On November 1, 1997, “Titanic” had its world premiere at the 10th International Film Festival in Tokyo. Directed by James Cameron and starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, the mega-budget love story was an epic hit, with both critical and commercial success. Thanks to her starring role in the film, which included the now famous scene of DiCaprio’s character, Jack, painting her character, Rose, in the nude, Winslet became an international superstar at just 21 years old. However, as a non-size zero female lead in a modern blockbuster film, Winslet endured insults – even from Cameron – about her weight. Nevertheless, she used that experience to become a champion of body-positivity in Hollywood and beyond.
When Claire Danes, Gwyneth Paltrow and Winona Ryder turned down the role, Winslet was determined to land the part. She campaigned heavily for the lead, sending daily notes to Cameron. Although Cameron had imagined a more willowy, Audrey Hepburn-type to play Rose, Winslet’s persistence and talent paid off when she landed the role.
Winslet’s role also changed audience expectations about the appearance of female leads, both on- and off-screen. It is not just a Hollywood rumor that Winslet and Cameron had many conflicts while filming “Titanic.” He even nicknamed her “Kate Weighs-a-Lot” on set. Although the two have since repaired their relationship, the negative comments about her size had a strong impact on Winslet. In a recent speech, she shared how she overcame years of fat-shaming: “I learned to embrace my flaws, to make no apology for who I am. I dug deep and I decided that I simply wouldn’t listen when they said my body didn’t fit. This is who I am, the real me, Kate from Reading.”
Winslet continues to fight unrealistic beauty expectations and portrayals of women. Her vocal opposition against the magazine industry’s aggressive photoshopping practices began in 2003 when GQ excessively changed her appearance for their cover. In 2015, she famously wrote in a “No Retouching” clause into her L’Oreal contract. Of that decision, she told E! News, “I do think we have a responsibility to the younger generation of women. I would always want to be telling the truth about who I am to that generation because they’ve got to have strong leaders.” Because of her role in “Titanic,” Winslet is one of the main reasons we continue to have a more body-positive climate for actresses in Hollywood today.