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VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images Jennifer Love Hewitt
But the experience came with its drawbacks. In a recent interview with Vulture, the star opened up about fielding constant questions about her body during her rise to fame, referring to the past media attention as "gross" and "incredibly inappropriate."
"I just watched the Britney Spears documentary [Framing Britney Spears] and there's that whole section in there, talking about her breasts," Hewitt, 42, told Vulture. "At the time that I was going through it, and interviewers were asking what now would be incredibly inappropriate, gross things, it didn't feel that way."
Reflecting on her role as Julie James in 1997's I Know What You Did Last Summer, Hewitt said, "I mean, I was in barely any clothing the whole movie. For some reason, in my brain, I was able to just go, 'Okay, well, I guess they wouldn't be asking if it was inappropriate.' "
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Mandalay Ent/Kobal/Shutterstock Jennifer Love Hewitt in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Steve Granitz/WireImage Jennifer Love Hewitt
For Hewitt, the horror film was "the first time that [she] had worn a low top" for a role, compared to Party of Five where her "body was very covered." (She joined the series' ensemble cast in 1995.)
"But now, as a 42-year-old woman with a daughter, I definitely look back on it and go, 'Ew,' " she told the outlet. "At a press junket for I Know or I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, I remember purposely wearing a T-shirt that said 'Silicone Free' on it because I was so annoyed, and I knew something about boobs was gonna be the first question out of [the reporters'] mouths. I was really tired of that conversation."
Hewitt's interview with Vulture comes amid the 20-year anniversary of her film Heartbreakers, in which she starred alongside Sigourney Weaver as a mother-daughter duo. And even then, she was "disappointed that it was all about body stuff, because I had really worked hard in that movie to do a good job as an actress."
"I remember one specific moment wishing that the acting had overshadowed all that — that for five minutes, they had said I was really great in the movie versus made a body comment," Hewitt said.
Murray Close/Davis Ent/Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock Jennifer Love Hewitt in Heartbreakers (2001)
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"Now that I'm older, I think, 'Gosh, I wish that I had known how inappropriate that was so I could have defended myself somehow or just not answered those questions.' I laughed it off a lot of the time, and I wish maybe I hadn't," she continued.
"The conversation" was about her body versus her work "for a very long time," Hewitt recalled, and "then, 'Oh yeah, you were really great in the movie, too,' later."
"I didn't get it," she said. "That's just what I looked like, and I was doing my job. I just started to [prepare myself], like, 'I know I'm doing an interview today, so I'm pretty sure at least 20 of the 40 minutes is going to be about boobs and body stuff, so we'll just get that out of the way and then maybe they'll ask me something else.' "
Having higher hopes for females in the industry today, Hewitt said, "I'm really grateful that we're in a time where, hopefully, that narrative is going to change for young girls who are coming up now, and they won't have to have those conversations."