Melanie Lynskey opens up about 'ridiculous' body-shaming on the set of Coyote Ugly

The 2000 movie Coyote Ugly, about a would-be songwriter who moves to New York with dreams of stardom, has become a cult classic

Melanie Lynskey
(Image credit: Amanda Edwards / Contributor)

Although over two decades have passed since the release of the 2000 film Coyote Ugly, actor Melanie Lynskey has yet to forget about the feelings of inadequacy and body shaming that defined her experience on set. 

Melanie, who most recently starred in Candy on Hulu, opened up about the working conditions on the beloved movie in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week.

"All the girls had this regimen they had to go on. It was ridiculous," she said to The Hollywood Reporter. "I was already starving myself and as thin as I could possibly be for this body and I was still a [size] four. That was already people putting a lot of Spanx on me in wardrobe fittings and being very disappointed when they saw me, the costume designer being like, 'Nobody told me there would be girls like you.' Really intense feedback about my physicality, my body, people doing my makeup and being like, ‘I’m just going to help you out by giving you a bit more of a jawline and stuff.' Just the feedback was constantly like, 'You’re not beautiful. You're not beautiful.'"

In the film, about a would-be songwriter from New Jersey played by Piper Perabo who moves to New York hoping to achieve stardom, Melanie took on the role of Gloria, the protagonist's best friend. Now 45 years old, Melanie was in her 20s when Coyote Ugly was released.

"In your early 20s, so much of it is about beauty and how people respond to you and do people want to fuck you?" she said in the interview, which she gave alongside her Yellowjackets co-stars Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis and Tawny Cypress. "Do people think you’re their best friend? Even the best friend thing, I started to be like, 'I don’t want to do that too many times.'"

Coyote Ugly

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures)

Given the intensity of Melanie's comments about the situation on set, it is no surprise that they drew a lot of attention. As a result. the actor took to social media to clarify her stance on the matter, specifically explaining that the costume designer who is credited on the film, Marlene Stewart, is not the person she was actually referring to on the record.

"I see this has become a headline so please let me clarify some things!," Melanie tweeted a few days ago. "The costume designer who initially worked on Coyote Ugly left for some reason, & a lovely kind woman named Marlene Stewart took over and she was AWESOME. The first person was mean, the person credited was not."

She went on to say, "Just nervous that people will google 'Coyote Ugly costume designer' and think that Marlene was not nice when she was just the greatest."

As surprising as Melanie's comments have been, this isn't the first time that fans of Coyote Ugly hear about the misogyny that characterized life on set.

Maria Bello, who played bar owner Lil in the film, said to Variety in 2020 that she was told she was "too old" to dance on the bar like other actors on set.

Alas, Coyote Ugly might be able to redeem itself. Back in 2020, Tyra Banks, who starred in the original iteration of the movie, revealed that a sequel was in the works. 

"I literally was supposed to be on a conference call today about bringing Coyote Ugly back," Tyra said while on The Kelly Clarkson Show. "We were supposed to be on a call today and I'm talking to you and I can't talk to them. Yes, we are talking about trying to do Coyote Ugly 2 or series."

It’s been two years since that conversation took place but we surely hope that, if the project actually turns into reality, actors on set will have a better experience than Melanie did. 

Anna Rahmanan

Anna Rahmanan is a New York-based writer and editor who covers culture, entertainment, food, fashion and travel news. Anna’s words have appeared on Time Out New York, the Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, Us Weekly, Bon Appetit and Brooklyn Magazine, among other outlets.