Ashley Judd’s Puffy Face Moment: Here’s Mine

Richard Drew


Ashley Judd rocks.

My impression of Ashley has always been that she is a smart woman, and I’ve always liked her work.  I was thinking about her today and I have to say that no matter in what I context I see her, she’s always a bright spot for me.

Ashley took issue with an interviewer who commented on her ‘puffy face’ by writing a brilliant op-ed piece in the Daily Beast. If you haven’t read it, read it here.

Tonight as I watched her interview, and when she invited women to talk about their “puffy face” moment, I have to admit that I can hardly narrow down to just one.

However, because I’m so moved by Ashley’s ‘accidental’ platform, I’m going to tell you about what I would characterize as my biggest “puffy face” moment.

I grew up with certain musical role models. If I were naming names, and I’m not, I could give you three singers who influenced my every move from about the time I was nine years old. I tried to sing like them, I wore my hair like them, I tried to dress like them and I even tried to copy their speaking accent.  I learned how to sing harmony from wearing out their cassettes (yes, cassettes). Ultimately, I was just a kid, but my entire life direction was set in motion by my looking up to these women.

After college, and through a strange series of events, I got an opportunity to sing on stage at an event that one of these women was hosting. It was going to be a dream come true. I was beyond excited. No, I didn’t still copy my life after Her, but I did have a special place for her in my heart. I was so proud to be included.

The night came and fell pretty flat on the awesome-scale. I was mostly treated like an annoyance. I remember having to find a random room with an outlet where I could plug in a curling iron, I had to use my compact  mirror, and I had to change in the public bathroom. On the other hand, She had a dressing room and a professional make-up artist. She kept a good distance from me for the whole evening.

That was fine, I thought. I’m just learning how all this works, right?

After a little more time went by, I was told that She had said that she would never sing on a stage with me because I was too fat.


She would never sing on stage with me because I was too fat.

And you know what? I was too fat. My hair was naturally huge and I hadn’t figured that all out, especially with no access to a mirror. I couldn’t wear high heels on her stage because my foot is paralyzed and I can’t. I wasn’t exactly the most gorgeous package going at that time.

I didn’t have an image with which she wanted to align her stage persona. I felt like she had told everyone around me that I was fat and ugly, and that they were all uncomfortable in the knowing. She hurt my feelings in a way that it still hurts all these years later.

But, I could sing. So I was a gross human being, I could carry a tune!

However, when I heard the recording of the night later, my entrance was obnoxiously overdubbed by Her.

I guess you could say that a woman I had trusted for years had torn me down to the point that I no longer had confidence in the direction I’d thought I was supposed to go. In the way she treated me based on my physical appearance, I felt like she was the meanest of the mean. To this day, the only solace I find in the whole story is that I’m thinner than she is now.

And you know what? This whole story and every part of it, hers and mine, are both just us playing into the junk we have been fed by society. Ashley says it well here:

I ask especially how we can leverage strong female-to-female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women. It doesn’t actually matter if we are aging naturally, or resorting to surgical assistance. We experience brutal criticism. The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others—and in my case, to the actual public. 

We do experience brutal criticism.

We experience it at the hands of each other.

And we’re guilty of dishing it out.

Women, I think we can do better.

I’ll go first.

To Your Adventure,