By now, most of us have seen Renée Zellweger’s “facial transformation” that was posted to nearly every website and blog in existence. If you haven’t, this picture refers to what we’re talking about: This response from the media was prompted after Zellweger was seen at the 2014 ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards on Monday night. Once those photos were released, news sources were all over this with “what did she DO to her FACE?!” responses and plastic surgery accusations.
I’m not going to deny that this post was originally going to be along those lines. My first initial reaction was to write about how what a shame it was that yet another celebrity had gone under the knife and altered their identity. But after taking a step back to think about it, the world doesn’t need another person criticizing a woman for her choices. Whether or not Zellweger did cosmetically alter her face, why do we care so much? I’d rather spend my time defending women than adding to the finger-pointing and blaming. And you know what? Zellweger’s response to the criticism was perfect and should be applauded. Do you know what she said when someone asked her how she felt about the reactions to her face?
“I’m glad folks think I look different.” [source]
She doesn’t feed the media. She doesn’t deny that her appearance has changed. Most importantly: SHE DOES NOT APOLOGIZE. And that is something that I want every woman (or man) to take away from this. You don’t have to justify or apologize for anything you do to your own body. Zellweger said:
“I’m living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows. My friends say that I look peaceful. I am healthy. For a long time I wasn’t doing such a good job with that. I took on a schedule that is not realistically sustainable and didn’t allow for taking care of myself. Rather than stopping to recalibrate, I kept running until I was depleted and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion. I was aware of the chaos and finally chose different things. I did work that allows for being still, making a home, loving someone, learning new things, growing as a creative person and finally growing into myself.” [source]
That’s what I’m talking about. Women taking care of THEMSELVES and making choices that make THEM happy. Happiness looks different to every single person on this earth, and it’s no one’s fucking business as long as you’re not hurting anyone.
Zellweger even goes as far as to call conversations centered around her appearance “silly.” Fuck yeah, they are! In a world where we have war, poverty, and starving children, why do we have time to discuss a woman’s appearance?! Zellweger says:
“People don’t know me in my 40s. People don’t know me [as] healthy for a while. Perhaps I look different. Who doesn’t as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I’m happy.” [source]
I feel like that’s a very important statement to touch on, because women for the most part disappear from the media once they start to age. Many female models and celebrities must resort to botox and other procedures just so they can continue to get acting work and book gigs. What Zellweger says about being in her 40s and aging is important. When we have websites making timelines of women’s faces like this,
it is really important to have someone stand up and say, “Fuck you, I AM older and I am HAPPY and I think I’m beautiful.”
Even more wonderful was that Zellweger has friends to back her up – this is something I wish every person on earth had. Someone to tell everyone else to get lost when they cross the line. Fellow actress and friend Gugu Mbatha-Raw had this to say to all the haters:
“She’s stunning and she’s so talented and she’s such an amazing actress. It was very irritating to me, especially since I invited her and she was my guest. It’s a shame that that’s all there is talk about. There must be other things to talk about. I’m excited forThe Whole Truth to come out so the focus of the conversation should be her talent.”[source]
Exactly. I wish every woman inside and outside of Hollywood had such amazing, supportive friends that don’t hesitate to defend them. And Mbatha-Raw is absolutely right – we should be talking about women’s talents and accomplishments more than their looks.
We don’t know for sure if Zellweger got work done, nor do we think it should matter. If she had gone under the knife, who could blame her? It’s a case of ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game.’ Jessica Goldstein of Think Progress explained this fantastically:
“Is this picture really so strange, so grotesque? Is the sight of a woman over 40 who appears to have had work done such a rarity?
If we’re going to perpetuate an entertainment industry that fetishes female youth and rejects everything else, we don’t get to trash talk women who choose to alter their looks through whatever means are at their disposal. We’re the ones who created a social and professional environment that is inhospitable to any other path.
We built that world, and now we also have to live in it.” [source]
Here’s a great chart that illustrates just how much the demand for cosmetic procedures has increased since 1997:
Last year alone, there were over 11 million cosmetic procedures. Women made up 10.3 million of this – that’s 90.6% of the total! Women are feeling the pressure to be physically perfect more than ever. The truth of the matter is, we punish women for aging naturally, and we also punish women for resorting to surgery and Botox. When is it going to end? So maybe Zellweger did have surgery. Maybe she just got some Botox. Maybe she just got older. No matter what Zellweger or any other woman did or didn’t do themselves, there will always be someone criticizing them for it. As Goldstein wrote:
“You have to look a certain way. You have to look that way forever. But if you aren’t born with it, don’t bother. Anything you do that is unnatural — anything cosmetic, be it makeup or surgery or some combination of the two — will be ridiculed. You have to live with your face, exactly as it is. Because if you do anything to change your face, to try to make us like you more, we will mock you.” [source]
So please think about this the next time you see an article crucifying another celebrity for having work done, gaining/losing weight, or even just plain getting older. And if you’re the one going through changes and are getting criticized, please remember Zellweger’s strength and refusal to apologize. And ladies – don’t forget to stand up for your friends (and fellow women) when they’re being body-shamed! Bodies change, we change. We’re about acceptance and how you choose to accept your body is your business. The choices you make for yourself don’t need to be explained or justified. The only one that needs to be okay with them is YOU.