Even though Céline Dion is a multi-million-selling pop icon, people have occasionally chosen to focus more on her body than her considerable professional accomplishments. Recently, for instance, fans of the “My Heart Will Go On” songstress took to her Instagram page to comment on photos of the star looking rather thin. But as the rumors around her major weight loss began to swirl, Dion eventually caved and told the world the real reason for her alarming appearance – and confirmed what some had known all along.
The singer may have been moved to address these rumors because of the particularly harsh nature of the body-shaming comments she received. This included messages such as “Eat something please” and “Lost too much weight, looks like a skeleton.” And whether or not such observations were made out of concern, taken together the remarks practically turned into outright bullying.
Dion has been through a lot in her life, too – including medical problems that have required surgery. Unsurprisingly, then, she wasn’t happy to see people inappropriately talking about her weight and the perceived state of her health. And all of this prompted the star to come clean to her critics in spectacular fashion.
Dion is aware of the importance of looks in show business, after all. The singer started her musical career when still just a teenager – and quickly encountered the pitfalls of her appearance-obsessed industry. This was despite receiving awards for her talent and even winning the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest with her performance of “Ne partez pas sans moi.” You see, when Dion decided to try and make it as an international star, her manager René Angélil decided that she would have to change her image first.
So, young Dion spent a year and a half transforming herself – including getting her teeth straightened. Magazines in her native Quebec had reportedly been outright cruel about this aspect of her appearance. In fact, the star had even been given the unkind nickname of “Canine Dion.”
Dion therefore had surgery on her mouth as well as a haircut and a change in her style. And since she spoke no English, she had to learn a new language, too. Then, after 18 months, Dion emerged fully prepared to be a superstar. And Dion’s first album in English, 1990’s Unison, received good reviews.
A year later, Dion then joined forces with soul star Peabo Bryson to sing the title song of Disney’s hit movie Beauty and the Beast. That track was a hit that ended up catapulting the Canadian to worldwide fame. Dion’s self-titled album that followed also sold exceptionally well – going double platinum in the U.S. And the singer clearly trusted Angélil’s advice about her looks, as in 1994 Dion wed the man in a high-profile ceremony.
A few years later, of course, Dion would release arguably the defining song of her career. Famously, the singer performed ballad “My Heart Will Go On” from the soundtrack to the blockbuster movie Titanic, and the track ultimately topped charts all over the globe. “My Heart Will Go On” also won her two Grammy Awards for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year. But the success brought out those critics who would rather comment on looks than talent.
It was at around this time, you see, that Dion became recognized for her fashion as well as her hits – not least because she had begun to wear daring dresses and unusual ensembles to red-carpet events. Her most iconic looks of the 1990s included a sheer black outfit that showed off her underwear at the 1993 Grammys and a white blazer worn backward at the 1999 Oscars. These fashion choices filled plenty of column inches, of course.
But, of course, Dion’s main focus was her music, and she went on to put out a whopping 13 albums before the turn of the millennium. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that she decided to take things a little slower into the new decade. And Dion’s personal life was filled with highs and lows during this period, too. After watching her husband battle cancer, the star had cause for cheer again when she became a mother in 2001. Her first child, René-Charles Dion Angélil, was born at the beginning of that year.
And Dion seemed to adopt a more mature tone after the birth of her son. “Becoming a mother makes you a grown-up,” she told VH1 in 2002. “I approach my whole life differently now.” Still, just because she was a mom, it didn’t mean that she couldn’t keep surprising people with risqué fashion looks. In 2003, then, she wore a cut-out gown that showed off her hips to the Billboard Music Awards.
Dion started undergoing more fertility treatment not long afterward. “I’m approaching 40 years old, and I have to tend to that,” she told People in 2005. “This frozen embryo that is in New York is my child waiting to be brought to life.” Actually, there turned out to be two children; in 2010 Dion gave birth to twins Eddy and Nelson.
And in 2013 the still very famous and successful singer spoke to Woman’s Weekly about her rags-to-riches tale. “I remember passing down clothes from one sibling to another – I’m the youngest child of 14!” she said. “I had to walk to and from school four times a day often in snowstorms that were quite common in my hometown of Charlemagne in Quebec, Canada.” Dion also made it clear that she had once agonized over her looks.
She explained, “Growing up, I used to feel awkward and insecure because I had a problem with my teeth. I remember not feeling my best or looking my best.” She continued, “I felt like a real outsider and didn’t have many friends at school. I just wanted to be at home with my brothers and sisters and my parents because that was my most comfortable zone.”
And the following year, Dion explicitly spoke out against bullying in a video for the Quebec-based charity Fondation Jasmin Roy. Speaking French, she discussed her own experiences of being picked on. “Because I myself was a victim of bullying at school, I can understand the distress that young people go through,” the singer said.
But while Dion continued to excel on record and stage, her life would change irrevocably in 2016. In January of that year, her husband passed away due to complications from cancer. Then, within just 48 hours, the star’s brother Daniel lost his battle with the disease, too.
Nevertheless, at the end of 2016 Dion revealed that she was trying to survive as best she knew how. “I cannot just live on like, ‘I lost my husband, [and] my children have no father,’” she told Page Six. “I have to stand tall and strong because this is my way of living. Stand tall, be positive, pick your battles, do the best you can and to live for today – not for tomorrow, for today. And know nothing is perfect; not everything you want will happen.”
Dion also threw herself into the fashion world after her losses. “I’ve always loved fashion, but I thought after turning 30 or 40 if it’s not happening with me and fashion, it’s never going to happen,” she told Australian magazine Stellar. “Well, guess what? It’s happening! It’s never too late to feel good about yourself [and] never too late to be presented as a best-dressed woman.”
In 2018 Dion even launched Célinununu, a gender-neutral clothing range for children. And according to promotional material about the line, Célinununu intends to “[liberate] children from the traditional roles of boy/girl.” The brand’s wares also aim to “[enable] younger people to grow on values of equality with the freedom to strengthen their own power of personality based on mutual respect.”
But it wasn’t long after this that people began remarking on how Dion herself looked. Photos that the star posted on Instagram in January 2019, for instance, were met with a rather mixed response. “Goodness, what happened to you, Celine??!? You look starved!” read one comment. Another individual rather bluntly wrote to the singer, “Need to put on a few pounds. Looks too skinny.”
And at least one admirer seemed genuinely concerned for Dion. “Please gain a little weight, you are starting to look unhealthy. I don’t want to sound mean – I’m a big fan – but I just want you to live a very long time. Love you bunches,” the follower wrote underneath a picture of Dion in a power suit.
Others were rather more critical, however. One commenter wrote, for example, that Dion’s weight loss had “made her age 20 years from all the hanging skin.” And someone else referenced the fact that Dion had been made the new face of beauty brand L’Oreal Paris. “Don’t understand [L’Oreal], either,” they said on Instagram. “Not a good thing to promote [women who] look like they have [an] eating disorder.”
Then, at the end of January 2019, Dion publicly criticized the people who had commented on her weight. “I’m doing this for me. I want to feel strong, beautiful, feminine and sexy,” she told the Dan Wootton Interview podcast. “If I like it, I don’t want to talk about it. Don’t bother. Don’t take a picture. If you like it, I’ll be there. If you don’t, leave me alone.”
But even those words didn’t stop people commenting on Dion’s weight whenever she posted a new photo on Instagram. And some cruel remarks were aimed her way, too. “I’m in my mid-60s, and you have more wrinkles than I do. Gain some weight and get some mental help because you’ve turned into a freak since your husband passed on,” a particularly nasty troll wrote on her page in March 2019.
And in April 2019 Dion happened to bring up the subject of bullying when she was interviewed about her L’Oreal job. In a conversation with the media moderated by ABC’s Deborah Roberts, the singer discussed everything that she had had to overcome to gain self-confidence as an adult.
It turned out, too, that Dion had not loved her body as a teenager. “Even when I was so young, [I struggled with] not feeling confident, not feeling pretty [and] having problems with my teeth,” she explained to members of the press. “I was very, very skinny, and I was being bullied at school.” But although critics were still around, they seemingly hadn’t completely dented the star’s self-esteem.
Indeed, Dion adamantly revealed to the media, “I’ve never felt this in charge. [And] when you do feel in charge, it gives you a sense of strength and power. I’ve never felt as beautiful, as strong – and I really think that the best is yet to come.”
During the event, Dion also took the time to mention her late husband and how his belief in her had helped launch her career. “Angélil used to bring my parents and me here to Vegas. He was a gambler, and I’m so glad he was because no one was going to take a chance on a little girl who was thin and ugly,” she said.
Then, at around the same time as the press conference, Dion revealed what exactly had been making her lose weight. And, fortunately, the cause was nothing more sinister than a newfound love of ballet. “Dancing has been in my DNA all of my life,” Dion explained to People.
But while partaking in ballet was “a dream” for Dion, she also found it “so hard.” Nevertheless, the star was giving her all. “I do this [ballet practice] four times a week,” Dion added to the magazine. “People say, ‘She’s a lot thinner,’ but I’m working hard. I like to move, and [weight loss] comes with it.”
Yet even despite this explanation, Dion’s Instagram account still received its fair share of messages criticizing her size. When the star posted photos depicting her getting ready for the Met Gala, for example, she received comments including “Eat something please” and “Lost too much weight, looks like a skeleton.”
Some fans came to Dion’s defense, however. “Y’all here complaining about how thin she is, but her voice still rocks. How would you feel [if] someone comments on your post and judge[s] you for any reason?” one person wrote. “People [are] concerned if you are too thin [and] concerned if you are too thick. She looks pretty good to me and happy,” wrote another.
And one Instagram picture in particular appeared to draw a lot of attention. In June 2019 Dion uploaded a shot in which she sports a T-shirt bearing the acronym “FOMO,” with the image captioned, “It means Fear of Missing Out, or does it?” Yet while the post itself seemed completely innocuous, commenters turned once again to discussing Dion’s weight.
One follower wrote, for example, “Fear of missing out or fear of passing out? Someone please feed Celine!” Others seemed to assume that the star had an eating disorder. “She is ill and needs help! Terrible!” another individual opined.
And a further concerned commenter wrote, “I just hope that [Dion] stays healthy for her sons. I have heard of people losing appetite and their interest in life after the death of a loved one.” Yet the same person went on to admit that they had “no idea what’s going on in her life, in her mind or body” – and that was true for all the critics.
Yes, perhaps the only person who truly knows what’s going on with Dion’s health is the singer herself. And maybe fans should take her at her word when she speaks about how well she believes she’s doing now. In May 2019, for instance, a now fiftysomething Dion seemingly professed to being comfortable in her own skin.
“Some people get a little scared about turning 50. I’m very happy at 51,” Dion revealed in an interview with Vogue. “I’m more experienced, and I’m more active now – with my dancing, my working out and my performing – than I’ve ever been in my life.”
Then when Vogue asked Dion, “What are some of the ways that you’ve been impressed by your own strength?” the singer answered, “I wouldn’t say that I’m impressed, but I do feel that I’ve got this added responsibility to raise my children. I also have to make more decisions about my career, which is a new challenge. I think I’m doing okay in both departments.”
And when Dion was questioned about her aspirations for the next decade, the star explained that her priority was to keep her children “happy and healthy.” She added, however, “I’m not planning on slowing down, that’s for sure! I want to keep creating, I like to stay busy, and, of course, I want to have fun.”
Perhaps in the spirit of keeping busy, then, Dion appeared at Paris Fashion Week in July 2019. And while the famous songstress once again experienced body-shaming, with Radar Online calling her “scary skinny,” for instance, she has proved that she can take such criticism in her stride. But Dion isn’t the only one. Kirstie Alley is another celebrity who’s faced criticism about her weight – and she’s been very open on the subject, too.
Alley has been in many popular TV shows and movies over the years: Cheers, Veronica’s Closet, Look Who’s Talking and more. She has two Emmys and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And yet she’s also famous for her very public struggles with her weight. But recently it’s transpired that Alley has a serious health condition.
In fact, Alley’s weight has been the subject of intense discussion for a long time. She does, after all, work in an industry where image is key and being thin is considered the most desirable body shape. And Alley is far from the only celebrity who’s flaunted a “big reveal” of weight loss, such as the moment when she appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in just a bikini.
Plus, Alley has often joined in with the public preoccupation about her appearance. Back in 2005, for instance, she had a semi-autobiographical TV show called Fat Actress. And five years later she starred in a reality series called Kirstie Alley’s Big Life, in which audiences could watch her try once more to lose weight.
Before Alley’s most recent reveal, she had spoken about her fluctuating weight and her attempts to be thin. She started off slim in her youth, but she got bigger as she got older. In 2004 she told Oprah, “I got out of the car at a hotel, and the valet person said, ‘When are you due?’ And I just said, ‘11 weeks!’… I think the hardest part is that I spent most of my life thin, you know?”
That same year, Alley became a Jenny Craig weight loss spokeswoman. And in 2005 she told The Telegraph newspaper, “I was never comfortable with being fat, but I was just tired of the effort of being thin, so I said, ‘Screw it.’” On an even more personal level, she added, “I always thought I was too fat to have sex… I’ve probably had four days in my entire life when I looked at myself and thought, ‘You are so ready to have sex!’”
Alley mused, “Alcohol probably played some part in how good I thought I was.” And then, she talked about Fat Actress. “When I saw the episodes and saw how genuinely fat I was, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It was painful and shocking. Unless they shot me just right, I had five chins.”
Alley did, however, use Fat Actress to comment on the entertainment industry’s double standards regarding weight and gender. In one episode of the show, for instance, she announces, “Turn on the TV, and most of the dads are fat, and their wives are 20 years younger and skinny and cute as hell.”
In the end, Alley lost 75 pounds with Jenny Craig and subsequently did her famous bikini bit on The Oprah Winfrey Show. But come 2008 the actress decided to leave the company. She released a statement to People magazine, saying that her time with Jenny Craig had been “nothing short of extraordinary,” and describing the people there as “first-rate.”
The actress went on in her statement, “Somehow, I’ve also fallen into the position of ‘accidental’ role model for, apparently, millions of people out there, losing weight by whatever means. This was something I did not bargain for or foresee happening. Nevertheless, it is something I’ve grown to embrace and something I intend to continue to pursue.”
In fact, Alley wished to create her own weight-loss brand. She concluded in her statement, “There was a time when America was not fat, and that was in our not-so-distant past. I’m confident that I can create something exciting and innovative: something that if all goes well will help change a fat America back into a fit America and will offer this country the healthiest, yummiest, easiest and most effective weight-loss program on the market.”
Unfortunately, parting ways with Jenny Craig led to a bad period for Alley. In 2009 she told People that she had gained 83 pounds after leaving. She explained, “When you’re a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, there’s responsibility. You have a person every week standing over you when you get on the scale… the first nail in the coffin was that I didn’t have to weigh in.”
Plus, the lure of fatty foods had apparently been too strong for Alley. “My food demons are Chinese food, sugar, butter – a lot of butter,” she told People. “If I’m at the movies, usually I eat popcorn without butter, but I’d say, ‘I’m at the movies, so who cares?’ And toast with butter. Or let’s say I had two cups of pasta and six tablespoons of butter on it. There was a lot of butter going on.”
Alley explained, “For seven months I was a vegetarian, and I can’t tell you how much weight I gained being a vegetarian! A vegetarian would probably be eating vegetables. But to me being a vegetarian meant I’m going to eat enchiladas with no meat, and I’m going to eat lots of bread – lots of carbs.”
Meanwhile, Alley also stated her intention to “get back on the horse.” And for a while, she seemed to be doing just that. In 2011, after a stint on TV show Dancing With the Stars, she told People she had lost 70 pounds. Some of that, she claimed, was also down to her own weight-loss company: Organic Liaison.
Alley told People, “With DWTS, I did something that was so physically challenging for me. It changed my life. I like the way my body looks. I look younger.” She added, “Now I have my tightest dress – a Roland Mouret, size 6 – and I put it on twice a week and use it as a barometer to truly know what size I am.”
However, in 2012, life threw Alley a curveball. A multiple-claimant lawsuit was served against her, alleging false advertising. Lead plaintiff Marina Abramyan claimed that Alley’s products were “neither certified as an effective weight-loss aid by the USDA nor anything more than standard dietary supplements incapable of causing weight loss.”
Moreover, the lawsuit went on to claim that Alley’s weight loss had had much more to do with Dancing With the Stars than with the products that she had been selling. “In peddling the Organic Liaison Programs, which are sold online and on QVC, Ms. Alley attributes her weight loss to the program, but in reality, Ms. Alley’s weight loss is due to nothing more than the tried-and-true concept of diet and exercise,” it read.
However, Organic Liaison quickly fired back in defense of Alley. Its statement claimed, “Ms. Alley participated in DWTS for only a short period of time during her approximately one to one-and-a-half-year participation in the Organic Liaison program; the vast majority of her weight loss had nothing to do with her participation in that show.”
The company’s release continued, “It is Ms. Alley’s persistence over one to one and a half years on the Organic Liaison program, coupled with regular exercise, that led to her dramatic weight loss over that time period; this is consistent with Organic Liaison’s advertising and representations, none of which create false net impressions to the reasonable consumer.”
The firm’s statement asserted, “We will vigorously defend ourselves against these frivolous claims.” But unfortunately, things didn’t really work out in Alley’s favor in the end. An out-of-court settlement in 2013 required a disclaimer on the Organic Liaison website, removing the words “Proven Products” from sold items – plus a payment of $130,000.
After this blow, Alley returned to Jenny Craig in 2014 and became their spokeswoman for a second time. This came as a surprise to some, because despite Alley’s friendly-sounding statement back in 2009, it had long been assumed and rumored that the actress had been difficult to work with at the weight-loss company.
In 2014 the former Chief Marketing Officer for Jenny Craig, Leesa Eichberger, spoke to the website Ad Age about Alley being welcomed back. “Her self-deprecating humor and honesty about her weight set her apart from other spokespeople,” she said. “We believe that her straightforwardness about her weight-loss journey will provide continued encouragement and inspiration to others who may have also struggled with their weight.”
That year, Alley spoke to Women’s Health magazine about her new direction in life. “I was running Organic Liaison with a structural corporate position… And that was stressful,” she said. “Usually, I deal with stress really well, but if there are two things in combination overwhelming me, that’s when I reach my trigger point and start eating.”
Apparently, having the world constantly curious about her weight hadn’t been easy for Alley. “The time it hit me the hardest – because it was the first time I gained a lot of weight – was right before I did Jenny Craig,” she explained to Women’s Health. “I was being attacked in the press for being fat – just brutal.”
Alley went on, “I also remember that I owed the IRS a lot of money, and I needed to figure that out in 30 days [on top of] the press calling me fat. I had also broken up with a boyfriend, and that was gruesome and hideous. One day, I went in a room, locked the door and went, ‘What am I going to do? What are my options?’”
And of course, we know the next part of the story: “I wrote a TV series called Fat Actress and made it really funny. I sold it that week,” Alley said. She went on, “This is the biggest trick for me: you’ve got to stay lighthearted and have humor about yourself. Okay, so you gained 40 or 100 pounds… So what? The good news is you can un-gain it. You can change your condition; you can always change it.”
Yes, this is a topic that came up in September 2018, when Alley appeared on podcast The Dan Wootton Interview. The actress had done more high-profile TV work by this time, including Celebrity Big Brother and Scream Queens. And she had lost some weight during that time, too – but had also put a bit on again.
Once again, then, Alley’s weight was a discussion topic. “When I was 54 I got fat,” she told Wootton. But the worst thing had been the media reaction. “That got a little bit monstrous, because it was so vile,” she explained. “Talk about politically incorrect. Right now, you would never take any actress on TV and go…” And she trailed off at the end of that sentence.
Alley went on, “I couldn’t walk out my front door without a million paparazzi just taking the worst pictures they could possibly take of me. So I made a decision… I was making a show called Fat Actress. And that was the turning point for me.” But the celeb also admitted that she didn’t like the way she looked when she was overweight.
Meanwhile, Alley also talked about something people might not have previously known regarding her. Back in 2017 she was diagnosed with Lyme disease. And she wrote an angry post about it on Twitter, calling the illness a “miserable, hideous creepazoid” and adding “f**k ticks.” But before too long, she seemingly deleted the tweet.
On the Dan Wootton podcast, Alley explained, “About a year ago, I got Lyme disease. I hate even talking about it because when I got it, I posted, like, ‘Oh great, now I have Lyme disease,’ and I didn’t know it was this crisis. So then I just took it off my Twitter because it was like, it’s a crisis, somehow.”
Wootton asked her, “Did you get it from a tick?” She answered, “Yeah in Maine I got a tick bite.” And she continued, “For ten months, during the day I would be in bed for eight hours a day. So that weight gain… this one was different, because it had to do with not moving, and I’m usually in motion all the time.”
But, Alley explained, her weight loss and gain had always been cyclical. And Wootton asked her if she had tried something different each time. “It’s like when I quit smoking, I go, ‘I will never smoke again,’” Alley said. “Cut to like four years later, and I’ll be in Italy, smoking cigarettes… There’s no such thing as one cigarette for me.”
Alley also brought up double standards again on the podcast. “Have you noticed how all these guys – all these male actors – are fat as hell, and all of a sudden if you ask them why it’s because they’re always getting ready for a role? Well, you know, other than Raging Bull or something, they’re not playing fat people.”
Alley mused over the different expectations for men and women when it comes to body image. “I feel like – I do feel this – I feel like my dilemma changed the rules of what men say about women on television,” she admitted. Previously in interviews, you see, she’d detailed the incredibly rude things that she’s allegedly been called because of her weight.
Alley added, “And if it only served that purpose, it would be good. And I’m not blowing smoke up my own ass.” In fact, she claimed that NBC had once instructed a man to apologize to her for comments that he had made. “It was just like, ‘Really, would you say this to your wife? Would you say this to your mother? Your sister?’” she recollected.
Alley continued, “So I feel that I helped change that… There’s this big scope of what’s going on, and then there’s me personally. So when someone says to me personally, ‘Do you prefer being thin?’ I do, because it makes my life easy.” That kind of weight stigma and body-shaming is often discussed in the media.
You see, some people believe that by bringing up a person’s weight, it will make them want to lose weight and therefore be healthier. However, there’s little evidence to support this. In September 2019 Bill Maher suggested that shaming should “make a comeback,” and there was a lot of backlash. Even medical professionals spoke their piece.
Professor of health psychology Jane Ogden, for instance, told the Victoria Derbyshire TV show, “Shaming is the wrong way forward.” The University of Surrey expert continued, “All of the evidence is that fat-shaming just makes people feel worse. It lowers their self-esteem. It makes them feel depressed and anxious, and as a result of that, what they then do is self-destructive.”
Well, Alley can seemingly attest to this reasoning. Back in 2009 she told Oprah, “This [paparazzo] said to me, ‘Fat ass, turn around so I can shoot you’… I’ve hated myself. You beat yourself up.” But regardless of what her weight is, or what it might be in the future, and whether the Lyme disease was a small factor or a big one, it does seem that the actress is owed quite a few apologies.