As it turns out, Mean Girls isn’t just a movie. It’s a real thing. Right now, its pouty-lipped, hip-swinging, card-carrying members are unleashing a quiver of designer darts in the direction of Renée Zellweger. When Renée walked down the red carpet at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards, people noticed she looked a little different. And that’s when the music and fanfare came to a screeching halt. How dare she! How dare she look different without consulting us!
What has happened to her face? was the predominant question, reiterated in dozens of different ways, each new headline slightly more damning than the one preceding it. The plasticated experts were called in to analyze and pick apart everything about her, concluding that Renée just didn’t look like herself. Her eyes haven’t always been that wide, have they? Clearly she’s had work done. Maybe a chemical peel. Or perhaps the lighter, fuller eyebrows are throwing everyone off. Has her hairline shifted? On and on they went, in a dizzying, amateur game of facial analytics that would have likely amused the FBI and the CIA.
Holy Hunger Games! This is not an Effie Trinket-infused blockbuster. This is real life and we’re talking about a real person. We’re not picking Renée Zellweger apart like Katniss Everdeen only to make her over again and have her fight to the death. Are we?
Do you remember the last time someone scrutinized your appearance? They may not have said anything. The criticism may have been as simple as a slow, up-and-down look, coupled with raised eyebrows. I know you remember. We all do. Although we do our best to shrug it off, at one point or another, that doubt-inducing banter finds a way inside our heads and we start to wonder as we look in the mirror. What is it that other people see? Are my eyes okay? My cheekbones? My teeth? My body? The deeper foundational question is: is this version of me really okay? Am I acceptable the way I am?
Thankfully, Renée seems confident of her own truth, and confident in her own skin. With poise reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, she responded to the barbs about her appearance with an easy, unaffected grace.
“I’m glad folks think I look different! I’m living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows,” she told People Magazine. “It seems the folks who come digging around for some nefarious truth which doesn’t exist won’t get off my porch until I answer the door.”
Here’s the thing about Renée Zellweger’s front porch: it’s hers. (I don’t know if she used front porch as a euphemism for face, but it fits the bill wonderfully.) Sure, we pay money to see her latest work from time to time, but that doesn’t buy us stock in the Renée Corporation. And whether she’s walking the red carpet, or pounding the pavement in support of ALS, that face of hers is beautiful in its uniqueness. I don’t know if her “new look” is the result of graceful aging, a medical procedure, or a simple exfoliant. It doesn’t really matter, because again, it’s her face. It’s not a difficult concept, really.
Whether or not you like what you see when you look at Renée Zellweger’s face is up to you. Being nasty about it is also up to you.
For what it’s worth, I’ll tell you what I see. I see a strong, graceful, 45-year-old woman, who largely chooses to stay out of the spotlight these days. I see a woman who looks a little different than she did a few years ago, as we all do. I see little creases near her eyes, and curved lines around her mouth. Those creases and curves tell me she values smiles and laughter more than she values perfectly smooth skin. I see, bright, expressive eyes that seem to notice far more than an imaginary two-inch bubble around her. I see personality when I look at that face. I see sass and strength. I see a woman who developed a passion for acting in her high school drama club, and went on to hone her craft, surpassing her own wildest dreams. I see a woman whose performances have earned her an Academy Award, a BAFTA, and an armful of Golden Globes.
I see a force to be reckoned with.
While talking about Los Angeles some time ago, Renée was quoted as saying:
“It opens your eyes in this town, it’s amazing. It’s taught me who I don’t want to be.”
Preach on, Renée, Preach on.
Sarah Elizabeth is a wife and mother residing in a small Southern town filled with rolling green hills and thousands of beautiful faces, most of which are beautifully real, and consequently, not Hollywood-approved. She once enjoyed a life with a slightly faster pace as an award-winning television journalist, and marketing professional, but these days, her life is much more quiet. She writes about her daily observations, experiences with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, chronic illness, and occasionally, her love of Jane Austen. Latter-day Jane is her blog. Click here to follow her on Facebook.