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‘New York Times’ Critic Laura Collins-Hughes Is Under Fire for ‘Body-Shaming’ Broadway Star Alysha Umphress

Alysha Umphress body shamed
Alysha UmphressCourtesy of Alysha Umphress/Anna Ty Bergman

Twitter is booing New York Times critic Laura Collins-Hughes for allegedly body-shaming Alysha Umphress in her review of the Off-Broadway play Smokey Joe’s Cafe.

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“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 in the piece published on Sunday, July 22. But she approved of the “skimpy, yet not overly revealing, pink fringe outfit” worn by Umphress’ costar Emma Degerstedt.

Some fans of 36-year-old Umphress were outraged. “Shame on @nytimes for allowing this body shaming and sexualizing comment about Alysha Umphress in Smokey Joes Cafe. Don’t we have anything better to do than analyze women’s bodies?” one person tweeted. Another called the review “embarrassingly juvenile” and noted that Umphress “deserves better, readers deserve better, women deserve better.”

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Umphress, who appeared in the original Broadway production of the musical American Idiot in 2010, responded to Collins-Hughes via Twitter on Monday. “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,” she wrote. “Her wording wasn’t constructive. It was full on mean girl.”

She continued: “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.”

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Collins-Hughes denied any wrongdoing in a series of tweets on Monday. “My issue was with a particular costume. It was on a human body. I said nothing negative about anyone’s body,” she explained. In a follow-up she added, “It is not shameful to be big, and I didn’t suggest that it is.” 

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