A 2004 Oprah Winfrey interview with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen has resurfaced this week with viewers criticising Oprah for inappropriate and triggering questions about eating disorder rumours circulating at the time.
In the interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the twins, who were 18 at the time, opened up about their lives for the exclusive interview having typically been relatively private.
‘I know a new rumour [that’s] recently surfaced has really upset you, right?’ Oprah asks them. ‘You know, the one about eating.’
Looking slightly uncomfortable, Ashley jumped in, telling Oprah: ‘Yeah, you know people are gonna write what they’re gonna write. We try not to read the good or the bad because it just comes with the territory. Either you’re too fat, too skinny and people are just gonna write what they–‘
But before she could finish, Oprah asks ‘What size are you by the way?’ to which Ashley looks taken aback. ‘Size?’ she asks, before explaining that they’re both ‘petite’ but because of their 5ft1 height, they don’t really know their size because they need all of their clothes tailored.
‘Oh, that’s so interesting,’ Winfrey sarcastically responded, with the audience laughing in response. ‘That is so interesting, I’m obsessed with size and you’re like, “I really don’t know”’. While the twins laughed along, they were clearly uncomfortable – with Mary-Kate adding. ‘If we were obsessed with our size it’d be, I don’t know, a different story.’
You can check it out for yourself in the below video, from 18 minutes in...
Later that year, Mary-Kate was checked into rehabilitation for an anorexia nervosa. An advertisement for Got Milk? featuring the twins was pulled following the announcement, and she didn’t star in another film until 2006.
With the clip posted to TikTok account 2000shollywood, new viewers of the historic interview are seemingly shocked by the line of questioning. ‘I know we’re living in different times, but how did they think that was okay!?!’ one user commented. ‘Because they’re young?’
While it’s not known whether or not raising the topic of the eating disorder rumours was pre-approved by Mary-Kate and Ashley (which is often standard practice for celebrity interviews), Oprah asking what size the twins were has been condemned not just for its invasiveness but for how triggering that is for others who suffer from eating disorders.
What interviews like this show though, is how far we’ve come in understanding how we talk about eating disorders. The fact that we’re so shocked Mary-Kate and Ashley were even asked about the rumours says a lot. Nowadays, while celebrities may absolutely want to open up about their experiences of mental illness, it’s clear interviewers are often better equipped to ask the right questions as guided by mental health charities.
As more of these interviews crop up following the success of Framing Britney Spears, it likely won’t be the last time we see a beloved interviewer showing their prior ignorance – but as long as said interviewers can show a better understanding of the topics now, we can hopefully celebrate the growth instead of condemning them.