The Oscar-nominated star, who's been in films including Midsommar and Little Women, says that she was just 19 years old when she was told by film producers that she'd need to lose weight and change the shape of her face and eyebrows in order to be successful.
She'd been cast as the leading actor in the US-based play Studio City, for which she felt “very lucky and grateful." "I couldn’t believe I got this top-of-the-game job," she shares.
Yet shortly afterwards, she shares that producers started trying to get Pugh to alter things about her appearance, which made her question whether she wanted to work in the industry at all.
Speaking to The Telegraph, she shared: “All the things that they were trying to change about me—whether it was my weight, my look, the shape of my face, the shape of my eyebrows—that was so not what I wanted to do, or the industry I wanted to work in."
It goes without saying that you shouldn't have to change how you look for a job role. It's 2022, and while movement can be great for both your mental and physical health, unrealistic body standards have long been ditched in favour of a more balanced way of living.
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This wasn't the case for Pugh back in 2014, however. It made her feel like her career may be over, as the experience had been so different from her one prior acting job. "I’d thought the film business would be like The Falling, but actually, this was what the top of the game looked like, and I felt I’d made a massive mistake.”
Luckily, Studio City was never picked up - that is, the network chose not to continue airing the show, meaning Pugh returned to England to pursue other acting jobs.
Just a few months later she was cast in Lady Macbeth, which she shares reminded her of why she wanted to be in the industry in the first place.
“That made me fall back in love with cinema—the kind of cinema that was a space where you could be opinionated, and loud, and I've stuck by that,” she explained.
“I think it's far too easy for people in this industry to push you left and right. I was lucky enough to discover what kind of a performer I wanted to be at nineteen."
She's now renowned as one of the best actresses in the world - which shows you that you should never have to change who you are, especially with regard to your physical appearance, for work.
Here's hoping the narrative continues to shift and fewer people are pressured to live a certain way because of their nine-to-five.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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