Photo Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty
Back when Saved By the Bell (version 1) was on the air, I always felt a certain kinship with Jessie Spano. She was tall, like me…book smart, but street ditzy, like me…wanted to sip melted chocolate out of Mario Lopez’s dimples, like me. Now, thanks to her new ask-elizabeth.com initiative, I realize we had one more thing in common: We hated our bodies.
To help young girls and women deal with the body hatred that plagues so many of us, Elizabeth Berkley has created ask-elizabeth.com, a forum where ladies can ask anonymous questions about body image, fitness, friendship, boys, health, family and more. Inspired after reading Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher, PhD, the actress wants to the site to be a place where 11 to 17 years olds can come to feel empowered and find the voice so many of us lose or stifle during our teen years, when the desire to fit in often outshadows our inherent need for independence.
Alluding to her own past experiences with "adolescent pressures and traumas," she describes how strong bonds with her mother, grandmother, godmother and girlfriends have helped her, writing, "I have experienced firsthand the way that extraordinary female relationships can lift you up and remind you that anything is possible! On the other hand, I have also been the recipient of unnecessary behavior from others and have had my faith tested personally and professionally time and time again."
I can only imagine she’s referencing the industry she works in, one in which 5’10” and 120 lbs is considered big and actresses are encouraged to show skin to sell movie tickets. In addition to some of her film successes, Berkley has had some horrific flops, including Showgirls, an NC-17 skin flick-type movie about a woman who seductively peels her way from seedy stripper to upscale showgirl. Berkley has commented that she felt she was made out to be a scapegoat for the movie’s massive bombing, a period which was "definitely a cruel time," but one that ultimately helped her learn what she was really made of.
At first I was excited to see this site, which I must warn you is very pink, with fairies, rainbows, heart-shaped lockets and Corinne Bailey Rae music. But I must admit a bit of cattiness came over me when I remembered Berkley’s role in Showgirls. I have a very vivid memory of watching Striptease, with Demi Moore, in the theater with my college boyfriend (why we went to see it, I have no idea). I was still in the middle of my eating disorder and I actually started crying and had to excuse myself because the whole time she danced around naked on screen, with that perfect, surgically-enhanced body, I was absolutely convinced my boyfriend wished I looked like her. It sounds crazy, I know, and it was, but that movie drove a knife threw my heart at a time when I was exceedingly vulnerable. Showgirls was no different -– she pranced around naked, showing little respect for her body or herself. I know it was a role, and this might seem like I’m projecting, but Berkley (and Moore) allowed herself to be objectified and treated with a serious amount of disrespect. So when I started thinking about the fact that the Showgirls star was starting a self esteem site for young women, part of me thought, "hypocrite."
But you know what? We all make mistakes. I spent years dressing up in tiny little outfits in an effort to attract men and make myself feel beautiful, sexy and thin. Does that mean the adult me can’t effectively serve as an ambassador for loving yourself? Our pasts make us who we are and Berkley is using hers to help the younger generation avoid some of the same mistakes which caused her pain. Not that we have a million budding Showgirls on our hands, but we DO have millions of girls who, growing up, think that the thinner they are and the less clothing they wear, the more boys will like them. That needs to stop. And I can hardly fault a celebrity who’s dedicating time, money and effort to a cause near to my heart. Berkley is meeting with young girls to discuss their issues and share what she’s been through, and that must be such a cool experience, for a teen to sit, face to face, with a beautiful celebrity and hear that she’s been where they are now.
What do you think of Elizabeth Berkley's site for teen girls? Is she a hypocrite or is it a step in the right direction? Chime in below.