Executives Told the Cast of This Hit '90s Sitcom to "Lose Weight," Star Says
"Maybe you’re the one with the problem."
To portray a regular person with a regular job, an actor shouldn't have to significantly change their body. Unfortunately, the reality of the entertainment industry is that actors are often expected to be thin—really thin. Even if they're playing, say, a magazine editor who lives with two roommates in a Brooklyn apartment, like Queen Latifah's character on the sitcom Living Single. But in a new interview, the actor shared that she and her co-stars were told by higher-ups to lose weight, despite the relatable roles they were playing and despite the show's massive success. Read on to see what Latifah had to say about the offensive request and what her reaction was.
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Living Single was a big hit.
Living Single premiered in 1993 and aired for fives seasons, until 1998. The show focuses on four friends—Khadijah (Latifah), Maxine (Erika Alexander), Regine (Kim Fields), and Synclaire (Kim Coles)—who live in New York City. The sitcom is about their work lives, friendships, and romantic connections.
"Living Single bested Martin and ranked eighth among young adults, sinking seaQuest's sub, taking the wind out of Superman's cape, and murdering anything Jessica Fletcher wrote," Entertainment Weekly reported in 1994. "Among Black viewers, the series took the season's crown as the No. 1 show in any time slot."
Latifah loved what the show represented.
In a new interview with Facebook Watch's Red Table Talk, Latifah reflected on the show.
"We helped create Living Single," she said of the cast. "When you look at that picture, you see four different women, four different shades, four different types, and we looked like four women who would live in Brooklyn. And that's who we were supposed to be representing, and we loved being able to do that."
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Executives made an offensive request.
But, Latifah explained, she and her co-stars were asked to make themselves smaller. When asked by host Jada Pinkett Smith if she ever "felt any kind of scrutiny during Living Single," Latifah responded, "That was one of the major ones. Happened a couple times."
She explained, "The word came down that we needed to lose weight. We're on the No. 1 show among Black and Latino households in America, and you're telling us we need to lose weight. Maybe you're the one with the problem."
She was "angered" by the note.
This wasn't the first time Latifah talked about the body scrutiny the Living Single cast dealt with. In 2021, she told Entertainment Tonight, "I can remember specifically doing Living Single and the word came down that we needed to lose weight. Here we are, four different women, four different body types and we needed to lose weight. If anything it angered me and disheartened me, but it really angered me. I said, 'We are what women look like, we're not going to lose weight for whoever's idea of what we're supposed to look like.'"
The cast publicly pushed back when the show was still on.
Back in 1994, when Living Single was just ending its first season, the cast members were asked in an interview which other actors they could see playing their parts. Latifah, who was only 24 at the time, responded, "I don't want no skinny-[expletive] girl playing me. Get Pam Grier or Yo-Yo, someone with some thickness. They're always after us to lose weight, but I'm not doing that anorexic thing. Maybe 15 pounds."
Coles added, "I mean, look, we are four Black women. And Black women typically have stuff up here, and we have something down there. All of us have booty except maybe one of us. We all look like real women."
Latifah isn't willing to change her body unnecessarily for a role.
In a May interview with People, Latifah said that if she loses or gains weight, it's because she wants to.
"Health is most important to me," the 52-year-old said. "It's not about losing weight or gaining weight. When I want to lose weight, or gain weight, I know how to do it in a healthy way. So if I have to do something that is going to be completely unhealthy for me, then that's not the job for me. Someone else should have that job that's already there… It's called No."
She continued, "I practice my no's. I go in the mirror and I say, no, no, no, no, like 20 times. And that's it. I need to be okay with me. If I'm okay then I feel like I can do anything. But if I'm not okay, I have to say something. Like, it's time to take a break, stop, cut."