Jennifer Grey, 62, Says Diet Culture Is an ‘Epidemic’: ‘The Crime of Crimes’
Jennifer Grey called out diet culture in an interview promoting her new film, Starving for Salvation.
The Lifetime movie tells the true story of Gwen Shamblin, a controversial religious weight loss guru.
Grey hopes the movie’s hard-hitting topics will raise awareness about the “epidemic” of diet culture and the “terrifyingly serious” nature of eating disorders.
Jennifer Grey isn’t one to mince words. The Dirty Dancing star has been candid about everything from hair loss to how plastic surgery made her feel invisible. Now, the 62-year-old is opening up about diet culture, and the real dangers it poses.
In her latest film, Lifetime’s Starving for Salvation, Grey portrays controversial evangelical weight loss guru Gwen Shamblin, who quite literally made dieting religious with a best-selling workshop, book, and, eventually, an independent church that claimed to help people use faith to lose weight. While promoting the project, Grey is taking the opportunity to discuss the dangers of diet culture at large.
“I think the world is very simplistic and very rigid in the way we assess people’s value, and to me, it is the crime of all crimes,” she told Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager on Today With Hoda and Jenna. “Because our whole culture has kind of normalized this idea that we’re supposed to be a certain weight, size, shape. We’re supposed to look a certain way. And the fact is, all it does is really reinforce the feeling of being not enough, which is so human in our culture, sadly. It is epidemic.”
Playing Shamblin gave Grey the rare chance to embody someone very different from herself—towering blonde wigs and all. “For me, the voice of Gwen Shamblin is the voice of anorexia. It’s the shaming, rigid voice that says you are not lovable unless you are thin. And God doesn’t love you,” she said.
In a separate interview with Today.com, Grey added that Shamblin “didn’t admit that she was deeply anorexic, and deeply harming the people who she was supposed to be helping.”
In 1989, Shamblin founded The Weigh Down Workshop, a restrictive diet plan that she ultimately took to thousands of churches throughout the country. In 1999, she founded the Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood, TN. On May 9, 2021, Shamblin and a group of the church’s leaders were killed in a private plane crash.
Grey hopes that Starving for Salvation and Shamblin’s story will shed light on the “terrifyingly serious” nature of eating disorders. “I didn’t want it to be normalizing it,” she said. “I wanted people to see the extremity of her story and how wrong-headed, how insane her theories were. So that, if somebody is suffering from some version of an eating disorder, whether it’s overeating or bulimia or anorexia or just even being too restrictive, they might be able to see themselves as an early stage of [Shamblin’s experience] and be able to get help.”
The movie premieres on Lifetime February 4 at 8 p.m. EST.
If you believe you are struggling with an eating disorder and need support, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at (800) 931-2237. You can text HOME to 741741 to message a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free.
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