2014 has been the year of the booty. With body image taking the spotlight in new ways—through such avenues as Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" and Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea's "Booty"—there seems to be a reinvigorated obsession with body image. For Tony Award winner Marissa Jaret Winokur (known best for her work in the Broadway music Hairspray), she knows all too well the negative (and positive) attention focused on weight loss and perception. In her new film Muffin Top: A Love Story, (which also stars Melissa Peterman, David Arquette and Glee's Dot Marie Jones), her own story is told in the framework of cultural significance and finding happiness. The film is a hard-hitting (yet hilarious) look at how society has defined "beauty" on magazine covers and online and as it relates to everyday life.
In 2012, the actress went through a remarkable transformation, dropping 60 pounds. Even though, now, she's gained much of it back, what's different is how much happier she is. "I am actively learning to be kinder to my self," Winokur shares with Popdust on how she's working on herself, from inside out. "If you say, 'I’m fat , I’m ugly, I’m not enough,' you will in return live that truth. Because of that, I am trying right this second to change the way i look at my self, actively trying to say kinder things to myself and truly LIVE healthy, not just focus on weight loss."
The biggest lesson the actress is learning is "that old habits are hard to break," she says. "In advising others, I can share that I was just advised at FITNESS RIDGE -in UTAH , to slowly turn the boat around. They are teaching me to take baby steps and change one or two things at a time. The all or nothing way I live my live is just setting myself up to fail, and in return be disappointed. Today I am just trying to say, 'I’M ENOUGH' and see what happens." And it is that powerful piece of advice that fuels her now, as Muffin Top is on a red carpet tour all around the country.
Director Cathryn Michon (who also stars in the film as a pop culture professor undergoing her own personal struggles) pulled all of her resources to get the feature into theaters and on Video On Demand. The film has already gained a 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Winokur admits that Michon has been such a pool of inspiration for her, saying, "This was an indie, so it was not easy, but she pressed on and stayed motivated, and people are loving it as much as I do.SHE inspires me and I want to be like her when I grow up!"
On working with the star-studded cast: "They are all so enormously talented, and I was honored to be part of the cast of MUFFIN TOP: A LOVE STORY. Every single member of this cast is talented, and hilarious, which is why it’s such a funny and sweet movie all about loving yourself now, not 5 pounds from now. "
Of course, following her tremendous weight loss, the actress covered nearly ever magazine on the planet. So the film's inspiring story is "very dear to my heart," she says. "I never tried to change my appearance for a man’s love BUT I did try to change for Hollywood’s love, which I say is actually much more unforgiving. I have learned that you really have to start loving YOURSelf before anyone can love you. I find the message of Muffin Top is an easy story to tell, but a hard one to live."
To spread her message of light and positivity, Winokur finds humor is the best way to get people's attention. "Humor is best when it is honest, and [this] is an honest film about how women really feel about their bodies. That’s why it’s so funny." And, of course, she hopes that fans (and non-fans) can learn a thing or two about themselves and our culture, while laughing along the way. "First and foremost, [I hope people have] a good laugh, sometimes when talking about MUFFIN TOP :A LOVE STORY we forget to say the most important thing which is, this is a COMEDY, that is actually FUNNY! You will feel empowered when you watch it, and you will also LAUGH LAUGH LAUGH!"
With magazines and online tabloids continuing to surge, the obsession with body image continues. Winokur confesses even she contributes to that machine: "Look, I admit that my favorite magazine of the year is when People Magazine does a 100 pound weight loss issue, so I am part of this obsession, for sure. People love reading about weight loss because it gives them hope, it’s the whole, 'if she can do it so can I' mantra." But, she adds, "It is not healthy, but people love a good makeover story. I do wish people focused more on living a healthy life. That is my goal now. I’ll check back with you in a few months and tell you how it’s going!"
Previously, Winokur dazzled on the ballroom floor on ABC's Dancing With The Stars, an experience that allowed her discovered a little more about herself. "I learned that I am a control freak!" she says. "The truth is that the 'Star' on 'Dancing With the Stars' has zero control. I would walk out on stage and think, 'How am I going to mess this up?' I never felt stage fright before. BUT I worked through it. My friends would say 'if you can star in a Broadway show, so of course you can dance on TV!' Or, my friends would remind me,'You beat cancer! You can do a little dance!'
She adds, "I learned also by the way the audience voted, PEOPLE LIKE TO SEE PEOPLE ON TV THAT LOOK LIKE THEM!!!! You know what? I feel the same way."
With an impressive resume that includes such other acting credits as American Dad!, Melissa & Joey and Retired At 35, Winokur doesn't regret a single gig she's had. "But here’s the deal," she says. "Its called SHOW BUSINESS. And people forget it’s just that a Business. No one in this life likes every aspect of their JOBS. What’s most important is that I LOVE TO WORK! I say yes to anything. Show business is my BUSINESS."
"Love your booty" could sum up culture in 2014, something the actress really admires. "I LOVE THE BIG BOOTY!!! I love what 'It’s All About That Bass' says, every word, and again, that’s why I’m so proud of Muffin Top, because I so relate to the film as an audience member, not just a member of the cast. I want more, 'love your booty movies,' and more, 'love your booty songs.' Quite simply, it's about "acceptance," she says—it's a common thread that connects Trainor's smash single, with other Top 40 hits (like Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" and the Lopez-Azalea collaboration). "Muffin Top is the next logical part of that trend, a whole movie about loving yourself now, not five pounds from now. That’s why people love it so much. It’s such a fun and healing movie! That gives me hope, both the fact that it got made, and also that people are loving it so much. "
For fans wanting to watch Muffin Top: A Love Story On Demand, you can head over here for more info.
[PHOTO CREDIT: The New Dead Project]
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