Real Quick: Disappearing Dawn French

By | June 13, 2011

Dawn French, dressed in a long black embellished tunic and lose pants, looks a lot slimmer on the red carpet at the Glamour Woman of the Year awards.


The Daily Mail is all up in Dawn French’s business. Let’s put our surprised faces on now. Evidently French recently turned up at the Glamour Magazine Woman of the Year awards looking decidedly…. different.

Gone was the heavy double chin beneath her heart-shaped face.

Instead, her cheekbones were in evidence. Her hair had been freshly coiffed by hairdresser Errol Douglas in Belgravia and was decidedly glossy.

It was clear that a substantial portion of the weight she had carried — proudly — for years was gone.

She glowed with a tan, which she explained had been picked up by sitting in the early summer sunshine in her garden in Cornwall.

Complimented on her weight loss, she smiled and said simply that she had been ‘trying to be a little healthier’ recently.

The Mail seizes upon this opportunity to ruminate on the possibilities. Did she get a gastric band? Her reps say absolutely not. Was it the heartbreak of her recent divorce? Nope, apparently that made her fatter! There really is no story here, just a series of unsourced hypotheses about French swapping plates of chips for “an omelette and green salad” and giving up chocolate.

People who know Dawn say that she is in a defiant phase. She believes that reaching 50 has been a major watershed in her life and now feels ‘more powerful’ and ‘wiser’ than ever before. And so, after a lifetime of earnestly explaining why being overweight was her choice — and the right one, too — she has changed her mind.

Framing weight loss as “defiance” is a curiously common device in popular storytelling of successful weight loss, as though losing weight is deviant behavior up there with getting a neck tattoo, or dyeing one’s hair emerald green. But culturally-speaking, making oneself slimmer is not rebellious in the least; culture demands this behavior as a matter of course. If you are a fat person, and you tell a group of randomly selected strangers that you are on a diet, while there may be some debate as to whether such action is warranted (a la “You’re not [that] fat!”), no one is particularly surprised or scandalized by such a decision. Dieting is what fat people do. On the other hand, if you are a fat person and you announce to the same group of people that you are not on a diet, and are happy to remain at your current size — that is when the astonishment comes out. How could anyone be happy while fat? It flies in the face of all conventional wisdom.

French may well be in a “defiant” phase, but I suspect that has little to do with her weight loss. The article goes on to consult a “diet and fitness expert” who helpfully reminds us that “there is a difference” between socially-acceptable “curves” and being gross and fat. Of course French is “intelligent” enough to know that! Therefore diet! We can’t let her have too much happiness, though, so the Mail paints her as living a lonely existence in her big empty house in Cornwall. Like a dieting Mr. Rochester, with an attic full of uneaten chocolate serving as the secret mad wife.

French may have lost weight via any number of methods, and for any number of reasons. She has, apparently, chosen not to discuss it in detail in the media, and that is a welcome relief. So long as French does not adopt universal weight-loss evangelism, and keeps her body-related choices as her own, I can’t say I begrudge her this loss. French no more owes the world an explanation for her weight loss than anyone else would owe an explanation for weight gain; French’s autonomous choices are simply none of our business, and expecting such an explanation reinforces the idea that we have a right to police anyone’s body, for any reason.

French may yet take up diet-advocacy, and if that happens I will be sorely disappointed, as she has been one of very few consistently rebellious voices in her industry. For years French has been very matter-of-fact about her size and her confidence, so to lose that to a standard weight-loss narrative would be a sad thing indeed. But it is no more fair to demand she justify her body now than it was before, and I’m uncomfortable criticizing a decision she has made privately and chosen to keep private.

Should she eventually make it public? All bets are off. But until then, I’m happy to see Dawn French continue to be awesome as an antidote to every other celebrity who loses ten pounds and runs screaming to the tabloids to promote themselves as Diet Heroes. Until then, it really is none of our — or the Daily Mail’s — business.

Hat tip to reader Daniel for sending the link!


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