In recent years, TikTok has become a platform for resurfacing old interviews and shedding light on the questionable practices of media personalities. While the things talk show hosts may have said or done in the past were accepted then, we have since realized how problematic much of it was. Many talk show hosts have been called out over comments and actions on their shows that, upon looking back, people have realized were racist, misogynistic, homophobic, or otherwise damaging and unacceptable. One such instance of this involves Oprah Winfrey, who is now facing backlash for a 2004 interview with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. The interview resurfaced on TikTok, prompting a renewed discussion surrounding body image and the responsibility of media figures toward celebrities struggling with eating disorders.
The Controversial Oprah Interview
Back in 2004, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson were 17 years old and still very much in the acting industry. Having been in the business since they were babies on the popular TV series Full House, they were used to interviews and being in the spotlight. Despite this, they were still just teenagers dealing with regular teenage struggles and dealing with them while under incredible public scrutiny. At the time, rumors were swirling that Mary-Kate was struggling with disordered eating and anorexia. During this time, the pair appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show. (1)
In the interview, Oprah mentioned the rumors about Mary-Kate Olsen’s apparent battle with an eating disorder. Speculation about Mary-Kate’s health was rampant at the time, and Oprah seized the opportunity to inquire directly about the twins’ clothing sizes.
“I know a new rumor [that has] recently surfaced has really upset you, right? You know, the one about eating.” Oprah incited. (2)
Ashley jumped in, noting that her sister was feeling uncomfortable.
“Yeah, you know people are going to write what they’re going to write. We try not to read the good or the bad because it just comes with the territory,” Ashley started. “Either you’re too fat, too skinny and people are just gonna write what they –,”
This is when Oprah cut her off, asking the girls what size they were, anyway. Clearly confused by the question, the twins exchanged a glance before posing the question, “size?”. Mary-Kate jumped in, saying that they’d always been petite but avoiding giving the talk show host a direct answer.
@user147589987 The Olsen twins 2004 interview with Oprah #olsentwins #oprahwinfrey #interview #fyp #2000s #tw ♬ original sound – random vids
Oprah Presses On
Oprah apparently did not find this answer satisfactory. She was quick to give a sarcastic response, inciting a laugh from the audience but clearly making the twins feel even more uncomfortable.
“That’s so interesting,” Oprah responded. “I’m obsessed with size and you’re like, “I really don’t know!”
The twins, incredibly, kept a cheery and warm demeanor throughout the uncomfortable interrogation. Mary-Kate responded to Oprah, saying it would be a different story if they were obsessed with their size.
Though the interview is from nearly 20 years ago, its recent resurfacing on TikTok has put Oprah in the hot seat. Her questions raised concerns among viewers, who criticized Oprah for potentially exacerbating Mary-Kate’s struggles by publicly addressing her weight.
Public Reaction and Criticism
With the TikTok generation’s talent for resurfacing old content, the controversial interview gained newfound attention, leading to widespread criticism of Oprah. Many argued that the media mogul’s line of questioning was not only insensitive but potentially harmful to Mary-Kate’s mental and physical well-being. The public condemned Oprah for perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards and failing to consider the long-term impacts such interviews may have on celebrities’ lives. Commenters were quite shocked and upset by the whole thing.
“I can’t imagine being blindsided on live TV about my body size (as an adult, never mind at 17!) when it’s publicly suspected I have an eating disorder (a.k.a. a severe and deadly mental illness).” said one viewer.
“’I know we’re living in different times, but how did they think that was okay!?! [Because] they’re young?” commented another.
Body Image and Celebrity Culture
The resurfacing of this interview highlights the broader issue of body image and the high expectations placed on individuals in the public eye. Celebrities, particularly women, often face intense scrutiny concerning their appearance. The pressure to conform to societal ideals of beauty can lead to various mental health challenges, including eating disorders.
The situation involving the Oprah interview brings into focus the ethical responsibility of media figures, such as talk show hosts, journalists, and interviewers. The incident reminds us that it is crucial to approach sensitive topics with empathy and mindfulness, ensuring the well-being of those under the spotlight. Interviews should focus on promoting a healthy and supportive environment rather than sensationalizing personal struggles for entertainment purposes.
Fortunately, society has come a long way in recent years, with increased awareness about mental health issues and the destructive nature of body shaming. The incident and subsequent public reaction serve as a reminder that it is essential for media personalities and the public alike to be more cognizant of the potential harm associated with their actions and words. This awareness has already led to positive changes in how the media covers stories about body image and mental health.
Keep Reading: Oprah Winfrey Gave Birth at 14 & ‘Never Felt like It Was’ Her Baby
- “UNCOMFORTABLE’ Oprah Winfrey slammed for ‘triggering’ 17-year-old Olsen twins in 2004 interview questioning ‘what size’ tiny teens wear.” The Sun. Rachael Ellenbogen. February 25, 2021.
- “Oprah Winfrey: Presenter asks teenage Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen what size they are in resurfaced interview.” Independent. Isobel Lewis. February 25, 2021.