Jimmy Kimmel joked about drugs at the Oscars. Why?
“As I look around this room, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Is Ozempic right for me?'”
Jimmy Kimmel opened the 2023 Academy Awards with a joke that represents an uncomfortable and unfortunate reality for many: A new drug found to cause weight loss is taking over Hollywood, igniting the idea that “thin is in.”
Elon Musk and Chelsea Handler are among a few big names to admit to using the drug for weight loss, although Handler said she stopped using it after learning it was intended for diabetics. However, experts say most celebrities who use Ozempic are likely keeping their lips locked.
The push for transparency around the use of Photoshop and plastic surgery in recent years has helped usher in a new era of body acceptance and positivity, but this return to thin culture points to remaining cracks in the system. How far would people go to look a certain way? And does the public have a right to know if the super skinny star they’re comparing themselves to is using Ozempic to get there?
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What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is the brand name of semaglutide, just one of many in a class of drugs known as incretins. In June 2021, the Food and Drug Administration approved semaglutide — under the brand name Wegovy — for the treatment of chronic obesity. Since then, interest in the drug, which requires weekly injections, has skyrocketed.
A “spiral back into skinny culture”
Ella Halikas is a Sports Illustrated model. But there was a time when the Ozempic craze would have rocked her body image.
“I’m very hopeful — this can’t be shaken or shaken,” Halikas tells USA TODAY. “But if that had happened when I was in high school, I’d beg my mom to take me to do the recordings, and I think that says a lot. It’s really going to affect a lot of people across the country and around the world. … It’s really, really harmful and it’s bringing us all back into skinny culture.
Discussions about body image have evolved in recent years to celebrate different body types. But many feared a step backwards in the past few months.
Kim Kardashian revealed that she quickly lost 16 pounds last year to fit in Marilyn Monroe’s dress for the Met Gala. The New York Post headlined this fall, “Bye-bye Booty: Heroin chic is back.” And stars like Adele, Rebel Wilson and Mindy Kaling who are losing weight have garnered massive public interest.
“People’s attention is drawn to celebrities whose body types don’t fit this thin ideal, and then if they lose weight, maybe people are more attuned to that,” says Meghan Gillen. “It puts more pressure on people. This person represented what people actually look like and now they follow that (thin) ideal.”
She adds: “Any type of body modification generates fascination. Like ‘How has your body changed so much?’ But also: “How did you do that?” These are real women. Their bodies represent what many women look like. And I think people just ask, “What’s the secret?” “
The way we talk about Ozempic matters
The concept of an “ideal” body type can trigger “feelings of shame and low self-esteem, anxiety and depression,” says Gillen. “A lot of negative emotions (come) from seeing celebrities who people say, ‘That’s the ideal height.’ It’s the feeling that you just can’t keep up and you’re just not good enough.”
Enter: weight-loss drugs like Ozempic or cosmetic surgery as options to “temper those feelings of shame,” Gillen adds.
Aside from triggering mental health issues, the growing number of people, famous or not, choosing to use Ozempic has created a shortage for those who are diabetic and rely on Ozempic for their health.
Does the public have a right to know about celebrities using Ozempic?
Although some may argue that celebrities who aren’t open about using the drug for weight loss are perpetuating unrealistic body standards, Gillen believes it’s more important to educate people — especially young people — about media literacy as a whole, rather than naming individual cases.
“I think it might cross the line into their own personal business because they’re individuals too, and I imagine it’s challenging to be in the spotlight and have people taking pictures and saying, ‘It looks like you just gained 10 pounds or lost 10 pounds,'” she adds.
Also, Gillen says, research suggests that explaining how a celebrity lost weight wouldn’t make most people feel better. One study found that adding disclaimers to people’s Photoshop images didn’t stop viewers from comparing their own images to the edited images.
“I think as a culture (we need to look at how far we’re all really willing to go to be thin,” Halikas says. “We go to extremes. … It just comes down to knowing that you are enough. You are enough just as you are today. You don’t have to change. You don’t have to jump on a trend.”