Chrissy Metz reflects on how 'This Is Us' impacted her journey with body acceptance

·6-min read

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I've been a fan of Chrissy Metz since she first appeared on my television screen in the premiere of NBC's hit series This Is Us. For the first time, I felt really represented.

I remember going to casting agents myself as a young girl trying to break into the industry and being told that I wouldn't ever act or be a lead because of my size. To see her proving those voices wrong until the show's final episode in May 2022 has been inspiring. She tells me it's all about sticking with the dream and fighting for it.

"I didn’t realize how much I’ve changed in six years. From the first day I set foot on the set, I literally turned to Chris Sullivan, who plays Toby, and I was like, 'Chris, I don’t know if I can do this.' And he just held my hand and was so kind and it just made me realize that you have to suit up and show up," Metz says. "I think that is the hardest thing, no matter what it is that you’re doing. Just get off the couch, just start it and see what happens."

I can imagine the fear that a trailblazer like Metz would experience by stepping into the spotlight and carving out a space for plus-size women in Hollywood that hadn't existed before her. Her personal journey with the relationship she has with her body and how it has impacted other parts of her life is something she wrote about in her 2018 memoir, This is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today. Ultimately, those experiences led her to a place where she has felt more secure in who she is, despite society's perception of people living in bigger bodies.

"I know that we are not our bodies, they are a vehicle. And do we want a vehicle that we feel good in? Yes. And everybody has different issues, whether they’re health issues that prohibit them from looking a certain way and sort of grappling with the idea of what we think we’re supposed to look like," Metz explains. "I mean I still go through that, especially with social media. You just scroll through and I literally had to curate my feeds and my algorithms and all those things because I’m like, is this helping me or hurting me? And if it triggers me, I look at, why does it trigger me?"

It's a good reminder that nobody is immune to the pressure of social media and the comparison that it cultivates among users. At the end of the day, we are all human with very big feelings that we all try to navigate. Social media is a big part of our lives and it’s important that if we’re going to be on there so much, we curate our feed to make us feel good. For Metz, doing so has also allowed her to stay present, which only helps to propel her forward.

"I don’t believe that we can get to where we want to go if we don’t love the person that we are at this moment. Otherwise, you’ll just be stuck in it and thinking you’re never gonna get to the next milestone or point or chapter. It’s an ever evolving process," she says. "Some days are great, some days are like,’Oh boy, I’ve got a lot of work to do.’"

After being recognized as a voice in the body positive movement, it can feel like you're not always given the grace to have those bad days. And although Metz has been outspoken about the joy she feels in representing the community, she acknowledges that she didn't set out to be perceived as somebody who is always confident and content in their skin.

"It’s interesting. I never thought that I would be coined that person, but I think a lot of portraying Kate Pearson on the show, it just funneled into what box they wanted to put me in. And that’s fine, because if I can inspire and bring hope to people, I love that," she explains. "But it gets difficult because people look to you for positivity and you might be that shining light. And you’re like, but right now, my light is a little dim. I don’t know where I’m finding some electricity or charge from."

She adds, "I’m human. And then I just have to remember, Chrissy, that’s why you love other people because they’re human and it’s ok to be human and I don’t know how to be anything else."

I could totally relate to her in this instance because so much of what I do as a model and advocate is centered around my body and the way I feel about it. In an industry that has never accepted people existing in larger bodies, it’s up to us in a way to show that not only is it needed, but it’s beautiful. Still, that doesn't negate from the every day struggles that people are facing.

Even while in the spotlight, Metz has shared that her mental health is a constant work in progress.

"Some days I don’t know how [to manage it]. It can be very overwhelming and scary, especially because starting a new chapter in my life," she says, referring to the end of This Is Us. "Everybody looked at me as Kate and I’m gonna do other roles and other things and I hope that of course the people still enjoy what I’m doing. But all I have to do is be where my feet are."

Something that makes that a little bit easier for Metz is recognizing that she's been on the right path in her career thus far.

"Our show This Is Us was a catalyst to really have anything other than a straight size on TV, especially on network television. When I was a talent agent, it was always like blonde hair, blue eyed, straight size family. And then now we see characters that don’t even have conversations or none of their storyline is about their weight," she says. "But people of color need to be more prevalent and their stories need to be told. Things are changing and I hope they continue to change."

While her future in acting has yet to be figured out, Metz is taking the opportunity to embark upon a new adventure as she partners with Capital One Auto Navigator and head onto the road for a live concert tour. This, she says, is fulfilling another lifelong dream.

"Music was my first love and it was always something that I wanted to pursue but was never really encouraged or supported. And through the vulnerability and the confidence that I cultivated through Kate Pearson, I realized that I am valuable and I’m deserving of telling my story," she says. "I’m excited to just share my heart and soul."

–Video produced by Kat Vasquez

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