A plus-sized struggle: cast on the world stage but cast out at home

IT TAKES a lot of guts to establish a career in the entertainment industry, especially if you have any gut at all.

Rebel Wilson is the latest Australian actress to achieve success in Hollywood, with roles in hit films such as Bridesmaids, Bachelorette and the coming Pitch Perfect.

But her success is largely in spite of the Australian entertainment industry.

Wilson was enrolled in evening classes at the Australian Theatre for Young People when she first attempted to find an agent.

''At my very first meeting, they said we can't really see you being on Home and Away, and they rejected me,'' Wilson said.

The 26-year-old proved herself by writing her own comedy series, Bogan Pride, which screened on SBS, yet her presence on television shows such as Pizza and The Wedge is an exception to what seems to be an ironclad rule of Australian TV: fuller-figured (fat is too pejorative a word to use) actresses need not apply.

As Wilson puts it, ''And girls that looked like me? No girls like that were on TV.''

The likes of Wilson, Melissa Bergland from Winners and Losers and Katrina Milosevic, who played the lead role in the Sydney Theatre Company's 2006 play Fat Pig, are far outweighed by skinnier colleagues.

The Seven Network declined to allow Bergland or her fellow cast member Virginia Gay to comment.

But body fascism is undoubtedly a factor in television casting, which makes finding an agent difficult for plus-sized actresses, according to the artistic director of the Australian Theatre for Young People, Fraser Corfield.

He said few plus-sized girls auditioned for roles at the theatre: ''I'm not sure why that is; it might be part of a greater issue regarding self-esteem and self-confidence.''

Belvoir's literary manager, Anthea Williams, believes the theatre is more open to casting women of varying shapes and sizes. ''That said there is not a huge amount of theatre work in this country and a majority of actors make a living by working across theatre, film, TV and in advertising,'' she said.

Fat people are discriminated against and stigmatised in all social arenas, said Deborah Lupton, of the University of Sydney's department of sociology and social policy.

''Fat bodies are considered unattractive, diseased and evidence of lack of self-control,'' she said. In contrast, thin people are viewed as healthy.

This story A plus-sized struggle: cast on the world stage but cast out at home first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.