A New York Times theater critic is facing major backlash after commenting on a Broadway star’s body while attempting to slam the costume designer in a review.
Laura Collins-Hughes, a writer for the New York Times, remarked on the styling of actress Alysha Umphress in her critique of the musical Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller. Her comment about the actress’s body is drawing ire from fans and even Umphress herself.
“Umphress, by the way, is bigger than the other women onstage, and the costume designer, Alejo Vietti, doesn’t seem to have known how to work with that, dressing her in an unnecessarily unflattering way,” Collins-Hughes wrote. “He does better with the skimpy, yet not overly revealing, pink fringe outfit Emma Degerstedt wears, and jiggles in, for the leering number ‘Teach Me How to Shimmy,’ ”
Umphress responded with a lengthy comment on Twitter Monday morning.
“It is shocking to see a woman (especially a woman whose social would suggest she is pro woman) body shame an actress who isn’t a size 0 and praise one that is. Her wording wasn’t constructive. It was full on mean girl,” Umphress wrote. “It’s 2018. We should be celebrating women’s diversity in the arts, not shaming them, by the way, for being the biggest of the girls. And while the overall point was to malign the costume designer, her phrasing made me the sacrificial ‘fat’ lamb. Truly disappointed and saddened by her ugly and pointless description. Also, I think I look pretty ferosh.”
The actress tweeted again later that day thanking fans for the support and admitting the review had thrown her through a range of emotions since it was posted.
“Last night I cried myself to sleep. This morning I woke up mad as hell. Tonight I feel completely overwhelmed and extremely grateful from the outpouring of love and support from this amazing community (and beyond)! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You’re all FEROSH,” she wrote.
Though Collins-Hughes didn’t reply to Umphress, she did defend herself on her Twitter Monday morning. After a reader called the review “not only unnecessary, but deeply unsettling and 100% appalling,” Collins-Hughes replied explaining that she wasn’t criticizing Umphress and instead the costume designer.
“It is in no way shameful to be big, let alone bigger than the other women onstage. My remark about the costuming reflects on the designer. This is not the first time I’ve noticed a designer seemingly at a loss about how to dress a larger woman well,” she explained.
Collins-Hughes also later added that she “said nothing negative about anyone’s body.”
“I did not critique or praise anyone’s body. I said the shimmy costume worked better. It is not shameful to be big, and I didn’t suggest that it is,” she wrote.
Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller is playing on Broadway now.
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