Fat, Fat, the Water Rat

One should refrain from Googling one’s name on the Internet.

Recently I was idling on the computer and did just that. I expect I was looking for reviews for whatever show I was in at the time (yes, I do read my reviews – clearly I’m a glutton for punishment). One of the things I stumbled across was someone’s blog, which contained an essay on the production of Pacific Overtures which I did at Signature Theatre last year. In the essay, which otherwise said nice things about me, the writer described me as:

“…heavy-set, has a long hard face with prominent features…”


The “hard face” thing I could deal with. My parents gifted me with a big nose, a prominent chin and a natural sneer. That kind of face comes in handy for the kind of roles I play. The “heavy-set” thing was a little harder to swallow.

Let me say up front that I have fought with my weight most of my adult life. My mom maintains that I was a chubby baby, but once out of toddlerdom, my childhood photos reveal a fairly skinny kid. However, when I hit puberty, along with breasts and hair in interesting places, I also sprouted hips and thighs, emphasis on the thighs.

Let me also say up front that I’ve never been grossly overweight. Maybe this is why I’ve never really obsessed about my weight, unlike many women of my generation. I remember reading some years ago an interview with Julie Kavner, who went to some therapy session in which the attendees were required to draw on giant pieces of paper what they thought their body looked like. Kavner said that the image she drew was something like seven feet tall and four feet wide. Many of the women I know also have an outsize visual image of themselves; me, I think I look pretty good most of the time, although I don’t much care for the rear view.

But “heavy-set?” Hmph. “Heavy-set” is a block of granite, square and solid. Rod Steiger was “heavy-set.” I reject “heavy-set.”

So what else can I be? I’ve also been described as “statuesque” (too Jayne Mansfield) and “queenly” (oh dear me). An actor friend once said I had “breeder’s hips” (moo). Actually, my favorite description of myself was in Lloyd Rose’s Washington Post review of No Way to Treat A Lady; I had to get murdered by co-star Larry Redmond numerous times throughout the performance, and she said I looked like I could take Larry “three falls out of five.”

Now that didn’t bother me – in fact, I was sort of flattered. I don’t mind when my size is equated to a certain amount of strength, physical or otherwise. I like to think I’m in decent shape, given my age and size – I have certainly never balked at any doing any physical business required in my line of work.

I am never going to be a slim woman. I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is feeling that I should be obsessing about my weight. When I want a serving of pasta, a little voice says in my ear: “You shouldn’t be eating that.” I resent that voice; I resent the guilt that goes into every morsel I put in my mouth; I resent weighing my dining options, not by what I want to eat, but by what contains the lowest caloric/carbohydrate/fat/sugar content. I resent most of all that I spend so much time and energy thinking about food, when there are so many more interesting and important things to think about.

And having said that, I’m off to make dinner. We’re having a big salad. Yippee.


  1. Tony Westbrook

    It was just such a comment by a reporter years ago calling Karen Carpenter “chubby” that sent her reeling into anorexia, and eventual death. Not to infer that Donna will follow suit, but the idea that a review of a performance has to include a reference to weight just seems grossly unfair. Especially since most of those comments are directed at women. Men are called husky or stout but it’s in keeping with the character they play. I seem to remember that Donna had quite the figure and was very sexy during “Grease”. As someone who has grappled with my own weight over the years, body image is something to be concerned about, but mostly where health issues are concerned. A review shouldn’t focus on body image, unless it is a poorly written one, or is a direct comment on the character being played.My 2 cents worth.

  2. Donna Migliaccio

    Remember, Tony, it wasn’t a write-up by a professional reviewer but someone’s personal blog. I just happened to stumble upon it. Heh – do you realize the production of “Grease” we did together was 23 years ago? If I had the same figure now that I did then, I’d be a lucky woman indeed.

  3. StephenGregorySmith

    Rude and Ignorant. You were wearing a somewhat boxy costume, first of all…none of us were meant to look appealing…I can remember my mother saying…”Well…I wouldn’t want to go out on a date with any of you..” after seeing PO. The costumes were not meant to be sexually flattering, but sexually vague. How an idiot could view your costume and everyone else’s, and then sit in pious judgement upon your figure is beyond me. I would like to see them in kabuki makeup, kabuki wigs, and essentially, black pajamas.In fact, I think that we were all at the height of our weight loss during that show, with all of it’s physicality, and the fact that our skin could not breathe! I know I lost 13 pounds during it, and know that you sure looked good too.Heavy-Set is a cruel and unfair term used by an uninformed bloghead. Sorry, sugar.

  4. Donna Migliaccio

    Down, boys. It really didn’t hurt my feelings, it just made me think about how our perceptions of our own bodies are sometimes different from the way others perceive us.I appreciate my two Prince Valiants, though. Kissy kissy.

  5. David

    Donna, you are a glamorous woman, inside and out. You are NOT “heavy set”.I asked Jackie his opinion just now (just to be sure I’m not prejudiced) and he quickly and emphatically agreed.No flattery, just the facts, ma’am.

  6. Tony Westbrook

    Well D I agree with your thoughts and intent, which is what a blog is, an online diary and commentary on life. I do love that it also gives us a chance to love and support each other, as well as an occasional huff from opposing forces. :)Also I remember you being quite the voluptuous Nancy in “Oliver”. 🙂

  7. Mairi

    Even though you comment that you don’t obsess about your weight it is interesting that the one thing you focused on in this person’s blog is the “heavy set” comment. Somehow, in spite of ourselves, we are forced to obsess not only about how we feel about ourselves, but about how we look to other people. It is probably more of a testament to your skills as an actor that you appeared “heavy set” than about the reality.

  8. Tom

    That is interesting, Donna. I was going to write a bunch of stuff but SGS did it for me. Even though you aren’t upset about it, I will also vouch for your being very much in shape. One only had to see you out of costume to know that. Of course, one would have to have that chance!*One additional point of interest to me is that you were playing a male. I wonder what the reviewer would have written if you had been male. Would it have given anyone pause if the character had been described as looking ‘stout?’*For the record, I mean in street clothing not sans clothing!!

  9. Joan L.

    Oh Donna…I actually saw that blog some time ago when I was looking up your most recent show reviews, etc. and let me tell you, I nearly b***h slapped that woman clear across the Internet. I wrote several emails, most of which degenerated into profanity at some point and then decided to rise above. Especially when I saw the photograph of the writer. Hmmm…..can we just say “ran through the ugly forest and hit all the trees?” or “puts on her makeup with a hatchet?” or well…you get the picture..and actually I hope you didn’t “get” the picture because, and I say this with all the maturity and reserve I can muster….she could kill small animals.

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