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.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/12/art.vert.nia.jpg caption="Actress Nia Vardalos arrives at the premiere of 'My Life in Ruins' on May 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California." width=292 height=320]

Nia Vardalos

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. Liz Prindle

    Nia, I loved you in MBFGW, and thought you were just beautiful...a role model! I love your attitude...you made my day with this article! Thank you. Common sense isn't all that common...what a concept, to eat less and move more. I might just try it at that! Thank you!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:30 pm |
  2. Ronnie

    Every woman I know loves and goes to the movies, my wife, my daughter, daughter in law, my mother when she was here, my mother in law, aunts, sisters in law, women cousins,women friends, women work friends,etc. What is it with these studio exes. Do they live on another planet and if not they should? Go Nia!! signed by a man who loves woman and especially ones who go to the movies.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  3. Mark

    You make many valid points about how men and women are perceived differently when it comes to fat. I also love the fact that you mentioned women have brought the "thin is in" culture on themselves by supporting the countless magazines focused on looks. As a male, I've gone from 220 lbs in December to 180 now..and I get the SAME blank stare when I tell people "diet and excercise". I love to throw in also that I can't remember the last time I accepted food through a window. Good job on weight and yes people, it can be done the 'ol fashioned "weigh".

    June 12, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  4. Pasadena

    The Ambien-induced look is because people don't want to hear the truth. It takes discipline, hard work and time. There is no mystery pill. Tell them there's a mystery pill and they'd be wide awake taking notes on what it is and where to find it.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  5. Elizabeth


    June 12, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  6. Dawn

    Um, so let me get this straight the only people at the movie theaters are guys? I think the studio exec might have a lot of fat between the ears.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:26 pm |
  7. Frank

    Amen Craig! I think people should be whatever they want, thin, fat whatever. If you chose to be fat, Don't act surprised that "conventionally" attractive people are not interested in you.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  8. Erin

    I have to say that Nia Vardalos is my new favorite person.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:24 pm |
  9. Shawn

    BTW, just so I'm not misunderstood, I say all this in complete agreement that weight gets the wrong attention. I saw you in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", and thought you were beautiful! For me, weight is more a matter of health and self-care than beauty. I had no choice than to act in my case as my family has high rate of incident of diabetes and high blood pressure; I had to get the weight off.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:24 pm |
  10. Kate

    Craig...Hollywood's version of "healthy" is NOT...do you know how many stars have eating issues and what about our super athleyes who do drugs to get that bod...and how many models live on cigarettes and coffee interspersed with a drink or a drug?
    Congrats on the 30...hey I am a runner as well and know when i do not train I need to cut back but do not assume thin (translated to beauty by you) is healthy...sooo not true!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:22 pm |
  11. Wendy

    Congratulations on becoming a mom and on all your professional success. Oh, and on getting healthier. You were always gorgeous. 🙂

    June 12, 2009 at 6:22 pm |
  12. Woman in upstate NY

    Are you kidding me? You were beautiful in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and you are beautiful now!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  13. Josephine

    I can kind of relate to those folks who are asking you how you did it. I've got a good deal to lose myself, and since I am plugging along on the diet/exercise treadmill, it's always good to see people succeed, ad there's always a curiosity as to what their method was. Anything you say about "I did it through diet and exercise" is a motivator and inspiration to those who are still in the trenches.

    It is a big deal. It can be a matter of life and death, it can mean the difference between misery and happiness. As a very large (no pun intended) percentage of the population is struggling with obesity, the issue is one that a majority of folks can closely relate to and identify with. Of course your adoption and career accomplishments are important and congratulations! But a smaller number of people can directly relate to those accomplishments. For those pursuing the holy grail of permanent weight loss, anyone who has succeeded is an icon.

    Regardless, congrats on all levels. Sounds like you're in a very good place!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  14. Morgan


    Great article....and I don't recall you being fat in "Greek Wedding". Even though that was a "chick-flik" that my wife loves, I enjoyed it too.....very well written and funny.

    Sounds like the producers out there are morons. No wonder Hollywood keeps losing money. They have no idea what we "real folks" want to see. Serves them right. They're probably next on the list for a federal bailout.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  15. kyokidayo

    Yes, PLENTY of women go to the movies. I don't know what statistical baloney he pulled that foolishness from. Over the last three to four years I have become an avid movie goer. Most of the movies I see have a mostly female audience....except for when I went to see Transformers during the opening weekend. There were definitely more men than women.

    As far as the portrayal of females in Hollywood, I always applaud female leads who look like the rest of the U.S. – without all of the photoshoot make up. You looked wonderful in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and you look wonderful now! Keep those movies coming!

    Congratulations on achieving your goal to make better decisions about your health!

    Oh! And congratulations on the kiddie you just adopted. :o)

    June 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  16. Nate

    If I head out to see a film foolishly thinking, "she wouldn't want to see that," I'm in for it later. I enjoy watching movies, but trust me, she's the one who wants to see everything, and I mean everything, coming out. A narrow-minded bean-counter exec has no more of a realistic idea what films individual people enjoy anymore than they know what medical equipment a doctor really needs to treat a patient, or what materials a teacher really needs to effectively educate children. We'd better get these arrogant and ignorant fools out from behind the wheel of our economy before they send us careening over a cliff–...oh, wait...

    June 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  17. Loren

    Right on Nia – wish we could be friends, you are so happening!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  18. Kate

    Thank you for saying it out loud...tired of weight being the issue for women or men! We can be smart, funny, sexy, great friends, good parents, wonderful partners and just all over mazing humans but the whispers will be...wow, she is gaining weight, what is wrong with her?...Grow up American media and let everyone be happy...it allows you to be happy as well...

    June 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  19. Krasi

    Nothing like a great movie with a strong female lead! I love My Big Fat Greek Wedding because it reminds me of home and everyone I know loves it too:) We definitely need more movies like this one. Thank you Nia Vardalos!!!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  20. dj

    These are some of the wisest and funniest remarks about weight gain, weight loss, women and reality I have heard in quite a while. I love it and WILL be supporting the "girl movies". Thanks for a shot in the arm for me and my body – which I think is pretty darn hot at 54 years old, and with a few extra pounds!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  21. Mary

    I call myself fat all the time, and people do the "aw shucks" thing and use some euphemism instead: stocky, built, curvy, whatever. No. I know the skinny me. And now I know the fat me. And I know the really really fat me, but I lost her. Now I'm just the fat me.

    So good for you (and me) for calling a spade a spade. Or chocolate ice cream chocolate ice cream. 🙂 It's really ok.


    June 12, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  22. Colleen

    Hey Nia! I loved you Greek Wedding and my kids love you in it too! I never gave a thought to you and John Corbett! You're perfect together! I will see your film because I think the smaller projects tend to have the better, more unique ideas. BTW, you look lovely. You looked lovely then, too!

    Go Nia!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  23. Michael

    Way to go, Nia! I could probably lose the equivalent of one of you, and perhaps posting this on my fridge and in my office will help. For the most part, my blood is good, but limbo dancing wrecked my knees for days.

    Luckily, those around me don't think of me as fat, so I am grateful for that. For the time being, though, I'll be full of "fatitude" and, hopefully, get myself in gear soon.

    Thank you for the inspiration, and good luck to you.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  24. Lee

    I just love her!! Go, Nia!!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  25. Lindsey

    This is the most refreshing and wonderful article or piece of written information I've read on the internet all year. Thanks, Nia. I love your honesty. We need more of it these days.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  26. Austinite

    I'm guessing that studio exec also doesn't know that women not only go to movies, but they MAKE them too. Shock, horror.

    Nia, great job. I love your attitude, I think you're a great filmmaker, and I wish you lots of success. I'm sure you'll get it, because it seems like you achieve what you put your mind too.

    I wish more teenage (and preteen, sheesh) girls had women like you for role models. We can only try.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  27. Lisa

    Hey Nia,
    (Am I really talking to you? Cool!)
    Who cares what women weigh? Other women! Like you said, "it's our fault."
    Haven't personally read, but have heard about, the heinous blogs in which girls trash supposedly "fat" celebrities. Girl-on-girl abuse. Isn't it hard enough to make it in a man's world without dragging each other down? Apparently not!
    Sure, a lot of men like the eye candy of the world; but most probably just wish we'd shut up about weight already!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  28. a

    "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?"

    AMEN, sister! Been there, done that, but fortunately for me I am not in the spotlight. Why do people think that my weight gain or loss is their business? Why is that the most important question they have? Makes no sense to me.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  29. Tina

    We saw your life, in Ruins, and loved it! It was the only thing playing that didn't have an alien, a cartoon, a demonic reference, or men behaving badly!
    Loved the stereotypes! Hilarious!
    Loved the self-deprecating narration.
    Loved the slow bloom of romance with the most unlikely of leading men.
    Loved the real history you snuck in while everyone pretended to be bored.
    Loved the top billing ice cream got!
    Loved the flashes of insight into what's underneath mouthy exteriors.
    Loved the way you led us into the redemptive side of story telling, when a group begins to see each other's soft under bellies and submits to change.
    And if I saw you in the grocery story, your eyes would be the ones glazing over because I would pepper you with questions about that adoption, and your friendship with Rita and Tom, your real family, and what we should see first when we visit Greece because your movie put it at the top of our "To See First" list!! Beautiful...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    A Life in Ruins can be a Beautiful Thing!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  30. painfully average looks

    Its ok to be average....Our society is so damn shallow and
    wrapped up in looks and money. In the end, what matters is
    WHO you are.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  31. Paul T

    Not only did my wife & I go to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding, we enjoyed it thoroughly, as did our (then) 80-year old neighbor lady! Ditto Connie and Carla – an absolutely hysterically funny film. We'll be seeing My Life In Ruins; We'll be seeing The Proposal. We've seen the trailors for both films and both of us commented simultaneously how fun is promised.

    Your comments are completely valid, Nia. I'm also truly tired of the 60-year-old guy getting matched up in films with the 30-year-old girl.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  32. Shawn

    "Socially, the issue of men’s weight is simply not a big deal."

    To be fair and unbias, the issue of men's weight is not a big deal in movies and TV shows where the key element is humor (Seth Rogan is funny), or when the man is famous and/or rich. Ask the average guy who's significantly overweight what it's like approaching thin, attractive women, and your sure to get one of two answers: 1) I don't because it's just painful, or 2) you find other ways draw their attention. Women are extremely judgmental – a much, if not more, so toward men as themselves. In fact, it's worse for men because we don't get to waive it off to PMS, motherhood, genes, etc. But if women weren't so judgmental as early as elementary school, men probably won't be as much so. Statistics prove that most men prefer women who are curvy anyway.

    Having experienced life as both an overweight and physically fit (six pack) guy, I can tell you men don't get as much of a pass from women as you believe.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  33. Julie

    Thanks Nia for making me smile in so many ways. First and foremost, you are a real role model on adoption. Finally, a person who realizes the desperate need for families for our American children. So many children are suffering needlessly in foster care who could be adopted by Americans (word to Madonna, Angelina, etc.). Bravo, Nia and may you and your little one enjoy your wonderful new life together. Secondly, you look wonderful now but looked equally lovely before. Don't ever let the creepy execs of Hollyweird say differently.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  34. zmay

    I'm a woman, and I love movies. I loved 'My Big, Fat Greek Wedding so much I bought it on dvd, and we still enjoy watching it. I used to love going to see movies in theaters, but I don't anymore. Why? Because of the sound. Our local theaters crank the sound way up, especially for the trailers and advertisements (of which there are more all the time) at the beginning. I've worn earplugs during a movie, and still felt that the sound hurt my ears. And lately most movies seem to be aimed at adolescent males with very low IQs. Why should I spend $10.00 for that? I could stay home and stare at a wall and have a much better time, or spend less money renting Japanese anime, which is intelligent and beautifully crafted. But I'll go see your movie, for sure.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  35. Christie

    You tell em!
    That was great.
    I lost weight for health, and was shocked at how many people got nosey and then said, "but you didn't need to"?
    Like, am I supposed to wait until I am obese to do something for my health? LOL
    They too wanted to know how..... same thing.... hard work and exercise.
    Then they walk away.

    I thought you were beautiful in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and so did my husband.

    And yes, women go to movies and they BUY the DVD. 🙂

    June 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  36. Chris

    Nia was sexy in MBFGW – sweet, funny, beautiful smile. The weight loss didn't change any of that. She is now healthier for her achievement. I have lost 125 pounds, which I had to do for health reasons, but it was very hard to get a woman to look at me when I was in my 20's. They all liked my personality, but many of them dated jerks because of their bodies. I'm not questioning the existence of the double-standard, but I can guarantee you that the "fat turnoff" goes both ways.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  37. Jennifer

    LOVED THIS ARTICLE!! Saw My Life in Ruins and, of course, I saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding and loved both of them. Nia, you looked fabulous in both of them BECAUSE IN BOTH OF THEM YOU WERE REAL. It didn't matter how much the character weighed, it mattered if the characters was REAL. (Plus you got to kiss John Corbett AND Alexis Georgoulis-JEALOUS!!!!)

    And any movie exec who thinks women don't go to the movies is an idiot. I am a 40 year old woman who goes to the movies quite frequently. It just needs to be a GOOD movie for me to plunk down my money (and that includes movies with STRONG women characters in the lead.)

    June 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm |
  38. Craig

    Hilarious, the same thing is happening to me at work. I lost 30 pounds the last the months. My secret, I run everyday and eat 2000 calories or less. You chose to be fat, don't blame Hollywood. Gee, actors are beautiful, athletes are really in shape and models are thin. Wow, that is shocking, I am sure lazy, fat people would be much better. Oh ,yea, it's every one else's fault.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:07 pm |
  39. deana, NY

    Thanks for this great article.

    Today I saw a very upsetting magazine comparing Angelina Jolie to Megan Fox, saying that the former was angry at being upstaged by the younger and "sexier" actress. So, even Angelina isn't sexy enough anymore? Because she's no longer 22 ? The woman won an Academy Award, has borne 3 children, adopted many others, and worked tirelessly to save countless more, and yet Fox (who has only acted in a few (bad) movies) is now considered sexier? Maybe we should redefine our notion of "sexy". Since having my baby my body certainly isn't the same as when I was 16, but by virtue of the fact that I have grown and cared for a child I think that makes me pretty sexy. Even if it does mean my hair doesn't get done on a daily basis. 🙂

    June 12, 2009 at 6:07 pm |
  40. shelley

    No man I know willingly goes to the movies–they are all dragged by moms/sisters/girlfriends/friends who are girls. That executive is either stupid or lying.

    Thank you for this article. I hadn't even noticed that you'd lost weight. I thought you looked great in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and still think you look great.

    I am happy to hear you have adopted a child–I hadn't heard about that AT ALL before.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:06 pm |
  41. Marc

    I agreed with you, you looked great in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," ignore the idiots....

    June 12, 2009 at 6:04 pm |
  42. Christine Macdonald

    What a talented woman!

    I am even more inspired to be the healthiest I can be; the aesthetic reasons are simply a side effect to striving for a healthier body.

    To answer her tongue-n-cheek question; I think even more woman go to movies than men...but why does that even matter? We (movie-goers) are all consumers who love good entertainment. WIth Nia Vardalos behing the pages and camera, I'm certain there will be much more to come!!!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:04 pm |
  43. Styrch

    Nia, I get that you're tired of being asked about your weight loss. I get that you did it the "boring" way, that there's no trick. But you know what? I hadn't heard of your weight loss until reading this. I'm trying to do the same thing the same way. And guess what – I found your story encouraging.

    Maybe you're just inspiring those of us who need a little inspiration.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  44. Sharon

    It isn't just frumpy guys with hot women - it's also old guys (Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, et al) with hot women. Thank you Nia for your commentary, you are awesome (you put me on the mood to watch "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding" tonight!)!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  45. Colleen Mellor

    Yes, women go to movies, and I am the one who drags my mate to them, as well. He would never remember which were even playing, if it weren't for me. In the looks vs. talent dept., and how some very average Joe's get to land the title role, look no farther than Steve Carelle (sp?). He gets the hot women and he is no Don Juan. Now, is the message that women are just ever-able to see the depth beneath the veneer, or is it that no producers go the route where men fall for the women who are less than hot, blinded instead by their talent, wit, and personality. We need some of these New Age Producers, those who live on the edge, having the courage of our convictions *that a woman can have extra pounds and STILL be alluring"...Where are the visionaries?

    June 12, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  46. violet_calif

    Oh, I LOVE it when witty, intelligent, accomplished women take on this ridiculous weight preoccupation business! Thank you Nia! If you guys get a chance (and Ms. V if you're reading...) there's a great article:

    My, Haven't You Lost Weight!
    by Marge Piercy

    which makes a fine companion to this..


    June 12, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  47. Lee

    My friends and I go to the movies and dinner once a month. We all take turns on what we go see. Mostly action, but we do go to chick flicks too. So sad that people can't see the person you really are. Some day people will realize that what is on the outside is just a shell........you are beautiful on the inside that is what really matters! I love your attitude, more woman need to do the same........who cares what I look like, I am me, you don't like it too bad.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:01 pm |
  48. Jessica

    well said

    June 12, 2009 at 6:01 pm |
  49. Sara

    Congrats to Nia and to Cici for her comment to "make a stand ladies and stop buying products and magazines that promote images that destroy the self confidence of the average woman." It might seem like such a small thing, but it's a tremendous money-making industry and we are buying into it. We have to change our inner thoughts and change our behavior patterns. Excellent article, Nia, you're an amazing actor and a powerful voice for women.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
  50. KitKat

    Thank you for your honesty and you are right we give the word FAT too much power! You are an inspiration in so many ways. I wish you so much success and happiness and joy in raising your child and life!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
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