'I was told I was fat and lost my job': A TV host speaks up
I was recently invited to work for a new TV station as a co-host on one of their shows. I jumped at the chance as I had seen that their content differed from most other channels in the country. They had a lot more informative programs, aesthetically they looked better made, and in general they appeared to be a breath of fresh air in an extremely stifling and tiresome TV industry.
After my first show, I seemed to have done a good enough job to be called back to fill in for a few shows over the course of the next few weeks. Yay for me!
Like I do for any new project I’m involved in, I went into overdrive, learning and researching so I could give the best possible performance each time. This is what I believe in—whether you’re a newbie or you’ve been in the business for decades, you should never stop learning and strive for excellence.
All seemed to be going smoothly, until after a show one night, when I was approached by the boss of the TV station.
“You need to lose a bit of weight,” he told me.
I worked in this industry for 5 years at that point, and had had my fair share of “You’re fat!” comments from the likes of producers, directors and casting directors, so I should note that this guy was at least polite.
I chuckled and replied, “But I love food so much, Pak!”
He seemed to appreciate my humor, but went on to say: “Yes, but your legs look much bigger on camera than the other girls.”
In my head, I though, "That’s cause they are much bigger than the other girls!"
Instead I said, “Ok I will try to lose a few pounds,” adding, “On a non-appearance note, how am I doing? Is there anything I need to work on? Do I need to do more or less of something?”
“Nope,” the Boss said. “Perfect! Keep doing what you’re doing.”
He smiled and walked off.
I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, so as far as the actual work is concerned, all is well, but this guy is judging me on the fact that I have fat knees. Nice.
Despite his assurance that I was doing fine in the show, I never got called back after the short stint.
Now, it’s perfectly correct for Mr Boss to want to maintain a certain image for his TV channel. It’s his channel after all. Still, I was curious to see who was hired to replace me and how they fared in the show, so I watched it a few times and found my replacements to be, as expected, slim, leggy, Indonesian models. Not a fat knee in sight. HAH!
So they found people who fit the vision and image of the channel, but I was annoyed at the fact that I had been judged on my appearance, and disposed of so quickly. I reminded myself of the boss’s reply “Perfect. Keep doing what you’re doing,” because that’s what I value the most: how I do the job, not how I look.
Fortunately, I have extremely thick skin, which is what is definitely needed to work in an industry that judges people by their appearance. And having been told numerous times that I was fat, I’m very thankful that I have not developed a complex about my weight, or had an eating disorder.
On the contrary, I am confident and comfortable in my own skin, and proud of the intellect, dedication and professionalism I strive to bring to every job.
I would have liked to have stayed on the show and represented all the other fat kneed, ample-thighed women of Indonesia. There aren’t enough of us on TV because it’s difficult to compete with the slimmer variety.
I do hope that sooner, rather than later, Mr Boss and all other Bosses in TV will look past figures and pretty faces, and invest in personality, charm and dedication to the job.
Advice for the criticized
Until they do, though, here are a few tips, or, rather, tricks to get the likes of Mr Boss off your case, if you happen to be in showbiz too:
- When they say “You’re looking a little fat these days,” reply with uber-confidence and assurance, “I’ve actually lost weight, I’ve been going to the gym regularly.” My confidence always seems to convince them, and they often end up saying “Actually yes, you do look like you have lost a little!”
- Buy higher heels, they give the illusion of slimmer legs, as does a nice tan
- For some reason, casting directors are obsessed with the actual number of kilograms you weigh. I weigh 57 kilograms (on a slim day), which for my height is perfect according to doctors. But casting directors always tell me, “Hmm… go down to 45 kg?” which is bollocks and clearly unhealthy! So, I lie. I tell them I’m 52 kg. Unless they have scales in their office, they usually believe it.
- Wear clothes that flatter your body shape. I don’t try to fit into smaller sizes, because that stretched elastic across my arse and thighs is super noticeable. So just wear stuff that fits, is comfortable and gives you confidence. Be confident in your own skin, because you are great and beautiful, regardless of what those judging you say.
- Most importantly, be the most professional, hard-working, intelligent, resourceful, and considerate candidate for the job. That trumps skinny bitches with no talent any day!
This article was first published on Magdalene, a slanted guide to women and issues.
Hannah is, in her own words, a confused mongrel child. Born and raised in London to a Bugis father and a French mother, she studied Indonesian and Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. She moved to Jakarta in 2008 to work in development, but for the past five years has worked as an actress and TV presenter instead. Hers is a perspective of a confused child of all nations, lost in the fatherland, trying to make rent as a performing monkey.