"I was already starving myself and as thin as I could possibly be for this body."

Melanie Lynskey recently earned an Emmy nomination for her startling dramatic turn in the Showtime series Yellowjackets, but early in her career she received less-than-stellar feedback on her appearance. 

The 45-year-old actress says that while working on the 2000 film Coyote Ugly she was pressured to lose weight and subjected to harsh criticism from a costume designer and the makeup team. 

"All the girls had this regimen they had to go on. It was ridiculous," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I was already starving myself and as thin as I could possibly be for this body, and I was still a [size] four."

Melanie Lynskey
Melanie Lynskey
| Credit: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Starring Piper Perabo, the film centers on an aspiring songwriter who takes a job as a "coyote," or a bartender meant to tantalize customers. Lynskey played Perabo's character's best friend, and she revealed that she and the women involved in the production were heavily encouraged to lose weight. 

"There were already people putting a lot of Spanx on me in wardrobe fittings and being very disappointed when they saw me, the costume designer [at the time] being like, 'Nobody told me there would be girls like you,'" Lynskey said.

She added, "In your early 20s, so much of it is about beauty, and how people respond to you, and do people want to f--- you? Do people think you're their best friend? Even the best friend thing, I started to be like, 'I don't want to do that too many times.'"

After the Hollywood Reporter story was published, Lynskey posted a series of tweets in which she clarified that the costume designer who is credited in the film, Marlene Stewart, was not the person to whom she was referring in the interview.

"I see this has become a headline so please let me clarify some things! The costume designer who initially worked on Coyote Ugly left for some reason, & a lovely kind woman named Marlene Stewart took over and she was AWESOME," she tweeted. "The first person was mean, the person credited was not."

She then posted, "Just nervous that people will google 'Coyote Ugly costume designer' and think that Marlene was not nice when she was just the greatest."

Also starring Maria Bello, Tyra Banks, Bridget Moynahan, and Izabella Miko, Coyote Ugly was inspired by a 1997 GQ article written by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert about her experience working as a bartender.

It seems Lynskey wasn't the only cast member who faced misogynistic comments while shooting the movie. Bello said in a 2020 Variety interview that she was told at 32 that she was "too old" to dance on the bar with the rest of the actresses.

"I had argued for it because I worked at Hogs and Heifers. I said, 'Why can't I dance?'" she recalled. "And I was told that I was too old. The truth is the movie was run by men, right? All male producers, a male director [David McNally], so I don't know where that information came from, but that information came to me. It was different back then. I remember arguing about it, but I wasn't gonna win."

Here's hoping the supposed sequel rectifies the situation, but on-set issues like this prevail. Lynskey has also been candid about the body-shaming she dealt with on the set of Yellowjackets

"They were asking me, 'What do you plan to do? I'm sure the producers will get you a trainer. They'd love to help you with this,'" Lynskey told Rolling Stone

However, the rest of the cast — including Tawny Cypress, Christina Ricci, and Juliette Lewis — came to her defense, with Lewis even writing a letter to the show's producers. Lynskey was also determined to stand up to the pressure and make sure her character, Shauna, was someone women can relate to. 

"It was really important to me for [Shauna] to not ever comment on my body, to not have me putting a dress on and being like, 'I wish I looked a bit better,'" she said. "I did find it important that this character is just comfortable and sexual and not thinking or talking about it, because I want women to be able to watch it and be like, 'Wow, she looks like me and nobody's saying she's the fat one.' That representation is important."

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Coyote Ugly
  • Movie
  • 94 minutes