Bridgerton actress Nicola Coughlan stands up for body positivity the Lady Whistledown way!

Dearest gentle reader, Bridgerton Season 3 has put Nicola Coughlan at the forefront of the body positivity movement. As the unassuming but secretive Penelope Featherington, she has won hearts for representing a whole tribe of women who don’t fit society’s stereotypical idea of beauty. In a world where women are celebrated for their clinched waists and slender figures, Nicola Coughlan stands out as a woman who is unapologetic and proud of how she looks. Ever since the 37-year-old actor featured as the protagonist of the latest Bridgerton season, she has been fielding trolls and backhanded compliments for her “body type”. It is safe to say – Nicola Coughlan’s feisty responses are truly worthy of Lady Whistledown’s wit and grit!

Who is Nicola Coughlan?

Nicola Coughlan is an Irish actress who is known for her role as Clare Devlin in the sitcom Derry Girls and Penelope Featherington in the period drama Bridgerton on Netflix. Hailing from Galway, the 37-year-old made her on-screen debut in The Phantom Cnut, a revenge comedy. Her role in Derry Girls put her on the map, and her portrayal as Penelope Featherington in Netflix’s period drama  Bridgerton has been winning hearts.

With fame comes judgment. She has been receiving shady accolades on her body in the subtle form of questions or tweets. Addressing every comment made against her, the actress has been leaving no stone unturned when it comes to shutting down haters.

Also Read: Stop hating yourself! 5 ways to cope with self-hatred and self-loathing

Nicola Coughlan
Nicola Coughlan has always been vocal about body positivity. Image courtesy: Instagram/NicolaCoughlan

Nicola Coughlan on body positivity and breaking beauty norms

Nicola Coughlan’s gives it back to the trolls

Known for being a funny on-screen character, Coughlan has a great sense of humour in real life as well. At the beginning of June 2024, her humour was put to test when a journalist, during a question-answer round, commented that Nicola is “brave” to bare her body on screen for her role as Penelope Featherington. Bravely, she replied, “You know, it is hard ’cause I think women with my body type, women with perfect breasts—we do not see ourselves onscreen enough. I am very proud as a member of the perfect-breasts community. I hope you enjoy seeing them.”

My body, my choice: Nicola Coughlan

Coughlan, who stars against Luke Newton who plays Colin in the period drama, has been creating buzz after the carriage scene in the show. And she has been vocal about body positivity on more occasions than one. In an interview with Stylist, Coughlan said that she was confident to be “very naked” in a scene, adding that it was her idea and choice to do these scenes.

“I specifically asked for certain lines and moments to be included. It just felt like the biggest ‘f–k you’ to all the conversation surrounding my body, it was amazingly empowering,” she said.

Being glad about her decision to do intimate scenes, Coughlan explained that she feels great about it, “because not only did I consent to it but I drove it. There’s a reason this show became a phenomenon. It’s about women feeling desire, owning their sexuality, and driving the charge in those situations rather than just being an object of a man’s affections.”

She also mentioned that she “felt beautiful” during those scenes and said that she wanted to look back at it and remember “how hot I looked.”

The intention of trolls is to stir up hate through deliberate tactics and spark a negative conversation. But you can change that narrative the way Nicola loves to do.

Also Read: Haters gonna hate, but here’s how you can deal with body-shaming trolls on the Internet

Your body is personal: Nicola Coughlan

In an interview with Tatler, Nicola Coughlan says that she wants to be known “as an actor” and not as a symbol of the body positivity movement. While the world is obsessed with body image she wants that people focus more on her acting. She continues to say that it is her body and she should have the right to decide what to do with it.

“I also think your relationship to your body is so personal. If I decide to suddenly become a bodybuilder and apply fake tan and be covered in muscle, I can do that – because it’s my body and it’s for nobody else to own or decide what to do with.”

Keep your opinions to yourself

Sometimes, people refuse to look beyond someone’s appearance and comment on their body, feeling it is their right. Addressing how words can be hurtful and people should choose them carefully, Nicola took to her Instagram in 2022 to say, “If you have an opinion about my body, please, please don’t share it with me.”

Coughlan asked fans to steer clear of any comments, whether negative or positive when it comes to her body. In now a deleted post, she wrote, “Most people are being nice and not trying to be offensive. But I am just one real-life human being and it’s really hard to take the weight of thousands of opinions on how you look being sent directly to you every day.”

Coughlan continued by saying that, although she realises that, as an actress, people will inevitably make comments about her appearance, she would prefer to avoid hearing them. In an attempt to put this behind her, she then disabled comments on the post.

Stop pulling down people based on how they look

There is more to a person than just looks. Body positivity in its essence means the assertion that all people deserve a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture view shape, size, and appearance. It begins with loving yourself and feeling good about the way you look. But that becomes difficult when people try to put you down at every step of the way.

Back in 2021 when Coughlan wore a beautiful tulle gown with a black cardigan by Molly Goddard, she was applauded for the look but she was also called the “that fat girl from Bridgerton.”

Nicola Coughlan
Nicola Coughlan on body positivity. Image courtesy: Instagram/NicolaCoughlan

Someone tweeted, “The fat girl from Bridgerton is wearing a black cardigan at the Golden Globes, (because) no matter how hot and stylish you are, if you’re a fat girl there will always be a black cardigan you think about wearing, then decide against, but ultimately wear (because) you feel like you have to.”

While she defended the outfit and herself by replying, “I thought the cardigan looked ace. Molly Goddard used them on her runway with the dresses. That’s where the idea came from. Also, I have a name.”

She further linked an article that talked about how actors should be judged on the body of work, not their bodies. In a series of tweets, she wrote, “It’s so reductive to women when we’re making great strides for diversity in the arts, but questions (about weight) just pull us backwards.”

“I’m not a body positivity activist, I’m an actor. I would lose or gain weight if (it’s) an important role requirement. My body is the tool I use to tell stories, not what I define myself by.”

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