Margaret Cho Embraces Her Age and Size

At 43, the hilarious comedian has moved past anorexia and bulimia and feels sexy doing it. Read the edited version of our interview with her below about her role on "Drop Dead Diva," the stand-up show she's headlining and how the two promote what she's learned to believe in

by Ilyssa Panitz • Celebrity Reporter
margaret cho image
Photograph: Sony Pictures Television

More: You noted that you once battled anorexia and bulimia. How did you find a healthy place with food and your body?
MC: A lot of the work I was getting was stand-up comedy. That has little to do with how thin I am. When I did 30 Rock I had to wear a fat suit. While some actresses might feel they might not get work if they don’t weigh a certain amount, I never had that pressure after my first experience with television. But back when I was doing my own TV show, in 1994, they wanted me to lose a lot of weight, and that is where the whole cycle began.

More: Which was?
MC: I was terrified, thinking I had to be thin to get the work. But it was then that I really started to embrace my love for stand-up comedy, and after that it became a non-issue: I no longer had to worry about what I was eating. Male comics don’t think about their weight—why should we?

More: You recently shed a lot of weight, which you have attributed to your time on Dancing with the Stars and your love of belly dancing. 
MC: Yes. I love belly dancing. It is great for exercise and it glorifies a woman’s body. When I was in Cairo, I saw women who were in their eighties belly dancing and still feeling sexy. It was so great to see. They were wearing really beautiful costumes and dancing in a very seductive manner. It was beautiful to watch, especially because of how age was really valued there.

More: Did being there teach you anything?
MC: It taught me to respect a woman’s body in a way that is so different, organic and true.

More: You referenced your time on 30 Rock, which I must add just scored you a Primetime Emmy for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for your role as Kim Jong Il. [The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards show will be aired September 23 on ABC.]

MC: Yes, thank you. I am so excited about that, especially because of how much I love the show and Tina Fey. She is a genius and a true friend. I am so grateful I was able to do that.

More: What does getting an Emmy nod mean to you?
MC: I think it has an exciting feeling. You are being honored for doing something you love. I would do this for free because I love it so much. It is such a nice acknowledgement.

More: Aside from your on-camera work, you are also a huge advocate for the gay/lesbian community. What prompted you to get so involved?
MC: During my early years as a comic, in the ’80s and ’90s, I did a lot of fundraising for AIDS. I am also bisexual. For me it is so important to be connected to this world. Because of my role in the comedy world I have been able to work with many of these wonderful organizations and build a great relationship with them.

More: You mention being bisexual, yet you are married and have been for some time [to husband Al Ridenour]. Was marrying a man a hard decision to make? 

MC: No, I don’t think so. I think it was the right thing for me. I feel that marriage is really important and gay marriage is the prime example of equality. Now that I am a member of that family [with Ridenour], I view family as so important, and sexuality should not have anything to do with that. No one should tell you who your family should be.

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