Kate Winslet: ‘In my 20s, people would talk about my weight a lot’

Kate Winslet’s period drama, Ammonite, is opening in the UK in April so she’s doing a fresh round of promotion for it. It opened here last November, probably to be considered for awards, but that didn’t work out so well for them. Kate had a big interview in the Guardian. She was in her “Little Barn,” which is apparently her garage, that holds all the props that Kate has taken from her movie sets. But she took really cool stuff like the sink from Mildred Pierce and the curtains from The Holiday that her kids are cannibalizing to zhuzh up their jeans. And the best part is she has the table from All the King’s Men on which she got busy with Jude Law. She should give tours of the Little Barn! But not all of Kate’s memories from her early career are good ones. She’s recently been reminded of just how horrible people were to her about her weight when she started out. It got so bad at home in England, she was afraid to come to Hollywood where she knew it would only get worse.

Reading back over Winslet’s many years of press today, in these perfect and enlightened times, it was a shock to see how often her body was part of the story – Joan Rivers once said of her appearance in Titanic: “If she just lost 5lb, Leo would’ve been able to fit on the raft.” “Yes. In my 20s, people would talk about my weight a lot. And I would be called to comment on my physical self. Well, then I got this label of being ballsy and outspoken. No, I was just defending myself.”

Recently she returned to some newspaper articles written about her in the late 1990s, from when she was 19. “And it was almost laughable how shocking, how critical, how straight-up cruel tabloid journalists were to me. I was still figuring out who the hell I bloody well was! They would comment on my size, they’d estimate what I weighed, they’d print the supposed diet I was on. It was critical and horrible and so upsetting to read. But…” But? “But it also made me feel so… so moved. By how different it is now.”

How did that physical commentary impact the teenage Winslet? “It damaged my confidence. I didn’t want to go to Hollywood because I remember thinking, ‘God, if this is what they’re saying to me in England, then what will happen when I get there?’ Also, it tampers with your evolving impression of what’s beautiful, you know? I did feel very on my own. For the simple reason that nothing can really prepare you for… that. But then of course, I had Mia when I was 25. And so all that shit just kind of…” a storm of small breezes waves from her hand, “evaporated.”

[From The Guardian]

I’m happy to call Kate an a**hole when she’s being one. There were even a few times in this interview I rolled my eyes, but I remember how often her weight was discussed when Titanic came out. I’m disgusted to read that they were speculating about her weight and proposing diets for her in the press. It was cruel and so unnecessary. But, like Kate, I am also looking back at those comments with a different perspective. My kneejerk reaction was to defend Joan Rivers because that was her schtick – she made fun of everyone’s weight. But then I thought, what the hell am I doing? She could be cruel, schtick or not. I was just so used to it being okay to make comments about weight, but thankfully it’s unacceptable now. I’m surprised that Kate was able to let it roll off her back after she had Mia, now 20. Having a baby at that stage of her career might have put more pressure on her. But good for her. Mia, apparently, has begun her own acting career. I wonder if Kate is staring down the press with a glare that says, “just think about bringing up her weight.”

I also appreciated Kate’s comments about being labelled as “ballsy” when she merely tried to defend herself. I mean, this was only 25 years ago and yet women truly were expected to be seen and not heard. No wonder we are so exhausted, we have to fight these archaic battles all the time.

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58 Responses to “Kate Winslet: ‘In my 20s, people would talk about my weight a lot’”

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  1. Julie says:

    I’m surprised. I never even noticed her weight on Titanic. She was just gorgeous. I only noticed it years later when she lost weight and the shape of her face elongated. She’s still beautiful but Titanic Kate was a knockout. What sad blind sod even thought she needed to lose it?

    • Darla says:

      When Titanic first came out THE look was Ally McBeal. Skinny skinny skinny. No breasts, no hips, no ass permitted. Kate was not even an ounce overweight, but she had a very different figure than was fashionable at the time. It really was an awful time.

      • Size Does Matter says:

        Remember “heroin chic?” Geez how many of us 90s teens tried starvation diets? How many of us still do?

      • Chaine says:

        You are so right, Courtney Cox, Laura Flynn Boyle, Teri Hatcher—It was like a race amongst the TV stars as to who could get to the lowest weight first.

      • Darla says:

        Yes, and Sarah Michelle Gellar who was adorable and thin when Buffy premiered. By time the 4th season rolled around she was emaciated IMO. You could tell her stunt double just by that. Her stunt double couldn’t do that work at Gellar’s weight. In retrospect, I wonder how much Whedon had to do with that. But maybe nothing. The culture was horrific. Heroin chic, anorexia glorification, etc.

      • tealily says:

        Yeah, it seems absolutely crazy to me now be we all thought we were fat back then. I sometimes wonder how we made it out of the 90s.

      • Alarmjaguar says:

        I was just listening to a podcast this morning called Anything For Selena (it is so good), the Episode was Big Butt Politics all about how the “ideal” body type changed in the late 90s (they were looking esp at J-Lo’s big break being cast as Selena and how all the commentators were emphasizing how big her butt was!) I had completely forgotten about Allie McBeal, but that’s such a good example of what kind of body type was held up (I always think of Kate Moss, too)

    • MF1 says:

      Just googled some pics of her in Titanic, and you are right: her face has gotten longer and narrow since she lost weight. She’s beautiful either way, but she definitely didn’t need to lose weight back then.

      • clomo says:

        She looked great! So silly people thought she was fat in Titanic, her figure in above photo with Leo is lovely. And the camera adds weight. She was also so pretty in Heavenly Creatures, before the Hollywood pressure hit.

      • bettyrose says:

        Clomo – I was in my early 20s when it first came out, and I found her captivatingly beautiful. I didn’t know her as an actress, but I thought she was someone I should know because the first scene when her face is revealed is very dramatic. In any case, it was so refreshing at that time/late 90s to have a beautiful actress who was naturally curvy. In no way was she fat, though. And honestly I’d be suspicious of any straight dude who had a problem with her body type.

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      She has been open about her weight problems when she was a teenager and just starting out in the industry – she talked about how difficult she found it to lose weight for Titanic. I thought she look amazing in that movie.

      • Jenn says:

        I remember the interviews in 1996. She talked about her weight, and how much she’d already lost, a LOT. Evidently it still wasn’t enough to keep people from commenting on it. :/

    • Killfanora says:

      She was weight appropriate and figure appropriate for the era, in Titanic.

  2. Betsy says:

    Gosh, I’d forgotten about that on a conscious level, but you know what? Every single time I see a Kate Winslet interview or something, on a subconscious level, my very first thought is of her weight. Every time. That’s how strong that message was early on. And I didn’t think that was weird back then! That seemed totally normal and appropriate that they would discuss her (totally normal) weight!

    • Marmalazed says:

      I’m totally with you on that. I remember how often it was brought up in the press at the time (I was in my late teens/early 20s). I’m rewatching Titanic with my sons and one of the first things I thought was, “What was the big deal about her weight?!” And it’s gross that my first thought was about her weight at all. Ugh. Internalized misogyny, indeed, especially from that time period, for me.

    • stormsmama says:

      I remember there were stories of James Cameron- the director!- calling her “Kate Weighsalot”

      Ugh
      i love her- for all her a-hole moments- I just love how despite all that she never stopped

      • Mac says:

        IIRC, Cameron called her Kate Whinesalot because he felt she complained too much. Of course, her whining may have just been her speaking her mind to a misogynist.

      • smcollins says:

        I distinctly remember that he called her “Kate Weighs-A-Lot” because he’s a verbally abusive asshole (I think he even admitted to it IIRC). She was gorgeous and her figure was bangin’. I remember thinking how much Leo looked like a kid next to her, he was so scrawny and baby-faced. Her looks have matured with her features becoming more angular with age, she’s a very beautiful woman.

  3. Elo says:

    I remember the constant talk about her weight. Some even argued that she was a bad love interest for Leo in Titanic because she was too plump, which is ridiculous.
    But as a testament to how that can warp ones views, I always thought she was beautiful but yes a little plump. I’m looking at the picture in this article though of her and Leo in Titanic and she is so slender, just curvier than was the fashion at the time. What was anyone, myself included, thinking?

    • Becks1 says:

      Same – I remember at the time thinking she was heavy for an actress* but looking back at those pictures she’s gorgeous (and I will add that I’ve always been a Kate fan, i do think she’s a good actress and I enjoy her movies.)

      *and I guess that was a normal reaction, because at the time she was heavy for an actress – like think of the beauty standards during the 90s, super super skinny was in, Ally McBeal like someone mentioned above, Kate Moss was the It girl (although not an actress) – it really did warp our perceptions I think in terms of what women could look like. I know I internalized that a lot and its only now, at 39, that I’m realizing how warped my perception of weight is – not for other people at this point but for myself.

      now there is a much wider range of shapes on the red carpet and in movies and its very refreshing to see.

      • Ann says:

        There is definitely more acceptance of different body types and sizes now. I do think there is a still a lot of pressure for actresses to be skinny, though. You see them lose more weight the more they are in the public eye. Ellen Pompeo lost weight after Grays Anatomy became a huge hit. She started off very thin but eventually just looked emaciated, IMO.

        I read an interview with Jessica Brown-Findlay (from Downton Abbey, Harlots, Brave New World) about weight in the acting world. She was a serious ballerina until the age of 17 when she hurt her ankle, and during that time she developed an eating disorder which landed her in the hospital. Probably not unusual in the dance world. Anyway, when she started acting she said she would get a part and then they would tell her to lose weight. She would have to tell them no, she couldn’t diet, it was dangerous. Probably lost roles because of it. I’ve never seen her in person but I know someone who saw her in Hamlet on the West End, and said she is absolutely tiny. But not tiny enough, apparently. Crazy. She’s gorgeous, too.

    • Juniper says:

      Scary thing is that I saw her costumes at a museum and she was freaking tiny. She just wasn’t Kate Moss cocaine chic tiny.

    • bettyrose says:

      Where’s the criticism of Leo looking like a prepubescent boy in that era? I mean, I thought he was impossibly pretty and swooned for him, just like most young women did, but if his wee little body wasn’t tall/bulky enough to stand aside a gorgeous woman, why are we not pointing that out? (don’t call me out on reverse sexism. I’m just making a point).

  4. Piratewench says:

    She was an absolutely normal, healthy and beautiful weight in her 20s. I was a young teenager and the obsession with Kate’s weight in the media affected me. I was also a normal healthy weight at that time, but I thought I was big as a house. I still have dysmorphia but I can now approach it with love and compassion for myself. Back then, this kind of talk about a normal weight young woman that I admired REALLY messed with my young, struggling mind and onset of dysmorphia.

    Thank goodness we have moved on from the waif model as the only beauty ideal.

    • erin says:

      I was also a normal-sized (probably size 6? with boobs & hips) teenager and I struggled with accepting my body. I remember watching the movie in the theater with friends and feeling so happy that a beautiful curvier woman was featured until one of my other friends said something like, “Kate Winslet is really filling out those dresses” (NOT meant as a compliment) and then I felt bad about my body again. In some ways we have come a long way since then, but there is still a long way to go in accepting and loving ourselves.

  5. Darla says:

    Joan Rivers was ridiculously cruel, I never found her funny, but I haven’t tied her into what I consider the glorification of cruelty in America, which IMO culminated in Trump. Huh. Something to think about.

    • Chaine says:

      She was a terrible, destructive, poisonous person. I’ve never understood how she became a big star.

      • jensays says:

        THIS! She was horrible and I get that she is a pioneer for women comedians – but, its sad that her route to that place was to be cruel. I hate it.

    • tealily says:

      I always hated Joan Rivers. She’s glorified as a trailblazer now and I get that, but she was such an a**hole.

  6. lucy2 says:

    I never understood that, I always thought she looked perfectly normal and healthy in that film (and really beautiful).

    I don’t know that things have gotten that much better though, I would imagine young up and coming actresses are still constantly told to lose weight and be unhealthily thin.

    • Lexy says:

      Yeah, I mean look at Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone. They were both healthy sizes when they first became big stars, probably would be considered very thin still for us normal people. Now they are just so incredibly tiny. Look at gigi Hadid. These women looked great and then were told to lose weight and then complimented them for it. It’s so disgusting.

  7. Louise177 says:

    I almost fell out of my chair when I read her daughter is 20. It’s funny that certain things goes over your head but other cues gives you a jolt. I remember the criticism but didn’t think of it at the time. Now it’s so cringeworthy to look back.

  8. tcbc says:

    I remember Joan Rivers’ fatphobia towards Winslet on the Oscars red carpet and I cringe about how many young women internalized Rivers’ cruelty. I hated Rivers from that moment on.

    Later, when Rivers showed her misogynoir and transphobia when talking about Michelle Obama, I renewed my hatred.

    That’s why the comedy world’s post-death deification of Rivers never sat right with me. “Hard-working” is not a admirable trait when that work is so bigoted.

  9. Iris says:

    I remember someone saying that Rose sunk the Titanic singlehandedly because she was so fat. Like… Kate winslet was SO STUNNING in that movie. But remember that Sophie Dahl was called a plus size model at the time and if you look back at the Opium ads in particular, she was maybe a size 8

  10. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    It’s really a wonder how we’re all still here, sane, communicative and banding together so as not to lesson the message, intention and direction. Young and old. We are power.

  11. RN says:

    I remember the discussion about her weight well. She is not exaggerating. The press would even use phrases like “full figured”. It was unrelenting for her, and I feel sorry that she had to experience it.

  12. LOL says:

    Let me guess Kate’s in the awards trail again and out come her sob stories for 100th time etc. Some people are just so obvious and Winslet is one of them.

    • Jaded says:

      It’s not a sob story; it’s a vicious, destructive, self-esteem wrecking tendency for the media to fat-shame. She stood up to it though and it’s her right to tell her story. Maybe it will help some women with eating disorders or body dismorphia to get help.

    • AmyB says:

      @LOL – EXACTLY – it is not a sob story!!! When the ideal was heroin chic Kate Moss, and anorexic looking Ally McBeal. This is precisely the kind of dangerous image in society that can lead young, impressionable girls into the deadly world of eating disorders, NO JOKE!! In fact, many of the actresses on Ally McBeal came out later and said they DID have an eating disorder later, being on that show, and having to compete being in that environment. Portia Rossi, Courtney Thorne-Smith – both came out publicly years later, speaking of their battles of eating disorders on that show. I grew up during the 80s/90s and I remember quite clearly Kate Winslet being criticized for her body/weight. Looking back now, it is utterly ridiculous. No, she wasn’t the skinny model type that was “in” then, but she was absolutely beautiful. Winslet can be arrogant and annoying in other regards, but in this case, I am on her side!!!

  13. Huit says:

    Titanic was released early 1998 and the Clinton impeachment trial was late 1998/early 1999. Monica Lewinsky’s weight was a huge talking point / joke then, with the implicit jibe that this made her (as well as Kate) unattractive. And I look back at those pics and ask, why? Basically two young women’s weights were talked about way too much.

  14. Nicole says:

    I don’t remember the comments in the press so much, but I did notice she was not stick thin. At the time I was in my early 20s and I loved it. I was a nice, young 20s thin, probably a size 8, but I thought I was fat and it was so refreshing to see someone normal on screen. It gave me such a boost of confidence to see someone that reflected what we see in normal life.

  15. lee says:

    She looked lovely in Titanic, but it was a poor casting in my opinion. It was nothing about her weight, she just looked older, like late 20s to me. And Jack looked like her little brother. Her character was supposed to be 17 and his, 20. No, I just got big sis – little bro vibes. Or cool aunt – hip nephew. It didn’t work, but not because she looked overweight!

    • vertes says:

      Kate has one of those faces which look mature regardless of her age. In “Heavenly Creatures,” released when she was 19 & probably filmed a year or 2 earlier, she didn’t look like a young teen. She’ll look the same when she’s 65.
      Angela Davalos looks too old for her character & bf in “Man in the High Castle.” Angela Lansbury is another actor who never looked “young.” Their advantage is that they don’t change enough over decades to ever look “old.”

    • Nic919 says:

      Kate Winslet and Leo Di Caprio are the exact same age so a lot of the issue is that we aren’t used to seeing women cast that are close in age to the men. Often there is a ten year age gap or more. Also Dicaprio still had a baby face going on at that time. Kate looked like an adult woman whereas Leo still looked like a boy. I don’t think we should be blaming her for that.

      And now they are both 45 and Kate looks not much different whereas Leo looks way older than he did in 97.

      • delilahhhhh says:

        I disagree. For me it has nothing to do with being used to seeing a much younger woman and older man together onscreen. Rose looks older than Jack to some of us, plain and simple. I also agree that she has a timeless face and will look basically one age from 16-60. No one is blaming her, but I really liked Leo more than Iiked her in the film and would have preferred an onscreen partner who looked more his age.

  16. Tashiro says:

    I remember how nasty Rivers was to Elizabeth Taylor.

  17. Juniper says:

    I saw her Titanic costumes at a costume exhibit a few years ago. People, she was TINY. She was not “normal for her height” she was very very small. I was shocked after hearing all the talk how “large” she was. It’s shameful what we do to women.

  18. Ang says:

    Is it really archaic though, if it’s still happening and has always been happening? We wish it was

  19. Marigold says:

    I thought that she was perfection in Titanic. But women are hammered about their weight. Still. It’s literally in the mind of every woman that I know. I remember the Ally McBeal actress playing a Shakespearean role and there is a scene where she was naked. Her chest looked like chicken bones that had been picked clean. I remember wondering if that poor woman was starving herself for the industry.

    • lascivious chicken says:

      @marigold We can defend Kate without insulting Calista. Good for Calista for not getting implants to fix her body to your liking.

      • Granger says:

        Uh… there’s a difference between a chest and breasts. Marigold is talking about Calista’s chest. And I don’t think she’s insulting her — she’s bringing up the point that Calista was starving herself for the industry. It’s obvious, we all knew it at the time.

  20. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    And yet . . . Kate Winslet laughs about how she got thinner over the years and Leonardo DiCaprio got fatter. She calls it “taking the piss out of him.” Maybe the people calling *her* fat were just taking the piss out of her?

    At least Leo didn’t get plastic surgery then lie about it.

  21. Katebush says:

    She was so beautiful in Titanic and I think her figure was perfect I remember the criticism too and it was awful I hate seeing these years with gorgeous curvy figures being pressured to diet until they lose what makes them distinctive

  22. Amando says:

    The 90′s were a rough time for fuller figured or average sized women. It was all about supermodels like Kate Moss or the blonde, breast implanted bombshells like Pamela or Jenny. I have often wondered if that is part of the cause of my many body issues and insecurities since I grew up in that era. Looking back on it now, Kate was not even an ounce overweight and I’m glad we have come a long way since then. Still, we have further to go.

  23. Sarah Kate says:

    Joan Rivers shouldn’t have been given a pass. All those comments about weight were coming from her own eating and weight issues, which was her own darkness. Someone with a healthy view of weight doesn’t bring that shit up. They find a better joke.