Pretty Pretty Professional :: The Game We Should Quit Playing

Pretty Pretty Professional :: The Game We Should Quit Playing

A few weeks ago, TikTok creator Jahelis Castillo went viral for claiming that SNL never hires hot women, because “people don’t like it when hot women are funny.” Castillo went on to say that men are allowed to be funny, sexy, and smart while women must stay within the bounds of the stereotype where they are pigeonholed. What followed in part was a backlash of commenters listing attractive previous and current cast members in an attempt to defend their “conventional hotness.” While I can appreciate the good intentions of defending the women who have held Saturday Night Live up for nearly five decades, I cannot help but hope for a day when we simply stop commenting on a woman’s appearance altogether, especially when it is done with the purpose of validating the space they are allowed to occupy.

Men also are judged by the way they look, however it is not the lens through which every other facet of their success and achievement is viewed. Perhaps men are allowed to exist fluidly across multiple categories of what qualifies someone as talented because a man’s appearance simply does not validate his existence or determine his success before his abilities, intelligence and humor can be recognized and celebrated.

My mom was a flight attendant in the 1970s, and had to step on the scale before she was allowed to board the plane.  Her weight literally determined her career path and advancement. After she retired, this trickled down into her parenting. Though her fixations may have been damaging and unhealthy, her obsession with our calorie intake and appearance was not because she was judgmental, but because she didn’t want her daughters to be held back from their full potential for success. 

Personally, I have experienced a notable discrepancy in treatment as the scale has fluctuated through different phases of my life. If I am blonde and thin, suddenly doors are literally opened for me. People say hello, hold elevators, make eye contact, and are much more quick to offer assistance and opportunities. By contrast, when depression, pregnancy, or health issues have caused me to put on weight and stop coloring my hair, I have been able to fade into the background of society. I have witnessed the same phenomenon in my older colleagues, as they age they subsequently become less relevant and more invisible.

There is so much content lately surrounding celebrity weight loss and medication. People tend to associate a smaller number on the scale with accomplishment and view prescribed medication as “cheating.” There are times, however, when it can indeed signify quite the opposite. Commenting on weight or about someone’s appearance in most contexts is not only unnecessary, it can be damaging, particularly when it is added to a list of achievements, like a skill or a qualification on a resume.

After years of struggling with depression, I started taking a medication that helped me with a particularly hard episode of PPD, and a side effect was that I lost weight. During a later phase of my life, personal circumstances caused me to sink into a dark place of grief, and eating became only a means of survival. As a result, I lost a significant amount of weight very quickly again. Well meaning people both times complemented me on my changed appearance and weight loss success. The first time, the comments were genuinely appreciated, but I felt secretly guilty for taking a medication I desperately needed. The second time, even with the best intentions, they unknowingly triggered a trauma response that made me pull further into myself and close down. We cannot possibly determine the reason behind why someone’s body changes unless they are the ones who initiate the conversation, and this is why silence can sometimes be the loudest voice of support.

As a society, we tell young women if they work hard, are integrous, and disciplined they will succeed at achieving their goals and dreams. In the same breath, we invalidate a woman’s career first and foremost based on the way she looks. What is happening across the internet is largely the latter, and the voices shouting those opinions from behind a keyboard are more easily observed and absorbed by young girls than even our most earnest attempts at affirmations.

Evolving the discourse surrounding women in the entertainment industry by consciously refraining from judging or defending celebrities based first on their weight, age, or attractiveness is a small step, but I believe it will have an impact on changing the social norm in everyday culture as well. The women on Saturday Night Live deserve to be acknowledged for their talent, and that should stand on its own. I want for my daughter and the girls coming of age in her generation to be offered opportunities and validated for their achievements based on a rounded opinion of their accomplishments, abilities and hard work, not for whether or not they meet some invisible, impossible and ever changing standard of beauty.

Carly Daigle
Carly moved to New Orleans the year the Saints won the Super Bowl, fell in love with this city, and has claimed it as her home ever since. She is a single mom to two kids, ages 6 and 9. She holds a BA in Theology, and has loved writing since she was a little girl. When she is not doing laundry, you can find her taking a nap, reading, or doing an art project with her kiddos.

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