‘Hairspray’ costume decision turns out hurtful


Izzy Kanne

When I heard Park’s choir was going to be putting on “Hairspray” as their spring musical, I was excited to
see one of my favorite musicals, but when rumors began circulating that Tracy would be wearing a “fat-suit” to better fill the traditional role I was shocked and hoped that this wouldn’t be true. I am heartbroken to know now that it isn’t just a rumor.

“Hairspray” holds a special place in my heart. Tracy Turnblad, played by Nikki Blonsky in the original movie adaptation, is an iconic role in my eyes. Tracy’s character is a plus size woman who is unashamed of her weight and gains respect because of that. 

The role is important to me because I see myself in Tracy. Growing up, I never saw girls who looked like me in the media. I was never a size two and that was something that took a long time for me to come to terms with — characters like Tracy in shows and movies helped me get to a point of acceptance for my body. While I have never been identical to Tracy Turnbland, I still see so much of my own experiences in Tracy’s. 

Even if the intention behind the costume is sincere, it comes across as a mockery of the body type. To hear a character that, to me, symbolized strength and beauty was going to be played by using a “fat-suit” felt disrespectful. There are so many women in the world that identify with Tracy because of her size and body-positive attitude, myself included. 

“Hairspray” deals mostly with Tracy Turnblad’s weight. It’s something that makes up the whole story, affecting many other characters besides herself. To me, putting that aside in the casting decision was strange and hurtful. For so long in traditional media, a plus-size woman could not play a petite woman’s role, I can’t understand why the opposite should be acceptable in today’s climate. 

Body positive icons like Ashley Graham and Lizzo show me the progress that’s being made, but the costume decisions feel like a huge step back. Staying positive about situations like this is almost impossible when body diversity is being disregarded in my own school.