What to Stream When You’re Looking for Plus-Size Representation

There’s finally more plus-size women in media than ever before. If you’re ready to see a body like yours streaming on your screen, check out these 13 recs that prominently feature plus-size actresses.

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Oftentimes, scrolling through Netflix or Hulu to find something to watch can be a drag. There are so many options, but many of the TV shows and movies look the same, feature the same types of people, and the same types of bodies. But it’s 2019—fat-girl pop star/rapper Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” is at the top of the charts, late-night TV hosts are calling out other hosts for fat shaming, and the fat-positive movement is in full swing. It shouldn’t be too hard to find plus-size actresses on TV and in movies, right?

We’ve made a lot of progress, but straight-size characters remain the most common. Still, if you’re looking to see a body like yours represented on the big or little screen, we know where to look. We’ve put together a list of 13 streamable shows and movies where plus-size actresses grace our screens. So, put on your comfy pants and grab the remote—it’s time to start streaming.

illustration of Danielle Macdonald

Danielle Macdonald in “Dumplin'”

The Netflix rom-com “Dumplin’” is a joy to watch. Danielle Macdonald plays Willowdean, the plus-size daughter of a former Texan beauty queen who learned her confidence from her stylish, Dolly Parton-loving, larger-than-life late aunt. Willowdean is navigating her way through high school without her beloved aunt, and does so with the help of her favorite Dolly Parton CDs, her best friend, her handsome new coworker, and a few misfits she meets along the way. You can watch this movie on Netflix, and you can also read the book by the same name written by Julie Murphy.

We also love watching Danielle Macdonald in “Patti Cake$,” where she plays Patricia Dombrowski, aka Patti Cake$, an aspiring young rapper from a poor family in New Jersey. Her grandmother, best friend, and a mysterious musician help her on the road to stardom. Along the way, she finds romance, fights with her alcoholic mother, and even has a run-in with her idol. While “Patti Cake$” isn’t available for streaming on the regular platforms, for just $3.99 you can watch it on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, or Vudu. Trust us—it’s well worth the watch (and the four dollars)!

illustration of Melissa McCarthy in The Heat

Melissa McCarthy in “The Heat”

Melissa McCarthy stars alongside Sandra Bullock in this hilarious buddy-cop movie. McCarthy plays detective Shannon Mullins, who has a foul mouth and a hot Boston temper—the exact opposite of Sandra Bullock’s character. Investigator Sarah Ashburn strives for meticulous excellence and is known for being arrogant. Watching these two clashing characters work together to stop a drug lord is a hilarious journey that, of course, ends with the two opposites becoming pals. While the storyline may feel familiar, seeing two female cops (one being a plus-size icon!) makes this story feel fresh and totally laugh-worthy. For just $3.99, you can stream it from your couch on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, or Vudu.

illustration of Natasha Rothwell from Insecure

Natasha Rothwell in “Insecure”

In every friend group, there’s always one person who keeps everyone real, grounded, and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Natasha Rothwell’s character, Kelly, on HBO’s “Insecure” is just that, but with a bit of her own hilarious drama thrown in for good measure. She always has the best reactions and, somehow, has her life more together than the other girls in her group. That is, until they try to attend Coachella together—Kelly ends up getting them kicked out of the festival right as Beyoncé takes the stage in the most over-the-top way possible that left us laughing for days. Stream this series on HBO GO or HBO NOW, and if you have the HBO add-on, you can stream it on Hulu, too. If that’s not an option, you can pay $1.99 per episode to watch “Insecure” on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu.

illustration of Joy Nash in Dietland

Joy Nash in “Dietland”

This dark drama is one we hold near and dear to our hearts, as it’s one of the first times we get to see a plus-size woman claim ownership over her body and fight back against diet culture on television. Joy Nash plays Plum Kettle, a poignant and “woke” ghostwriter for the thin and not-so-woke editor of one of New York’s top fashion magazines. She has battled with her body image for as long as she can remember before settling on weight-loss surgery. Plum eventually ends up in the middle of two rival feminist groups—one that potentially attacks male harassers and one that preaches female empowerment. It was, unfortunately, canceled by AMC after only one season, but you can still watch all of the glorious episodes on Hulu or for just $1.99 per episode on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play. If that leaves you wanting more, you might want to pick up the book of the same name by author Sarai Walker.

illustration of Aidy Bryant from Shrill

Aidy Bryant in “Shrill”

This “SNL” cast member took a brief leave from sketch comedy to help create the powerful Hulu Original TV series “Shrill.” Based on the autobiographical book of the same name written by Lindy West, Aidy portrays Annie, a writer for an online publication. Her self-proclaimed feminist boss puts together fitness-focused group outings and writes about his extreme distaste for fat people. Annie tries to navigate a toxic work environment, a toxic relationship, and a life-altering family emergency, all while realizing that her fat body may not actually be the source of her problems like she once thought. Stream this on Hulu and do it now. Ask a friend for their login if you have to!

illustration of Adrienne Warren, Danielle Brooks, and Dascha Polanco from Orange Is The New Black

Adrienne Warren, Danielle Brooks, and Dascha Polanco in “Orange Is the New Black”

It’s pretty uncommon to see even one plus-size actress with a prominent role on must-watch TV, but “Orange Is the New Black” features many! Stars like Dascha Polanco, Danielle Brooks, and Adrienne Warren play characters who never have to confront their weight or body-image issues. Unlike in shows like “Shrill” or “Dumplin’,” where body image is a core piece of the plot, you would never notice that these characters are plus size if you were to simply read the script of this Netflix Original series. Their body size isn’t important to plot development—and these characters are beautifully, three-dimensionally portrayed by these plus-size actresses. While main character Piper fits the thin blonde protagonist mold, the cast of “Orange Is the New Black” features size diversity, racial diversity, and explores different sexualities. This drama, set in a minimum-security women’s prison in Connecticut, is filled with sisterhood, anger, love, loss, and even hope. Start streaming all seven seasons, only on Netflix.

illustration of Brooke Elliott from Drop Dead Diva

Brooke Elliott in “Drop Dead Diva”

Shallow aspiring model Deb dies in a car crash, but after hastily pressing a button she thinks will bring her back to life, her soul resurfaces in the body of Jane Bingum, a smart and likable plus-size lawyer. Deb then is forced to come to terms with inhabiting a larger body. This brains-versus-beauty narrative may sound tired, but unlike the fat-suit-wearing lead in “Insatiable,” the show features a plus-size protagonist who is ever-evolving, and showcases her journey to learning that it’s what’s on the inside that truly counts. While it’s no longer available on Netflix, you can stream episodes for just $0.99 on iTunes, and a dollar more on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and Vudu.

illustration of Beanie Feldstein from Booksmart

Beanie Feldstein in “Booksmart”

Because this movie was released in theaters just earlier this year, it’s not quite as easy (read: free) to stream. But it’s totally worth it. This movie has a remarkable 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and is praised thanks not only to its hilarity, but for the super relatable main characters Molly, played by Beanie Feldstein, and Amy, played by Kaitlin Dever. This coming-of-age high school movie is about two girls who focus all of their efforts on their studies until realizing that their heads-down approach leaves them missing those special teenage moments. They try their best to cram in all the fun they were supposed to have throughout all four years of high school into just one night—but their book smarts might not have prepared them for all that happens. You can stream this movie directed by Olivia Wilde on YouTube, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play for just $5.99 (a steal considering how much more you would have spent to see it in theaters just a few months ago).

illustration of Britney Young from GLOW

Brittany Young in “GLOW”

If you have never considered just how empowering female wrestling can be, it’s time you streamed the Netflix Original “GLOW” (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling). Based on a true story—one that has a documentary of the same name that you can also stream on Netflix—this show takes place in 1980s Los Angeles and Las Vegas and centers around a group of women who initially know nothing about wrestling. That is, all of them except for Brittany Young’s character, Carmen, whose stage name is Machu Picchu. Carmen grew up in a wrestling family with brothers who all wrestle. Carmen is the brains behind the entire performance, creating storylines and teaching all of the girls the moves they need to learn. If seeing one bad-ass plus-size woman wrestle makes you excited, you’ll be thrilled to hear that Tammé, played by professional wrestler Kia Stevens, is also a totally incredible curvy woman who flaunts her athletic prowess. Also, hearing Brittany Young’s story of how she achieved stardom through “GLOW” after years of getting roles that were offensive to all plus-size women will warm your heart.

illustration of Rhetta from Parks and Recreation

Rhetta in “Parks and Recreation”

Most of the characters on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” live in their own fantasy worlds, either where bureaucratic processes are smooth and painless, like Leslie Knope’s, or where they’re just two steps away from a life of fame and wealth, like Tom Haverford’s. But Donna Meagle, the character played by Rhetta, seems to be the only one in touch with reality. Her active love life, take-no-B.S. attitude, and “Treat yourself” lifestyle make her a seriously lovable character turned into memes time and time again. When everyone else in her office is either fantasizing or complaining, Donna sees everything clearly and calls it like it is. She keeps everyone grounded, while simultaneously keeping them on their toes. If you’ve never seen the show, or if it’s been years since you last watched, it’s time to revisit “Parks and Recreation.” You can stream it for free, provided you have a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video. Just be warned—we recommend skipping over the episodes in which they mock the people of Pawnee, Indiana for their size.

illustration of Rebel Wilson from Isn't It Romantic

Rebel Wilson in “Isn’t It Romantic”

You’ve seen Rebel play Fat Amy in “Pitch Perfect,” offering comedic relief and making fun of her own size. But in “Isn’t It Romantic,” Rebel’s character makes fun of rom-coms instead of her own body for a change. This touching anti-rom-com is a rom-com in and of itself, perfectly balancing mockery of Hollywood tropes while also bringing Natalie, Rebel’s character, on the adventure of a lifetime. The totally handsome-in-a-Hollywood-way boy turns out not to be her Prince Charming and her extreme disdain for all rom-com tropes gets turned on its head. “Isn’t It Romantic” is an unpredictable, hilarious, self-aware, feel-good rom-com. And we love when a rom-com stars a plus-size woman as the love interest because curvy girls deserve romance, too! You can watch “Isn’t It Romantic” for free with your HBO subscription, or you can catch it on YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, or Amazon Prime Video for just $2.99. Plus, it’s been airing on some airplanes lately, so keep an eye out next time you fly!

illustration of Queen Latifah from Last Holiday

Queen Latifah in “Last Holiday”

While we’re specifically calling out “Last Holiday,” there are countless rom-coms starring Queen Latifah that we adore. But there is something about “Last Holiday” that keeps us coming back to this feel-good movie time and time again. It’s not so often that we get to see a plus-size woman lead in a rom-com, but “Last Holiday” is more of a story about self-love and self-discovery than it is about finding romantic love. Queen Latifah plays Georgia Byrd, a saleswoman who puts on cooking demonstrations, saves her money, pays her bills, and lives life cautiously. When Georgia is diagnosed with a terminal illness, she decides to cash in her life savings for a luxurious trip to Europe. Knowing she has a limited amount of time left on this earth, Georgia throws caution to the wind and decides to live recklessly and indulge in all of the finest things in life. Her warm and upbeat attitude, plus newly adventurous lifestyle, garners a lot of attention—some wanted and some unwanted. Next thing she knows, a fancy chef wants to join her for dinner. The only thing missing from her life is her longtime crush, played by LL Cool J. Be sure to stream this classic as the holidays approach—her gorgeously glam winter attire will give you closet envy and make you excited for the chilly season to come. You can stream it on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play for just $2.99. Treat yourself to this movie because, as Georgia would point out, life is shorter than you may think.

illustration of Gabourey Sidibe in Empire

Gabourey Sidibe in “Empire”

Gabby Sidibe plays Becky, the A&R head of Empire Records on this hit Fox drama. Not only does she play a head honcho, but she’s even tried her hand at directing some of the episodes of “Empire” (which is extremely impressive, especially considering that black women only make up about 2% of Hollywood directors—and who knows how few of them are plus-size women like Gabby). If you’re not familiar, “Empire” is about the hip-hop artist and CEO of Empire Entertainment, Lucious Lyon, who, due to a medical diagnosis, predicts he will be incapacitated in three years’ time. He must decide which of his three sons will take over—and the pressure is on as everyone watches his every move. When his ex-wife reappears and brings with her drama from his early drug-running years, everything becomes even more complicated. Watch it for free on Fox, or free with your subscription to Hulu or YouTube TV, or pay just $1.99 per episode on YouTube, Google Play, or Amazon Prime Video.

 

Ready to start watching? Let us know your favorite plus-size actress by messaging us on social media—and keep an eye out to see even more curvy babes appear as true size diversity gets an even stronger hold on Hollywood.

 

Illustrations: Anna Kozdon