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At first glance, Melissa McCarthy’s November ELLE cover seems like a score for plus-size women — fashion magazines don’t exactly have a history of showcasing diverse body types — but the actress is wrapped in a bulky coat, a move that isn’t sitting well with many fans.
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Every November, ELLE puts out its “Women in Hollywood” issue, featuring the buzziest female celebrities. The issue (on stands Oct. 22) features various stars on its covers. McCarthy’s issue features the funny lady rocking bombshell bedroom hair but wearing a wool and cashmere blue Marina Rinaldi coat, revealing only a tiny patch of skin on her decolletage.
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The look is a departure from that of her more scantily clad co-stars: Reese Witherspoon wears a fitted black Versace cutout dress, Shailene Woodley, a Calvin Klein swimsuit, Marion Cotillard, a Viscose knit bra top and wool shorts, and Naomie Harris a long skirt and suede wrap halter top, though Penelope Cruz's curves are invisible in her close-up beauty shot –– the 39-year-old gave birth to her second child less than three months ago.
On Thursday, McCarthy's reps told "Good Morning America" that the actress "loves the cover" and "even picked out the coat," however, the issue has triggered debate on social media. @Roundraglanroad tweeted, “Oh look, it's Melissa Mccarthy on the cover of @ELLEmagazine, let's cover her up in the LARGEST COAT POSSIBLE”; @Runawaycow wrote, “Melissa's cover shot is just lazy, it shows that stylists don't want to work with a plus size body or designers”; and @OhhSuzannah wrote, “That is just terrible and lazy. Ugh.” Others dismiss the issue altogether. @MSCanada1201: “I think she looks fabulous! Don't get the controversy. Its a fashion mag. She looks beautiful and fashionable.”
The fashion industry’s message to the plus-size community has always been mixed. In 1998, Vogue asked Oprah Winfrey to appear on its cover, with one caveat: that she diet first. In 2009, Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour admitted to 60 Minutes, "I went to Chicago to visit Oprah, and I suggested that it might be an idea that she lose a little bit of weight before she appeared in the magazine,” then added that Winfrey’s was one of the most successful covers ever. In May, fashion retailer H&M’s CEO Karl-Johan Persson told British publication the Metro that the models employed by his company have been “too skinny,” then referenced Beyoncé — who’s hardly plus-size — as an example of the company’s progress (to H&M's credit, plus-size model Jennie Runk modeled their spring swimsuit line).
And McCarthy — who received an Academy Award nomination for her breakout role in the 2011 hit comedy "Bridesmaids" — has dealt with her own share of weight controversy in Hollywood, where the pressure to stay thin is ever present. Back in February, New York Observer film critic Rex Reed reviewed McCarthy’s film "Identity Thief," calling her “tractor-sized” and “a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.” Months later, the actress referenced the remarks in a New York Times article, saying, “I felt really bad for someone who is swimming in so much hate. I just thought, that’s someone who’s in a really bad spot, and I am in such a happy spot.” And who could forget the 2010 Marie Claire essay titled “Should Fatties Get a Room?” in which a blogger wrote that she would be “grossed out” watching “fat people kissing each other.” In response, McCarthy told Entertainment Tonight, "My first thought was, 'Gosh, I hope she doesn't have a daughter.’ And then after a second I thought, 'What a sad, troubled person. You're making such a s----y judgment on people.'"
Of the cover, celebrity stylist Dawn Del Russo tells Yahoo Shine, "I definitely think [the cover] is a step in the right direction since it is almost a full-length cover photo," she says. "The coat is on trend now but for future covers, I would hope fuller-figured women are complemented by tailored clothing."
How does McCarthy feel about her look? In an email to Yahoo Shine, a rep from Hearst magazines wrote, “On all of our shoots, our stylists work with the stars to choose pieces they feel good in, and this is no different: Melissa loved this look, and is gorgeous on our cover. We are thrilled to honor her as one of our Women in Hollywood this year.”
And while reps for McCarthy did not return Yahoo Shine’s calls for comment, on Thursday the actress (sort of) addressed the controversy, telling "omg! Insider," “[ELLE is] a magazine I grew up with and I hadn't done anything quite like that. I was nervous … It was kind of amazing” and “Listen, until I am stopped at the gate, I'm going to keep showing up."
However, despite the "Mike & Molly" star's push-pull relationship with her weight (she told "Entertainment Tonight" that she would "love to look emaciated"), she's also spoken of launching a plus-size fashion line, telling the Hollywood Reporter, “Trying to find stuff that's still fashion-forward in my size is damn near impossible. It's either for like a 98-year-old woman or a 14-year-old hooker, and there is nothing in the middle." Is a bulky wool coat the fashion debut she had in mind?
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