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Actress Ashley Judd promotes the television show Missing in Toronto, March 12, 2012. (Nathan Denette/NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Actress Ashley Judd promotes the television show Missing in Toronto, March 12, 2012. (Nathan Denette/NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ashley Judd slams critics of her 'puffy face' Add to ...

Ashley Judd wants the public to step off, this after she was pilloried in the press last month for sporting a “puffy face.”

Promoting her new drama Missing last month, the 43-year-old actress and activist was hit with a tidal wave of speculation about her “chubbier than usual” cheeks.

Radar called it the “hamster-cheeked look,” and sought out Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon who never treated Ms. Judd, for the diagnosis: Fat injections, he declared. “Ten years ago Ashley had some of the best cheeks in the business. Unfortunately, now they look too puffy,” Dr. Youn lamented.

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At the time, Ms. Judd’s rep clarified that the actress’s appearance was the result of an “ongoing, serious sinus infection and flu” and subsequent medicating, which fuelled only more squawks.

Ms. Judd had had enough. In her rebuttal, a 1,490-word column published Monday by the Daily Beast, the vocal actress took the tabloids head on, giving the average Joe a taste of what it’s like to have your face and body scrutinized daily by the world.

“The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us,” she wrote. “The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart.”

The piece also called for an end to the “pure insanity” of women chronically spitting venom at each other, both in Hollywood and in the real world. Referring to her own puffy face-fiasco, Ms. Judd pointed out that the conversation “was initially promulgated largely by women; a sad and disturbing fact.”

She ended: “I hope the sharing of my thoughts can generate a new conversation: Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place? How, and why, did people participate? If not in the conversation about me, in parallel ones about women in your sphere? … How can we as individuals in our private lives ... [shed]unconscious actions, internalized beliefs, and fears about our worthiness, that perpetuate such meanness?”

Readers have been divided on the column. While some praised its feminist tone, others pushed the argument of celebrity trade-offs: “She profited from this cultural obsession with beauty when she was young and hot. Now that she's older and read a feminist book or two, she wants people to back off,” wrote one Daily Beast commenter.

And another: “The ‘job description’ of an actor has objectification as an inherent reality. … Hillary Clinton, or more appropriately, her daughter Chelsea, would be much more suitable proponents for this line of argument, as neither traffics in her looks. I do appreciate Ms. Judd’s comments as they apply to the universe of non-image-selling women.”

(Ms. Judd acknowledged the notion about creative people not deserving private lives, but called it “highly distorted thinking” worthy of a separate rant.)

Over at Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams commended Ms. Judd for snapping.

“One opinion column likely won’t make the tabloids and blogs pause in their daily digging on who is displaying cellulite or a trout pout,” she wrote. “But by calling out the critics, Judd reminds us how useless and hollow the sport of body snarking truly is, and the fact that expecting anybody to be the same kind of ‘pretty’ she was 14 years ago is, in her word[s] pure insanity.”

What do you make of Ms. Judd’s plea?

Follow on Twitter: @ZosiaBielski

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