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Rebel Wilson, Your Rom-Com Comments Erased Plus-Size Women of Color

Rebel Wilson, Your Rom-Com Comments Erased Plus-Size Women of Color


UPDATE, NOVEMBER 5 AT 8:03 P.M. ET: Rebel Wilson took to Twitter on Monday night (November 5) and apologized for her comments and for blocking people on Twitter. “In a couple of well-intentioned moments, hoping to lift my fellow plus sized women up, I neglected to show the proper respect to those who climbed this mountain before me like Mo’Nique, Queen Latifah, Melissa McCarthy, Ricki Lake and likely many others,” she tweeted. “With the help of some very compassionate and well-thought out responses from others on social media, I now realize what I said was not only wrong but also incredibly hurtful. To be part of a problem I was hoping I was helping makes it that much more embarrassing & hard to acknowledge. I blocked people on Twitter because I was hurting from the criticism, but those are the people I actually need to hear from more, not less. Again, I am deeply sorry.”


ORIGINAL STORY:

Rebel Wilson caught some heat this weekend after she incorrectly claimed to be the first plus-size woman to ever star in a romantic comedy.

It all started on Halloween when the trailer for her new movie Isn’t It Romantic dropped. The film, due out in February, centers around a woman who hits her head and suddenly wakes up in a rom-com, where she’s the object of handsome men’s desires. The movie immediately received criticism for enforcing the problematic trope that plus-size women can be attractive only in alternate universes—something Amy Schumer’s comedy I Feel Pretty was knocked for in April. Wilson added fuel to the fire, though, when she declared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, “I’m kind of proud to be the first-ever plus-size girl to be the star of the romantic comedy.”

The social media backlash was swift. With her comments, Wilson had seemingly overlooked actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique, who have both headlined rom-coms like Last Holiday (2006), Just Wright (2010), and Phat Girlz (2006).

One Twitter user pointed this out to Wilson, writing, “I love @RebelWilson as much as the next girl, but she isn’t the first plus sized woman to play the lead in a romantic comedy. Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique have both played romcom leads 🤔”

To this, Wilson replied, “Hey girl! Yeah I of course know of these movies but it was questionable as to whether: 1. Technically those actresses were plus size when filming those movies or 2. Technically those films are catorgorized/billed [sic] as a studio rom-com with a sole lead. So there’s a slight grey area.”

Mo’Nique herself even called out Wilson. “Hey my sweet sister,” she tweeted. “Let’s please not allow this business to erase our talent with giving grey areas and technicalities. Take a moment and know the history. DON’T BE A PART OF ERASING IT. I wish you the best.”

“Hi Monique, it was never my intention to erase anyone else’s achievements and I adore you and Queen Latifah so so much x I support all plus size ladies and everything positive we are doing together,” Wilson said in response.

Wilson then started to block the people on Twitter criticizing her Ellen comments, including many women and writers of color. It’s so prevalent that the hashtag #RebelWilsonBlockedMe is currently circulating Twitter.

This entire issue offers a glimpse into a larger, more sinister problem in Hollywood, the media and our country alike: the consistent dismissal of the accomplishments of women of color—especially plus-size women of color.

PHAT GIRLZ USA 2006 Nnegest Likke Jazmin (MO'NIQUE) Regie: Nnegest Likke. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

PHOTO: Alamy

Mo’Nique in Phat Girlz

And it goes beyond just the movie industry. Black women have consistently been disregarded in the body positivity movement too despite the fact they were integral in building it. Before Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday led the pack, there were models like the late Mia Amber Davis, who famously appeared in the movie Road Trip (2000), and Jordan Tesfay, the first black plus-size woman to appear in a CoverGirl ad. Both of these women remain largely unknown to the general public.

Wilson also recently stepped into the world of plus-size fashion design, and she’d do well to remember pioneers like Monif C and Qristyl Frazier, who each created clothing for that market before it was in vogue. (Also, let’s not forget the fictional clothing line Mo’Nique’s character started in Phat Girlz, the fabulously titled Thick Madame.)

At this point, it seems Wilson is refusing to concede and standing firm in her argument. “It was never my intention to erase anyone else’s achievements,” she said—but the fact of the matter is her comments did just that. As she’s no doubt seeing now, the road to Twitter hell is paved with good intentions.


Allison McGevna is an editor and writer based in New York City. You can follow her @AllieMcGev on Twitter.

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