Jenna Bush Hager discusses body image after revealing her grandmother once called her ‘chubby’

Jenna Bush Hager opened up about the body image issues she experienced as a teen and revealed a comment her grandmother had made, which changed the way she looks at body image.

During a recent episode of NBC’s TODAY with Hoda & Jenna, the two co-hosts were discussing Billie’s Eilish’s recent Vogue conversation about body image when Bush Hager shared with Kotb a moment from her childhood that influenced her perception about her body.

“I remember being a teenager,” the 41-year-old journalist and author began. “I remember the bikini colour that I was wearing, a yellow bikini colour. I was laying next to my sister and my grandmother, who I adored but had kind of a biting personality, said something like, ‘Oh Jenna, looking chubby.’”

Bush Hager recalled how her grandmother’s comment about her body made her “feel like I wanted to hide in it.”

However, the mother of three soon came to understand where her grandmother’s comments about her body were coming from, when she revealed that her own mother used to make similar remarks.

“She later told me that her mother said those types of things to her,” Bush Hager explained. “Her mother always thought of her sister as the really beautiful one and would say, ‘Martha’s the pretty one, you’re the funny one. You’re the smart one, Martha is this one. You’re that one.’”

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Barbara Bush, former First Lady and wife of 41st president George HW Bush, died in April 2018 at age 92. Bush Hager said that before her grandmother’s death, the two had a heart-to-heart about body image.

“Late, late in life she said, ‘You know, when I said those things to you, I was talking to myself,” Bush Hager told Kotb.

Jenna Bush Hager and her sister, Barbara, walk into Easter Sunday service with former US President George Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush (AFP via Getty Images)
Jenna Bush Hager and her sister, Barbara, walk into Easter Sunday service with former US President George Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush (AFP via Getty Images)

The two co-hosts went on to discuss how seemingly innocuous comments about a person’s body can have a lasting negative impact on their self-perception.

“Even what parents do to their – ‘Is that too tight? I think that might be too tight,’” Kotb added, referencing “those little tiny” comments parents can make towards their children.

However, Kotb made sure to give Bush Hager her props for raising her three children – Mila, nine, Poppy, seven, and Henry, three – with “a  good body image”.

Singer Billie Eilish recently opened up about her own past struggles with body image for Vogue’s first-ever video cover. The “Bad Guy” singer – who recently turned 21 – spoke to Vogue about her hypermobility diagnosis, and how it caused her to feel anger towards her body as part of the magazine’s January 2023 issue.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, Barbara and Jenna Bush, and Jenna Welch, mother of Laura Bush attend the first night session of the Republican National Convention on 31 July, 2000 (Getty Images)
Former First Lady Barbara Bush, Barbara and Jenna Bush, and Jenna Welch, mother of Laura Bush attend the first night session of the Republican National Convention on 31 July, 2000 (Getty Images)

“Going through my teenage years of hating myself and all that stupid s**t, a lot of it came from my anger toward my body, and how mad I was at how much pain it’s caused me, and how much I’ve lost because of things that happened to it,” Eilish admitted, referencing a growth plate injury in her hip at 13 that forced her to give up her dreams of dancing.

“I felt like my body was gaslighting me for years,” Eilish added.

To move past her body issues towards self-acceptance, Eilish explained how she “had to go through a process of being like, ‘My body is actually me. And it’s not out to get me.’”