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. BethP

    I find it amusing that my nasty sister in law, when she thinks she's insulting me, calls me fat. I love myself, I think I look gorgeous, and so does my husband. If you love yourself, it shows, and it doesn't matter what other people label you. And, btw, I thought you looked beautiful in MBFGW. I can't wait to see your new movie!

    June 12, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  2. Lorrieann

    I am standing at my computer giving this article a standing ovation! THANK YOU! Thank you for speaking up, speaking out and being REAL! Thank you!

    June 12, 2009 at 8:54 pm |
  3. Kathy B

    Nia, Thanks so much for your honesty. I have never responded to an article before but you have inspired me. I go to the movies and love all kinds of movies. How can anyone say woman don't go to movies. I saw Pelman 123 today and Angels & Demons last week. Looking forward to your movie and the new Sandra Bullock movie. I too had blood sugar levels over 400. Always looking for that magic weight fix. I started walking and completely changed my diet and am down 30 lbs in 6months and ran my first 5K race at the age of 59. Your words will stay with me and I will stay the course.

    June 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm |
  4. pisces

    I thought you were beautiful in big fat greek wedding. And you are beautiful now. I can't believe those execs said you were below average. I am stunned. You are obviously not below average. What a bunch of pompous jerks. I hope they all gain 100 pounds each!

    June 12, 2009 at 8:50 pm |
  5. James

    Until fat actors respect themselves, and refuse to be cast into roles where they are portrayed as gluttonous, simpltons, then they will not be respected by directors, producers, their peers, or the audience.

    June 12, 2009 at 8:49 pm |
  6. Sydney Solis

    Funny! But the real story here is the neurosis behind her and other women buying subscriptions to the women's magazines about cellulite! Follow up please! And Women don't go to movies because they are full of infantile boys, such as Will Farrell.

    June 12, 2009 at 8:47 pm |
  7. Working Girl 72

    Nia, you are just GREAT!!!!!!

    June 12, 2009 at 8:46 pm |
  8. Kathy T

    Nia, you were beautiful in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", and you're beautiful now\!

    June 12, 2009 at 8:43 pm |
  9. Angela

    As a fat-girl-movie-buff, I can't believe that a movie exec said that we women don't go to movies! I love all types of movies and have been to see at least 20 in the last six months. In fact, I would challenge that "professional" movie exec to a round of movie trivia any day of the week. Then I would be able to add him to the long list of people that refuse to play against me.

    June 12, 2009 at 8:43 pm |
  10. bee

    Kudos to you, whatever size you may be!

    June 12, 2009 at 8:39 pm |
  11. Sandy

    Wow! Nia, I love you! It's so refreshing to hear someone from the world of celebrity speak the truth. Yes, I support female movies and love to see women in lead roles. Thank you!

    June 12, 2009 at 8:39 pm |
  12. KT in WA

    THANK YOU so much for your wonderfully positive attitude toward your weight and your job. I get sick of seeing teeny tiny young actresses with old guys – how is it supposed to be an escapist fantasy for me to see a woman more impossibly beautiful than me on the screen? I don't watch many 'women's movies' simply because they don't ring true. Any movie, for example, where an 'unattractive' actress is made over into a bombshell simply by getting a haircut makes me gag. It's so ludicrous I can't even understand how we're being expected to believe in it.

    June 12, 2009 at 8:37 pm |
  13. Shelley

    You were fat and unattractive in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? News to me? I enjoy going to movies more than my husband does, but with 3 little kids and a tight budget, I/we don't get out to them much.

    June 12, 2009 at 8:36 pm |
  14. Tata

    Way to go Miss. Vardalos, I enjoyed My Big Fat Greek Wedding and I am looking forward to see My Life in Ruins. I don't know yet when its coming out in the Philippines but I will definitely watch it. The studio executive is one big moron, chauvinistic pig, women do go to the movies. I know because I often watch movies at the cinema and love movies with women as their leads/heroines.

    June 12, 2009 at 8:29 pm |
  15. Leslie B.

    Excellent!! Thank you so much for saying this straight from working in Hollywood. To the people who said you shouldn't have been matched up with John Corbett - a) you were beautiful then, and b) he looked like a dork when he had long hair. 😀 Absolutely, positively true about the double standard about men's weight/looks.

    I worry for my daughter because she has similar health problems, and it is a BIG struggle to maintain a healthy diet. At the same time, most of her friends are skinny minnies, and she wants to be able to hang out with them and eat what they do.

    Our young woman are hit with so many false "ideals" day in and day out; they need all the encouragement we can give them. Thank you, Nia, for a great commentary.

    June 12, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  16. Angie

    I saw your movie My Life in Ruins and loved it! I also loved Star Trek and Terminator. I also love Sex in the City. Please, women don't go to movies. What a moron. I love all genre's, as do a lot of women. I will be buying this movie when it comes out on DVD.

    June 12, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  17. amy

    Did the reviewer see the same film that I did (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) 'cuz I thought you were adorable (I know-who calls a grown woman adorable), but you were. I'm a woman and it never crossed my mind that you two were in different leagues; I thought your transformation in the movie was PART of the movie (duh).

    Don't listen to the critics. You look awesome-before and after. I think size 2 women are freaky (I'm a nurse and emaciated should NOT be an aspiration...it is on the verge of gross. it has one foot over the line and is about to jump).


    June 12, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  18. James

    I am glad to see that you were able to lose the weight, but I'm more glad that you lost it for the right reasons. I hope you do decide to talk about your weight loss in order to educate people about the health issues associated with being overweight and, hopefully, take the focus off of beauty.

    June 12, 2009 at 7:14 pm |
  19. Jacinda

    I love it! Nia was a gorgeous, voluptuous woman of Mediterranean descent when she made "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"; to call her unattractive is a crock! I have the same issues with the lookism double-standard - you can have the sloppiest, laziest, stupidest men protrayed in TV and movies and pair them up with gorgeous, intelligent (?) women, over and over and over. Like that is real life! But let a woman gain or lose ten pounds and it's NEWS! I'm glad she blasted them!!

    June 12, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  20. April

    Thank you for speaking the truth. We need more people with your attitude!

    June 12, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  21. Bella

    From as far back as The Honeymooners up to the sitcoms of today (with few exceptions) all couples consist of a pretty smart woman and a fat stupid man. Men can get old, they can be fat, it's all good. I love your attitude. By the way, you are beautiful.

    June 12, 2009 at 7:11 pm |
  22. lynn

    you go girl! you are a hottie inside and out! My sister is a big, beautiful woman and I am not-she is too sexy and smart and thinks like you. Nia, you keep on being you! Thank you for that- we need more of women like you!

    June 12, 2009 at 7:07 pm |
  23. ATF

    Excellent article!

    One thing from a male perspective? I certainly worry about my weight and it's a constant back and forth struggle between healthy and chubby. Perhaps some men don't care but we are also bombarded by all the images of perfect looking dudes. In a lot of our minds to impress the woman we are interested in starts with a glance across the room and sizing up how fit we look.

    June 12, 2009 at 7:07 pm |
  24. Denise

    You write what I'm sure so many of us think. I would add that age is often treated the same way. Remember how in "The Bridges of Madison County" all they could talk about is how Meryl Streep, a middle aged woman, was having an sexual adventure at her age?? Never mind that it was with Clint Eastwood – many years her senior. No one talked about his sexuality.
    The double standards make me crazy!!

    June 12, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  25. Dennis H


    I love your style.

    By the way, "flukes" is a translation for: "I'm a male in Hollywood who has a monster-sized ego that doesn't want to be questioned, and an I.Q. that is lower than my age."

    Keep on pounding 'em, girl!

    June 12, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  26. Kristen - University Park, PA

    Nia I love My Big Fat Greek Wedding and am sure your new movie is just as hilarious. And you are so right who cares it's just fat. I just graduated college and the advice my aunt gave me was watch out, you gain the most weight your first year in college and the year after you graduate. So I have been frantically dieting and exercising the last month to prove her wrong. But who cares if I gain a few pounds? I'm only a size 4 a few pounds wont hurt me. Thanks for your blog 🙂

    June 12, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  27. KA

    I thought you looked great in "MBFGW".

    June 12, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  28. Yvonne

    Well said!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  29. Trisha

    Nia, this put such a huge smile on my face! I absolutely loved you in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and I can't wait to see "My Life in Ruins." All of my friends and family just loved your first movie, so I was so upset to hear the kind of feedback you were getting from Hollywood. If it helps, please know that your portrayal of a normal, curvy girl made a lot of normal looking girls feel great about ourselves! You and John Corbett had fantastic chemistry. You are so talented and know how to connect with your audience, which is so important!! Also, congratulations on the adoption of your daughter. I read your blog entry on people.com; you are a real role model for young girls like me. Continue to stay positive and speak your mind!! You are a sweetheart. 🙂

    June 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  30. Rebecca

    Great article! People are obsessed with looks, and I don't think that will change. I personally think fat men are less attractive than fit men, and I think a lot of people would agree with me there, but it doesn't seem to matter as much for men as it does for women in Hollywood.
    I think Nia Vardalos makes a great point that there isn't an easy way to lose weight but people are still looking for one regardless. I'm a physician and I'm angered by advertisers who use phrases like "the weight loss secret doctors don't want you to know about". We have no secrets, we want our overweight patients to lose weight, and we want our patients with eating disorders and body image issues to get healthy too. These challenges are tough to overcome in the current social climate.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  31. Laura

    Nia – You were gorgeous in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and you're gorgeous now. I'm proud of you for not trying to take the "easy" way out on your weight loss. The fact is, you gotta eat and you gotta move. I'm on my way down on the scale myself and it's a daily struggle but i'm doing it for me and for the grandchildren I want to play with some day.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  32. sheila

    I simply love you woman! LOVE YOU and love all my female leads.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  33. Lola

    Thank you.
    Thank you.
    Thank you.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:54 pm |
  34. Lilly

    .. Unfortunately the films/TV now days are not of the same caliber as they were and neither are the people. As for women not going to the movies .. I work in the movie industry and see the research percentage all the time. So whoever said that is just 'ignorant'. As for showing women imperfections/age .. the insecure women will just laugh it off .. and the insecure men will be forever unhappy. I grab the rags to get fashion tips, not to pick at my inperfections. Again .. women are mentally stronger, healthier and know when their minds are being pulled. Men aren't necessary their just one aspect of the equation. Be strong women and walk with confidence. You'll forever be simply beautiful.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:54 pm |
  35. Lynnette

    Take that bag of Doritos and throw it as far as you can. Now chase after it. Pick it up, do it again.”

    OMG! This is why I love your comedy. Stay Groovy!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:53 pm |
  36. Carla

    I thought Nia was beautiful in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and never once thought about her size. It makes me sick that it is the first topic she is asked about. Hollywood needs to get over themselves and stop telling the rest of us what is and is not attractive. I totally agree with her point about the double standard for men. Regarding women not going to movies...I have been complaining for years that rarely is a movie advertised that makes me want to go and see it. Maybe if they went back to making good movies that showed real women, we would go back to the theater. By the way, don't take me for a bitter, overweight woman since I know that is what you are thinking. I am a size 4 and feel this way.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  37. anna

    You rock girl! Everyone woman shoule be able to look in the mirrow and love themselves. And hey, write a book you writer you!!! And all those overweight males stars, yep double standard- same for gray hair and glasses- ok for men...

    June 12, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  38. Dan

    It was a nice article (much better than most of the swill written by the hacks in journalism)..Her point was well made but there is a hoplessness in the end. I disagree that it is our own fault as far as weight gain. The corporate media and entertainment BUSINESS don't care if we all die from too much food or purge ourselves so we can pass through secuity unnoticed. As long as they keep us CONSUMING and PAYING to the Rich Elite it does not matter one whit to them. A few people get it...but the mass majority have been hypnotised into believing the lies on TV and Movies. This is like a food chain for the Rich and we are the bottom feeders. It all comes down to our Economic system. Capitialism is a horrible evil system...and Global Capitalism is it's latest incaration. Please, someone get a stake and drive it deep into it's cold blooded heart.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  39. Gabe

    Marry me

    ...er...wait...my wife might get mad.

    Holy Crap that is awesome!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:45 pm |
  40. mary

    She is everything I wish to embody. Thanks for putting this up, Anderson! I'm SO tired of hearing about Miss Skinny-big-boobed-plasto woman. I love this lady.......

    June 12, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  41. Kathy of KC

    You ROCK, Nia!!! I loved, Loved, LOVED My Big Fat Wedding and want to see My Life in Ruins – not because you've lost weight, but because you're an amazing and hilarious actress. Thanks for setting everyone straight. I am definitely sending this aritlce to all of my friends.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:43 pm |
  42. Diane Huddleston

    I love Nia's attitude. Attitudes about women and weight (especially in America) which are propelled and reinforced by media have a lot to do with why we have eating disorder and body image epidemics in this country. It is so true–why are men allowed to be overweight (and older) and nobody bats an eye, but if a woman is not a size 6 (or is over a certain age) she is crucified or ignored? Isn't it is just another way of keeping women "in their place"?

    June 12, 2009 at 6:37 pm |
  43. Janet

    Oh, I also forgot to say that I love the movies even though it is too expensive, I will be there for a good flick. And yes, I will buy the popcorn and soda with utter enjoyment.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:37 pm |
  44. Gloria

    Amen sistah!!!!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  45. Janet

    My new jelly roll around my midrift has made me so paranoid about being seen in public. No excuses, but because of some health issues and being one who never really excerised or had to diet, I know it's on my shoulders. However, any one who is not of the desired look of Hollywood is made to feel very bad. I am 62 yrs old and within the last two years, my mid waist is bigger. I am sorry if you do not want to look my way. You are, however, missing a generous, fun-loving, deeply devoted family female who is easy on the eyes. Shoot, I am going for pizza and my all time favorite "chocolate". I am less than 15 lbs overweight but I feel like I am 50 lbs heavier. When I do get so disgusted with myself, I pray I have the desire to do something about it.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  46. Phillip

    Who ever said you are "below average" in looks is nuts... you are a gorgeous woman.

    I have no idea who is setting the "standards" out there in Hollywood, but I suspect its a group of people who really have no interest in real women.

    Be healthy, be happy about who you are, believe me, I am attracted to women for how they present themselves and if you have a healthy body to match all the more better.

    Keep up the great work!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  47. puggles

    It's a matter of fitness rather than weight. Look at the anorexic -what did they used to called them – starlettes. (And, medically speaking, data backs that up. You live longer (and better) if you are fat and fit than lean (skinny) and unfit.) So continue to chase those chips!

    (If you want glamour, look at Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, etc. They would all be considered fat and uncastable in today's world.)

    This fake world of Hollywood also perpetuates the stereotype of youth. Somehow, the world only includes 20 something women. Men are allowed to be older. (Although they still prefer the stereotyped "All -American" look.) Until you become a "crone", the wise old woman – gray, wrinkled, but still skinny.

    Sometimes we want pure fantasy. Sometimes we just want to have a good story.

    Tell those nutty execs that it's the woman who usually gets the couple to go out to the movies. Maybe only 17 year old boys go together (I doubt that.)

    June 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm |
  48. Jenn

    "women don’t go to movies"


    Women only want to go to movies with well written scripts, realistically depicted people, and extended, thought provoking dialog. Those are more expensive in the long run. And they're totally not fun to write or direct.

    Men will happily watch two hours of drivel as long as you give them an occasional explosion, blood, and pretty girls.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm |
  49. tracy

    Nia, your beautiful now and you were beautiful in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But really I am a fan, because I thought you were charming and funny in MBFGW. I also liked seeing a different face on the big screen. As lovely as Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston are, their beauty has become generic because every actress and starlet emulates them. Please don't become generic.

    I must admit I am a woman who does not go to the movies. Why? Because I have three kids, a full time job, a dog, a home and a husband. Who has the time? I watch movies in rerun on cable tv when I get the chance, if it is something that will make me laugh. Maybe the studio execs should stop with the stupid reality series and put some funny escapist movies on tv. I want to laugh at the end of the day and don't want to leave my house to do it. Or here's an even better idea....put out a really well-written, well-acted "chick flick" every year. If it is good enough, I will leave my house to see it. Until then, the only thing to get me out of the house comes from Pixar studios.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  50. Nicki

    Nia, you are absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for writing such a candid article and thanks for all your fantastic work in the movie industry. We need more beautiful, genuine women like you out there!

    June 12, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
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