Meryl Streep Tells UT Students To Work Hard, Forget About Weight

Of the many benefits of being a student at UT (beautiful campus, good reputation, diverse population, a top athletic program, etc.) are the caliber of guest speakers that professors lure to campus. Speakers like Meryl Streep, who just happens to be a college friend of Fran Dorn, head of the acting program in the College of Fine Arts.

Dorn convinced Streep to visit the Forty Acres, and Theatre and Dance students and faculty packed the B. Iden Payne Theatre Friday afternoon to hear her stories and advice. Streep, who Dorn pointed out in her introduction has won 166 acting awards, kept students laughing through the hour-and-a-half Q&A. 

She started things off saying she’d answer any question except her weight. Body image came up again a few times. Streep said she doesn’t want girls to worry about it. “Everyone being the same size is boring,” she said, also pointing out the diversity of roles actors can take on when they’re not obsessing over their waist size.

Often portraying real people, Streep has earned a reputation for expertly embodying her characters, something she chalks up to preparation and hard work. She says her mother always told her to work hard and be reliable, so she does and is. “I always try really hard to do stuff right,” she said, “and I hold myself to a high standard and make myself work — even when I don’t want to.” That’s right, even Meryl Streep has those days.

Streep earned her undergraduate degree in costume design at Vassar College and an MFA in acting from the Yale School of Drama, where she and Dorn became pals. Earlier in the day, she stressed to a small group of media the value she took from her liberal arts education, saying her biggest goal in life is to be a good human being. “The more you know about everything — a little of everything — the better person you can be,” she said.   

Up next for Streep, she told students, is a portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, who remains Britain’s only female prime minister. Like all politicians, Thatcher had her friends and foes, but Streep says she’s not an actor to judge anyone’s decisions. Instead, she wants to know how they came to make those decisions and pull out the humanity in every character.

Friday, she had needn’t worry what anyone thought of her own character. Streep was welcomed to uproarious cheers and exited to a standing ovation.  

Photo by Rebecca Fontenot/The Alcalde


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