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Celebrity

'You Are More Than a Number on a Scale': Stars Who Are Redefining How We Talk About Beauty

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Alicia Keys

Keys has been a champion of the no-makeup look for years, opening up in 2016 about her decision to stop wearing cosmetics in order to free herself from societal pressures.  "[It’s] really freeing," she said during a visit to Today. "The thing is… it kinda came from because we put so many limitations on ourselves, we put limitations on each other, society puts limitations on us, and in a lot of ways, I’m sick of it, I’m over it." She added that she made the decision to go sans-makeup purely for herself, and that she's only trying to underscore that women can make their own choices and shouldn't feel beholden to society's expectations.  "I just wanna be honest to myself, and all of us should be honest to ourselves," she said. "Just be yourself and have a great time, and do what makes you feel good as opposed to trying to please every damn body."
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Laverne Cox

The Orange Is the New Black actress and transgender activist has long been a pioneer of shaping the conversation around trans beauty. In 2015, she wrote on her blog that she started the #TransIsBeautiful movement to "celebrate all those things that make trans folks uniquely trans, those things that don’t necessarily align with cisnormative beauty standards. For me it is necessary everyday to celebrate every aspect of myself especially those things about myself that don’t align with other people’s ideas about what is beautiful." 
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Ellen Pompeo

The Grey's Anatomy star has some thoughts on getting older and the importance of focusing on your health rather than your looks, and they're just what the doctor ordered.  "I think when you're in your 20s and 30s, you're super obsessed with your looks because you don't have any other wisdom," she said to Entertainment Tonight in 2016. "I have the wisdom to know that growing old is a privilege that not everyone is afforded. If my physical beauty is the only thing that leaves me and my health and my family stay, then that is what's really important to me."
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Constance Wu

The Crazy Rich Asians star has been candid about her struggles with her body image growing up, and how she eventually learned to love what she once saw as flaws — and her shift in mindset is key to turning societal norms on their heads.  "I grew up at a time when people said, 'Real women have curves.' But I didn’t have curves ... So in high school, in an effort to be a 'real' woman, I started wearing padded bras," she began an essay for Allure in 2017. "When you’re a teenager, you take cues from your environment to find the metrics of how a culture measures a woman’s worth. And I saw billboards, magazines, TV shows that all equated breasts with beauty. So learning to be proud of my flat chest, to stop wearing padded bras — it was a real milestone for me," she explained. "Now I love how small breasts look in certain clothes. I’m a long-distance runner, and I love how it helps my athleticism." Wu stresses that there is no body type associated with being a "real woman" — it runs deeper than that. "Of course curvy women are real women. But small, short women are real, too. In fact, there is no part of your anatomy, be it breasts or genitalia, that makes you a real woman. Trans women are real women. Being a woman is something you know in your soul, not something [dictated by] your body type."
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Aidy Bryant

The moment the Saturday Night Live actress gave up on being skinny, her "entire life changed," she told The Cut.  "I finally was like, 'What if I put all of that energy into just trying to like myself and focus on the things I actually want to do as opposed to this thing that’s like a made-up concept?' And I’m not kidding, my entire life changed after I did that," Bryant said. "Within two years, I was hired by Second City; two years later I was hired by SNL." Bryant's new show Shrill is bringing her brand of self-love and appreciation to the small screen: she stars as Annie, a young woman who is trying to enjoy her professional and romantic life to the fullest without focusing on losing weight.  "Yeah, I’m fat," Bryant told Cosmopolitan. "I’m not afraid of saying that. And there are a lot of euphemistic ways to soften it, like, 'She’s chunky or curvy.' But there’s something to be be said for just owning it and not letting it destroy me." 
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Lili Reinhart

The Riverdale actress has been outspoken about the crippling pressure of unrealistic body standards set for women, particularly in Hollywood, and how she's learning to handle them better.  "I don’t have the perfect solution," she said during her inspiring speech at the Glamour Women of the Year Summit in November 2018. "But I have discovered some things that help me have those better days. I started to purge myself of content that made me feel less beautiful on a daily basis. I unfollowed the accounts on Instagram that made me question the shape and curves of my own body. I also started living a more active lifestyle because I wanted to feel healthy on the inside, which required some thoughtful effort on my part. But I wanted to know that I was healthy and strong without having identical measurements to those other women that I’m seeing." Reinhart then encouraged the people in the audience to accept their bodies and to celebrate the bodies of others as well. "So embracing your natural beauty, does not exclude anyone. There is no fine print. You can be naturally beautiful with acne or scars, cellulite or curves. So let’s celebrate each other, and ourselves, as we are, as we will be, and as we were meant to be. Unique. Imperfect. Beautiful. And so incredibly powerful."
Todd Williamson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Jameela Jamil

The Good Place actress has become one of the most prominent players when it comes to changing the conversation around beauty. Not only is she consistent in publicly calling out fellow celebrities for promoting weight loss products (most notably, the Kardashians) to their millions of followers, but she also launched the I Weigh Instagram account in February 2018 to combat the "toxic" weight shaming on social media.  She decided to flip the term and ask her followers to instead send the things that add up to their self-worth, like being a good friend and loving to bake, and it has since evolved into in-depth conversations about body image with celebrities like Lizzo and Sam Smith. Her powerful first post began with a list of her own attributes that matter to her more than her weight, including "lovely relationship, great friends, I laugh every day, I love my job, I make an honest living, I'm financially independent, I speak out for women's rights, I like my bingo wings, I like myself in spite of EVERYTHING I've been taught by the media to hate about myself." 
Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

Camila Mendes

Reinhart's Riverdale costar has been equally vocal about her own struggles with body image in an attempt to raise awareness that anyone can suffer from eating disorders, regardless of size. And when the two were Photoshopped to look thinner than they were on the cover of Cosmopolitan's Philippines edition, Mendes was quick to speak out about how that went against the message of authenticity they try to spread. "That they would then manipulate our bodies when we are literally preaching body positivity is so personally insulting, and it’s also insulting to the readers," she told PEOPLE. For her, it's important not to filter anything out in order to avoid participating in the unrealistic beauty standards that are propagated by tools like Photoshop.  "I’m so happy with the way that I am and I don’t think that was necessary. It’s never necessary to change your body. People know what I look like, I take photos on my own and I don’t edit them so people know. Stop trying to lie to people, you know?"
Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

Tess Holliday

Holliday became the world's first size-22 supermodel in 2015, and has made it her mission to spread body positivity and serve up sultry looks to anyone who has negative feedback.  In addition to being outspoken about body shaming, she created #effyourbeautystandards for women to share what makes them feel beautiful and take comfort in that community. "There is no one way to be a woman, or to be beautiful. We all deserve a place," she wrote in an essay for PEOPLE. "I have this passion inside of me to help other women feel confident and comfortable in their bodies, regardless of their size or what society tells them is beautiful. It's like a calling."
Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

Rihanna

RiRi sparked a cultural conversation on inclusivity in the beauty industry when she released her groundbreaking 40-shade foundation range in her Fenty Beauty makeup line, and she broke more barriers with her size and shade-inclusive Savage x Fenty lingerie collection. In addition to the work (work, work ...) she's done to diversify the beauty sphere, the "Rude Boy" singer also shared her trick to feeling confident and brushing off Internet body-shamers. "You’ve just got to laugh at yourself, honestly. I mean, I know when I’m having a fat day and when I’ve lost weight. I accept all of the bodies," she told Vogue in May 2018. "I’m not built like a Victoria’s Secret girl, and I still feel very beautiful and confident in my lingerie." She also told The Cut that she's "had the pleasure of a fluctuating body type," which allows her to change up her style based on how she's feeling — which she credits with boosting her confidence and comfort.  "I really pay attention every day when I go into the closet about what’s working for my body that morning," she told the outlet. "I feel like that’s how everyone should go after fashion, because it’s an individual thing."
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Demi Lovato

Whether she's opening up about her recovery from an eating disorder or challenging body shamers, the "Sorry Not Sorry" singer has long been encouraging her fans to tune out "negative diet culture talk" and embrace themselves without apology.  Lovato has been quick to call out the media and ads for body shaming; in April she shared a screenshot of an article that commented on her "fuller figure" to her Instagram story, writing, "I AM MORE THAN MY WEIGHT." "Too many people today base their ideal body weight off of what OTHERS tell us we should look like or weigh. Articles like these only contribute to that toxic way of thinking," she said. "If you’re reading this: Don’t listen to negative diet culture talk. You are more than a number on a scale. And I am more than a headline about my body shape."
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Amy Schumer

Even before her movie I Feel Pretty hit theatres, there was backlash against the premise that Schumer's character Renee (who has low self-esteem until she hits her head and suddenly wakes up feeling beautiful) perpetuated poor body image. Critics said her character was already attractive and assumed her newfound confidence came from seeing herself as "skinny." The comedian was quick to set the record straight, as she has for years when it comes to body image and feeling pretty. "There’s been a lot of projection," the actress told Vulture. "I heard a lot of, 'She doesn’t have a right to feel bad about herself because she looks however she looks.' But first off, it’s not about an ugly troll becoming beautiful, it’s about a woman who has low self-esteem finding some. Everyone’s got a right to feel that feeling, regardless of their appearance. We all struggle with self-esteem. I certainly have … it’s not our place to say who should be allowed to have low self-esteem."
Presley Ann/Getty Images

Lena Dunham

The Girls creator and star has been preaching body positivity to women of all shapes and sizes for years, reminding herself and her fans that beauty is about how you feel and not about molding yourself to fit to Hollywood's beauty standards.  Through then-and-now photos showing her body evolution, Dunham has been candid about "fetishizing" her smaller figure in the past and how she's working to see the beauty in taking the pressure off of herself.  "At 32: I weigh the most I ever have. I love the most I ever have. I read and write and laugh the most I ever have. And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been," she wrote on Instagram. "Not the frail, precarious happiness of 'things are going perfectly.' The big, generous, jiggly happiness of 'I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of this.' "
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