Finally, a plus-size character on TV whose story isn't about her weight.

'There has not been one line in this entire show for the entire season that addresses my weight.'

Plus-size representation on TV needs a lot of work.

It's rare to see characters who aren't thin in lead roles. But even when we do, those characters are often defined by their size, with stories revolving around weight loss struggles ("This Is Us") a continued barrage of fat jokes ("American Housewife"), or thin actors wearing fat suits in flashbacks ("Friends," "New Girl").

This is one reason why Paula Proctor is so damn awesome.


Photo by Scott Everett White/The CW.

If you missed the memo, Paula is the hilarious paralegal BFF to the series' star, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), on The CW's critically acclaimed musical romcom "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." Every week, the character, portrayed by Broadway alum Donna Lynne Champlin, challenges a status quo that says plus-size characters aren't deserving of the same complex, nuanced storylines their slimmer counterparts receive.

In an interview with Bust magazine in 2016, Champlin opened up about why playing Paula has been so refreshing.

On the show, viewers have watched Paula struggle to balance family commitments with law school, iron out relationship woes with friends, and get swept off her feet by a man that's (gasp!) not her husband. She's also one of few characters on TV to have had an abortion and not be punished or shamed for it. A storyline we haven't seen unfold, however, is one involving Paula's weight.

As Champlin explained to Bust:

"There has not been one line in this entire show for the entire season that addresses my weight. And we're always eating real food — donuts, burritos. We're always drinking. That's a huge thing for us that we're really eating. We're not sipping [cups] of shit that have nothing in them."

Photo by Scott Everett White/The CW.

"My type is middle-aged woman, not thin," Champlin said. "I look like the average American middle-aged woman. The only TV roles I've ever had were for the secretary, the cop, the nurse. The acceptable nonsexual place for a middle-aged woman to be on TV. They would be 1-2 lines and that was it, and never be a series regular. That was unheard of."

Thanks to actors like Champlin and roles like Paula, we've seen progress on plus-size representation on TV. But we have a long way to go.

Actors like Champlin or Melissa McCarthy — now a true, money-making Hollywood star — have certainly helped open doors for other women who aren't a size 2 or 4 or 6 or even an 8. The average American woman is a size 16.

Even when those doors are open to plus-size actors, however, we still "treat them like crap," Jezebel pointed out. Comedian Rebel Wilson's career has taken off in recent years, for instance — but her weight is often the butt of her jokes. Chrissy Metz worked her way into the hearts of millions starring in NBC's "This Is Us," but her character's opening scene was her staring quietly at a sweet treat in the refrigerator, fighting the temptation to take a bite.

That's why Paula's presence on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is truly making a difference to viewers of all sizes.

Photo by Scott Everett White/The CW.

When Paula donned a fitted, red dress in one musical number, the power of representation spoke loud and clear.

"The internet exploded with plus-size women saying, 'Where the fuck did you get that dress? It’s amazing,'" Champlin told Bust.

GIF via "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

"What I loved about it, is it was tight. There was no apologizing me and hiding me. The boobs were up, and the dress was tight, and that thing sold out online in a matter of minutes."

If TV writers are smart, they'll not only include more plus-size characters in their shows, but they'll also swap those tired fat-shaming, weight-centric storylines for more powerful, fearless, red dress scenes like Paula's.

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A new Harriet Tubman statue sculpted by Emmy and Academy award-winner Wesley Wofford has been revealed, and its symbolism is moving to say the least.

Harriet Tubman was the best known "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses that helped thousands of enslaved black Americans make their way to freedom in the north in the early-to-mid 1800s. Tubman herself escaped slavery in 1849, then kept returning to the Underground Railroad, risking her life to help lead others to freedom. She worked as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war dedicated her life to helping formerly enslaved people try to escape poverty.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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