In her new ABC Family show “Huge,” actress Nikki Blonsky stars as Willamina, an independent and overweight teenager who is forced to go to weight-loss camp by her physically-fit parents. While at camp, Willamina decides she will rebel by trying to gain weight instead of losing it.
During an interview with me, Blonsky, 21, who broke into the entertainment industry with her role in the 2007 remake of the musical “Hairspray,” talked about being a plus-size actress in cutthroat Hollywood and why she choses to advocate living life to its fullest rather than battling the bulge.
What are your thoughts on these summer weight-loss camps that are like the one featured in “Huge?” Do you think being shipped off is positive for a kid’s self esteem?
I think if the kid comes to the parent and says, “You know, I really want to go and lose weight. I’ve heard about this camp and I really want to go and get fit,” then that’s perfectly okay. I think if a parent is sending a child it’s not as okay. If a parent is sending a child, it’s sending a message to that child that the child is not good enough the way they are to their parents. There’s no worse fear, I believe, in my heart than not being good enough for my parents.
Obesity is becoming a major problem among teenagers in the U.S. today. Do you ever advocate losing weight or is it more about sending out the message of being happy with who you are?
Yes. I totally advocate of being who you are, loving who you are and living and let live. Just love what God gave you because he gave it to you for a reason. You were made this way for a reason. If you were meant to be a six-foot tall, skinny blonde model, then you would have been. But I’m meant to be a 4’10 plus-size actress and I am perfectly okay and happy with that. I think we’ll all be okay if we all just accept who we are and love who we are.
How did you feel when they where shooting you for the show’s advertising campaign in a bathing suit?
I have to say it was the most freeing experience of my life to be out there with just a bathing suit. You don’t get barer than that unless you’re doing Playboy and that’s not happening anytime soon – not ever. Growing up you always have those little things like, “I’m in a bathing suit and I really want to go to the pool, or I want to go to the beach, but I don’t want people to see me.” A lot of kids and adults still deal with that. I dealt with that for a very long time until I got the part of Will and it said, “Day one, first shot of the day, she’s taking off her clothes, stripping down to her bathing suit, and doing a strip tease.” When I saw the posters I was like, “Whoa, I didn’t know that it was going to be just me in the bathing suit!” I’m really shocked because there’s a full one in Times Square. It’s really, really sweet.
At what point in your life did you feel like you were comfortable in your own skin?
Well, I have to tell you, I totally give all of that credit to my parents. They raised me [telling me], “You’re our beautiful little girl.” They would call me that every single day. I would have to say growing up with that really helped. I’m 21 and they still tell me every day, “You’re our beautiful little girl.” I never saw my weight as an issue until I got to school and kids started picking on me and I was like, “Why are kids picking on me?” I didn’t understand it because I was told that I was beautiful at home. My grandmother, God rest her soul, she said to me, and this is something that I’ll take with me forever. She said, “Nikki, kids make fun of you because they’re insecure with themselves.” I decided if it makes those kids feel better about themselves by making fun of me and I’m totally comfortable with myself. That’s my gift to them.
Have you ever faced any weight discrimination in Hollywood?
Yes, I had an agent look me in the eye and tell me if I want to get roles in this town I needed to drop at least 100 pounds. I said, “Oh really?” She said, “Yes.” I looked at her and I said well you’re not my agent and I walked away from her because if you don’t get me then you don’t get why I’m the way I am than you can’t be part of my life. I am who I am and I’m proud of who I am and that’s just how it is.
So what goes through your mind when you hear comments like the one Howard Stern made earlier this year about Gabourey Sidibe and how she won’t succeed in Hollywood if she stays the weight she is?
I think it’s so ridiculous and just so hurtful to her. I would love to meet Gabourey and just hug her because I feel terrible that he said that. I’m so proud of her for her role in “Precious.” She is awesome and she is an amazing actress. I think it was a terrible, rude comment that he made. People like that need to curb their tongues a little more. Even if they have their opinions they should sometimes keep them to themselves because sometimes they can be really, really, really hurtful. I don’t think that comment was necessary.