Debra Messing Says She Was ‘Way Too Skinny’ on ‘Will & Grace’
When Debra Messing snagged one of the leading roles on the acclaimed and groundbreaking sitcom, Will & Grace in 1998, she became a household name. The long-running series ran for seven seasons and was revived again in 2017, running again for three years.
Though Messing had roles on shows like Ned & Stacey and Prey previously, Will & Grace set her on the mainstage as one of the funniest women in the entertainment industry. Messing receiving six Golden Globe Award nominations and five Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. The Starter Wife alum won an Emmy in 2003.
Still, despite her beloved role as Grace Adler on Will & Grace, Messing has revealed that in the early years of the show, she greatly struggled with her body image.
‘Will & Grace’ debuted during the height of Hollywood’s unrealistic beauty standards
If you look at any of the most popular TV series and films during the ’90s, all of the leading women were very slim and trim. At 29, Messing was just finding her footing in Hollywood and she felt like she could not compete with the other women in the industry who were much smaller.
I was lucky enough to be invited on the red carpet to the Emmys and the Golden Globes, and that was the same time that Ally McBeal was at its height and Calista was the ‘It’ girl and Portia de Rossi also was so, so slim, and she’s spoken openly about her anorexia, so it’s all within sort of the same theme. I would try to fit into these gowns and of course, they weren’t sample sizes, and it was like, ‘OK, we have to let out the seams, etc. This was supposed to be the greatest time of my life, being nominated for best actress in a TV show I loved for an Emmy and walking on the red carpet. I walked out and I immediately felt so incredible, and then I was standing next to all of these other actresses who were half my size, and I felt fat, and I felt ugly.
Debra Messing went from a size eight to a size two
When Messing snagged her role on the series, she was a size eight. (The current average size of an American woman is a size 16.) Messing explained that she soon began to realize she didn’t fit Hollywood’s “mold” of what they were looking for in a leading actress.
“When I started Will & Grace, I was a size 8,” she told Jamil. “And what happened was, every time I would go in for a fitting, I couldn’t fit into clothes. You know, 80 percent of it I couldn’t fit into, and I would leave just hating my body and hating myself.”
The costume designer on Will & Grace urged Messing not to be concerned about her weight, but she became obsessed especially when larger sizes would be ordered for her. The Wedding Date star revealed,
I thought, ‘My life would be so much easier, and it would be easier on everybody trying to do their job, if I just lost weight.’ So I started doing yoga every single day and I did one of those meal delivery services. I started to get smaller and then I was a 6, and they were like, ‘You’re losing weight, you look amazing!’
Debra Messing got way ‘too skinny’ on ‘Will & Grace’
In the end, dropping from a size eight to a size two was detrimental to Messing’s heath, and she was unable to sustain it. “I was way too skinny,” she explained “But, you know, going in for those fittings, I fit into everything. And all of a sudden, I literally could fit into anything that was high fashion. So all of a sudden, everything seemed to open up for me, because I was a two. For a while there, I was maintaining that, and then I got sick. My body just could not hold out. My adrenals crashed, I was exhausted and it just became clear to me that I couldn’t be healthy and a size two at the same time.”
Now Messing says that she wishes she realized how beautiful she was at the time. “I look back at those pictures and I was beautiful,” she shared. “I mourn the fact that that was my interpretation of reality and that was the torture that I put myself through.”