Barbra Streisand's Ozempic comment to Melissa McCarthy sparks a conversation

On Monday, actress Melissa McCarthy posted a photo on Instagram of herself wearing a sea foam green ruffled dress at a gala she attended with director Adam Shankman. While the photo itself didn't cause much of a stir, one comment, which came from entertainer Barbra Streisand, did. It read in part: “Did you take Ozempic?”

Screenshots of the comment began circulating soon after, with many viewers criticizing Ms. Streisand for publicly asking whether another celebrity was taking a weight-loss drug. (Others wondered whether Streisand realized the comment had been posted where others could see it.) The comment has since been deleted.

On Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Streisand faced pushback. She had taken to Instagram to see photos of the flowers she had received for her birthday, she wrote in a post on her Instagram and X accounts. “Underneath them was a photo of my friend Melissa McCarthy who I sang with in my Encore album,” Streisand wrote. “She was fantastic! I just wanted to pay you a compliment. I forgot that the world is reading!”

Ozempic is part of a relatively new class of drugs, used in the treatment of diabetes and obesity, that have gained popularity in recent years. Although it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for diabetes, people are increasingly using Ozempic off-label to lose weight. Researchers are studying whether these drugs can treat a number of other conditions, including sleep apnea, alcohol use disorder and chronic kidney disease.

As drugs have become more and more popular, so has the stress over social etiquette and the propriety of asking your seemingly skinnier friends if they use them. For celebrities, the questions are even more difficult. Some stars have made an event out of revealing that they take drugs—perhaps none more notably than Oprah Winfrey, who announced in People magazine that she was taking a weight-loss drug and “ended up feeling ashamed.” She later hosted a prime-time special dedicated to weight stigma and new drugs. Elon Musk was an early supporter, tweeting in 2022 after being asked how he became so “fit, defined and healthy” that he took another drug, Wegovy.

Some experts worry that fixating on who does and doesn't take medications could send a harmful message about body and weight. “It shouldn't be something that people necessarily have to hide,” said Dr. Melanie Jay, director of NYU Langone's Comprehensive Obesity Program. “But it's nobody's business.”

The exchange may have taken off because it “breaks the still-evolving label around Ozempic, weight loss and diet,” said Dr. Adrienne Bitar, a professor of American studies at Cornell University and author of the book “Diet and the Disease of Civilisation”. .” Asking publicly whether a person takes Ozempic might seem like something of an insult, she added, given the stigma surrounding taking the drugs to lose weight.

Ms. Streisand's comment was most likely harmless, said Kate Manne, an associate professor of philosophy at Cornell University and author of the book “Unshrinking: How to Face Fatphobia.” But even so, it signals a kind of “surveillance” of Ms. McCarthy's body, she said.

“He probably didn't mean anything,” Dr. Manne said. “But that doesn't mean it's not harmful.”

Ms. McCarthy, for her part, appears unfazed. Asked by TMZ on Tuesday whether the comment had crossed a line, Ms McCarthy replied: “I think Barbra is a sweetheart and I love her,” before shooing the reporter away.

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