Melanie Lynskey: ‘Coyote Ugly’ body-shaming was very real

Melanie Lynskey started talking about herself as a character actress very early on, she said in a recent interview — possibly because it was easier to deflect the limelight than having makeup and costume guys constantly dismissing her size 4 as unacceptable fat shame.

“I guess I was just like, ‘That’s me,'” the Showtime’s Yellowjackets star told the Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Wednesday.

Also, she told the Times this week, she was dealing with an eating disorder at the time.

The actor recalls playing Piper Perabo’s “Jersey best friend” in the 2000 film Coyote Ugly. The strip featured women who, as screenwriter Gina Wendkos once described them, are all “sexy, they’re hot, but they’re not objects of sexuality.”

“[T]The exam that was aimed at Piper, who is one of the coolest and smartest women, just the way people talked about her body, talked about her looks, focused on what she ate. All the girls had this regime that they had to continue,” Lynskey recently told THR. “It was ridiculous.”

At that time, in the 1990s, Lynskey — now known and appreciated for her edgy, off-center charm — received a lot of feedback about how she wasn’t “right.”

“It was really hard…” she told the Times this week. “The way my body wasn’t what they wanted. I didn’t wear enough makeup. My clothes weren’t tight enough. If my clothes were tight enough, my body would have problems. People were so skinny and I was a tiny little person back then, but I just kept saying, ‘Not enough, not enough.’ And it was very demoralizing. It was hard. It kind of took away the confidence I had.”

Her “Coyote Ugly” effort couldn’t have helped.

“I was already starving and as skinny as I could be for this body, and I was still one [size] four,” she told THR of the on-set experience. “There were people who would put a lot of spanx on me at wardrobe fittings and be very disappointed when they saw me. The costume designer was like, ‘Nobody told me there were girls like you.'”

Girls like you, indeed. Today, Lynskey is nominated for an Emmy for Actress in a Drama Series for her work in Yellowjackets. (She also starred in Hulu’s Candy miniseries earlier this year.)

But as an actress in her early 20s who’s had an eating disorder since she was a tween, it stunk.

“I’ve had an eating disorder since I was 12, honestly, when my body started changing. And then it got worse and worse. And then working in this industry and being literally judged against women who were completely different body types than me, which only got worse and really, really ramped up for a couple of years,” she told the Times.

Her then-boyfriend found out about her eating disorder “because it’s hard to hide,” she said.

“He was just heartbroken. He just said, ‘I don’t want this for you,'” Lynskey said. “And he tried to say, ‘You’re beautiful. You’re perfect.’ You don’t hear that stuff unless you think that way about yourself.”

Ultimately, he tried some tricks with cooking and eating and encouragement — he called what she was doing to herself “so violent” — and Lynskey said it helped her break some patterns.

A few years later, after the breakup, she overcame the eating disorder. But even then, she “obsessively” trained — until she had her daughter, now 3, with husband Jason Ritter (son of the late actor John Ritter).

“She tells me all the time how beautiful I am and how soft I am,” Lynskey told the Times, referring to her daughter. “And my body has sort of settled into a healthy place. And, you know, years of eating disorders sadly mess up your metabolism, but I’m just giving my body some grace. … It’s okay to have a person who looks like a lot of women.”

She doesn’t want to be on screen judging her own body, she said.

“I want to be on screen as a free person just living my life in the body that I have because that’s the reality. That’s what we do. …” said Lynskey. “I just live.”

Yvonne Villarreal, a Times contributor, contributed to this report. Melanie Lynskey: ‘Coyote Ugly’ body-shaming was very real

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