Margaret Cho Was Hospitalized After Being Pressured to Lose Weight For a Role
Before there was Fresh Off the Boat, there was ABC‘s All-American Girl. The ’90s-era sitcom was the first time Asian Americans were showcased as the main characters, rather than comic relief or peripheral roles.
The show centered around Margaret Cho, who stole the comedy scene in the ’90s. It was natural that she’d receive her own show and that it’d focus on a fictionalized version of her experiences growing up as an Asian American in San Francisco. What wasn’t natural was the damage it did to Cho.
Margaret Cho was told she was ‘too overweight’ to play herself on ABC’s ‘All-American Girl’
All-American Girl was about Cho who played herself on the show. Yet, for some reason, producers thought she was too overweight to play herself, according to Sporkful. Demands from producers left Cho with lifelong mental health struggles. When they told her to lose weight, she developed a lifelong eating disorder.
Unfortunately, All-American Girl only lasted one season. It was an important milestone for Asian Americans, but it fell flat. According to Cho’s co-star, BD Wong, the network and producers ruined all of Cho’s amazing work. In general, they wanted her to conform to Hollywood ideals. That’s something Wong felt white comedians weren’t made to do.
Wong told The Hollywood Reporter, “They took the raw uncut diamond that was the 24-year-old Margaret and just sanded her down. Ellen and Roseanne got to be themselves, and those shows were wildly successful. The show’s failure had nothing to do with Margaret’s Asian-American-ness but in the refusal to present her Asian-American-ness authentically.”
An eating disorder left Cho hospitalized with kidney failure
Cho was determined to make her show work. She was so happy to have the opportunity that she listened to the All-American Girl producers when they told her she was too overweight. So she tried to lose weight. This led to an eating disorder, which eventually led to kidney failure.
According to Cho, she was hospitalized with kidney failure from starving herself. The network and producers were forcing her to be something she wasn’t. It destroyed her self-image in the process. Cho told The Hollywood Reporter, “Sometimes we were told we were too Asian; sometimes we weren’t Asian enough, which I never really got, and that I was too overweight to play the part of myself.”
Still, Cho was desperate to make it work. She told Sporkful, “I wanted the job so bad. I thought … if I don’t lose this weight I won’t be able to [be on TV].”
Margaret Cho is now recovering from her eating disorder and Hollywood’s negative impact
Although the comedian has gotten better since her kidney failure hospitalization, her eating disorder is something she will always struggle with. According to Cho, she does have relapses. She compared her experience with her eating disorder to cancer, calling it “terminal.”
Cho used to have substance abuse issues in addition to her eating disorder. Now that she’s kicked her drug and alcohol habit, she will still occasionally fall into terrible eating traps. “I would get a whole loaf of bread and chew it and then spit it out into the toilet. Or I would go for weeks with only eating persimmons,” she told Sporkful.
Unfortunately, Cho will probably struggle with her eating disorder for the rest of her life. But it’s not keeping her down. She has a new show on Hulu, Sex Appeal, where she gets to let loose as a comedian. Now, Cho is making up for lost time.