Hour star Romola Garai criticises TV industry's obsession with women's body size


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The Independent Culture

The Hour star Romola Garai has criticised the TV and movie industry's obsession with women's body size.

Garai, 30, who plays Bel in 1950s newsroom drama The Hour, has notched up starring roles in the likes of Emma and Atonement since landing a part in TV film The Last Of The Blonde Bombshells while still a student.

She told the Radio Times: "My weight was a very big issue when I started.

"I was then - and am now - a very normal size 10. But that's not acceptable. Everyone's aware of it.

"It's partly because fashion, film and television have become so interdependent. Increasingly, it's actresses doing the big fashion advertising campaigns and now there's no distinction between actresses and models.

"There's no way I could ring up a company that was lending me a red-carpet dress and say 'do you have it in a 10?' Because all the press samples are an 8 - I would say a 'small 8'. If you want the profile, you have to lose the weight."

Garai added: "It's difficult because if I refuse to do any magazines at all, my work, I think, would suffer in a very immediate way.

"But when I appear in these magazines, I know I'm being 'trimmed', I'm being airbrushed a lot. And I know that people are accepting those images and are under the impression that that is really how my body looks, that I'm hairless and sexless and weigh 90lbs.

"That really worries me. And I really don't know what to do, except talk about it."

Garai, the daughter of a journalist and a banker, said she could not understand it when women hanker after the 1950s era which her BBC2 drama, which drew comparisons to US show Mad Men and has returned for a second series, is set in.

She said of her alter-ego: "Bel is a sort of fantasy. There's no way she would have been in that position - producing her own show - at my age.

"She would have been there for a very long time and in a very lowly position before she was given that kind of opportunity. But it's a drama and Bel's a great character. So I'm not complaining."

She said: "I find it strange when women get nostalgic for that era. I can see - just about - that we have lost some of what might be called the security of being in the home, but what we've gained seems to me so much greater."

The actress told the magazine: "I'm a feminist. God, yes! A bra-burning, building-burning feminist.

"I was brought up with a very strong sense of what can happen if your society starts to chip away at the small victories women have won for themselves.

"I remember when I was about nine, there was a timeline of British history on the wall at school and 'votes for women' was about an inch before the end. We're just a hundred years into having any history of our own and I never forget that."