightly larger-than-average actresses who always ends up talking about body image, like being over a size 6 is somehow enormously groundbreaking.” Like, Romola is seen as a “throwback” to the time when women were expected to have a “sturdier” build and childbearing hips. In truth, Romola is only slightly larger than the average skinny actress, which she acknowledges fully. In a new interview, Romola talks about body image, magazine airbrushing, The Hour and feminism. You can read the full piece here, and here are some highlights (note: I’m assuming the sizes given are UK sizes).
Being a size 10 in the industry: “My weight was a very big issue when I started. I was then – and am now – a very normal size 10. But that’s not acceptable. Everyone’s aware of it. It’s partly because fashion, film and television have become so interdependent. Increasingly, it’s actresses doing the big fashion advertising campaigns and now there’s no distinction between actresses and models. There’s no way I could ring up a company that was lending me a red carpet dress and say, ‘Do you have it in a 10?’ Because all the press samples are an eight – I would say a small eight. If you want the profile, you have to lose the weight.”
Airbrushing: “It’s difficult because if I refuse to do any magazines at all, my work, I think, would suffer in a very immediate way. But when I appear in these magazines, I know I’m being ‘trimmed’. I’m being airbrushed a lot. And I know that people are accepting those images and are under the impression that that is really how my body looks, that I’m hairless and sexless and weigh 90 lbs. That really worries me. And I really don’t know what to do except talk about it.”
She acknowledges that dudes get the same thing too, discussing the situation where Jason Segel was ordered to lose 30 lbs: “Executives said it just wasn’t credible that anyone would want to have sex with him the way he was. I think that is such a profound misreading of what people want out of sex and relationships. And I want no part of that. I wouldn’t want to sit in a room and have someone say to my face, ‘No-one is going to want to have sex with you’. No job is worth that.”
On the nostalgia for the 1950s (the era of The Hour): “I find it strange when women get nostalgic for that era. I can see – just about – that we have lost some of what might be called the security of being in the home, but what we’ve gained seems to me so much greater.”
Feminism: “I’m a feminist. God, yes! A bra-burning, building-burning feminist. I was brought up with a very strong sense of what can happen if your society starts to chip away at the small victories women have won for themselves. I remember when I was about nine, there was a timeline of British history on the wall at school and “votes for women” was about an inch before the end. We’re just a hundred years into having any history of our own and I never forget that.”
“I was brought up with a very strong sense of what can happen if your society starts to chip away at the small victories women have won for themselves… We’re just a hundred years into having any history of our own and I never forget that.” She’s amazing, isn’t she? I love her combination of idealism and pragmatism, and I just wish more women would talk like this. Like, what are you afraid of? BE a strident feminist. Own it!
As for the body image stuff… I understand what she’s saying when she talks about how she needs to do the press and the magazines to support her work, and how she doesn’t know how to deal with the crazy and false images she’s helping to perpetuate, so she’s just going to talk about it.
Photos courtesy of WENN.