Remember back in 2007 when Hairspray came out, and Nikki Blonsky was everywhere? Hairspray was her first movie role, and she played the role of Tracy Turnblad (which I personally will always associate with Ricki Lake, but anywhoo…) Prior to that, Nikki had been scooping ice cream. She erupted on the scene and made quite a splash. There was a lot of talk back then about how talented she was, the next rising star, and how Hollywood might finally be looking past weight. She was everywhere -- red carpets, movie premieres, interviews, in magazines. I only remember this so clearly because the overexposure was excessive, and at the time I thought…
There’s not a chance in hell that she would have any sort of long term career in acting.
I’m not saying that to be a jerk, either. It’s just true. Hairspray was the perfect role for her because it required a bigger gal. There aren’t many roles like that in Hollywood for women. Even in roles where an overweight person could be cast (i.e., the ubiquitous “wisecracking friend”), they rarely are. There aren’t many actresses who are morbidly obese who are successful. (I mean, think about it. And Blonsky goes well beyond slightly overweight.) But every few years it seems that some actress gets her big break in a role written expressly for an obese person (as opposed to a role that could be played by a person of any weight), and for a few months everyone in Hollywood pats themselves on the back and talks about how wonderful it is that we can all look past appearances and what huge strides Hollywood is making and how this actress is going to have a long, successful career. (See also, Gabourey Sidibe in Precious.)
So, what is this rising star, Nikki Blonsky, doing now? Apparently working at a shoe store. She had a few jobs after Hairspray, consisting mostly of television work. What happened to all the bigwigs in Hollywood who were applauding her performance and talking about what a wonderful actress she was? They all disappeared, apparently, without offering her a job. And now, at the age of 22, her acting career may be over, for all intents and purposes. Sure, we may see her here and there on television or in other smaller roles, but the fact remains that there is very little work in Hollywood for obese women.
The question is, how long until Gabourey Sidibe is also selling shoes or working a cash register somewhere? Since Precious in 2009, she’s had a recurring role on The Big C (where she plays an obese, crabby high school student), and according to IMDB has been in two movies, neither of which I’ve heard of. Although Gabourey seems very sweet and pleasant, I fear she will ultimately go the way of Nikki Blonsky and be forgotten by the very people who seemed so proud to see her succeed.