Since she was a little girl, comedian Margaret Cho says she's dealt with body image issues that have caused her both emotional pain and health problems. Gayle talks with Margaret about overcoming these issues, a topic Margaret also discusses in the June 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. Plus Margaret talks about her VH1 reality TV show The Cho Show.
Margaret says growing up as a first-generation Korean-American, she dealt with a lot of racism. Instead of bolstering her self-confidence, Margaret says her parents tried to warn her that her looks weren't typically pretty and discrimination would be a part of her life. "My father would say, 'You are just not pretty and you are not going to be and you never will be, so you are going to have to be really strong and really beautiful in other ways,'" she says.
Even when Margaret became a successful comedian, she says her looks were more of a concern than her talent. She says television executives on her 1994 sitcom All-American Girl were concerned about whether she was "too Asian" or "not Asian enough." They also told her she needed to lose a lot of weight—something Margaret says almost killed her. "I now have have a heart murmur, I have terrible health complications because of my anorexic and bulimic past—all due to working in television," she says.
Despite her painful past, Margaret says she's in a good place in life today. She is married to artist Al Ridenour (although she still identifies herself as a bisexual) and is the star of her own TV show, which is a mix of reality TV and stand-up. "The situations are scripted, and the dialog is improv," she says. "The reason I wanted to do a [reality] show is because I didn't want to give all this control over to a bunch of white men to write my story. Why do I want white men to write my story? They don't know my story."
Not only is her career and love life on track, but Margaret also says she is now finally in control of her body image and loves the way she looks. "We have to have a love affair with ourselves before anything else, before anybody else," she says. "My search for feeling beautiful came from a very painful place. You know how flowers sprout from manure? It's really true—it's like the more horrible situation, sometimes the more beautiful things come out of it."
Published on August 14, 2008