Reese Witherspoon has recently revealed that a studio head considered her “repellent” after seeing her performance in Election and that she was told she should “dress sexy” for film auditions.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Witherspoon explained how her lead role as Tracy Flick, in the 1999 film Election was interpreted by people in the industry.
“They thought I was a shrew”, she said. “My manager finally called and said, ‘You’ve got to go meet with the studio head because he will not approve you. He thinks you really are your character from Election and that you’re repellent.’ And then I was told to dress sexy.”
In a separate interview, at The Hollywood Reporter‘s Power 100 Women in Entertainment breakfast, Witherspoon said: “By the way, the definition of the word ‘shrew’ as pertains to a woman is technically ‘a woman of violent temper and speech’, which nowadays I understand to be a woman who speaks her mind and raises her voice against the system which underestimates her. So I would like to just say, ‘Thank you. I am a shrew.’”
Speaking out and actively changing the system that underestimates women is something Witherspoon has famously used her success to achieve, despite this early subjection to sexism. Her production company Hello Sunshine was a self-started, self-funded effort to develop roles for women in the film industry. It has been responsible for Wild, Gone Girl, and Big Little Lies, all of which centre around female characters.
As well as campaigning against the sexual harassment of women in Hollywood, and promoting the #AskHerMore campaign, which called on red carpet reporters to ask women about more than just fashion, Witherspoon has used her platform to support and encourage young female filmmakers.
Witherspoon’s ambition is one of her most precious self-proclaimed traits, and she has long been using her success to encourage other women to embrace their own sense of ambition.
“Ambition is not a dirty word,” she once said during a speech at the Glamour Magazine Women of the Year Awards in 2015. “It’s just believing in yourself”.
Earlier this week, Witherspoon was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the film The Morning Show, a series about a sexual abuse scandal involving a news anchor.