When the star, who plays famed actress Judy Garland in the upcoming biopic “Judy,” reemerged after a break from acting in 2014 at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards, people were quick to notice that her face looked much different than it did the last time they saw her.
The media scrutiny ultimately led to her penning a guest column in HuffPost, in which she called for less speculation about celebrities titled “We Can Do Better.”
“Nothing like international humiliation to set your perspective right!” she told Vulture in a recent interview. “It clarifies what’s important to you. And it shakes off any sort of clingy superficiality … that you didn’t have time for anyway.
"One of the fears that maybe, as artists, we all share — because we have this public experience of being criticized not just for our work but as human beings — is when it gets to be too much, when you learn that your skin is not quite as thick as you need it to be, what is that gonna feel like? Well, now I know. I got the hardest kick. And it ain’t the end.”
The star went on to address the 2014 controversy directly, explaining that the topic is still sensitive to her given what receiving plastic surgery would imply to others about her character.
“Well, because there’s a value judgment that’s placed on us. As if it somehow is a reflection of your character — whether you’re a good person or a weak person or an authentic person,” she explained.
When her interviewer suggested that fans may have been concerned about her drastically changing her appearance after being out of the public eye for years, she noted that thought makes her “sad.”
“And the implication that I somehow needed to change what was going on because it wasn’t working,” she told the outlet. “That makes me sad. I don’t look at beauty in that way. And I don’t think of myself in that way. I like my weird quirkiness, my off-kilter mix of things. It enables me to do what I do. I don’t want to be something else. I got hired in my blue jeans and cowboy boots with my messy hair. I started working like that. I didn’t have to change to work. So why was I suddenly trying to fit into some mold that didn’t belong to me?”
In her response to the “kerfuffle” to HuffPost in 2016, Zellweger denied having any work done on her face.
“Not that it’s anyone’s business, but I did not make a decision to alter my face and have surgery on my eyes. This fact is of no true import to anyone at all, but that the possibility alone was discussed among respected journalists and became a public conversation is a disconcerting illustration of news/entertainment confusion and society’s fixation on physicality.”
As the Vulture article notes, the 50-year-old star’s face looks more familiar these days as she prepares for her starring role as Garland. The public’s perception of an actress’ looks come into play in “Judy” as it takes place during the last six months of Garland’s life, when the weight of the public eye was at its heaviest on the "Wizard of Oz" actress.