Maggie Q on her modeling experience: toxic, gross, shaming

Maggie Q starred in the series Nikita for four seasons. She’s done a lot of other work, but she was so good on that show that most people associate her with it. Despite not being trained in martial arts, Maggie was tapped for action films early on and it became her bread and butter. Her name became so synonymous with the genre that she promised herself she wouldn’t do any more, telling her agent to turn down any action scripts that came her way, However, her latest film, The Protégé, lured her back thanks to Samuel L Jackson and Michael Keaton. Maggie gave an in-depth interview to Salon as promotion for the film. It’s a good interview because she covers so much, like the back surgery she had only two and a half months before she did her own stunts for The Protégé (yikes!), her activism and the bill she has before Congress on behalf of garment workers in California. She also spoke about her modeling career she had before getting into the film industry. The interviewer , Alli Joseph, was also a model and they shared stories of how bosses discouraged them from eating and shamed the models by comparing weight gains and losses. Some of these quotes can be triggering.

On the one positive thing she took from modeling: I will say very specifically that starting that career in Tokyo taught me about timing. And I know that may sound really small and really nothing, but the Japanese are fanatical about time management. And if you are 30 seconds late to something, they won’t see you. Certainly not at that time. And you’re taking trains and this and that and looking at maps to get places and invariably there are going to be hiccups and this and that, and there was no excuse for that. I remember that being such a harsh reality. I thought it was cool that I could get something out of an industry that’s so toxic and gross and one that I would never recommend anybody go into.

On weight shaming: I remember the agency that I was with, they had a whiteboard on the wall and with all our names on it and they weighed you every Friday and they put your weight on the wall, but they kept all the previous weights for all the previous weeks on the wall. They kept it there so that people could see if you were yo-yoing, going up and down. It was like a wall of shame. If you gained a pound, everyone knew it and could see it. And it was literally, you walked in the door, it was right there after you walked in the door so that it was on for everyone.

It was intended to shame you into either never eating, having an eating disorder, or feeling really bad about yourself and it’s disgusting. It’s really gross. I’m sure there are experiences in it that are very positive. One of my best friends growing up in Hawaii is a modeling agent now, owns his own agency and he’s a very healthy, honest guy. They’re a gay couple who really care about his girls and he’s very straight with them. He keeps them healthy. He keeps them sane. That did not exist when I was modeling. No, no, no. Awful people. Awful.

On being too poor to eat: Well you know what was really funny was that I was their model model because I was always so slim. Two reasons. One, I was an athlete and the second reason was I couldn’t afford food. I remember that, yeah. I was so poor that I actually couldn’t afford food. And I would save up to the end of the week to buy fruit because I loved fruit. I’m from Hawaii. It’s a part of my . . . And if I could afford fruit at the end of the week, if I could skip train rides and skip certain meals and afford four apples at the end of that week, I was winning. But I stayed really slim because I really couldn’t have three meals a day because I couldn’t afford them. And they were like, “Look at Maggie. She’s so awesome because she’s always so skinny.” And I’m like, “Don’t say that to people when I can’t afford food.”

[From Salon]

Alli told a story that the models in her agency would be taken to restaurants by their bosses and the bosses would watch what they ordered. If they ordered more than plain salmon and lettuce, they would be fired. To that, Maggie said, “Oh, no, no, no. You can’t. Eating was discouraged.” This is awful. I mean, we knew this went on, but not in these specific terms and it’s heart wrenching. I was particularly triggered by Maggie’s last quotes regarding poverty induced thinness being rewarded. And when you think about the age at which some of these young women start modeling, being treated this way is all they know.

It’s encouraging to hear some agencies are trying to promote a more positive environment. Maggie and Alli also discussed MeToo in Hollywood and the changes that have happened since people have spoken up. Maggie acknowledges it was really bad and there were bad people, but she is markedly more lenient with those who have erred in Hollywood than those in the modeling world. I hope that means Hollywood is less toxic than the modeling world today. I find that hard to believe.

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Photo credit: Instagram

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18 Responses to “Maggie Q on her modeling experience: toxic, gross, shaming”

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  1. Cel2495 says:

    I love her in Nikita …. She is very talented and beautiful

  2. Melly says:

    Gorgeous woman!

  3. Myra says:

    She is one of those actors that I enjoy watching regardless of the quality of the show. Her and Regina King, especially Regina. I could watch anything they’re in and enjoy it.

  4. OriginalLala says:

    I love Maggie Q, and reading this makes me so sad and so angry – how damaging our thin-and-youth obsessed culture is!

  5. Susan says:

    How she isn’t a bigger name, bigger star, more famous is a mystery to me. She is amazing in every sense of the word.

  6. FHMom says:

    It makes me so sad to hear how much abusive these young girls had to put up with. Maggie is beautiful.

  7. Marigold says:

    I hated modeling and acting in the industry. I remember back in the 80’s, I was a size 4 which for me was bone thin. My bone structure can’t go smaller than that, and I was criticized for being heavy. I was so thin!

  8. Genevieve says:

    She has her own line of nutritional probiotic products. (ActivatedYou) They are the only ones that have stopped my mysterious but awful stomach cramps and aside from the high price, I LOVE them. Highly recommend.

  9. Silver says:

    I worked on Nikita on and off , we didn’t work close so I can’t say anything about her but I heard from other crew that she would allegedly be very nasty especially to women on the crew and people got fired. She also broke up a marriage while in that show , I forgot if the guy was from the camera dept or a grip but he had a young child and cheated on his wife who was also in the film business with her. I walked in on him pretty much crying behind the set one day as their affair I believe was ending and he was on the phone trying to make it work.

    • Silver says:

      I couldn’t link to this but if you google his name you can see articles – this is an excerpt

      ‘ In 2011, the Hawaiian born actress was strongly linked to a man named Thomas Care, a crew member of her CW show ‘Nikita.’ Although it’s good to hear that Maggie opts to keep her dating adventures low-profile, the relationship between her and Care has been nothing but scandalous. For one, Thomas was a married man who had sired a toddler with his wife, according to DailyNewsEntertainment.

      Tom and Maggie allegedly dated from 2011 to 2012, as proven by several photos which captured their sweet moments. The following year, the two weren’t spotted together anymore. Nevertheless, because of her relationship with Care, Maggie was tagged a homewrecker alongside LeAnn Rimes and Angelina Jolie by several sites.’

      • TQ says:

        Gorgeous woman. And good for her speaking her truth.

        But yeah, I remember this gossip moment @Silver. I also believe she was rumored to have ditched Tom Care for her Nikita costar Shane West. I think there have been tons of rumors about her dating married and non-married costars (google and lots of blinds come up). Of course she was later engaged to costar Dylan McDermott but they broke that off after 4 years. She also was rumored to be a diva on various sets. But she sounds self reflective and mature in this interview. So who knows what the actual truth is.

    • brubs says:

      I mean, I can’t comment on the other stuff, but I’m pretty sure he was the one who broke up his marriage, since he was the one who had an affair

      • isabella says:

        Also, “sired a toddler” is just terrible writing, so I find it hard to take the whole item seriously.

  10. Natters says:

    I worked in the art world in the 90’s which is full of trustfunders who went to boarding schools and developed eating disorders which a few of the trustfunder artists would then use in their art work. Since most people have their salary supplemented by their trust funds the art world makes little effort to pay you a living wage. I was working for a ridiculously low salary with no health benefits eating ramen noodles every day (I would save up for a pizza slice or McDonalds cheeseburger if I could). I was around 100 lbs and everyone wanted to know my secret to staying thin. “Poverty is my secret!” I would shout out and they would turn away. If we were at an event in the art world I was there grabbing all the h’orderves from the waiters while the other women rejected the food like they were being offered poison. My boyfriend at the time took it upon himself to make sure I ate real meals and for that I will always be grateful to him.

  11. candy says:

    If you guys haven’t seen This Changes Everything on Netflix, it kind of speaks to this as well. The industry is just so male dominated, and it influences how women see themselves across the board. I started thinking I was fat by the time I was 9 or 10.

  12. Courtney B says:

    Audrey Hepburn spoke about the weight issue as well. She was lauded by many for her very slim figure. But she pointed out it was largely due to severe undernourishment and malnutrition as a child in Nazi occupied Netherlands. It permanently changed her body and she had a lot of trouble with keeping a healthy weight. It even, to her sadness, affected her fertility. But people only saw her elegance in Givenchy. I wonder if Maggie has continued with permanent struggles or if she was old enough that it didn’t forever alter her metabolism. She was still pretty young.

  13. Lyds says:

    I definitely think it’s a combination of “being lauded/told thin is beautiful” and “not having enough money to buy food.” Poor does not equal thin; there are millions of people below the poverty line who are obese, because it’s easier to buy cheap, unhealthy meals than it is to buy healthy. The fact that she chose apples as opposed to a McDonald’s hamburger when she did have money also speaks to the pressures of her industry.

  14. Bread and Circuses says:

    A friend of mine did competitive swimming, and some of her fellow swimmers dabbled a bit in modelling too, because they were in great shape and happened to have the right features for it.

    She said a lot of them gave it up simply because it was such a caustic, toxic work environment, where people cut you down for your (objectively good) looks constantly.