Lisa Ann Walter says her Abbott Elementary co-star Sheryl Lee Ralph implemented a “no negative body talk” policy on set, and the shift has completely changed how she feels about her body.
In a heartwarming red carpet interview with Essence from TikTok, Walter, 59, got real about the body image issues she internalized as a young girl growing up in the late 1970s and ’80s.
“When I was growing up… white girls were not supposed to have meat, were not supposed to have booty, were not supposed to have any of it,” recalled the actress, who plays the fiery second-grade teacher Melissa Schemmenti on the popular ABC sitcom. “And as a Sicilian girl who was blessed with [a butt] that people are paying for now, I was taught that didn’t look like a Charlie’s Angel, so I had to be self-loathing.”
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That “self-loathing” followed Walter throughout the course of her decades-long career — that is, until she met Ralph, 66, who won an Emmy for her portrayal of Abbott Elementary‘s no-nonsense Barbara Howard.
“One of the things that [Sheryl] has done for me — besides become a beautiful dear friend and besides be a great cast mate, we feed each other with our acting — is she has said to me, ‘I will not allow any of that negative [body] talk,’” she continued. “‘I know you’re making jokes, but I’m not having it anymore. You are beautiful and this is what it is, and you will own it and you will love it.’”
Since then, Walter has “stopped” making disparaging comments about her physical appearance. “It’s huge,” she said, beginning to tear up. “It’s huge. Don’t make me cry!”
I understand why she’s emotional — that is a huge deal! Hollywood’s body standards are notoriously unrealistic, especially for women in film and television. We have to stan Ralph for setting that boundary on set and encouraging Walter to be kinder to her body with her words. (Talk about friendship goals!)
Walter is hardly the first actress to speak out about her struggle with negative body image. Hollywood veteran Jane Fonda, 85, has spoken candidly about her journey recovering from an eating disorder.
Male actors aren’t exempt, either. In fact, fellow Abbott Elementary star Tyler James Williams, AKA Gregory Eddie, told Men’s Health that his ultra-rigorous fitness regimen for a previous project caused his body to shut down… and led to his eventual diagnosis with Crohn’s disease.
“The important thing for me, and those like me, to remember is that longevity is a big part of the game,” Williams added. “If you can’t [stay strong] and be healthy, there really is no point.”
Before you go, check out these powerful quotes to inspire healthy attitudes around food:
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