Isn’t It Romantic star Rebel Wilson is in some hot water for erroneously declaring herself the first plus size actress to star in a rom-com. Not true by a long shot, as I wrote about for Shadow and Act. I wasn’t the only one to write about it; several folks let Wilson know through articles and Twitter posts that she was dead wrong for what she did because it erased the contributions of others before her, such as Ricki Lake and WOC like Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique. If we go back even further, you could also say that Wilson forgot about silver screen sirens like Mae West and Marilyn Monroe, who were both plus sized by today’s standards.
To make matters worse, Wilson started blocking people, mostly people of color, who called her out, making it clear that apparently, she’s way too drunk from the White Feminism Kool-Aid. Even worse, the film seems like a redux of Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty, in which the lead character only feels “normal” because she’s suffered neurological damage. How is this message actually empowering to women?
There are tons of actresses, especially women of color, who would be tremendous in a rom-com. In fact, I’d bet a good film with a woman of color in the lead would make major bank at the box office, rivaling any type of coin Isn’t It Romantic could make. But currently, Hollywood seems to rely on only Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique for their rom-com needs. Queen Latifah in particular gets used a lot in films; if I can critique my own S&A article, three out of six on the list are Queen Latifah films. The fact that I had trouble thinking of films that didn’t have Queen Latifah in them shows how few rom-coms starring larger women of color there are in Hollywood. Let’s expand the pantheon, if you will. With that said, here are 10 curvy ladies who could be the rom-com leads we’ve been hoping for.
1. Danielle Brooks
Danielle Brooks has always been at the top of my list of possible rom-com heroines. Naturally, all of the women on this list are beautiful, but Brooks is on my personal list of my favorite, most beautiful women in Hollywood. She looks amazing in clothes (clothes she designs herself, no less), and she looks like a supermodel.
Most people only know her from Orange is the New Black and Master of None, but it would be so amazing to see her be a bubbly, relatable woman in a rom-com looking for love and finding the man of her dreams. I’d be in the front row opening day if Hollywood ever put her in one of these films.
2. Dascha Polanco
Dascha Polanco is also another Orange is the New Black alum that needs to front her own rom-com. Polanco has made the jump to standard television with American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, but like Brooks, Polanco needs to be everywhere, including films. It would be particularly nice to see Polanco in a rom-com because Jennifer Lopez can’t be the only Latina actress deemed worthy of being a rom-com queen. (Some have critiques about Lopez’s characters anyway, seeing how she often plays amorphously ethnic characters.)
3. Gabourey Sidibe
Gabourey Sidibe did get her groove on in a 2015 episode of Empire, which was practically history-making. She also took on fat-shamers who sought to put her down for the scene. She told PEOPLE at the time during the Screen Actors Guild Awards 30th Anniversary Celebration, “”I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done,” she said…”I think the scene was really fun and lovely and sexy. I felt beautiful, and I felt comfortable, and I didn’t look nervous at all, and I was kind of nervous, so I’m really glad that didn’t come across.”
She also told E! News that she felt “sexy and beautiful” during the scene, adding, “I keep hearing that people are ‘hating on it…I’m not sure how anyone could hate on love but that’s okay. You may have your memes. Honestly, I’m at work too busy to check Twitter anyway.”
4. Loretta Devine
If you’ve grown up in the ’90s, you probably watched Waiting to Exhale, which means you seen this iconic scene between Loretta Devine and Gregory Hines, as highlighted in the film’s trailer:
Doesn’t Devine need another one of these types of roles? Her arc in Waiting to Exhale was the most romantic, and I’d pay money to see Devine in another role where she gets her romance on. Besides, how could you not leave the theater after hearing Devine’s angelic voice and laughter for 2 hours?
People have had their issues with Raven-Symoné for not calling herself “black,” but you can’t deny she’s Hollywood royalty and has more than earned her dues to star in a rom-com.
Technically, she kinda already has gotten her rom-com on in the second Cheetah Girls movie, when she is one of the girls who develops a fling in Spain.
She still developed a relationship despite the costuming department trying to shroud her in pounds of unflattering fabric just because she was bigger than the other girls. Didn’t they realize that wearing tons of layers makes you look shapeless?
Raven-Symoné is currently starring as an older version of Raven Baxter on Disney Channel’s Raven’s Home. She’s a divorcée raising her kids while dealing with her and her son’s psychic powers. But why can’t Raven-Symoné also play a young woman in the big city finding the love of her life?
6. Amber Riley
Amber Riley needs to be in more stuff, period. She killed it in NBC’s live production of The Wiz, but she’s been lying low ever since. Hollywood, give the best singer from Glee the props she deserves and give her a starring role in a rom-com! We need it!
7. Justina Machado
Justina Machado is currently one of the queens of Netflix on One Day at a Time, and even though she’s holding down the fort on the streaming service, it’d be awesome to see her star in her own rom-com. Her character Penelope Alvarez gets to experience love with fellow armed forces veteran Max Ferraro (Ed Quinn); the same thing could happen to Machado on the big screen.
8. Jill Scott
I wrote about Jill Scott’s romantic turn in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?, and arguably, her parts are the best parts of the movie. But Why Did I Get Married? shouldn’t be Scott’s best known and/or only rom-com. Scott is a fantastic actress and she deserves to be a bigger movie star. I mean, there’s this scene from the film in which her character Sheila is lusting over Sheriff Troy Jackson (Lamman Rucker).
There’s also the best scene in the film, Sheila’s tear-jerking declaration of love. That scene by itself should be enough for studio execs to declare her the next queen of romance.
9. Margaret Cho
Margaret Cho is a trailblazer with her history-making sitcom, All-American Girl. You’d think Hollywood would recognize her talents and her meaning to the culture enough to give her a rom-com vehicle. She’s a comedian, so she’ll definitely make it funny. And let’s ask ourselves; if Amy Schumer can headline a rom-com, can’t Cho?
10. Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling’s FOX/Hulu series The Mindy Project is all about the rom-com aesthetic. Some might say too much, since some have accused Kaling of fetishizing white male characters too much. There is a complicated discussion to be had about that, but regardless, Kaling deserves a chance to live out the full rom-com fantasy by actually starring in a rom-com on the big screen. Now that she’s in good with Oprah, maybe it can happen.
Who would you pick to star in a rom-com?