By Nicole Gilley
Eniko Hart, Torrei Hart, Gabrielle Union, Halle Berry, Cardi B, and the queen herself Beyoncé all have one thing in common: their partners cheated on them. Never once did we shame or blame these women for their partners’ transgressions. In fact, the response was quite the opposite; we empathized with them. We understood that being cheated on is something most, if not all women, have experienced at least once in their lifetime. Yet, when Antoine Fuqua was caught on a romantic Italian rendezvous with Nicole Murphy last week, few pointed a dismissive finger at the director. Suddenly Lela Rochon and her size were to blame for her husband’s infidelity.
See something else Hart, Union, Berry, and Bey have in common is they’re the beauty standard. These women are both thick and thin in all of the right places. So being that they’re considered perfect, or as close to it as possible, it couldn’t possibly be their fault that they got played. Lela Rochon, on the other hand, has gained weight since her “Waiting to Exhale” days. And because the “men are visual” and “it’s a woman’s job to keep her man pleased” rhetoric has been fed down our throats so long, the Internet has taken it upon themselves to chastise Lela for her husband’s wrongdoings. The logic being that Antoine had no choice but to cheat with Nicole considering Lela didn’t keep her body right and tight for his viewing pleasure over the years.
As you can see from these posts, it’s not typical fatphobic sexism at the crux of these arguments. Women are taking part in the blame game as well. Sadly, memes of a similar ilk were already floating around the Internet before last week’s incident. Memes that featured side-by-side images of Lela in her 20s versus the the 55-year-old woman she is now, “joking” that this is a replication of your high school crush when you wanted her and your high school crush now that she wants you. The actress’s husband’s infidelity has only added more fuel to the fat-shaming fire.
Lela and Antoine married in April of 1999 and have two children together, 17-year-old daughter Asia and 15-year-old son Brando. Lela has been out of the public eye for quite some time to reportedly focus on being a wife and mother. In 2013, she detailed how she was forced to slow down professionally in order to have healthy babies after miscarrying during her first pregnancy.
“Five months into my first pregnancy, my water broke while at work,” she told Mocha Manual. ” It was 4:00 p.m. I had to deliver a little boy, but he was too young to survive. It never occurred to me that something so terrible would happen to me. I was healthy physically. I was athletic. But I was working too much and I was stressed. A week before I lost the baby, I was at the Golden Globes smiling and grinning on the red carpet. I didn’t realize how stressed I was….
“As Black women, it’s not always easy for us to say, ‘No,’ or ‘I can’t.’ But if I could give up the so-called success – the TV shows, the movies or whatever – to have that baby back, I would do so in a second.”
Antoine, on the other hand, went on to direct movies such as the award-winning film “Training Day,” starring Denzel Washington — and to father more children. According to court documents, in 2010 Antoine was behind in child support to the tune of $86,000.00, asking the court to reduce his child support payments from $10,000 per month to $3,134.00 per month for his son, Roman Jimenez, whom he admitted to fathering with a woman named Ruth Jimenez. Additional rumors have continued to circulate in the years since, with claims of the 53-year-old fathering a second child during his marriage, though there are no court documents to substantiate the claim. Regardless, it’s clear Antoine has a past of not only cheating on his wife but having unprotected sex while doing so. In case you haven’t already come to the conclusion that we place sole blame on Antoine for his philandering ways, allow us to also suggest the stress he’s placed on Lela over the years may have also contributed to her weight gain which people are so quick to call out. In 2015, “Researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Delaware found that an unhappy marriage affects each spouse’s body’s ability to regulate appetite and to make healthy diet choices-essentially confirming what you already knew about emotional eating,” Shape magazine reported. So, unhappy wife, unhealthy waistline.
It’s sad we live in a world where we teach our girls they’re responsible for a man’s inability to keep it in his pants. It’s even sadder to know more blame has been placed on Lela than Nicole in this situation. Interestingly enough, despite her failed attempts at spinning this messy situation, this isn’t the first time Nicole’s been rumored to be with someone else’s husband. After the picture of her and Antoine went viral, actress LisaRaye McCoy was quick to accuse the 51-year-old former model of doing the same thing to her years ago with her then-husband Michael Misick.
If you’ve ever been cheated on you know it’s hard enough to deal with the emotional pain of discovering your spouse has broken their vows. Let’s keep in mind Lela not only has to wrestle with those feelings, and the natural question we tend to ask ourselves when we discover our partner’s mistress — what does she have that I don’t — she has to deal with this publicly. By sharing memes like the ones above and engaging in conversations like this, we’re adding insult to injury by shaming Lela due to her body size. How about we assign blame to the parties who actually deserve it and leave Lela alone.