Queen Latifah told Insider she was first body shamed in the third grade.
While starring in "Living Single" she was told that she and her co-stars needed to lose weight.
She joined the It's Bigger Than Me campaign to help end the stigma against obesity.
"I became conscious of my body pretty early on because I was also very athletic," Latifah told Insider. "So the fact that I was a girl who wanted to play sports put me on the radar immediately." Besides the hurtful comments, the entertainer was often grudgingly added to teams at the last minute despite her skill in multiple sports. As the situation escalated, Latifah sought solace in her parents.
"They were very affectionate, so there were a lot of hugs," she said. "I think they just tried to give me an idea of what the world might be like, which wasn't always an easy thing to hear about. But it was important that it came from the people I love the most."
She's advocating for better care for those with obesity
Now, the Oscar-nominated actor is offering support to others who have also struggled with weight issues as part of the It's Bigger Than Me campaign, which aims to change the stigma surrounding obesity. The campaign was created by Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company behind Ozempic and Wegovy.
Healthcare professionals can show their support for inclusive obesity care by using a symbol on their door to show their offices are neutral and equitable. The symbol is the first of its kind and identifies places that welcome people of all sizes and provide support without prejudice.
Obesity is "abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health," according to the World Health Organization. These risks include cardiovascular conditions, such as heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death worldwide.
Black women have the highest rates of obesity compared to other groups in the United States. Black women are also more likely to face risks to their health from discrimination from health professionals who don't take their concerns seriously.
Latifah was told she needed to lose weight for a role
"The Equalizer" star knows what it's like to have your physical appearance scrutinized. During the filming of the Fox sitcom "Living Single" which aired from 1993 to 1998, the actor and her co-stars received word that they needed to lose weight.
"It shook me for a second," Latifah said. "I mean, they wanted all of us to lose weight. It hurt my feelings initially, then it made me very angry just as quickly as it stung. Because I felt like, first of all, how dare you? Secondly, we look like real people. And I don't know what idea you're trying to create."
She added, "These four women you're watching right now on TV look like four women from Brooklyn, which is where this show is set. It was also an insult to who we were as young Black women in America. You needed to see us on TV. You needed to see four different women with four different body types on television in their 20s trying to make good in the world."
Latifah views that experience as comparable to what the average person goes through when they visit a doctor's office and are made to feel shame because of their body's appearance. The star believes some doctors never learned how to navigate these conversations with their patients compassionately. This campaign hopes to change that dynamic.
"We're doing the best we can out here to create a larger community of all of us to advocate on behalf of those who are dealing with obesity and those who deserve judgment-free obesity care," she said.
As she travels around the country for work and other projects, Latifah has been fortunate to get feedback from those who have already felt the initiative's impact. And it's not just women.
"I think people think of women when they think obesity, but there are a lot of men who are out there who are like, 'Thank you for being out there talking about it. Thank you for helping to educate people,'" she shared.
The actor also added how hard it must be for men when they are told they're supposed to look a certain way. "That's just not realistic, and it's not real. What's real is that obesity is a real thing that real people are dealing with. And we should have some respect for the fact that everyone deserves care. And everyone deserves to feel respected," she said.
Read the original article on Insider