Calista Flockhart Thought Anorexia Rumors Were Going to "Ruin Her Career"

The Ally McBeal star was plagued by unsolicited comments about her body in the '90s.

For five years of the late '90s and early 2000s, Calista Flockhart starred on the dramedy Ally McBeal, which was a huge hit, earning multiple Emmy nominations and wins, including Outstanding Comedy Series in 1999. But while the legal series made its young star a household name, not all of the attention was welcome. The media circulated rumors that Flockhart suffered from anorexia, which wasn't true. In a new interview with The New York Times, the now-59-year-old actor shared that she thought eating disorder rumors were going to "ruin her career," preventing her from booking any more roles after Ally.

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"I don't think that would ever happen today," Flockhart said of the gossip about her weight. "They call it body-shaming now. I haven't thought about it in a long time, but it's really not OK to accuse someone of having a disease that a lot of people struggle with."

The star explained that while her having anorexia "wasn't the case … there was nothing [she] could do to convince anybody or get out of it." Flockhart continued, "If I had worn a big padded bra, they probably would never have been able to target me in that way. I look back at pictures, and I'm the same then as I am now, and nobody says a word now. I was an easy target, I guess."

Calling the situation "painful" and "complicated," she added that while she "loved working on Ally McBeal," the fixation on her body "made it sour."

"I was very sleep-deprived and I was depressed about it," Flockhart said. "I did think that it was going to ruin my career. I didn't think anybody would ever hire me again, because they would just assume I had anorexia, and that would be the end of that."

Calista Flockhart at the 1998 Screen Actors Guild Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Flockhart, who plays Lee Radziwill in Feud: Capote vs. The Swans, said that she blocked the rumors out by focusing on her work and telling herself, "'Calista, you're a good person, you're not mean to anybody,' and I'm confident in that."

She also explained that her stature is just the result of genetics. "I honestly have never been in a situation where I have to watch my weight," Flockhart said. "My mom is 4'11" now, and she weighed 93 pounds when she was married. Talk about a little tiny elf. I just have small bones, and I just am lucky."

Ally McBeal was on the air during a time that many public figures—particularly women—were harshly criticized for their appearance and saw their weight being speculated about in the press. In 1999, Flockhart told Entertainment Weekly of the anorexia rumors, "At first, I took it personally. I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. But now I'm certainly not shocked by anything they write, and I ignore mostly all of it." She added, "The most outrageous was the one that said that Webster, my dog, was also an anorexic. That is so clever, you have to admit. That's the thing about the tabloids. They are what they are, and sometimes they are very funny and very clever."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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