Renée Zellweger Says 'Humiliation' Over Plastic Surgery Speculation Was the 'Hardest Kick' to Her Ego

Judy star Renée Zellweger opened up to New York Magazine about what the publication dubbed her "whole plastic-surgery kerfuffle"

Renée Zellweger set the Internet ablaze back in 2014, when she stepped out at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards in an appearance that had many questioning whether she had plastic surgery.

The Internet chatter led Zellweger to defend herself, first to PEOPLE in an exclusive statement and, years later, in an op-ed for The Huffington Post. And now, the Judy star is speaking out about it again, telling New York Magazine in a new wide-ranging interview that the experience actually helped free her.

Nothing like international humiliation to set your perspective right!” she said. “It clarifies what’s important to you. And it shakes off any sort of clingy superficiality … that you didn’t have time for anyway.”

“One of the fears that maybe, as artists, we all share — because we have this public experience of being criticized not just for our work but as human beings — is when it gets to be too much, when you learn that your skin is not quite as thick as you need it to be, what is that gonna feel like? Well, now I know,” Zellweger added. “I got the hardest kick. And it ain’t the end.”

Renée Zellweger
Renée Zellweger. Charley Gallay/Getty

Later in the piece, Zellweger dug deeper about what NY Mag dubbed to her the “whole plastic-surgery kerfuffle.”

“There’s a value judgment that’s placed on us. As if it somehow is a reflection of your character — whether you’re a good person or a weak person or an authentic person,” she said.

When it was suggested that fans were worried she somehow did not look like herself, Zellweger said their criticism also came with “the implication that I somehow needed to change what was going on because it wasn’t working.”

“That makes me sad,” she said. “I don’t look at beauty in that way. And I don’t think of myself in that way. I like my weird quirkiness, my off-kilter mix of things. It enables me to do what I do. I don’t want to be something else. I got hired in my blue jeans and cowboy boots with my messy hair. I started working like that. I didn’t have to change to work. So why was I suddenly trying to fit into some mold that didn’t belong to me?”

Renee Zellweger
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Back in 2014, Zellweger told PEOPLE that the conversation about her appearance was “silly,” but that she chose to address it because “it seems the folks who come digging around for some nefarious truth which doesn’t exist won’t get off my porch until I answer the door.”

“I’m glad folks think I look different! I’m living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows,” Zellweger said.

“My friends say that I look peaceful. I am healthy,” Zellweger continued. “For a long time I wasn’t doing such a good job with that. I took on a schedule that is not realistically sustainable and didn’t allow for taking care of myself. Rather than stopping to recalibrate, I kept running until I was depleted and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion. I was aware of the chaos and finally chose different things.”

And if some people didn’t recognize Zellweger, one thing she said they should understand is that she’s comfortable in her own skin.

“People don’t know me [as] healthy for a while,” she told PEOPLE. “Perhaps I look different. Who doesn’t as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I’m happy.”

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