Rebel with a sugar coated cause
Rebel Wilson in her comedic element with The Wanted on stage at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards.
Everyone from sport stars to suburban mums to starlets is quitting sugar and becoming clean eaters but there is a rebel in the ranks with a sweet tooth, poisoning traditional notions of body image and making the weight-loss giants tremble in the their trainers.
Pitch Perfect star and Hollywood's new sweet-loving sweetheart Rebel Wilson promotes being ''fat'' like it's a covetable designer label, which is why her alignment with Jenny Craig has always been hard to comprehend. However, she has recently served up another mixed, albeit lucrative, message about body image by releasing a line of T-shirts under the moniker of her popular The Wedge character Fat Mandi that are ''not for skinny bitches''.
The comedienne is an official ''friend'' of the weight loss conglomerate and, according to the diet company's website, is on a quest to lose 25 kilograms because she has ''eaten herself out of the jeans market'' and is a recovering chocolate and ice-cream addict.
Rebel Wilson models one of her Fat Mandi T-shirts while out walking. Photo: Twitter
But marketing and body image experts are confused by her recent venture.
''She's sending mixed marketing messages for sure because she's endorsed by Jenny Craig to lose weight but then she's saying 'I'm against weight loss' and embracing the body beautiful. You can't say you're both, you have to say you're one or the other because the consumer becomes confused as well,'' lecturer in marketing at the Australian National University's Research School of Management Andrew Hughes says.
Since the release of the Fat Mandi T-shirts, which are only available for sizes 12 and up and emblazoned with colourful cakes, Jenny Craig has refused to comment on the collection that encourages people to celebrate their muffin top. Calls, emails and even a text message by Fairfax to the weight-management company have gone unanswered.
Fat Mandi's marketing message.
Hughes suggests Jenny Craig would be distancing themselves from the T-shirt collection as it is a rebellious-yet-clever attempt by Wilson to ''build the anti-profile''.
''She needs to maintain a profile because she has a niche in terms of her shape, her size, who she is and her personality. But being a niche player in the acting business does not get you a lot of work,'' he says. ''Nowadays if you're run-of-the-mill you just blend into the background. If you can stand out somehow from other celebrities and the other endorsements out there then that's not a bad strategy to get your profile quite high.''
Comedian and writer Mindy Kaling, who has peppered her new television show The Mindy Project with fat jokes, many of which she is the butt of, and Lena Dunham, who spent the majority of the first season of Girls stuffing her face with food and exclaiming that ''endorphins don't work on me'', are breaking the mould by not being working actresses (on commercial TV networks no less) who starve themselves for their art or network executives. The camera may add ''10 pounds'' (4.5 kilograms) but for these ladies it also adds coins to the purse, but unlike Wilson they are yet to sign up to a high-profile, much-publicised diet.
Hughes adds that while Wilson has successfully established a brand based on her self-deprecating sense of humour, if she does stick to her Jenny Craig pledge to actively pursue a healthy and happy lifestyle and "no longer look at a whole cheesecake and think 'dinner''' - her bank balance could shrink like her waistline.
''If she loses weight she can kiss goodbye the endorsements for weight loss,'' Hughes says. ''She'll have to put Fat Mandi away, as she'll go from being the anti-girl to becoming the girl of the establishment. If she loses weight, she fits in with everyone else, she speaks like everyone else, she becomes part of the industry so to speak, and part of the norm, so why then would you pay her as a company to endorse your brand when she's the same as everyone else?''
Regardless of Jenny Craig's reaction, the Fat Mandi line has been received with vigour by fans, online commentators and the public, and some of the sizes have since sold out.
Body image expert and University of Canberra assistant professor in psychology, Vivienne Lewis, says while Wilson may appear to be conveying mixed messages about physical appearances she is adding her voice to the growing number of high-profile women championing the cause for a more positive future for the female form.
''Comedy shows can be supportive but the focus for Rebel and her associations with Jenny Craig need to be on why she is wanting to lose weight - for health, happiness and her mood, rather than her looks - in order to try to steer away from the negative associations with larger sizes,'' Lewis says.