It's no surprise that many women have body image issues, when the media glamorizes thinness and rewards those that struggle with their body image.
So, when you see an actress as petite as Natalie Portman, it’s hard to believe that she would have to lose any weight to pass for a ballerina.
But then again, there’s nothing you can say to make sense of the dance world to someone who hasn’t lived it. I’ve lived it. The very fabric of dance and ballet is rife with the insecurities most girls face, amplified. I’m not talking about the three years you spent in ballet classes on Saturdays when you were in grade school. I’m talking about dieting before you turn ten, thinking it's normal to go from the bus stop to the studio everyday or believing that constant pain is a part of the daily life of a twelve-year-old.
Portman recalls, "As a child, I idealized [ballet] because, as a little girl, you just think of it as this pretty, light, delicate and feminine thing." But admits that it isn't all grace and ease. "You see how much darker the world is when you're immersed in it."
29-year-old Portman decided to tackle this world with her eyes open and ready to reveal its extremes in her new thriller Black Swan. She went so far in her physical transformation that her director, Darren Aronofsky, asked her to, “start eating.” Portman lost close to 20 pounds for the role as Nina Sayers, an anorexic ballerina.
The character of Nina exposes the prepubescent image required of ballerinas. A scary reality reinforced just this holiday season when the New York Times dance critic disparaged the shape of one of the accomplished professionals in the New York City Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker. He wrote, "Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many."
In Black Swan, Natalie Portman sacrificed her own well-being to make these truths real for audiences who might otherwise be distracted by the beauty of the art. That which Portman doesn't say explicitly in the film is spelled out unequivocally in this appearance she made on ABC News where she speaks out against the Times' closed-minded interpretation of perfection.