Christina Applegate shines at the Emmy Awards

Christina Applegate shines at the Emmy Awards

On Monday night, during the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, Christina Applegate, presenter of the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, wielded a cane and headed to the stage with dignity. The 52-year-old actress, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2021, wore a red silk velvet dress, her signature blonde hair parted to the side, draping over her shoulders like a golden curtain.

As she spoke into the microphone, panic and determination seemed to do battle behind her green eyes. She did, however, conjure up the annoying smile she’d been flashing in America since 1987, when she played teenager Kelly Bundy on the sitcom “Married with Children.”

Ms. Applegate wasted no time in acknowledging her illness, showing the audience that it wouldn’t stop her from taking the stage. Since her diagnosis, Ms Applegate appears to have suffered some of its debilitating effects, and said she no longer plans to work in front of the camera.

However, under the bright lights, on a show broadcast to millions, she deliberately spoke up and made a series of jokes intended to draw attention to and deflect attention from her self-consciousness about her appearance and chronic illness. Everyone walked a fine line.

When some of the audience stood to applaud her, she responded with a rebuke. “Thank you very much,” she said. “Oh my God. You’re completely disgracing me by standing up.

It’s hard to get a laugh under the best of circumstances at award shows these days, but this line is getting uncomfortable. Even Ms. Applegate seemed unsure whether she wanted people to celebrate her efforts or treat her as if nothing had happened.

Her next line, “The body is not Ozempic,” worked even better. He poked fun at the often unacknowledged change that weight-loss drugs have brought about in the way many celebrities prepare for awards season, while making the subtle statement that cosmetic concerns pale in comparison to the reality of degenerative diseases.

In Hollywood, where beauty is a form of currency, and where the body can make a career, diseases that impair physical function hold a special terror. Sometimes celebrities talk about these challenges publicly: actor Christopher Reeve, who died in 2004, spoke about being paralyzed; Actress Selma Blair and actor Michael J. Fox spoke about their battles with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

For someone to draw attention to the fact that illness has rendered their body unable to conform to the typical standards imposed by the entertainment industry requires a certain kind of resilience. Ms. Applegate may have been more prepared for this moment because she had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36, which led to her undergoing a double mastectomy. There’s something powerful about facing the world with an illness that no amount of surgery can hide, and Ms. Applegate seemed comfortable, even more emboldened, by being in the spotlight.

The jokes also reminded the celebrities in the audience, and viewers at home, that Ms. Applegate — who was also nominated for lead actress in a comedy series for her role in “Dead to Me” — has made a funny career. As she went on to describe her many roles, including her first as Baby Burt Grizzell on “Days of Our Lives,” while the audience continued to applaud, she said frankly, “We don’t have to applaud every time I do something.”

But in this case, the applause was justified.

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