Nikki Blonsky Shares What Playing Tracy Turnblad in 'Hairspray' Taught Her as a Plus-Size Woman (Exclusive)

Nikki Blonsky
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for the 2019 Nantucket Film Festival

Nikki Blonksy is reminiscing about all things Hairspray. In honor of the film's 15th anniversary, ET's Denny Directo spoke with Blonsky, who is probably best known for her role as Tracy Turnblad in the movie musical, and what the movie taught her as a plus-size woman.

"It has personally helped me so much as a plus-size woman. Tracy has taught me not to apologize for the space that I take up, that I deserve to be where everybody else is, having fun and wearing what I want and comfortable in my own body. We only have one life to live and unfortunately, it's really short and we never know when our last day is, and Tracy, playing her, really taught me so much to live in the moment and live in the body that you're in," Blonsky says of what the film's message of inclusivity and the role of Tracy Turnblad taught her. 

She continues, "Of course, you can change it, strive for different things. It's your body. But Tracy really helped me learn to...I've always had really positive role models in my life. My mom, my grandma, they always made me feel beautiful. They never made me feel different for being plus size."

Tracy's independence and "take it or leave it" attitude is something Blonsky said she has taken away from the role and still looks to each day, even 15 years later.

"But when I saw Tracy, she was so independently fierce, right on her own," the 33-year-old stage and screen star adds. "She just knew that, 'Well, this is me, take or leave it, love it or leave it.' And that's what I take away from her every day. And it's the greatest lesson I've ever learned."

While plus-size representation hasn't always been the norm in Hollywood, Blonsky said that she's seen a huge shift in the last 15 years, and she thinks Hairspray helped play a part in that.

"I think after the movie, there was still a little bit of bumpy seas where they were casting certain plus-size women, but still only for funny roles and stuff like that. Over the years, though, the past 15, I have seen Hollywood make a change and hopefully that will continue to change," Blonksy shares. "I've also learned quite invaluable lessons as well. That sometimes, if people aren't going to make a spot for you, you need to make a spot for yourself."

And she started doing just that, writing roles for herself and creating her own material, to see herself and more women like her, onscreen.

"So, that's what I started doing. I started creating my own material. I started writing roles for myself, and that has been the greatest thing that I could have ever done for myself, because it gave me so much creative freedom," she adds. "But it also -- I learned so much about myself as I was writing."

While it's been a wild ride for Blonsky -- to being told she nabbed the role while in high school and working at her local Coldstone Creamery, to making a name for herself as Tracy Turnblad and acting in countless roles since -- the Hairspray experience is still one she holds close to her heart, telling ET that Tracy helped her get to a level of acceptance and comfortability within herself.

Though the cast, Blonsky included, are all working on movies, music and everything in between since their time on "The Corny Collins Show," she shared that there's a few members of the cast she still keeps in touch with, particularly her on-screen mom, John Travolta.

"Well, I always say it's very important to keep in touch with your mom. So, the one person out of that entire movie that has stayed, been such a mainstay in my life, and made a conscious effort to be a part of my life, has been John," Blonsky reveals. "And the day we wrapped, until just the other day, when we congratulated each other on our 15th anniversary, that man has been there for me through great times, hard times. He's given me the greatest advice anybody could ever ask for."

"And he really has just been like a third parent," she adds. "He's always been there for me. If anybody knows the business, it's him. He's guided me. And he's just, I always say Hairspray was an awesome blessing. It totally changed my life, but working with John made my life."

For more on Hairspray, and the three generations of women who have played Tracy Turnblad, check out the video below.


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