Hewitt, 42, was one of the biggest stars in the nineties and aughts, known for both acting and singing — but significant interest was also paid to her appearance and her relationships. That was certainly amped up by her ex John Mayer's 2002's hit "Your Body Is a Wonderland," which she reportedly inspired. In an interview with Vulture, she was asked about the leering in the media about her body.
"It’s interesting, I just watched the Britney Spears documentary, and there’s that whole section in there talking about her breasts," Hewitt said, referring to part of a resurfaced interview with a 17-year-old Spears that was in the New York Times doc. "At the time that I was going through it, and interviewers were asking what now would be incredibly inappropriate, gross things, it didn’t feel that way. I mean, I was in barely any clothing the whole movie. For some reason, in my brain, I was able to just go: OK, well, I guess they wouldn’t be asking if it was inappropriate."
But now a "42-year-old woman with a daughter," Hewitt, who shares two children with actor Brian Hallisay, said, "I definitely look back on it and go, Ew. And it really started with [1997's] I Know What You Did Last Summer, because that was the first time that I had worn a low top, and on Party of Five," the TV show she was on from 1995 to 1999, "my body was very covered. At a press junket for I Know or [1998's] I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, I remember purposely wearing a T-shirt that said 'silicone free' on it because I was so annoyed, and I knew something about boobs was gonna be the first question out of [reporters’] mouths."
Hewitt continued, "I was really tired of that conversation. With [2001's] Heartbreakers, that was a big part of it. I was disappointed that it was all about body stuff, because I had really worked hard in that movie to do a good job as an actress. So I remember one specific moment wishing that the acting had overshadowed all that — that for five minutes, they had said I was really great in the movie versus made a body comment. Now that I'm older, I think: Gosh, I wish that I had known how inappropriate that was so I could have defended myself somehow or just not answered those questions. I laughed it off a lot of the time, and I wish maybe I hadn't."
Hewitt — who, like Spears, started out on the Disney Channel— said for "a very long time in my career" the narrative about her was "always about [my body] first," then they'd add, “'Oh yeah, you were really great in the movie, too,” later." She said she "didn't get it" when "that’s just what I looked like, and I was doing my job."
And she recalled mentally preparing for interviews knowing that would be the narrative.
"I know I’m doing an interview today, so I’m pretty sure at least 20 of the 40 minutes is going to be about boobs and body stuff, so we’ll just get that out of the way and then maybe they’ll ask me something else," she recalled thinking. "When I watched that Britney Spears documentary, it hurt my heart a little bit, because I remember in hindsight having that feeling. I’m really grateful that we’re in a time where, hopefully, that narrative is going to change for young girls who are coming up now, and they won’t have to have those conversations."
The narrative about Hewitt's body was fueled by Mayer's hit song about sleeping with someone with "candy lips" and a "bubblegum tongue." The couple briefly dated the year it came out, so Hewitt was pegged as the inspiration — which she has been denying for nearly 20 years. For his part, Mayer said it was about a teenage girlfriend.
Framing Britney Spears, which came out in February, looked at the mistreatment Spears faced in her rise to fame in the same era as Hewitt — the 1990s and 2000s. Spears also faced prying questions about her sex life (and jokes about taking her virginity when she was still underage), and after her breakup with Justin Timberlake in 2002, he bragged about having sex with her during a radio interview. (He recently apologized.) Spears was a tabloid fixture, making her a constant target of paparazzi. With that circus plaguing her on top of a divorce and custody battle with her ex, her life spiraled out of control, culminating in back-to-back involuntary hospitalizations in 2008. That was the year her controversial conservatorship was first put in place.
Fellow Mayer ex Jessica Simpson, who also found pop and reality stardom in that same era, said last week that she wouldn't be watching Framing Britney Spears because she "lived it" and feels it would be too triggering.
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