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!


lizz on June 13, 2011 at 11:04 am.

I’ll be interested to see what happens w/ her store, too. But my question is – she still looks like she is a plus-sized woman (whatever that means, right?) so does she still have the authority to speak on behalf of fat women (or on behalf of herself, representing fat women) as a thinner, yet still plus-sized person, or would she just have that ‘authority’ as s/one who is greater than a size 20?

The person who really pissed me off to be honest was Queen Latifah – she was more active w/ the idea behind loving yourself and in the body that you were given, and then she started selling Jenny Craig stuff. That made me gag a bit.


Shinobi on June 13, 2011 at 11:06 am.

Also, I hope she is in good health. I always worry when I see someone drop a lot of weight.


Miss Pink on June 13, 2011 at 11:43 am.

I like the “Her hair had been freshly coiffed” bit. Was she too fat to brush her hair before her weight loss? It irks me when media suggests that with weight loss fat folk are “finally” taking care of themselves. This article may have been no more than name-dropping her stylist, but the unnamed judgement is still present, in my opinion.
At any rate, great post. I agree that what Dawn French does with her body is her own business, no one else’s.


JupiterPluvius on June 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm.

Dawn French’s hair has always looked fabulous, so poo on that silly columnist. (That Louise Brooks bob she used to rock was my total envy.) Dawn French looks lovely there, and if she’s now smack-dab in the middle of the plus-size range rather than toward its higher end, that doesn’t make her any less a gorgeous and talented and fat role model. Nor is any change in her body weight or size the media’s business, as you say.


CollieMom01 on June 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm.

Fat or less fat, I’d snog her any day. 😀 I absolutely LOVE Dawn French, and I, too, hope that we do not see her shilling some magic diet solution anytime soon. I don’t think we will, as for a celebrity, she’s been a relatively private one. For my own reasons, I pray she did not succumb to bariatric surgery, but as you so eloquently point out, it’s really none of my ( or anyone’s) business anyway. To me, she looks great regardless and her hair always looks smashing. Sorry to hear about her divorce, as I just started reading “Dear Fatty” and there are many photos of her and her hubby (now “ex”) included. That’s sad when it happens to anyone.


Bree on June 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm.

I don’t like to speculate on why people lose weight but over at Big Fat Blog, Richie, one of our male allies who lives in the UK, said that the BBC all but ignored her because she was big and her career had been suffering. She was dumped as the voice of Terry’s Chocolate Oranges in favor of slender, more conventionally attractive Leona Lewis and apparently nobody wanted to cast her in any prominent roles. It will be interesting to see if because of her weight loss, she’ll get more work.

But the speculation that she wasn’t taking care of herself or that she shouldn’t be able to treat herself to a nice salon visit is bullcrap. Compared to a lot of thinner UK celebrities, she always looked great when in public. The myth that fat = unclean and not caring about one’s appearance has got to be put to rest.


MollyMurr on June 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm.

I’m wondering how long the weight loss will last. I’m also wondering whether John Goodman’s weight loss has lasted… I can’t find any pictures of him since June 2010.


AlisonY on June 14, 2011 at 1:22 am.

Me too! It’s proving to be a lot harder than you think! I wonder why, especially since his career has been steady for years now, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to find any current photos.


Bree on June 14, 2011 at 10:35 am.

I saw a promo for the TV show Damages last night and John Goodman is in it. They didn’t show his whole body but from what I saw, I would consider him “husky” but not like he was during his Roseanne days.


AlisonY on June 14, 2011 at 1:05 am.

You know, looking at this picture, I still consider French plus-sized, but in the end, if she did end up thin or end up back to her original weight, she’s still a fabulous lady!

And, thank God, it seems that she’s not going to be a weight-loss advocate unlike a slew of other celebrities that we all know out there. Let’s hope she keeps it that way!

I wouldn’t be shocked if she did this just so she could land better jobs. It’s a shame too, since she’s so beautiful and talented as she was.


Kath on June 14, 2011 at 6:12 am.

Poor Dawn, she’s had such an ordeal of things lately, and everyone is still up in her face. I wish people would just mind their own damn business and leave the woman to live her life in peace.


Tamani on June 14, 2011 at 10:41 am.

“Like a dieting Mr. Rochester, with an attic full of uneaten chocolate serving as the secret mad wife.”

THIS. It was the bright spot in my otherwise dreary day. THANK YOU.

PS: I really did LOL.


Lesley on June 14, 2011 at 10:44 am.

I was starting to think NOBODY WOULD MENTION THAT. Thank you. 😉


Danielle on June 14, 2011 at 1:58 pm.

I love Dawn French. She reminds me so much of my mom. Actually, my mom loves Dawn as well, and I hope that she will look to her as inspiration to take better care of herself. My mom was recently diagnosed with type II diabetes and her doctor urged her to eat better and exercise to help control it. So far she hasn’t had the motivation to do it (although you’d assume protecting her own health would be all the motivation she’d need!).


Tamani on June 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm.

You’re quite welcome 😉


schmemily on June 16, 2011 at 12:27 am.

Handling weight loss is such a tricky thing. I have recently dropped some pounds due to a combo of HAES plus stress. (Like Dawn French, I am still definitely fat.) I’ve yet to respond gracefully to comments about it from people whose business it isn’t (i.e. almost everyone).


JupiterPluvius on June 21, 2011 at 9:02 pm.

Oh, THIS! I have lost weight because of some food allergies, and it is grueling to have people go “OH YOU’VE LOST WEIGHT” as if I would be happy about it.

I generally say, “Alas, I’ve been ill, not in training for a marathon” and let it go at that.


AniaGosia on August 4, 2011 at 11:24 pm.

Yes. I really get annoyed that the default response to, “you’ve lost weight” is “thank you” – why “thank you”? It’s not a compliment, it’s a statement.


Fatshion Hustler on June 17, 2011 at 2:33 am.

I’ve always admired her stance, and I am hoping that this will not change it. It’s great that she’s made she choice to live more healthily, particularly as, I’m assuming, it was her honest choice. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next with her. I’m hoping she’ll continue her “fat is OK” stance, because, yeah, we always need people like that.


Madam Q on June 17, 2011 at 11:00 am.

I reckon the Daily Fail is completely full of BS. As usual. And I wouldn’t be surprised if even the quotes from French’s agent are fabricated, it’s that kind of tabloid. If you look back through pictures of her via Google images, you can see that it looks like she gained weight during her marriage breakdown and divorce (which happened over a few years) and now that she’s got less personal-life stress, she looks basically the same as she did five years ago just with a wavy hairstyle and being five years older. I presume it went like this at the DM: “OMG! Dawn French has got slightly less of a double chin than when we last noticed her!” “Brilliant! Do a gastric band beat-up! Make sure to mention Vanessa Feltz and get a personal trainer say ‘morbidly obese’.”

I hope French gives this story the treatment it deserves by using it to line the cat litterbox.


sarah on June 20, 2011 at 7:56 pm.



Sarah on June 19, 2011 at 6:12 pm.

I will always hate that weight loss becomes public business. Whether you are famous or not.
Not revelling in a smaller body size (like Dawn has) is what will make the media think she is defiant. The act of not dieting (which is truly revolutionary) is only seen as giving up.
I hope she is healthy and not ill. Of course, that is not my business but I have just loved her for years.


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