Give Celebs a Fat Chance

Here’s a sentence that may never have been written before: Ashlee Simpson is right.

The lipsynching singer talked some sense when she defended her sister, Jessica, who has been roasted online over recent pictures suggesting she’s packed a few pounds onto her already curvy frame.

“All women come in different shapes, sizes, and forms and just because you're a celebrity, there shouldn't be a different standard,” Ashlee Simpson wrote on her blog (yes, she has a blog).

The ridicule sparked by the Jessica Simpson pictures comes amid an Internet-driven anti-fat nastiness trend that’s mushroomed since unflattering bikini shots of Jennifer Love Hewitt were splashed on the web in late 2007. Amid a cavalcade of catty comments, Hewitt fired back: “Like all women out there should, I love my body."

Nobody knows what Simpson's going through more than Oprah Winfrey, whose weight struggles have played out on the public stage like those of no other celebrity. In the January issue of her magazine, O, Winfrey launched a pre-emptive strike, writing about her obvious weight gain. She cited various ailments and overwork, and said she’s working hard toward regaining a more healthful life style.

Still, Winfrey virtually apologized: “I'm mad at myself. I'm embarrassed. ... I look at my thinner self and think, ‘How did I let this happen again?’”

You don’t have to be an expert -- or Oprah -- to know that watching your weight is healthy. Being obsessed with the size of celebrities isn’t. What’s particularly galling about the rampant Simpson slams is that she’s far from obese – and, to most folks, is still quite attractive.

Entertainment figures are fair game for all kinds of criticism. But turning celebrity weight watching into a bile-spewing spectator sport goes too far -- because the stars aren’t the only ones getting hurt.

As Hewitt wrote on her blog at the time of her bikini wars, “I'm not upset for me, but for all of the girls out there that are struggling with their body image."

So judge Simpson and Hewitt by their performances, and Winfrey by the million or so things she does -- there's plenty to pick apart. But what nobody needs is to be force fed this steady diet of nastiness.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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