Barbra Streisand’s Ozempic Comment to Melissa McCarthy Prompts a Conversation

Barbra Streisand’s Ozempic Comment to Melissa McCarthy Prompts a Conversation

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On Monday, the actress Melissa McCarthy posted a photo to Instagram in which she was wearing a tiered, sea-foam-green gown at a gala she had attended alongside the director Adam Shankman. Though the photo itself didn’t cause much of a stir, one comment — which happened to be from the 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 inquiring publicly whether another celebrity was taking a weight-loss medication. (Others wondered if Ms. Streisand realized the comment had been posted where others could see it.) The comment has since been deleted.

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

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

As the drugs have grown in popularity, so has the stress around social etiquette and whether it is proper to ask your thinner-seeming friends if they are using them. For celebrities, the questions are even more fraught. Some stars have made an event out of revealing they take medication — perhaps none more notably than Oprah Winfrey, who announced in People magazine that she was taking a weight loss drug and “done with the shaming.” She later hosted a prime-time special devoted to weight stigma and the new medications. Elon Musk was one of the earliest proponents, writing on Twitter in 2022 after being asked how he had become so “fit, ripped & healthy” that he was taking another drug, Wegovy.

Some experts worry that fixating on who is and is not taking the drugs can transmit a damaging message about bodies and weight. “It should not be something that people necessarily have to hide,” said Dr. Melanie Jay, director of the N.Y.U. Langone Comprehensive Program on Obesity. “But it’s also none of anyone’s business.”

The exchange may have taken off because it “breaks still-evolving etiquette about Ozempic, weight loss and diet,” said Dr. Adrienne Bitar, a lecturer in American studies at Cornell University and the author of the book “Diet and the Disease of Civilization.” Publicly wondering whether a person takes Ozempic might read like a kind of insult, she added, given the stigma that surrounds taking medication to lose weight.

Ms. Streisand’s comment was most likely innocuous, said Kate Manne, an associate professor of philosophy at Cornell University and the 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.

“Probably she didn’t mean anything by it,” Dr. Manne said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not harmful.”

Ms. McCarthy, for her part, does not seem troubled. Asked by TMZ on Tuesday whether the comment had crossed a line, Ms. McCarthy replied, “I think Barbra is a treasure, and I love her,” before waving the reporter away.

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