Girl Talk: Dawn French is fan-fatty-fabulous!

I adore Dawn French. And not just for her comedic abilities, which have kept me entertained via The Vicar Of Dibley on the odd Saturday night (okay, frequent Saturday night) that I stay in or for her frequently entertaining, jovial memoir, Dear Fatty.

I adore French because she refuses to go down the well-trodden celebrity path to dieting hell. Actually, she's been there, done that, and says it wasn't fun: "Losing weight made me miserable and I was so cross with myself afterwards," she tells Woman's Weekly magazine.

French is decidedly happy-fat, as apposed to "skinny fat", the horrible and super-helpful term coined to describe female celebrities who look thin but whose lack of muscle tone makes them internally fat, or "croissant fat", which The Daily Mail believes a "distinctly chubbier" Britney Spears to be after she dared take time off to eat and drink "without worrying about the effects on her figure" in her touring downtime (shame on you, Ms. Spears!).

French, 51, says, "I can honestly say that it doesn't bother me, though I do worry that I'll get so comfortably fat that I won't be able to walk any more. Sometimes I'll get out of bed and think, "Oooh, I need to do some exercise" - but that's probably about once a year, if that. I think the medical term for my condition is called "body blindness". I may ultimately regret not looking after myself more, and plenty of people would line up to tell me that, but it doesn't concern me."

French lost weight prior to marrying her husband, Lenny Henry, at age 24: "When we got married I lost a lot of weight in a very short time, all because I panicked that I shouldn't be a fat bride. But Len took me to one side and said, "Who are you doing this for? I hope it's not me because it's not what I want...My husband's Jamaican and comes from a family of big women. For him it's the norm and thin women are a turn-off."

Of course, French's laissez faire approach to diet and exercise enrages the anti-fat pundits and obesity alarmists, who have responded to her comments via The Daily Mail warning "chubby celebrities [are] fuelling the obesity crisis and setting a poor example", as well as running the risk of developing diabetes, cancer and other weight-related problems.

I can see the merit in these arguments, as what are we without our health, but it saddens me to think we can't just let French be. Particularly as she seems intent on loving herself just as she is. In mental and emotional health terms, she appears to be peak condition!

In response to the Daily Mail story, Malcom from south of Australia's middle (Adelaide) sums up my thinking on this subject:
"One of the most attractive women in the world is Dawn French and Lenny Henry is one very lucky man. Dawn is a wonderful role model for anyone who needs self esteem and the joy of living. I have read her recent book and joy is the word that Dawn evokes about her life and her attitude to those around her. Thank God for people like Dawn French."

Indeed, thank God. Because while the rest of the world is on a diet, French is flying the fan-fatty-fabulous flag.

Without women like French speaking out about self-acceptance, who do we have to remind us that there's more to a woman than the size and shape of her body? That a celebrity might have something more to contribute to the world than dieting tips and biceps shaped by Tracy Anderson?

Jesus said: "I came so that you could have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10). I think he may have been onto something there.

There's a lot of money to be made ensuring that women remain discontented with their bodies, but the Dawn French's of the world aren't buying in. They're buying buckets of ice-cream instead.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


Anonymous said...

I also adore Dawn French, and while her "laissez faire approach to diet and exercise enrages the anti-fat pundits and obesity alarmists", if you look at the spectrum of women in the media, there are so many more unhealthily thin women (and not just models) who seem to have such a frightening attitude to life (ie, skinny = success).
I'm so glad that Dawn French is around to show you don't have to fit the skinny mould to be successful, happy, fabulous and loved.

Vesper said...

I've never heard of Dawn French before this, but your article inspired me to run a few Google searches and go seeking out her book. Someone who is so decidedly positive about herself, and content not to fit that size 6-stereotype achievable for some women only by suffering, stressing, starving, and denying themselves deserves far more attention.

Dawn obviously cares about herself a great deal. Her comments should be a wake-up call for many people staring into a mirror and loathing what they see. Why be so down on yourself when it's possible to love yourself so unconditionally, and do it with a smile?

Anonymous said...

Dawn French is hysterically funny; I adore her and I'm glad she's happy with herself the way she is, but the fact remains she is dangerously overweight.

It's not 'alarmist' to say that obesity is unhealthy and that people who fall into this category need to take action. How happy with herself would Dawn be if she developed diabetes, heart disease or dangerously high blood pressure?

It's irresponsible for her to use the phrases 'comfortably fat' and 'unable to walk' in the same sentence - I can't see how there'd be anything comfortable about being immobile.

It's frustrating that people only seem to see the extreme ends of the weight and body image spectrum. Dawn says she doesn't want to conform to the Hollywood version of an attractive figure, and good on her. But you don't have to be thin to be healthy.

Julie said...

Oh - I just love Dawn too. She is so gloriously beautiful, witty and incredibly intelligent.

If only all women felt the way about themselves that Dawn does we could potentially have a self esteem and body image revolution (one that is much needed) on our hands.

Viva La Dawn!

Anonymous said...

Yay!! More Dawn French love!! Absolutely adore her!! Couldn't get tickets to the show in Adelaide (they sold out in minutes) so we're travelling up to Brissie to see her on Sunday!!! I'm so excited!! She's so confident and just inspiring. Will always hold a special place in my heart- nights spent with both of my grandmothers curled up on the couch watching Vicar of Dibley! =)

Anonymous said...

Dawn French is obese - to the detriment of her health. Women whose weight endangers their wellbeing (thin or overweight), should not be glorified in any way. French is fundamentally lazy. Any women can eat whatever her tastebuds desire (with no respect for any other part of her body), hop on the ‘fat pride’ bandwagon and rest on her lazy, cringe worthy laurels. French is the worst possible role model for women. She’s an excuse for women to declare ‘she’s fat and happy, so I can be, too’. She clearly has no will power, motivation or respect for her body. Having fat on your body and being a fat person are two very different things. Your body needs fat to function at full health – but obesity to her degree is anything but healthy.

Tracy A said...

It seems to me that people cannot forgive Dawn French of being happy with herself. No-one asks Kate Moss or either of the Olsen twins if they are happy, it seems they must be, as they are thin. Dawn may be overweight, but she is clearly happy with herself and not too many people seem to be that. We need to spend more time on accepting ourselves rather than judging the appearance of people we see either on the streets or in magazines. For me Dawn is a great writer and entertainer who seems to be one happy lady and that is something worth aspiring too.

Joselle said...

People who are concerned about the health status of fat women are rarely concerned about the health status of women who are rail-thin, smoke, and eat sporadically.

Jane said...

I just returned from watching Dawn French in her Fabulous show "French and Saunders" in Brisbane. My husband and I flew 1000kms to see her for one night and it was even more amazing than I expected. She didn't need to speak- just her presence is funny. Dawn is an amazing and inspiring woman who proves that you can love life & yourself while not conforming to the crazy celebrity that happens today. She is herself and is proud to be her, in love with her husband, devoted Mum and a loyal and brilliant friend to those she loves. I have never met her but it is obvious to all who have observed her that she is the real deal. No prissy behaviour and just a great gal who we could all learn a thing or 2 from about life and enjoying who we are and celebrating the moments. Bravo Dawn- come back to Oz soon! Jen was fantastic too and congrats on your fabulous careers, friendship and sense of fun for over 30 years together!! I just wish you were in my circle of friends too. Love you Dawn!

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

Jane, I love your comments and am deeply envious that you got to see French and Saunders in their fleshy flesh! The world would be so boring if we all conformed to the same body stereotype (God knows it's done me no favours!). I still applaud Dawn for not succumbing to the world's prescribed weight loss theories and for loving herself just as she is. What's the point in not loving yourself until you reach your "ideal weight" after all? A whole lot of wasted time and energy that could be used being more joyful, methinks!