Today in things from the early aughts we wish we could forget: Shallow Hal, the movie where Gwyneth Paltrow wore a fat suit and could only be loved by a man who was been hypnotized to see women’s inner beauty.
But Ivy Snitzer, Paltrow’s body double who was only 20 years old at the time of filming, didn’t wear a fat suit. While she enjoyed her experience on set and didn’t face any discrimination from the cast or crew, what happened after the film’s release very nearly ended her life.
“It didn’t occur to me that the film would be seen by millions of people,” Snitzer told The Guardian. “It was like the worst parts about being fat were magnified.”
She was involved in the press for the film, and that visibility led to unwanted attention. People told her she was promoting obesity, found her address, and sent her diet pills in the mail. She also received love letters and strange gifts, like a symphony one fan had written for her.
Afraid for her safety, she moved to New York, and when the only roles available to her were “ugly and lonely” women, she gave up on acting. She’d gotten into it in the first place because she was interested in comedy and wanted to make people laugh. Then, in 2003, she had gastric band surgery, shrinking the size of her stomach and restricting what she could eat. “I was technically starving to death,” she said. But there was a complication in the procedure, and the band slipped. She didn’t have health insurance, though, so until she could get covered, she only consumed liquids, because she couldn’t keep anything else down.
“I was so thin you could see my teeth through my face and my skin was all grey,” she said of that time period. “Humans shouldn’t have to experience how very bleak that particular time in my life was.”
She was “so malnourished” that she had to hook herself up to an IV every night to “not die,” and her doctors eventually gave her gastric bypass surgery, removing a section of her stomach. She still has to eat “weird tiny portions” and “can’t eat and drink at the same time.”
As for why she felt compelled to seek out weight loss surgery in the first place, she said, “Because I was supposed to! If you’re fat, you’re supposed to try to not be.” So, when a doctor told her she’d die if she didn’t get the surgery, she thought, “Fantastic. Something that’ll fix it.”
Snitzer says she hasn’t watched Shallow Hal since the premiere all those years ago. “I love that it’s a cool thing I did one time,” she said, insisting, “It didn’t make me feel bad about myself. Until you know, other people started telling me I probably should have felt bad about myself.”
Regardless of size, she says, “I’ve always been a personality in this body.”