Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights star Romola Garai reveals that she was weighed every day on set and a dietitian made sure she stayed underweight during filming

By Julie Mazziotta
April 18, 2017 12:19 PM
Credit: Barry Wetcher/A Band Apart/REX/Shutterstock; Mike Marsland/WireImage

Actress Romola Garai says experienced severe body shaming on the set of Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights that affected her mental state for years afterwards.

“It was a cesspit of horrific misogyny,” Garai, 34, who played the female lead in the 2004 prequel to the original Dirty Dancing, tells The Observer of the environment on-set.

There, Garai says a female producer pointed at the then 17-year-old actress’ thighs and said, “This isn’t good enough.” According to Garai, producers also flew in a dietitian from Puerto Rico who would weigh her each day to ensure that she was underweight throughout filming.

“It screwed me up for years,” Garai says. “Not only did it completely change how I felt about my body, but I felt like I’d failed because I hadn’t fought back. I felt complicit, because I didn’t say no. I signed off on Photoshopped images and felt terrible for perpetrating this… lie.”

Romola Garai in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
| Credit: Miramax/Everett

The experience led her to quit acting for a time — after just one Hollywood studio film.

“I did a bit of modeling when I was a teenager and, even then, nobody asked me to lose weight,” Garai says. “It’s different with film, because it’s not about weight, it’s about control. It’s an industry with a clear agenda of ensuring women’s relationships with their reflection on screen make them feel inadequate. I never went back to Hollywood again.”

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Now a mom of two, the Brit has rekindled her love of acting and shifted her focus to U.K.-based productions, specifically period pieces. But she still deals with occasional comments about her appearance, and Garai hopes that will change.

“I’ve had sporadic acne in my life and have extraordinary conversations with them about how I can’t have spots on screen, telling me about the drugs I should take. There’s this idea that in order to propagate visions women aspire to, you have to make other women feel bad,” she says.

“That’s why it’s a weird time for feminism … I don’t think feminism is in a great place.”