When she was 20, acting student and aspiring comedian Ivy Snitzer responded to a casting call in LA after hearing only a vague description from a friend in her improv class. By the next day she was cast as Gwyneth Paltrow’s body double in Shallow Hal. Ivy said yes because she thought it would be exciting and help develop her comedic chops. Two decades later and Ivy is no longer acting or writing jokes, and she’s lost a significant amount of weight. Writer Amelia Tait at Tiny Letter spoke with Ivy about her life in the interim years:
Ivy Snitzer, who appeared as Gwyneth Paltrow’s body double in Shallow Hal (2001), is telling her story.
At 20, Snitzer was an aspiring actress and jumped at the opportunity to stand in for Paltrow, who played the character Rosemary and performed many scenes in a fat suit. At the time, Snitzer felt that her work in the movie mattered and would even offer a progressive outlook on early 2000s body standards. “At that point, if you saw someone obese in a movie, they were a villain,” she said in a recent interview with Amelia Tait.
It would take decades for Shallow Hal to be critiqued properly (as The Atlantic put it in 2021: “Shallow Hal is bad because it treats Rosemary’s body as comedy. But it is insidious because it treats her body as tragedy”) and within that time, Snitzer, now 42 and working as an insurance agency owner in Philadelphia, has had time to reflect on the movie—and also how it personally affected her.
Notably, only 15 months after Shallow Hal came out, in November 2001, Snitzer had lap band surgery.
She told Tait that she thought the surgery was a “fantastic” idea. “Something that’ll fix [my weight],” she said. While she didn’t think she minded it herself, she revealed that it seemed to be her job, as a “good fattie,” to strive to be thinner.
“If you’re fat, you’re supposed to try to not be,” Snitzer said. “I hated my body, the way I was supposed to. I ate a lot of salads. I had eating disorders that I was very proud of.”
In fact, she probably didn’t think of them as eating disorders, but as doctor’s orders.
Snitzer’s physician had told her that she wouldn’t make it to 40 years old if she didn’t go through with the lap band surgery. Once she had undergone the procedure, she became serious about losing weight as fast as possible. The surgery itself reduced the size of her stomach and restricted what she could eat, but she put in extra effort to be thin by excessively exercising, purging and further restricting her calorie intake.
“It didn’t occur to me that I was supposed to be ashamed of those behaviors, like a lot of people are,” she said. “For me, I was supposed to be proud of them”—because they were her means to an idealized figure.
[From Tiny Letter via Yahoo! Life]
Not mentioned in Yahoo’s article is that shortly after Ivy had the lap band surgery, the band slipped and she got a torsion. For three months she was on an IV and liquid diet until health insurance kicked in from a new job, and she ultimately had a gastric bypass. I think that’s pretty vital info to bear in mind, and Yahoo was a little careless in omitting it in their description of how she lost weight after the surgery. It makes this excerpt even more devastating:
At her sickest and her smallest, “everything was different” from when she was in a bigger body, Snitzer said. “It was really nice to be treated well.”
I mean, that says it all about our culture. Thankfully, there has been progress. I’m still struck by the diversity of models when I shop online at Target. The range of body types is honestly something I never thought I would see in the mainstream marketplace. That being said, we’re still being held to impossible standards—as Barbie reminds us! I only hope that the strides we’re making in mental health awareness come together with our expanding acceptance of all shapes and sizes. We need to break free from being ashamed. Except for (Shallow Hal directors) Bobby and Peter Farrelly. They can spend some more time feeling ashamed.
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