Body image and weight is a struggle for many women, but when you’re an actress governed by Hollywood’s rigid beauty standards, being outside the norm can not only limit your success, but can do a number on your self-esteem.

In MTV’s new show, This Is How I Made It, the network takes a look at how some of the entertainment industry’s brightest talents achieved their dreams. In an upcoming episode, former Glee standout Amber Riley discusses how she became a household name.

In one poigant scene, Riley explains how being a young, plus size black actress in Hollywood nearly shattered her self-image.

She tearfully recounts:

Hollywood is a very hard place to be in. It really is. Being the person I am, you know, the size I am, being a woman, being a black woman, there’s not a lot of roles for us. After I did St. Sass…I was being offered the girl who sits in the corner and eats all day, the girl who wanted to commit suicide because she was fat. It was never anything that I felt had a good ending. I never wanted to play a character that hated herself. I wanted people to know that those aren’t the only kinds of roles for women like me. Normal girls. 

Going to the auditions and having the casting directors say, ‘I think you need to lose a little weight,’ I couldn’t understand why people couldn’t accept me for who I was and the rejection started wearing on my self-esteem. That’s when my mom and I decided to stop.

…I’m not gonna conform and hurt myself and do something crazy to be a size two. My parents always instilled knowing that you’re beautiful and knowing that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made and no one can tell you who you are. You know who you are. 

I’m a healthy person. I have great friends around me that are positive and I think that’s the key to life is making your own path. Set your own rules because there is no set rule, there is no set look, there is no set anything. You make your own rules in your life. You make your own decisions.

Riley, who recently finished a stint in the Broadway musical Cotton Club Parade, serves as a role model to many young girls who may be struggling to accept themselves. Her advice, “to make your own rules” serves as a wonderful reminder to all women no matter what they look like or field they pursue.

Check out the exclusive clip of Riley on This is How I Made It on the Entertainment Weekly site

  • Liyah D.

    Good for Amber! Body image is always a struggle. Hollywood has always had these ridiculous standards. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have people constantly tell you that you need to change.

  • Robbie

    I wish Amber nothing but the best but reality is, it is indeed difficult for women of a certain size, especially black ones to get any great roles in Hollywood.

    That is the industry she choose to be in so it is good to know that she surounds herself with only positive people. That is the key I think that will help her move forward in her career to better/greater things.

  • Chillyroad

    Hollywoods standards aren’t anymore ridiculous than the NBA. If she can’t or doesn’t want to meet them she can always try community theatre.

    You can’t enter an industry like that then complain especially when you are making millions.

  • D.T.

    How much longer will people continue to pander the boohoos of black women in Hollywood? For the umpteenth time Hollywood doesn’t owe black people anything. It wasn’t created by us an it most definetly isn’t for us. Why are black women the only group of people begging Hollywood to accept fatties? You chose to get involved in an industry that is highly based on looks (white looks) and then get mad when you don’t have the look they are wanting? Ugh, stop that! I hope the discrimination continues until one day black people get fed up enough to support black projects.

  • Realitycheck

    You don’t have to hurt yourself to be a size 2 but you are hurting yourself by being out of shape and carrying around a large mid section which studies have shown is linked to all sorts of health conditions later in life.

  • Mike

    You don’t have to be a size 2. How about a little compromise and maybe a size 6. This chick is walking around 200+ pounds and a size 12 or 14 talking about a size 2! Her size is not normal nor healthy for her age.

    Did you all see her on Glee? Sorry, that was nothing more than a new and improved black mammy character. She was twice the size of the girls and boys!

  • angel

    I honestly dont even know why she even made the comment about being a size 2. NO ONE EVER said that u needed to be one cuz im sure if she looked like Beyonce/ Alicia Keys they wouldnt have a problem with that. The fact is that she was overweight.

  • __A

    Yep. I have no idea why black women are so happy to be the voice of fat acceptance. I read an article about Jessica Simpson dropping weight after having her baby. I bet Christina Aguilera who has been saying that she loves herself the way she is will be next. Hollywood usually portrays white women as attractive. They portray white men as powerful and attractive. They also portray black men (certain actors Will Smith, Denzel, Wesley….) as powerful and attractive(not Wesley for me). Black women are always portrayed by women like Amber and Queen Latifah. Not that these women don’t have beautiful faces, but being overweight is not considered an attractive thing by the majority of people. These people go out of their way to keep portraying us as undesirable, and people don’t even see it. Does Megan Good not want a job? Is Nia Long no longer acting? Or Gabrielle Union. And where is the new black talent? We’re still using the same black female actresses from the 90s.

    Yes. I’ve watched a couple of black web series. They’re usually pretty good and show black people in a positive light with real human problems and not just dysfunction.

    But black people themselves are a big supporter of the undesirable black woman trope. Tyler Perry does it a lot. On his show House of Payne. He has the dark skinned Ella overweight and wobbling around. Janine is in shape and light skinned (but she was a crackhead). The brown skinned girl KeKe in the barber shop is masculine, and the biracial girl in the barbershop is girly (only biracial girls can be feminine I guess). At least Kesha Knight Pulliam is on there and is not a stereotype.

  • Marseeuh

    @REALITYCHECK, 2 THUMBS UP. LETS BE REAL FOLKS!

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    just…stop….eating

  • ChillyRoad

    Not sure why you are dragging Tyler Perry into this. He has shows about real characters. It isnt supposed to look like the All Black America’s Next Top Model. On one movie he had Sanaa Lathan (attractive) Robin Givens (attractive) and Taraj P. Henson (attractive). What more do you want from him? He has given more work to more attractive black women in Hollywood than anyone, even other black women.

    Meanwhile, Shaunie O’neal has given us what?

  • Reboot

    Can someone explain to me why teenage black girls think it’s normal and attractive to be 200 or more pounds?

    The young black, white, hispanic and asian boys aren’t going for that. They don’t want to be seen with overweight girls in public or around their friends.

  • London

    “Did you all see her on Glee? Sorry, that was anymore than a new and improved black mammy character.”

    THIS!!! I feel that’s how they portray all of the black, overweight actresses in Hollywood.

  • CenterLeft

    Do not worry, Amber is just STROKING HERSELF, just like many black women do on certain issues. Does not help sh*t…

  • CenterLeft

    Exactly Chillyroad.

    The NBA should let short men play!

  • fresh

    A size 2 is unhealthy…a size 14 is the average size of women in America. Her age? Excuse the fuck out me, since when is it okay for you to police women’s bodies.

    I agree with the mammy business but that has less to do with her size and more to do the maternal like roles she fell into on the show.

    She never have a love interest, she always offered unsolicited advice, and she was the comfort of so many characters.

    You my friend should stop speaking as though you have control over women’s bodies. Cause you don’t!!!! Also you standards of health are incorrect. 14 is healthy! Who are you to tell someone they are unhealthy. Health and size, don’t correlate.

    Ask my diabetic, high blood pressure, healthy weight friend. And my healthy disease free, in shape overweight sister.

  • Allie

    Whoa, whoa,whoa….ok jamesfromphilly “just stop eating” . No matter how much you exercise & what you eat. Some of you all truly have no idea what healthy is. Just because she is a size 14 does not make her unhealthy. I spoke to my doctor and asked her what’s healthy for me. According to BMI I should weigh no more than 150 but because of my body shape my doctor said I could be 25lbs more. As long as I exercise at least 3days a week and eat well, I’m good. Everyones healthy is looks different- that’s all folks

  • victoria

    I do agree with you that a size 6 is more appropriate. Plan and simple, she is a beautiful girl, but her weight, especialy at her age is too much. 200+ is too much.

  • http://gravatar.com/perspectiveofreal The Real Perspective

    Amber Riley is in the same boat as Jill Scott and Angie Stone… Big Glass of Juice *In My Nigerian Voice*

    She don’t have to loose a pound and she would still be fine. In-spite of her large head lol

  • Ms. Information

    I’m not going to hurt myself to be a size 2? So it’s ok to hurt yourself being a size 18?

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    how tall are you?

  • JaeBee

    Where are you getting your “facts” from? Since when is a size 2 unhealthy?

  • http://twitter.com/MsJazzyNeosoul MsLoupe (@MsJazzyNeosoul)

    DEAD!!!! Thankyou!!!! :) Seriously it’s not difficult to lose weight, if you do it properly by exercising and eating in moderation. I lost weight this summer and I’m like size 8. it’s not about just being skinny, that doesn’t look good on everybody. It’s about getting toned up. That’s why I didn’t weigh myself… it’s about feeling healthy and have you muscled toned and not looking flabby. You have so much more energy during the day when you exercise. Eating healthier will not kill her, XD neither will exercise!!! Some people in general need to stop whining about food. You don’t have to use food as a coping mechanism to deal with all of your struggles in life. Instead talk to people or find a more healthier way of dealing with your emotions. Being over weight is not cute!! She’s just holding herself back. Jennifer Hudson would not have gotten all the opportunities she’s getting now if she stayed overweight.

  • Allie

    I’m so tired of seeing comments about size. Size is a number that means basically nothing. Size does not determine health, attractiveness, or worth. It shouldn’t be important to the entertainment industry but it is. What matters is health and lets be honest Hollywood doesn’t care about anyone’s health. I think as long as your healthy and happy, regardless of size you should celebrated, appreciated, and represented.

    P.S.- No one likes a fatophobe, or an asshole. So lets make good points and be respectful at the same time.

  • E.M.S.

    I think you’re missing the point of the article. Obviously it’s not good to be too thin or too big, but it’s a common misconception that being overweight automatically means you are extremely unhealthy.

    New studies are showing that you can in fact be in very good health despite the extra weight.

    Criticism of any size is not helping anyone with their health or self confidence. I’m sure you can understand that, as a fellow woman.

  • E.M.S.

    I’m a bit disappointed reading through these comments. Still a lot of criticism about Amber’s size rather than support of her learning to be confident the way she is.

    Those of you who think she’s promoting being overweight are missing the point. And by the way, new studies show that people can still be healthy while carrying a bit of extra weight.

    If she doesn’t have a problem with her weight, why do you? It’s not your concern.

  • Allie

    None of your damn business happy turkey day : )

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables….

  • Really?

    @D.T.

    Are you implying that if there was a black hollywood women Ambers size would be considered attractive and sex symbol by men?

    The majority of young black women in the 60′s just weren’t this big. Go look at Soul Train Videos from the 60′s. All the girls are small. This young and thick nonsense is recent. Black women didn’t put on weight until after marriage and kids.

  • D

    Your doctor is doing a Jedi mind trick on you. If you eat well and exercise three days a week as the Doc instructed you will drop well below 175 and probably 150. It’s math….burn more calories than you eat and you will lose weight. Smart advice by the doctor.

  • D

    “New studies are showing that you can in fact be in very good health despite the extra weight.”

    Some extra weight. Maybe. But there is no study showing that being obese (whatever definition of the term you use) is healthy.

  • D.T.

    @Really
    No, I don’t believe she would be considered a sex symbol by men if there was a black Hollywood. It would be more so black women uplifting these women as sex symbols. Yeah I agree that obesity is more of a current issue. That’s why I don’t understand when people say they were born this way or they have the infamous “thyroid problem” or that they are “big boned.” I’m like why didn’t people have these issues 40 years ago?!

    My point was to address the numerous complaints people charge Hollywood with in treating black women fairly in regards to beauty when the industry wasn’t created for us. It’s blatantly clear that black women are purposely setup to be deemed less desirable. If there was a black Hollywood do you think I would care if other races were not shown in the best light. Absolutely not! I wouldn’t mind the Ambers being shown but they would be a minority. Women like Kimberly Elise, KeKe Palmer, Camille Winbush, Erica Hubbard and Tenika Davis would get most of the shine.

    But who am I? I don’t have the money to fix it nor the clout to start a black Hollywood. I’ll just continue to watch black women cry about allowing Amber and Gabby Sidibe represent us because they are in in fact the true representations of black women. (sarcasm)

  • D.T.

    I responded to you. I don’t know why my comment didn’t post. I didn’t say anything rude. I’ll just summarize what I said.

    No, I don’t believe women like Amber would be considered attractive in black Hollywood. I believe black women would be the ones declaring those women as sexy. Much how they sing the praises of Monique and Queen Latifah right now.

    Yeah, I agree that this level of obesity is current. That’s why when people try to blame their weight on “being born this way”, thyroid problems or because “I’m big boned”, I laugh because why weren’t these problems causing obesity 40 years ago.

  • D.T.

    It’s very annoying when comments don’t post. I guess I need to copy every comment before posting in case I have to post again.

  • Ms. Information

    @ E.M.S. not missing the point…our great grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers were not this overweight….eventually, being overweight will harm you…..I am not saying that everyone should be a size two…..but clearly self control amongst us needs to be addressed….As a fellow woman I will not co-sign this cool to be fat thing…if we can watch housewives for an hour we can exercise for an hour…no excuses.

  • Robbie

    I have to agree with some of the comments above. Like I said in an earlier comment, it is nice to see her surrounded by friends and family that keep her positive and motivated. At the same time, she choose to be in a field that judges women on their looks. Like most of us, she cannot fully say that she was clueless about the way Hollywood treats actresses that don’t fit their standards of beauty.

    It is nice to see her trying to open doors for the thick brown girls of her generation and the next one to come, but at the same time, she knows that she has to be realistic. White and Green are what’s running Hollywood. It is hard for me to fully feel for her. Hopefully she goes the Tyler Perry’s way and chooses to produce and direct. There is also big money there to make. Wish her nothing but the best.

  • Robbie

    My comment was not posted Clutch. What is wrong? I do think twice before commenting and, here I am again, with a non existing comment that I took the time to type.

  • Ms. Information

    @ EMS ..and as a fellow black woman….I know that our great grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers were not fat in their teens 20′s and 30′s…my great grandmother maintained her weight into her 90′s..it is about self control…it is about using that hour that you watch housewives in to sneak in some exercise…it is about finding the reason why so many black women are overweight and fixing it, not accepting it.

  • writergirl

    couldm’t have said it better!

  • CenterLeft

    “Size is a number that means basically nothing. Size does not determine health, attractiveness, or worth.”

    Yeah, tell this to black women with respect to short black men. SMH…

  • LOLL!!!

    This is clutch. You should be use to that by now…

  • Allie

    @D Were you there? No, so please have several seats.

    The point of the article that you imbeciles are missing is : CURVY/FAT/OBESE/THICK (whatever the hell you want to call us) GIRLS are not depressed or sad about our size.
    OF COURSE there are plus size gals that do eat too much and don’t exercise.

    But there are bigger women who do eat well, who do exercise and will NEVER be a size 2,6, or hell even a 10!

    Back to my point, why should Amber hide, if she loves herself and is healthy! Why should people police her body? Are you there with her every damn second of her life? No– then shut the hell up. Lol This is hilarious to me Get a fucking life you low self esteem ,hipster women.

    The worst part is that you ignorant fools have so many outright prejudices of bigger women based on stereotypes. You CAN NOT ASSume that a woman’s size dictates her health. <—– BOTTOM LINE

  • Allie

    Were you there? No, so please have several seats.
    The point of the article that you imbeciles are missing is : CURVY/FAT/OBESE/THICK (whatever the hell you want to call us) GIRLS are not depressed or sad about our size.
    OF COURSE there are plus size gals that do eat too much and don’t exercise. But there are bigger women who do eat well, who do exercise and will NEVER be a size 2,6, or hell even a 10!
    Back to my point, why should Amber hide, if she loves herself and is healthy! Why should people police her body? Are you there with her every damn second of her life? No– then shut the hell up. Lol This is hilarious to me Get a fucking life you low self esteem ,hipster women.
    The worst part is that you ignorant fools have so many outright prejudices of bigger women based on stereotypes. You CAN NOT ASSume that a woman’s size dictates her health. —– BOTTOM LINE

  • Allie

    I’m irritated that they didn’t post my comment So I’ll take out the explicits:

    Were you there? No, so please have several seats.
    The point of the article that you imbeciles are missing is : CURVY/FAT/OBESE/THICK (whatever the hell you want to call us) GIRLS are not depressed or sad about our size.
    OF COURSE there are plus size gals that do eat too much and don’t exercise. But there are bigger women who do eat well, who do exercise and will NEVER be a size 2,6, or hell even a 10!
    Back to my point, why should Amber hide, if she loves herself and is healthy! Why should people police her body? Are you there with her every damn second of her life? No– then shut up. Lol This is hilarious to me Get a f-ing life you low self esteem ,hipster women.
    The worst part is that you ignorant fools have so many outright prejudices of bigger women based on stereotypes. You CAN NOT ASSume that a woman’s size dictates her health. —– BOTTOM LINE

  • jourdan

    I applaud any woman that tries to stay healthy by eating right & exercising no matter what size they are! I know heavier women who DO exercise and have awesome diets. I also know super skinny women who have poor eating and exercise habits. Idk what Amber Riley is doing for her health in particular but I’m glad that she isn’t conforming to the media’s idea that big girls should hate themselves!

  • __A

    @ChillyRoad – I replied to your comment. I don’t know where it went.

    Are you trying to start some of your gender war stuff? I have never supported Shaunie O’Neal. She is not creating positivity for black women. But I am talking about Tyler Perry. They both do it. Are you happy that I’m saying a woman is doing something bad? Anyway those attractive black women are still playing the undesirable black woman role. They may be beautiful, but they had other character flaws that made them undesirable. These are the types of characters that men will complain about left and right.

  • kim

    @Fresh

    How can you be *in shape* and overweight at the same time?

    Stop the madness. It is really not that hard to maintain a healthy weight(for your body type) but people are LAZY and full of excuses

  • Allie

    Explain the relevance?

  • Badu

    Just….stop….bitching.

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