Keeping His Chin Up

Why film critic and cancer survivor Roger Ebert is a body image hero

Eight years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert lost his thyroid, salivary glands and lower jaw to cancer. The legendary Chicago Sun-Times reviewer can no longer eat, drink or talk. (He receives nutrition through a tube in his stomach.) He has spent years’ worth of time in hospitals and must write down his every thought in order to communicate or even convey his emotions because, with no lower jaw, his face is suspended in a permanent smile.

Most people would crumble under these circumstances. But this famed movie critic, who refuses to be held down by adversity, is now back in the spotlight with a new PBS TV show. He isn't afraid to shine. Indeed, Ebert has proven to be an inspiring body image hero, optimistic and confident about his new appearance.

In a recent interview, he told his host (via a blue Post-It note), There is no need to pity me. Look how happy I am. To hide his scars on the show, Ebert wears a silicone prosthesis. “I'm not trying to fool anyone, because my appearance is widely known,” he wrote. Rather, it's “a pleasant reminder of the person I was for 64 years.”

Since his surgery, Ebert has candidly written about coming to terms with his altered appearance, calling one event, February 2010 Esquire magazine photo shoot “the best thing that happened to me…it showed exactly how I look today. No point in denying it. No way to hide it. Better for it to be out there. You don't like it, that's your problem. I made a simple decision to just get on with life.”

To say Ebert is proof that true beauty is on the inside is not just an understatement, but teeters on the edge of insulting. Because he still is beautiful on the outside, handsome and masculine with luscious lips. And the man who lives inside that body is incredibly appealing, full of courage.

We can all learn from Ebert’s strength and grace. I’m sure he has bad days where he longs for root beer (one of the items he says he used to dream about after losing his ability to drink) and hates the world for taking so much from him. But Ebert shows us that looks don’t have to matter. Finding and following our passion does. And that’s what makes us beautiful.

What do you think about Roger Ebert's recent comeback? Chime in below!


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