Oprah Winfrey is facing a bitter backlash over a resurfaced 2004 interview she did with twin actresses Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in which she asked the then-teenage stars, ‘What size are you?’
The twins were 17 when the interview was taped – and Mary-Kate was rumored to be struggling with an eating disorder at the time. She checked into rehab later that same year to undergo treatment for what was later revealed to be a battle with anorexia.
During the sit-down, Oprah – who was 50 at the time – addresses the eating disorder rumors point-blank, telling the girls: ‘I know a new rumor [that has] recently surfaced has really upset you, right?’
Resurfaced: Oprah Winfrey is under fire for asking twin actresses Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, ‘What size are you?’ in a resurfaced 2004 interview when they were just 17 years old
‘Uncomfortable’: The video has been slammed by viewers – with many saying the question was particularly inappropriate given that the girls were facing eating disorder rumors at the time
The girls wait for the rest of the question before making a comment, after which Oprah adds: ‘You know, the one about eating.’
Ashley steps in immediately, replying: ‘Yeah, you know people are going to write what they’re going to write. We try not to read the good or the bad because it just comes with the territory.
‘Either you’re too fat, too skinny and people are just gonna write what they – ‘
At this point, Oprah interjects and asks: ‘What size are you, by the way?’
Both girls seem incredibly taken aback by the question, and look at one another, before Ashley replies: ‘Size?’
Mary-Kate chimes in at this point, explaining they have always been ‘petite’, to which Oprah – who has herself admitted weight struggles across her career – replies: ‘Oh, that’s so interesting!’ in a sarcastic tone.
Struggle: Months after the interview was taped, Mary-Kate (seen with her sister in September 2004) was admitted to a rehabilitation facility to undergo treatment for anorexia
Battle: The actress-turned-fashion designer (pictured weeks before her rehab stint) underwent six weeks of treatment at the facility, from which she was released in July 2004
This sets the audience off laughing, and the twins attempt to smile along, seemingly eager to move on from the subject.
Oprah adds: ‘That is so interesting, I’m obsessed with size and you’re like, “I really don’t know!”‘
‘If we were obsessed with our size it’d be, I don’t know, a different story,’ Mary-Kate explains, trying to move off topic.
Later that same year, Mary-Kate checked into a rehabilitation facility where she sought treatment for what transpired to be a battle with anorexia – news that made Oprah’s comments all the more uncomfortable.
The actress was admitted to rehab in the summer of 2004, and spent six weeks undergoing treatment for an eating disorder, before being released in July of that year.
At the time, the twins’ publicist said that Mary-Kate and Ashley ‘understood’ that the interest in their personal lives ‘came with the territory’ of life in the public eye – however that hasn’t made Oprah’s 2004 conversation with them any more palatable for modern-day viewers.
At odds: Oprah (seen in June 2004) became an investor in and a spokesperson for WW, formerly Weight Watchers, through which she promotes healthy weight loss
Those rewatching the interview have branded it ‘uncomfortable’, with one social media user remarking: ‘I know we’re living in different times, but how did they think that was okay!?! [Because] they’re young?’
Another posted: ‘The Olsens keep such a cheery smiley warm and inviting presence and they maintain their positive vibes despite Oprah continuously and obviously disrespecting and trying to trigger them!’
A third penned: ‘Wow! Was Oprah ever called out for this? Inappropriate much?’
MailOnline has approached spokespersons for the Olsens and Oprah for comment.
In the years since the interview was taped, Oprah has gone on to make millions from her ‘obsession with size’ after investing in Weight Watchers – which is now known as WW.
The TV host bought a 10 per cent stake in the company in 2015, and has served as a spokesperson for the health brand ever since, recently appearing in a virtual experience designed to ‘help you focus and be well’.
Success: The now-34-year-old twins (pictured in 2019) were child stars, growing up in the spotlight, before becoming fashion designers. They are worth a combined $500 million
Struggles: Oprah is pictured in 2020. She has detailed her own weight struggles over the years
However the comments she made to Mary-Kate and Ashley during her 2004 interview are at serious odds with the ethos of the weight-loss brand – which promises to help its members build ‘healthy habits’ through a ‘holistic’ approach.
The now-34-year-old twins – who found fame in sitcom Full House when they were six – were child stars, growing up in the spotlight, before becoming fashion designers. They are worth a combined $500 million.
In 2010, Mary-Kate told Marie Claire: ‘I think it’s really important to be able to talk when something’s wrong,’ she said. ‘I learned at a really young age that if you don’t talk about it, it can drive you insane.’
If you have been affected by the issues in this story you can call B-eat (Beat Eating Disorders) on 0808 801 0677 or visit beateatingdisorders.org.uk.