Kether Donohue plays Lindsay Jillian on the FXX series You're the Worst. After seeing her character's wardrobe and sex scenes evolve, Refinery29 reached out to ask her about her experiences in the entertainment industry and her thoughts on body positivity. This is Donohue's story, as told to us.
When I got cast as Lindsay in You’re the Worst, I met [the show’s creator] Stephen Falk for dinner and, after seeing that the character was called “Fat Lindsay” in the pilot, I asked him point blank: "Do you want me to be a certain size to play this character? What happens if I lose or gain weight?" I wanted to know what the expectations were. He gave me the best answer I could have heard. He said, “Kether, you booked the role because I loved your audition, not because of anything having to do with your body. You could gain weight or lose weight, I really don’t give a shit. I just want you to portray the internal life of Lindsay.”
The character I play is just a human being who enjoys food and sex. Episode 3 of season 4 had a sex scene where Edgar (Desmin Borges) knocks on Lindsay's door, and she quickly strips down to her underwear and bra because they can't keep their hands off each other. Women tell me that scene was refreshing; they appreciate seeing a plus-size woman enjoy sex without her size being a joke or a fetish. I felt the same. For me, the scene was about the collaboration between Desi, Stephen, and I to get the best physical comedy and energy of the scene right. Seeing a woman who is bigger than a size six celebrating her sexual pleasure shouldn’t be a rarity on TV or in real life, but it is.
Let’s call out the elephant in the room: I gained weight in between seasons 3 and 4 of the show and I don’t feel bad about it. But, body shaming trolls took note.
Let’s call out the elephant in the room: I gained weight in between seasons 3 and 4 of the show, and I don’t feel bad about it. But, body shaming trolls took note. One of my favorite comments came from a guy who said, “Oh, has Kether been eating a lot of chips on hiatus?” Yeah, I actually ate a lot of chips, and I fucking loved it. And not those bullshit lady chips. It made me want to take a video of me shoving chips in my face and send it to him. Someone else tried to say something nice by commenting to me that Lindsay, as a character, had grown in season 4. A troll commented, “Yeah, she’s grown alright. She gained about 15 pounds in between seasons, I hope she’s okay.” Yeah, this happens.
Trying to finding my own way to body acceptance lead me to reading The Beauty Myth. In it, Naomi Wolf writes, “A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience…Dieting is [one of] the most potent political sedative[s] in women’s history. A quietly mad population is a tractable one.” This quote cut to my core and helped me contextualize the way women’s fat is perceived in a patriarchal society. It also helped me embrace my own fat as a metaphor for proudly taking up space in a society that wants to keep women small. I now see fatphobia as one of the many ways in which misogyny shows up in our culture. I don’t want fat to be a negative word anymore. Female fat is not unhealthy.
If I — as white, cisgender, able-bodied, medium-sized woman — am to examine my own fat as a symbol for taking up space in society, I have a responsibility to examine which other bodies our society currently doesn’t value to safely inhabit space. Following the Instagram accounts of Gia Natalia Narvaez, a Latina transgender body activist, Megan Jayne Crabble, and Kenzie Brenna have been instrumental in educating me about this movement. One of my biggest inspirations has been ShiShi Rose, a brilliant writer, artist, and activist. I love following her Instagram account. She taught me that you can’t talk about body positivity without acknowledging the intersectionality of oppression; that fatphobia is connected to all forms of oppression. Just looking at fatphobia as a sexist issue or as its own entity is superficial and not true to the authentic origins of body positivity, the modern form of which which has been pushed forward by fat, queer, women of color as a political movement to fight for the equality and representation of ALL bodies.
About two years ago, I was working out pretty consistently. I lost weight, but I didn’t like how I felt and it scared me. I thought, Oh, I want to inspect this. What is this about? I was confused, because we’re taught as women to want to be thinner. I wondered if something was wrong with me. Then a little voice crept in my head and said, Who’s going to protect you? If you don’t have this fat, who’s going to protect you? There is a folktale called “Skeleton Woman,” recounted in Women Who Run with the Wolves by a psychologist named Clarissa Pinkola Estés. The “Skeleton Woman” refers to the inner part of a woman that carries around shame for feeling ugly or not good enough. I told my therapist I related to this concept. Her advice was, “Let’s put some flesh on those bones.” I really liked that. It made me feel like this fat that I was perceiving as self protection wasn’t a flaw that I needed to shed, but rather a healthy comfort that was healing for me psychologically and physically.
I’ve been learning how to embrace my own ambiguities about my body; why I lose or gain weight is a personal thing. There are so many factors that are really none of anybody’s business. It is also not about shaming women, thin or fat. The fact that I’ve been able to fluctuate in size across four seasons of You’re the Worst without the production or network making it an issue is something I feel lucky and grateful for. It is rare for society to honor a woman’s humanity and value independent of her calculating her weight and assessing what her BMI and fat percentage implies about her personhood.
Something viscerally happens inside of you when you see an image of someone who looks like you or is a size that is bigger than what you’re used to seeing. For me, it’s a breath of fresh air. It makes me feel like I could wear a shirt that shows my stomach with my fat coming out. It makes me feel like I don’t have to hide my arms.
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