Ricki Lake says she felt 'conflicted' for 'perpetuating that obsession we have with diet culture'

Ricki Lake opens up about being told to lose weight. (Photo: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)
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Ricki Lake is speaking out about her complicated relationship with weight loss.

This week, the Hairspray actress was joined by model Tess Holliday on her podcast Raised By Ricki, which she co-hosts with The Ellen DeGeneres Show alum Kalen Allen. The conversation turned to body image, and how both Lake and Holliday’s bodies have been under public scrutiny for years.

Lake shared a story about one of the reasons behind her 2008 weight loss, which was heavily publicized at the time. Lake had just produced the documentary The Business of Being Born, which had gotten into the Tribeca Film Festival.

“I remember it was after Christmas, and it was coming up on the New Year, and it was going to be premiering in April. My publicist at the time said, ‘If I were you, I would get into the best shape of my life.’”

Lake said that the idea was that she would be able to get “attention for [the documentary] through changing my physique.”

“I went on a crash diet. I was the thin girl, I was the sample size, and I was walking the red carpet,” she said. “I was offered four magazine covers. It was People, Us Weekly, OK! — the power of that, it was unbelievable. Well, not unbelievable, totally believable, but it happened to me. Yes, I got more opportunities, more attention, it was way more positive."

Ricki Lake arriving at the Los Angeles premiere of
Ricki Lake arriving at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Business of Being Born" in 2008. (Photo: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage) (Gregg DeGuire via Getty Images)

One 2008 People article featuring Lake had the headline, "I Can't Believe I Was Fat," and included the quote, "With the weight stuff I don’t have any answers. Something tragic in my life could happen and I could balloon and gain weight. I can’t promise I will be like this forever."

Speaking on her podcast about that time in her life, Lake said, “I’m conflicted because I am proud of myself. When I lose that weight, it is something I want the world to know, I did this. It’s a lot of work and a lot of willpower, so I want to talk about it, but I know that it’s not the best thing to be celebrating.”

She felt at the time that she was “perpetuating that obsession we have with diet culture,” noting, “I’m a part of it.”

One line she wouldn’t cross due to her conflicting thoughts on weight loss, however, was sponsorship opportunities from companies like Jenny Craig.

“They all offered me million dollar offers,” the Cry Baby star said. “I’ve never taken that payout because I feel so conflicted about it.”

Lake’s body has long been a topic of discussion, from the start of her career when she starred as "pleasantly plump" Tracy Turnblad in 1988's Hairspray to her losing weight while performing on Dancing With the Stars in 2011 and then gaining weight following the 2017 death of her husband Christian Evans. In a popular 2020 Instagram post, she blamed “yo yo dieting” and “radical weight fluctuations," among other factors, for her struggle with alopecia, about which she had also been outspoken.

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