By Lisa Barr
Here’s what is headlining the news this week: ISIS, Ebola, and Renée Zellweger’s face. The first two are crises; the latter – seriously? Leave the woman alone. In a Botox-obsessed nation, who are we to criticize a celebrity who by her own defense finally feels “peaceful and healthy”, and living her life her way. Why do we want to break her, a woman who has stayed out of the limelight for the past few years only to attend ELLE’s “Women in Hollywood” event a few days ago?
The media and women nationwide have called out Zellweger for being surgically-altered and “unrecognizable” – no longer the apple-cheeked relatable Bridget Jones who we know and love. No longer the young, single Mom fighting and ultimately winning Jerry Maguire’s heart because she was good, loving, strong, and natural.
NATURAL is the buzzword here. What woman in her 40’s these days is living her life makeup free, diet-free, workout-free, injectables-free – basically free of any anti-aging demands? And then throw Hollywood into the mix, and being an actress approaching Middle Age. Talk about beauty pressure on steroids. And believe me, this similar pressure has trickled downward. Show me a six-year-old who has not had a mani/pedi. Show me a high school girl who is not asking for highlights, bronzers, hair extensions, and clothes that are designed for clubbing rather than Calculus.
Name one celebrity – any A-lister (outside of Frances McDormand), B-lister or Wannabe – who has not injected, highlighted, dyed, binge-dieted, enhanced/minimized — did something to look “rested” and younger – in a Herculean effort to appear anything but her age.
And yet, here we all are whispering and pointing the Hypocritical Finger at the target-du jour: Zellweger.
Mean Girls, Mean Moms, Mean Media — what’s going on here is yet another example of bullying. Same cruel words; different playground.
As a Mom of three teenage girls, I am in the trenches of Girl Drama, Mama Drama, Body Image issues, and combating all aspects of Cyber-Crap on a daily basis. It is a full-time, exhausting job just to remind my daughters that they are okay, or in Bridget-speak: I love you just as you are.
Zellweger, who responded to the media, after a weeklong full-on attack against her appearance, has said bravely and elegantly: “This is who I am. This is how I have aged, and I am happy.” She stood up to the bully — when sadly too many young girls have killed themselves over much less blatant abuse. Cyber-bullying similar to what Zellweger is now experiencing has destroyed many of our teenage girls. The public hurt — particularly on Facebook and Instagram — for someone so young and vulnerable becomes too overwhelming and unbearable, that taking their own lives has tragically become an easier option.
By hurting Zellweger with our Mean Girl words, what do we ultimately want from her? An apology? Do we want her to grovel and say YES, you got me — I nipped, tucked, cut and pasted.
Who are we to judge?
It does not matter if Zellweger has altered her looks — that’s her choice. What I do with my aging process is my choice. Obviously, living a natural life free of cosmetic enhancement of any kind is the optimal choice, but not for everyone. What DOES matter here is that other women might have crawled back into a cave with the unfair pounding Zellweger received — but this woman fought back.
Zellweger stood up to all of us Sideline Critics and Media Character Assassins and said in her own words: Throw your playground punches all you want, but I LIKE me.
Ahh, the ultimate “Fuck Off” ammunition. You go, Renée.
As a Mom, this message is all I dream about for my daughters — not the one the media has ‘gifted’ them over and over: You are not pretty enough, not thin enough, not enough of enough. Zellweger’s Last Word is truly what I want my own girls to take to heart: This is who I am, and I LIKE me. Whether or not YOU like what you see is irrelevant to my life, my health, my happiness, my enough-ness.
At the end of the day, that’s what matters.
Lisa Barr is the editor and creator of GIRLilla Warfare, and the author of the award-winning novel “Fugitive Colors” – www.fugitivecolorsthenovel.com.