B orn Debra Francis Manheim. No one, she writes, "understood what it was like to grow up as a fat, Jewish girl in America" (Manheim 1999: 161). Ethnicity and body size still play a major role in her self-representation. She is considered overweight by the American public because she is 5 foot 10 inches tall and weighs over 200 pounds; however, she is also a highly visible celebrity and icon of the fat-positive movement. In 1998, she won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Ellenor Frutt on the television series The Practice (1997-2004) and, during her acceptance speech, she jovially exclaimed, "This is for all the fat girls!"
As evidenced by her speech, Manheim is an active feminist and a self-proclaimed champion of curvy, voluptuous bodies; she is against the existence of a weight standard. In essence, she is an activist of fat-acceptance. In her autobiography, she explains how she came to realize her potential as a spokesperson for fat acceptance when, "a friend of mine told me about the size-acceptance movement. She told me there was a whole subculture in which fat was not only accepted but celebrated. I was told to check out Dimensions magazine" (Manheim 1999: 118). This investigation paid off, and Manheim has now turned fat acceptance into a productive part of her work.
In her autobiographical one-woman off-Broadway show, Wake Up, I'm Fat! (1995), Manheim candidly reveals how American culture fosters eating disorders and dangerous behavior in its insistence that people lose weight. She recounts her own experiences with addiction to speed pills, which she took in order to increase her metabolism. Her role as the celebrity representative of the fat-acceptance movement seems to have surprised her: "I never intended to become the spokesperson for the fat-acceptance movement. But I did want to provide an alternative role model to young girls so they wouldn't feel such pressure" (Manheim 1999: 217).
Manheim later rewrote her play into a bestselling book of the same name. The book, like the play, has been well received by critics and members of the public who are looking for alternatives to the stick-thin role models who dominate fashion and media. According to the Village Voice, Manheim is regarded as a "supersize role model, especially for women struggling with body issues, dieting, eating disorders, and low self-esteem" (Taormino 2000). She is active in the civil-rights world at large, which she sees as a legacy of her Jewish, academic parents (Manheim 1999: 74).
See also Celebrities; Fat-Positive
References and Further Reading
Heyamoto, Lisa (1999) "Camryn Manheim Delivers Wake-Up Call to Kane Hall," University of Washington Student Newspaper: The Daily, March
Manheim, Camryn (1999) Wake Up I'm Fat! New York:
Broadway Books. Taormino, Tristan (2000) "Pucker up: XXL," Village Voice, February 16-22, available online at <http:// www.villagevoice.com/people/0007,taorm-in0,12533,24.html> (accessed April 19, 2006).
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