Ashley Judd’s “Puffy Face” Crusade

April 13th, 2012 by Jane Heller


Photo: Snapper Media


The other day, Judd wrote an emotional op-ed piece in The Daily Beast. She had been the object of feverish speculation having to do with her face – i.e. why it looked puffier than it had in previous years and whether she’d had “work done.” She explained that she’d been sick and was taking steroids and that it was disgusting how women’s bodies are picked over and spit out.

I have felt her anger and shared her outrage – both on my own behalf and on Michael’s.

My husband takes steroids on and off and has for years. Prednisone is a wonder drug in its ability to reduce inflammation, but one of its dreaded side effects is what’s called “moon face.” When he’s on “Pred,” he blows up like the Incredible Hulk. It’s not fun, but as soon as he gets off the evil stuff, he goes back to his normal size.

People don’t remark about his moon face; they’re just glad if he’s feeling better. Most people, that is. There’s an anecdote in my forthcoming book, YOU’D BETTER NOT DIE OR I’LL KILL YOU: A Caregiver’s Survival Guide to Keeping You in Good Health and Good Spirits (Chronicle/October), in the chapter on friendship. He and I were at a wedding reception during a period when he was on high doses of steroids prior to surgery. His face was indeed puffy. Suddenly, a man we thought was a friend, although someone we didn’t see on a regular basis, walked up to Michael, pointed at him and said, “Wow. Michael. You got SO FAT!”

I was stunned by this man’s insensitivity. I mean, what kind of jerk says that right to a person’s face?

Michael was just as stunned, I could tell, but he reacted much more diplomatically than I would have and replied calmly, “I’m not fat. I’m on steroids. I’m about to have surgery.”

Not only did the man not apologize, but he didn’t even ask about the surgery or say, “I hope it goes well.” He is so off our list now.

I’m the opposite of fat – “the size of a pencil,” I once wrote about myself – and, Michael’s story aside, I have always been amazed how people who are careful to avoid insulting a fat person have no compunction about insulting a thin one.

“You’re so scrawny,” a woman once told me. “You’re nothing but bones,” said another. “Do you ever EAT?” many of them have had the nerve to ask.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was at Saks looking for a top to wear to a dressy event when a saleswoman approached.

“I’m going to a fancy dinner tonight,” I told her, “and I need something great to wear under my suit jacket.”

“Have you seen the new tops from Theory?” she asked, referring to one of my favorite designers.

“Yes,” I said. “I tried them on and they were all too big.”

She literally rolled her eyes and said, her tone dripping with sarcasm, “Oh, my heart bleeds for you.”

Seriously? Not only was this said without humor or sisterly understanding or even good salespersonship, but it was downright rude.

I stammered and said, “Well, I’m small, I guess.”

She said, “Honey, women would kill for your body, so I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.”

“I’m not worried,” I said, gathering myself after what felt like a punch in the gut. “Have a nice day.”

I left the store wondering why it is that people feel so comfortable picking on thin people. I have small bones. I was built that way. And yes, I eat – plenty.

So I agree with Ashley Judd in her message to all the finger pointers out there: buzz the hell off.




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4 Responses to “Ashley Judd’s “Puffy Face” Crusade”

  1. Harold M. Bluenote says:

    Excellent piece; very well stated.
    I could say that EVERYBODY who hasn’t seen me in awhile says, “omigod — you’re — um — stockier!” Even me own dear mum. Don’t care. Better NOT care with my 40th college reunion coming up…we’re just glad to still be alive & lively.
    Sorry that Michael had to endure that. With guys, there can be a lot more joshing (which I will surely get next weekend, having gained 45 lb. since those days). But it’s still uncool in the wrong setting.
    Thanks for the perspective from the pencil side of the scale; I’d probably say something insulting and insensitive.
    As for Ashley…we saw her talk about this foolishness, and learned she had a Masters from Harvard…never knew THAT…rather eloquent, to say the least…

  2. Margaret says:

    This post breaks my heart on so many levels.

    I too have done it. I think I said to you once that you were so fortunate to be thin.
    And you scolded me and deservedly so. I was in the midst of pain and fat and would have died to be able to complain about how thin I was. But it was so very wrong of me. I did apologize and I hope you know that.
    Unfortunately I have also been on the other side of that and been ridiculed or worse.

    When I got ill I gained a great deal of weight. None of it was because I was eating bon-bon’s and sitting on my ass. People treated me terribly as the weight came on. Push yourself away from the table my own father said. (until my husband gave him a piece of his mind) I never knew this happened to overweight people but now I was seeing it first hand. I was amazed.
    Was it given to me to learn this lesson? Perhaps. I don’t know. But I have learned that it is painful on both ends.

    As I have gotten well and healthy 70lbs just came off me. People tell me how good it is that I went on a diet etc. I never did that. But I just smile. People treat me better now in a store and elsewhere because I am no longer fat. I am the same person just healthy and not dying (most importantly) or taking steroids/prednisone or medication that made me balloon.
    My experience has been to receive the worse customer service as when I was a fat woman or I am ignored completely. It made me be a hermit for a long time.

    I am glad Ashley spoke up. I read her piece and saw her on televison speaking about it. I understood her anger. I so get it. And as my husband said, she’s beautiful with a puffy face or not. He’s right.

  3. Jane Heller says:

    I’m sure there’s “joshing” among guys, Dave, but I’m glad you’re okay with your weight and don’t stress about it. Have fun at your reunion.

  4. Jane Heller says:

    I don’t remember any remark you made or even that I scolded you, Peg! It must not have bothered me very much. Lol. I’m sorry you had to go through the pain of your weight gain and the way people treated you. So unfair to you.