Jennifer Love Hewitt is opening up about how past acting parts led her to be sexualized in Hollywood at an early age.
The 42-year-old actress and mother of two looked back at her early career in showbiz in honor of the recent 20th anniversary of “Heartbreakers,” in which she played Page Conners, a young woman who acted as a con artist with her mother Max Conners (Sigourney Weaver) to seduce and steal from wealthy men.
The part involved Hewitt starring in racy scenes, which she now says contributed to her body spawning more headlines at the time than her actual acting did. While reflecting on some eyebrow-raising questions she was frequently asked early on in her career, Hewitt sympathized with Britney Spears, whose past prodding in the media was highlighted in the recent “Framing Britney Spears” documentary.
“It’s interesting, I just watched the Britney Spears documentary, and there’s that whole section in there talking about her breasts. 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,” Hewitt recalled to Vulture of her role in “Heartbreakers.” “For some reason, in my brain, I was able to just go, Okay, well, I guess they wouldn’t be asking if it was inappropriate.”
Hewitt recalled having to prepare herself for past interviews in which her body was almost immediately brought up.
“The conversation for a very long time in my career was always about [my body] first — then, ‘Oh yeah, you were really great in the movie, too,’ later. I didn’t get it. That’s just what I looked like, and I was doing my job,” she said. “I just started to [prepare myself], like, 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.”
The “Ghost Whisperer” alum admitted tuning into the documentary about Spears’ life reminded her of some of her own issues working in Hollywood at an early age.
“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,” she said.
Hewitt went on to say she now views some of those past interviews with disgust.
“I definitely look back on it and go, Ew,” she confessed. “And it really started with ‘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,’ my body was very covered. At a press junket for I Know or ‘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 said she grew “really tired of that conversation,” noting that “Heartbreakers” was “a big part of it.” Now, as a mother of two, she wishes she did more to stand up for herself.
“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’s comments about her body join a growing list of female celebrities who have recently spoken up about being hypersexualized in the media. Most recently, Natalie Portman revealed how one of her earliest acting roles — in the 1996 film “Beautiful Girls” — led to her shielding herself from letting others objectify her.
“Being sexualized I think took away from my own sexuality because it made me afraid,” the actress told hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman of the “Armchair Expert” podcast.