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Michelle Buteau is creating the empowering TV series she wanted to see growing up

Michelle Buteau at the premiere of her new show, <em>Survival Of The Thickest.</em>
Cindy Ord
Getty Images
Michelle Buteau at the premiere of her new show, Survival Of The Thickest.

Who is she? Michelle Buteau is a seasoned actress, comedian, author, podcaster and host of a reality show.

  • After supporting roles in movies like Always Be My Maybe and Marry Me, Buteau is stepping into the role of the protagonist, co-creator and writer in her Netflix series Survival of the Thickest.
  • The story loosely follows Buteau's eponymous memoir from 2020, which follows her life after as a New Yorker experiencing a difficult break-up from a long-term relationship and starting fresh in her late 30s.
  • Buteau stars as Mavis Beaumont, who is focusing on a career that makes stylish clothes accessible to everyone.
  • What's the big deal? For Buteau, centering a story about an unapologetically fat and outspoken woman fulfills a gap she's noticed in the industry for years.

  • A large part of Mavis' experiences are based on Buteau's own life, but the writing of the show also focuses heavily on incorporating themes of body positivity, self-acceptance and inclusion.
  • Buteau says that energy caught on behind the camera as well: "The plus-size people in the crew were walking different. They were trying new things. They didn't even know that they could wear something, like, tight or cropped, right?"
  • What's she saying? Buteau sat down with NPR's Kira Wakeam to talk about the messages she wanted to send in her series, and how telling her own story empowered her to love herself and others.

    On creating the inclusion she never saw in her life:

    Growing up, I did love television and film, and I always wish that I could see more representation. But I was like, well, it's just not there. It's sort of just like people who didn't even know they had celiac disease. You're just like, well, I guess I'm just going to be in pain.

     I always really loved fashion, but I never really was given a vocabulary of what to do and how to do it because nothing was ever available. And so that's why it was Mavis' mission statement to say, "OK, we're going to make everybody feel special and look good and walk different because you deserve that s***.

    Want more about the screens? Listen to Consider This on if we're witnessing the death of movie stars.

    On her long career and path to create the show:

    Once you have gotten very comfortable with rejection, yet you still love what you do and your craft, and it's only getting better, and you're evolving as a person, and you've gone to therapy, and you've done the work, and you're touching your toes, and drinking that water – honey, by the time it does happen, you're like, "Oh, OK. I am a fully realized human being, and I can make these decisions without trying to make everybody happy."

    Because that happens, too, when you're trying to do a show, right? So I am really thankful that I'm at a place in my life where I'm just like: This is just what it is. This is what I see. I want to make sure that it is as authentic to me and my world as it's going to be.

    On her hopes with the series:

    I mean, obviously, I hope people are entertained and laugh a lot, but I also hope they fall in love. Not necessarily with a character, but perhaps themselves. I hope that person in that stale relationship listens to the little inner voice saying that they could do better. 

    I hope the person hustling, being like, "I don't know if I jump off the cliff and do this job full time" does it. 

    I hope that parents that are wondering and struggling how to understand their non-binary child or trans teenager, whatever it is, that they feel OK and better and that they also feel seen and that, okay, culture is changing. You know, my child is wonderful. You know, I hope that big bitches feel sexy as f*** and they want to go and have sex with the lights on.

    So, now what?

  • Buteau is also embarking on tour for her comedy show, Full Heart, Tight Jeans this fall.
  • Survival of the Thickest is available now on Netflix.
  • Learn more:

  • Hollywood actors go on strike, say it's time for studio execs to 'wake up'
  • Here are the 2023 Emmy Award nominations
  • Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne make great pals in 'Platonic'
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.
    Kira Wakeam