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June 12th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

What's the big fat deal?

Editor's Note: Nia Vardalos is the star and writer of the 2002 smash hit, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Her new film, “My Life in Ruins,” is in theaters now.

Actress Nia Vardalos arrives at the premiere of 'My Life in Ruins' on May 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
Actress Nia Vardalos arrives at the premiere of 'My Life in Ruins' on May 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

Nia Vardalos
Actress/Writer/Director

It’s just weight. Just 40 pounds of fat now gone from my body, but wow, it’s pretty much all I get asked about. In the last year, I got to star in a movie, wrote and directed my next one, and adopted a three year old from American Foster Care. But guess what I’m asked...how did I lose the weight?

I am embarrassed to be in the position of answering questions about my body again. On the publicity tour of 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' I was asked over and over again, if, as the writer, I felt it was a fair depiction of real life to have someone of my er, below average looks, hook up with hottie John Corbett.

It’s been years, and I have sat through many a movie like Sideways, where nobody blinks an eye when Paul Giamatti gets together with gorgeous Virginia Madsen. And, then 'Knocked Up'….well, the visual of Seth Rogan on top of Katherine Heigl made me put the popcorn down and reach for my purse. Not because I was grossed out but because I knew the film was about to stop and Ashton Kutcher would now jump out and go “aha, you’ve been punked, that would never happen.” I waited. But no Ashton. The film went on. And many a reviewer, who probably look like sweet Seth (yes even the women) gave it a thumbs up.

Yes, there’s a double standard for women. Whatever. Yawn, we all know it, perpetuate it – we make it worse every time we buy a magazine showing “Stars with Cellulite.” And women, we do buy those magazines. Yes, we do. No, not just at the airport – you have a subscription, admit it. So do I.

So, it’s our fault. Let’s accept it and move on. Socially, the issue of men’s weight is simply not a big deal. Let’s face it: Russell Crowe is fat and no one ever talks about it. Alec Baldwin just orders his suits a size bigger and we continue to swoon.

So, what exactly is up with my weight loss? I get hit with this awkward question daily and have answered it in press interviews, at the grocery store, at the newspaper stand. Why? Because I see their anxious, open faces needing the secret, the new pill, the cure, anything. Just please share the secret. So I hesitantly answer and am always met with the same response: the glaze-eye slack-jawed face.

Because they don’t want to hear the truth: I had a blood sugar problem so my Doctor ordered me to lose weight, it was really hard but I did it through diet, exercise and it took a year.

This is when the boredom sets in on the querying person. I might as well just shove an Ambien up their nostril. The gleam in their eye fades and they get sleepy.

No one wants to hear the facts about weight loss. It’s simple. Take that bag of Doritos and throw it as far as you can. Now chase after it. Pick it up, do it again.

Or don’t. You don’t have to lose weight, unless like me, it becomes an issue of health. I thought I was attractive when I shot 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding.' Studio executives and movie reviewers let me know I had a confidence in my looks that was not shared by them. In other words: they labeled me with words like, overweight, unattractive, unappealing. Hey, just say fat. I love the word fat. I used it in the title. It’s actually not a naughty word. We give it a power it actually doesn’t have. So, you’re fat. Big deal.

If now, I have a sudden validity because I look different on the red carpet, check out my Before pics on my Twitter. (@NiaVardalos) I am showing what happens before Team Miracle comes over in the Hazmat suits and works on me for a few hours. Anyone can look like they make me look. That’s why most malls offer a Glamour Shots booth.

I am just telling you the truth.

Here’s another fact: A studio executive recently asked me to change a male lead in a script to female because “women don’t go to movies.” He went on to explain some studios were no longer making female-lead movies because women don’t go to them.

Wow. I pointed out 'Sex And The City,' 'Mamma Mia,' and  'Obsessed,' and he called them “flukes.”

He shrugged and explained he was just telling me the truth.

I wonder, is this the truth? Do we support female films? My film is out now and Sandra Bullock’s film 'The Proposal' opens soon. (Gasp, is she talking about a rival studio’s movie?) Yeah, I am. See it. See us both (just see us first, we’re low budget.)

So, I ask, can we tell that studio executive the truth? That women do go to the movies. Can we speak up with our wallets? Or did you doze off?

soundoff (226 Responses)
  1. luce

    I wish more women in Hollywood, regular life, etc. were more refreshing like Nia is. She is genuine, classy, strong, intelligent, talented and beautiful in every sense of the word. If we'd spotlight more women like her, maybe we wouldn't have the slew of trash and women thinking uber skinny and overly sexy equals empowerment- somebody needs to blow that junk wide open! Hurray Nia!

    June 15, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  2. RoxyValkyrie

    I'm confused. When were you fat? I never thought you were fat. Did I miss this?

    June 12, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  3. Mandy Johnson

    Bravo, beautiful lady. I knew I loved you.

    June 12, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  4. tek

    I loved the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". I didn't even recognize her in this picture. Yes, she absolutely looks great, but truth be told she was so fantastic in the movie that I thought she was "hot" then. In an odd way, "hotter". You have to understand that this is coming from a person that is as body conscious as they come. Hell, i'm even a good bit shallow. Chalk this up to her great acting I guess.

    Score: Personality 1, shallowness 0. On a far more realistic note, great article. She rocks.

    June 12, 2009 at 10:57 pm |
  5. Misti

    Nia,

    Thank you so much for staying true to your God-given intelligence, wit and humor that reminds all of us to not take life so darn serious. You are an absolute delight.

    I first saw you on David Letterman when you are promoting "Big, Fat, Greek Wedding" - John Corbett is handsome but I went to and bought the movie because of YOUR vivacious personality.

    I'll take your "less than average looks" - (by the way those media-types are smokin' something to not see your gorgeous exterior that is only more illuminated by your off-the-charts glow that comes from within) with your no nonsense, common sense approach at life every day of the week over any of the other and oh so tired "lack of direction 'beautiful' people" out there.

    Congratulations to you and your husband on your adoption! Thank you for not looking to the media/celebrity noise to gain your self-worth. You are so on the right road! Bless you!

    June 12, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  6. Amy

    I'm not going to comment on the weight loss but I want to say THANK YOU for adopting an American child. Our foster system is so overloaded, most people want babies. Thank you for giving a child a chance at a better life. You are a role model.

    June 12, 2009 at 10:03 pm |
  7. Catherine

    Thank God. Thank you for being a true woman - a real one! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I applaud you, and I encourage every actress to be just as open and real – come on, Hollywood, get over it! Please!

    June 12, 2009 at 10:00 pm |
  8. Sherry

    See ya @ the movies ... thumbs up on the weight lose. It does feel good to shed weight w/ exercise & choosing better, healthier food. Live life to the fulliest !

    June 12, 2009 at 9:59 pm |
  9. Steve

    Nia
    You were beautiful when you made Wedding and you are beautiful now. Anyone who says otherwise is blind or shallow.

    June 12, 2009 at 9:57 pm |
  10. Rebecca

    This letter should be read by literally every teenager out there. Its so true how we as a society have implemented this criteria that to be beautiful, we need to be thin. That's just not true. It's so good to hear someone say that weight shouldn't be an issue, unless it becomes a health concern. I honestly blame the adults who feed themselves and their children food which has no nutritional benefits at all. People who know the difference between the good foods and the bad ones and still don't eat well, they are the ones that should be blamed and in the end they are because they end up with the health problems.

    June 12, 2009 at 9:56 pm |
  11. LMC

    Fantastic that you lost weight when you needed to and fantastic that you have such a great self-image. It is amazing that men and women are judged so differently on our physical "attributes." I remember the father of a friend when I was in high school (1969 grad) saying that no woman looked good in pants. He was considerably obese. When I told my mother that, she said that he didn't look very good in pants either!

    June 12, 2009 at 9:53 pm |
  12. MoosieMama

    A-to.the-Men, Sister! AMEN

    June 12, 2009 at 9:50 pm |
  13. Robin Wagar

    Hollywood should learn that not everyone would like to hear vulgar language and view explicit sexual scenes in movies, More women and even more men would attend movies if they didn't feel as if they had wasted valuable time viewing trash. I for one enjoy light romantic comedies but not when the movie ends up pure filth.

    June 12, 2009 at 9:45 pm |
  14. Patti

    I saw it too and really enjoyed it! I was surprised that it was also heartwarming. And yes, the love interest was HOT HOT HOT!!!

    June 12, 2009 at 9:39 pm |
  15. Shaman Nora

    And, yes, women DO go to the movies and we buy them on dvd and watch them over and over. That exec who thinks women don't, is more than out of touch with reality. Why is he in that job, anyway?

    June 12, 2009 at 9:38 pm |
  16. Sofia

    My life in Ruins was awesome! Just saw it in the theatre.....the guy who plays her love interest is HOT HOT HOT! Girls you gotta go see. ;>D

    – Sofia

    June 12, 2009 at 9:37 pm |
  17. Marylou Kosmeder

    Your down to earth attitude is delightful. As for your looks, we loved you in "MBFGW", and I am sure we'll love you in this new film. I may have to wait until a DVD is available, as we live in the mountains, and the selections our theatre gets are not always the ones I want to see. Best luck, and please keep on going!

    June 12, 2009 at 9:35 pm |
  18. Shaman Nora

    Right on, Nia! Now, do as I do and do not subscribe or buy any of those trashy publications that demean women and make women feel bad about being women!

    June 12, 2009 at 9:35 pm |
  19. Beth

    I just LOVE LOVE LOVE what you are saying about your weight loss. Why is it so important? Why should we be defined by our weight? It is all I think about. It consumes me. I put it on, I take it off, I put it on, I take it off. Why? For who? I am proud of you for standing up and saying, "ENOUGH!"

    June 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm |
  20. Luce

    How refreshing. I think Nia is beautiful now and was beautiful when she was first in the public eye. And, btw– John Corbett's not that hot. Just saying.

    June 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm |
  21. Gayle

    It's about time that being "fat" and not a size zero is normal. Good for Nia, I think she is beautiful just the way she is.

    June 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm |
  22. Nicole

    First off, Congrats on your daughter!

    Second, Amazing article. I am a woman of size and it is so very hard to find a real role model for us bigger girls. And you are right, we do it to ourselves by obsessing over every wrinkle, fat fold and wiggley arm flab we find in the mirror or shower.

    Its time we stopped obsessing over our weight and start obsessing on our lives and how to make it great.

    And last of all, I go to the movies every weekend. Last one I saw? Star Trek.. Next one? My Life in Ruins and The Hangover. I make it a point to go to any movie out there that peaks my interest. Your exec is an idiot.

    June 12, 2009 at 9:32 pm |
  23. Greg H

    "below average looks" No way! You are HOT and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise!

    June 12, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  24. flcreeker

    It is so much easier for a reporter to ask stupid questions about your weight than it is to formulate an interesting question about your life as a director and writer or your life altering decision to adopt a child. You just have to take pity on their lack of in depth reporting. They can't go to your talent as an actress as we all know how great you are, what more can be said?

    June 12, 2009 at 9:16 pm |
  25. Lacey

    Okay but...the thing is...she wasn't fat in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Not even remotely close...and she IS pretty. So...yeah...

    June 12, 2009 at 9:16 pm |
  26. Bethany

    *applauds*

    June 12, 2009 at 9:15 pm |
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