Natalie Portman On Losing Weight for Her Ballerina Role: ‘The whole thing, I’m aware that it’s sick.”

Natalie Portman On Losing Weight for Her Ballerina Role: 'The whole thing, I’m aware that it’s sick.” 1

Entertainment Weekly has the details:

Working out eight hours at a time. Swimming a mile a day. Dancing despite bruised feet, aching muscles, and a displaced rib. Natalie Portman didn’t take the easy road in preparing to play ambitious ballerina Nina Sayers in Black Swan. But the 29-year-old actress says there was no other option. “So many of the emotional scenes happen while she’s dancing that there was no real way of getting around it,” explains Portman, whose character suffers a mind-bending nervous breakdown while rehearsing to dance the lead in a glitzy production of Swan Lake.

Although Portman did use a double for some of the more complicated choreography, she still had to look the part of a ballerina.

Portman says that not eating – or, rather, eating very little – is an essential part of a dancer’s lifestyle. “I’m a very short person, and you’re supposed to look very long,” she explains. “And you don’t have the bulk on you – which is, like, sick. The whole thing, I’m aware that it’s sick.”

…For the record, not all of Portman got smaller while training. “Dancers, even when they’re really frailly skinny, have a very strong butt. So Mary Helen [former New York City Ballet company member Mary Helen Bowers] did a lot of work on my butt,” she giggles. The result? “Definitely a huge, huge, um…change.”

Mila Kunis recently shared her side of the story – check this post!

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62 thoughts on “Natalie Portman On Losing Weight for Her Ballerina Role: ‘The whole thing, I’m aware that it’s sick.””

  1. Oh my God she really look sick here but that`s what it called a very good actress cos every role she`s in she takes it seriously and really do a great job. I saw the trailer of this movie and i really didn`t like it when she turns into a swan lake maaaaa

    • She means I think you can’t bulk up muscle wise, you have to be long and lean as she says therefore skinny as hell with no muscle definition what so ever. Many female ballerinas have the bone density of an eighty year old, its by no means a healthy lifestyle!!

      • I actually read an article today about this danish ballerina who has been dancing for many many years at the royal theater here in copenhagen, denmark.

        And she said that they need to be thin with a lot of muscle definition, just not like a bodybuilder.

        • yeah, i have a lot of friends who are serious dancers. all of them are pure muscle, no fat, and a lot of them are too thin, not just because they don’t eat a lot, but because dancing takes so energy/burns so many calories

        • I am an ex-ballerina, i don’t remember how my body was when i stopped a few years ago, but I am still about the same size, just flabbier. My friends who stayed however, look like the typical skinny girl from far away but if you’d just prod their calves or abdomens, they’re pure hard as rock muscle!

      • I get what she’s saying. Since she is shorter, if she is as toned as a dancer that’s 5’8″, she will not look as long. SInce she’s playing a ballerina, she needs to look long and create the illusion of height and proportion of a taller ballerina, thus she can’t bulk up.

  2. My sister and my aunt are ballerinas, and they certainly DO NOT starve themselves, and both are thin. Pro ballerina’s exercise so much that they have to eat a full, balanced diet in order to stay strong. Though my sister does not have a particularly fast metabolism naturally, as a dancer she must eat lots of protein, carbs, and fats. This is false.

    • I agree here. I used to be a professional dancer for a few years and I was eating loads barely having any idea of how many calories I was consuming. Eating cake before going to bed was pretty normal thing for me and I never gained. So I cannot imagine dancing for 8 hours a day and eat little?! You faint with the first move.

    • I dunno, I’ve watched a documentary with a local famous ballerina that said that they need to eat very little. Not only to stay a certain weight (because they need to be lifted or jump or whatever) but because it is very hard to dance with a full stomach.

      If you just do it as a hobby, than there is no reason to be that strict, obviously.

    • I think that this totally depends on the person. Some people despite working out a ton have a higher body fat percentage (or add muscle bulk more easily) – because of this they have to adjust their eating habits, often unhealthily, to get down to an “appropriate” ballerina weight/size.

      Your aunt and sister are very fortunate to have healthy and balanced diets, but I don’t think that all dancers are so lucky. This article certainly generalizes about the habits of ballerinas and perpetuates the negative (dancer-eating disorder) stereotype.. but that stereotype exists because there are in-fact a number of ballerina’s who do not eat enough to sustain proper health.

    • It definitely depends on the person. Throughout my dancing career I’ve been able to eat anything thing I want without worrying about weight (health on the other hand was an entirely different matter). But some of my fellow company members have really strict diets and have to be careful. Where I dance dancers have to pass biannual physicals in order to remain in the company

  3. I would guess most ballerinas are about her height. They´re not meant to be tall. If they look long t´s because they are extremely skinny.

    • there are small and tall ballet companies, and mixed. i’m a 5’9″ ballet dancer in a predominantly tall company. most girls are around my height. not many ballet dancers are below 5’3″ usually.

  4. the only professional ballerina i’ve ever known suffered from bulimia because of the stress of staying skinny. not that all ballerinas are that way, but i’m sure that the sport takes its toll on each of its participants differently.

  5. I think it’s really sick she had to do that for a movie role. Talk about method acting! I guess if she wouldn’t do it, they’d get someone else. But honestly, I think they should have either have gotten a real ballerina or just taken Natalie as is- she’s already very small and thin.

  6. The sad thing is we look at models and try to justify it and say its natural but they live the same or worse lifestyles as ballerinas in terms of getting and staying extremely underweight.
    She does look sick here but it’s scary that she would still be too “chubby” to be a model.

    • Yes and especially when u think about how much exercise the dancers get compared to the models. I know some models exercise, and their jobs can be hard, but it’s must be nothing compared to a ballerina. So the ballerinas may be underweight coz of their enormous amount of exercise, but with the models it’s probably due to lack of eating.

  7. She looks so beautiful here, but I might be scared if I saw her in real life. But I have to say that the thinness is essential for a dancer, and I admire her for taking the role that seriously.

  8. Wow, she is one fierce looking Odille!

    In regards to ballerinas barely eating to stay thin: this is a rather blanket statement and it should not be applied acroos the board.

    It is well known that dancers are required to be very thin and to have ruler type bodies (the only dancer in a prestigious company these days that has any b❆❆bs is Polina Seminova) and thus dancers watch what they eat and many take it too far. The most popular option for many is to smoke to curb their appetites.

    However, not every single dancer does this. The average dancer spends about 8 hours dancing every single day and they need to keep their energy up. People don’t seem to realise how challenging ballet is technically and physically. It requires a lot of body strength and agility in order to look so graceful. Dancers tend to have very lean, but toned, muscles, and building this requires hard work and the right kind of diet. Alina Cojocaru admits to eating about 5 Mars Bars a day for quick energy sources but she also says that she has a steak meal, with lots of greens, on the night before a performance to keep her energy up. Many dancers and athletes will similar type of habits in eating high sugar snacks for the energy (they expell loads more calories than the average person per day), which certainly isn’t good for the teeth, but will still work to fit in proper meals to keep their bodies in good shape.

    Another thing is that if a dancer is suffering from an ED it will clearly show in their performance. Gelsey Kirkland was a famous ballerins that suffered fron anorexia and she released a vid of her dancing the grand pas de deux from don q and you could see just how weakened she was from not eating (she had a drug problem as well I think). She used it as a caution to other young ballerinas that not eating to look the part is counter productive when you can’t dance the part.

    • I agree with you. While I don’t know any dancers, I do know people who exercise a lot every day and they are generally quite hearty eaters! I don’t know how they can do so much exercise without putting a lot of fuel in their bodies. That seems like a sure way to to get sick very quickly to me. Surely most ballerinas have to be healthy, or else they would frequently collapse from physical exhaustion. It seems unbelievable to me that many people would be able to keep up a strenuous form of exercise daily for years on end and not be eating enough. Eventually your body would just shut down.

      • Thank you for providing a better insight into how ballet dancers really function.

        However, I’d like to remind everyone that Natalie ISN’T a trained ballet dancer; hence, the strict, narrow diet she undergoes is part of shaping her for a role, which is not necessarily the same as a diet that sustains a professional ballerina who has been dancing for quite some time. A good component of her diet + exercise is catered to creating the image of a ballerina on camera.

    • It’s true. I was a gymnast, and would sometimes work out five hours a day. Your body really takes a beating sports such as dance and gymnastics. I remember one time when I was in middle school, I came to practice and purposely hadn’t eaten anything because I was having a fat day. I honestly can’t remember how my coach called me on it, but somehow he found out I hadn’t eaten, brought me into his office, and stood there and made me eat a brownie. (I know that a brownie wasn’t exactly nourishing or anything, but I believe that the lesson he was impressing upon me was that you can’t deprive your body of what it needs.)

      But honestly, especially on long days, you will get sick if you don’t have the proper fuel, and I believe it’s ever more-so with dance, as is a very calorie-burning, cardio-intensive activity.

  9. there many ballerinas i know who are above an a or b cup bra size. did you know gelsey kirkland had implants? lip injections too… unfortunately most dancers have some type of disordered eating.. not necessarily full blown eating disorders, but disordered eating for sure. there are always exceptions to the rule, but 99 our of 100 ballet dancers will have a strange relationship with food.

    • A-B cup is not that big. Polina Semoniva is in the D cup region. Take a look at the principal dancers of the most reputable ballet companies and you will be hard pushed to find one that has a noticable bust. Young girls still studying at academy level have to been asked to leave once the directors noticed them filling up in the chest region.

      I do not consider 5 Mars Bars a day a normal relationship with food. Yes, many dancers have strange and weird eating habits that comes with the business, and excess smoking is another issue, but the myth I’m dispelling is that they don’t eat all or hardly ever eat.

      • a lot of europeans and russians still smoke, its kind of a waning trend in america. its extraordinarily difficult to keep up with the increasingly cardiovascular ballets if you are a smoker. i noticed a huge difference when i quit smoking after 8 years. they don’t kick you out of ballet schools for having big breasts by the way, i went to the most prestigious school in the country and there were definitely some girls with larger chests. if they started filling out anywhere else, they would get “fat talks”, but no one really got spoken to about boobs. there are things you can wear to compress them under leotards and costumes that work very well. one of my best friends is in the corps at ABT and she has full c cups, but everywhere else is pure bone and muscle. its rare, but it happens.

        • Well actually Jennifer Ellison was kicked out of the Royal Ballet School because of her large chest. My friend’s sister is a ballet that has already built a small repetoire from competing internationally, but has been told that her B/C cup b❆❆bs will hold her back from the main companies. I read an interview with Lauren Cuthbertson of the Royal Ballet and she joked about how odd it was to see girls in the corps with b❆❆bs because they wouldn’t have been there in her day (which is about a couple of years ago). You may have gone to a school that wasn’t bothered about b❆❆bs but many dancers and teachers alike will give testimony as to otherwise.

  10. I guess she had to “suffer” because she tried to look like a ballet dancer in her late 20s. Most of the classic dancers start training in their childhood and staying thin while professionally trained isn’t that hard actually. I started my training when I was seven, and stayed skinny eating meats and veggies throughout the junior high and high school. I don’t remember starving myself, only needed to control my intake of carb and sweets (still we used to eat fat-free candies-like jelly beans-occasionally though).

    However, actually this is a big however though, a ballet community is extremely competitive one that automatically drives students out of the system if they are genetically prone to gain weight easily. There are concours after concours to make your name recognized starting from junior high and this whole system doesn’t have any safety net for unfortunate ones, once a loser forever loser sort of..

    Anyhow, I have to stop my rant now, I just wanted to point out that ballet dancers don’t starve themselves to the extreme. They need lots of energy and mostly get them from lean proteins and veggies.

    • Yeah, I wouldn’t say she looks sick – but she does look a little bonier than usual in her shoulders. She has always been a very thin woman anyway – I think she probably just built a lot of muscle definition and lost most of her remaining body fat.

  11. GREAT actress. But she seems really stuck up to me. Idk what it is, I just don’t like her….
    Maybe I’m just jealous because she’s so pretty. :]

    • maybe. or you are just allowed to not like her! ha ha dont be bullied into being told your just jealous! I love Natalie personally…i think she is gorgeous anyway…dont know enough about her personality. But for me, i dont like Megan Fox one bit…and i dont think she is that pretty anymore because of the way she comes across in the media…

  12. Hmm yeah I dont honestly see a “sick” look about her here but I guess the point is more that for someone who is not naturally that thin its extremely difficult and in the long term unhealthy to push themselves to be at a lower weight. Same goes for all of us we should learn to embrace our natural size, sure aim to be as healthy as possible but still some people can’t be skinny or even “thin” or “slim” without really forcing themselves and that is a sad and unhealthy life if they feel they have to force themselves to be under their ideal weight.

    As for dancers, well I really dont know any professional dancers but I guess there are healthy ones though I have definately heard so often about eating disorders being a big problem in this field. Same as with gymnatics.

    • I don’t think she is very short for a ballerina. From what I have read prima ballerina’s are generally between 5’3″ and 5’7″ – so she’s on the short side, but not too short. She also says that she is a ‘very short person’ – which is just not true! 5’3″ is not very short – it’s a little below average for a woman worldwide, but not by much. I’m about an inch taller and I wouldn’t describe myself as ‘very’ short so I think she’s being a bit hard on herself there!

  13. Both Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis have said how hard it was to lose the weight and how skinny they looked. So I believe them. Mila Kunis also stated that she looked great on camera but skin and bones IRL. I really don’t understand why so many posters on this website can’t understand that camera does not give an accurate picture of a woman’s body size.

  14. If you watch the movie, she looks absolutely TINY in a lot of the scenes. I was actually really surprised because seeing promotional photos like these and commercials for it, I thought she was exaggerating. But she really was shockingly thin. I found myself turning to my friend numerous times saying, “SHE IS SO BLEEPING SKINNY!”

  15. I’m usually the first to notice when a star looks unhealthy, but I don’t see why people are saying she looks sick. Is it because she’s pale? I think that’s just the lighting and makeup. I truly believe her when she says she wasn’t eating much, and I’m glad she’s gained the weight back, but I don’t see what you guys are seeing about this picture. Can someone point it out to me?

  16. I used to be considered very thin, despite being I’n the healthy range.. I treadmilled using heavy incline and fast speed for hours daily (still do but now I’ve gotten fat due to illness) and I’m telling you guys that I can eat 3.5k calories lots of days without gaining weight due to my treadmilling, and it’s been like that for a while. Us active people eat a lot. BMI and whether or not you’ve eaten much that day are not related.

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