Dissecting My Reaction to Renee Zellweger

I don’t read Perez Hilton. Don’t watch TMZ or Entertainment Tonight. No Housewives BS on my TV. Don’t think I’ve opened a People magazine since a dear friend stopped writing for it.

The whole Hollywood gossip thing doesn’t interest me in the least. I don’t know who’s rumored to be gay or doing drugs or cheating on a spouse.

This doesn’t make me superior or pseudo-intellectual. Somewhere along the way to my 50s I just realized there were ways I preferred to spend my time that didn’t include imposing shallow judgment on people I don’t know. I’ve even reached a point where I no longer enjoy the snark in red carpet coverage, so I’d be a real drag at Oscar parties.

zellweger2That said, when I look at a photograph of Renee Zellweger and it gives me a start, there is something deeper going on than being a hater or engaging in plastic surgery shaming or cattiness. It’s definitely not about scrutiny of the sort we’ve been socialized to engage in as (mostly) females. It’s about dismay that another one succumbed under the pressure of that.

After Zellweger appeared on the red carpet recently and ‘unveiled’ her new look, I saw the photos while I was browsing the news online. Like most, I looked and looked again, not able to reconcile the name in the headline with the face I was seeing. Where was Renee? Who was this woman?

It was that reaction first. Then I went right to sadness and wrote this post on Facebook:

This is none of my business, but I can’t leave it alone. I am saddened by this. But then again, I’ve still never been able to watch The Women all the way through because Meg Ryan’s ‘new’ lips were so distracting. And I adore Meg Ryan’s work. I just saw a political commercial with Andrew Cuomo and got a look at Sandra Lee. I used to watch her show on Food Network all the time, so I’m quite familiar with her. Now her upper lip barely moves when she talks.

I know why this is. I get it. Insecurity. The industry. All of it. But I just had to express how much it saddens me.

Zellweger owes me nothing and if she did this for medical reasons then I will douse my crow in salt and pepper and have a feast.

But because she is a public figure and because I’ve enjoyed her work and her personality whenever I’ve seen her in an interview, it affected me to see this drastic change. And it instantly made me ask why and then answer that question with my own assumptions. That’s important to note – I know they’re assumptions. I’m a proud feminist. I don’t want to pile on or be one of those people who has nothing better to do than obsess over famous people.

I wrestle with my own insecurities every day. I color the gray out of my hair. I spend an inordinate amount of money on salon products to maintain it. It seems like I get a new line on my face every day and sometimes I cringe when trying to reconcile that in photos (See my earlier post – Why Do We Tear Ourselves Down?). On most days I like myself a lot and embrace it all. Other days, not so much. My eyes are not as sharp as they once were and I pull out the glasses for every darned thing. My legs sometimes slow me down and, trust me, it doesn’t make me feel attractive.

Still, to be fair, I don’t make my living in a profession that depends on my looks, so I can’t really relate to women (or men) who do.

All I can do is honestly share my feelings here. My extreme reaction to Renee Zellweger’s face was because it felt like it was an action taken by someone in deep emotional turmoil. She says it’s a wonderful time in her life and that’s what is reflected in her appearance now. Who am I to tell her that isn’t true? And yet, it does nothing to diminish my troubled feelings.

Back in 2005 (a time when I apparently did read gossip columns), I wrote this in my coaching newsletter:

I’ve been fascinated lately with what people do in the face of adversity. There was an item in the New York Post’s Page Six column the other day about Renee Zellweger. It seems she stopped by the newspaper to talk to the columnists about an item they’d written about her that wasn’t true. They then printed the real story as told by her, playing it prominently.

That struck me as a classy, measured response and showed a great deal of emotional intelligence on Zellweger’s part. Here’s what she could have done instead — complained to no one in particular; sued; ranted; pouted; nothing. This way, she didn’t play victim. She didn’t act out. She didn’t pull a primadonna act with an entourage. She showed up in shorts and sneakers and no makeup. She had a conversation, one person to another. And what a positive resolution!

Two years later, I included this Page Six item on my blog:

Renee Zellweger has a big heart. Wendy Faracino, a Bobbi Brown makeup artist at Saks Fifth Avenue in Southampton, was on her break and looking at a pair of Manolo Blahniks when Zellweger strolled up and the two began talking about shoes. Barely 15 minutes after she went back to work, Faracino was approached by the shoe department’s manager with a gift-wrapped box. “These are compliments of Renee Zellweger. She wanted you to have them,” he said. Inside were the Manolos she’s been admiring.
–Page Six, New York Post

Zellweger has always seemed to me to be the refreshing deviation from diva, follower, party girl and so many other unappealing categories of celebrity. Maybe I need to simply acknowledge that she’s human and wanted to change her looks. Or go deeper and acknowledge that my take on her decision says more about me than it does about her.

Her body, her choice. Yes. But I seem to be pissed at the standard that has put us – creative, engaged, intelligent women — in this conflicted place.

*Sigh*

I wish her well.

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