It was in the fall of 2014, while in the midst of finishing up my homework, when I suddenly felt the urge to stop and take a break from my studies. I turned on Netflix, went through my recommended movies and came across a film titled, “The Hairdresser” from 2010. It was written by Laila Stieler, directed by Doris Dorrie and featured Gabriela Maria Schmeide. It peaked my interest even though it was in German. I was intrigued and impressed to see that the film’s official poster featured a plus sized woman, so I had to see it!
The film was about an older, overweight and divorced, single-mother from East Berlin, who is unemployed and struggling to find work as a hairdresser due to her size, and finds even more problems when she tries to open her own salon. Through it all, Kathi (Schmeide) pushes on and refuses to give up. This movie makes you think about your own life and struggles, while you connect with the character. Although it works to show us a modern Berlin, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not things had really changed from the 40’s and 50’s. Kathi lived in an apartment complex and it’s quite easy to see that the neighborhood was not the best, nonetheless, she was still very comfortable. She had a wonderful group of friends cheering her on throughout her journey.
The movie was written quite beautifully and it makes you wonder if this was based on the life of the writer due to the specificity and the believability of the details of Kathi’s life. Well, based on an interview with the writer, Laila Stieler, she explained that “the stimulus for The Hairdresser was the stories of my hairdresser.” We are still fighting for equal opportunities here in the states, to this day, with a cultural revolution that aims to open doors in television and fashion for plus size women, so it is rather unnerving to imagine the lives of these women in East Berlin. If it’s this hard in America for overweight women, then this movie, The Hairdresser, points out the global stigmatization and injustice that fat women experience.
It resonates with me a lot because I’ve experienced the rejection that Kathi has endured. As a plus size woman wanting to get into mass media, it’s exceptionally difficult. It’s what I have wanted to do and when I chose my major, I was obviously naive to think that my skills and abilities would be taken into consideration without regards to my fuller figure. With every interview, I’ve experienced anxiety, stressing and wondering if today is the day that someone sees past my physical appearance. Being plus size can be excruciating, knowing well and good that most people don’t even wait to hear what you have to say, instead they look at you and immediately decide that you don’t fit with their company’s “culture”. This is what Kathi went through each time she interviewed at a hair salon. She was mocked and treated like an outcast. The film did a great job at capturing her emotions and making her an easily likable character. Although her life was tough, she took it all in stride and remained optimistic. She was funny and resilient, patient and yet, persistent. She was kind and generous with her services, as well as her time.
I feel incredibly proud when I watch television or a film and see a plus size actor making her mark in the industry. One person in particular is Chrissy Metz from “This is Us.” She’s an amazing actor and she’s opening so many doors for larger women. By casting her on the show, it allows other casting directors and writers, as well as other plus size actors to become more involved and more open to having roles for the people who make up a large percent of the United States’ population. Approximately 64 percent of females are overweight. This is no attempt to promote or glorify being bigger, but simply an observation with the intent to create a positive dialogue on extending more opportunities to plus size individuals.
The world is changing and it’s imperative that we remain open minded to accepting people the way they are. It’s my hope that weight will one day become irrelevant during the hiring process and that everyone will get a fair chance when fulfilling his or her dreams. With adequate support, remaining proactive and determined, and keeping a positive attitude, Kathi was able to accomplish her entrepreneurial dreams. If you’re struggling with anything, continue on with the fight and never give up because eventually, it will happen.