I'm not sure what's sadder. That this happened, or that its so expected in the entertainment industry that its so unsurprising.
I've gotten roped into watching some of American Idol this year, which at least allows me to read the snarky reviews of the show at Television Without Pity. Especially fun is all of the rumors they hint at in their recaps that usually send me googling to get the in-jokes about gay strippers, wigs, and unspeakable acts by Santa Claus.
One bit of snark led me to the story behind one of this year's contestants Carly Smithson. Seems just 7 years ago, Carly had her first chance at stardom which also led to her being a famous "cautionary tale". At 18, the Irish singer was tapped to be the next big thing. Her record company spent more than $2 million promoting her, including setting her up with an apartment for 2 years while she worked on her very carefully and corporately crafted first album. It was a spectacular failure, though, selling fewer than 400 copies and earning write-ups in papers like the Wall Street Journal for the debacle.
It was that write-up that caught my attention thanks to a throw-away tidbit the author makes in her introduction. Referring to that bankrolled apartment, the author mentions something the then teen singer had scrawled on her fridge in marker.
"NO, U R FAT"
As you can see in the promo picture above, this was an exceptionally thin young woman. Indeed, she'd spent years in modeling and performing up to that point, too. This is still how she saw herself, though. As not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not thin enough.
While these pressures are so insidious as to not require outside influence, I still suspect there was an executive somewhere that cautioned the thin teenager that she needed to bring her weight down to be a hit. I'm reminded of the horrifyingly funny bit in the movie "Knocked Up" when E! network heads urge the obviously thin Katherine Heigl to drop 20lbs in her on-air role. This is just how the entertainment industry works and no one is supposed to be surprised.
To some degree, we need to reclaim the shock and horror that this sort of thing should elicit. The way women's bodies are turned into commodities and products under tight control and specifications. We need to be stunned at a story like this because it simply is not acceptable.