There are a few things that Debra Messing and her character, Grace Adler, have in common: They are both outspoken redheads living the fab life in New York City. Most importantly, though, these two women — one real, one fictional — are confident as hell and make no apologies for speaking their minds. In fact, the 49-year-old actress's one request for the reboot of "Will and Grace" was that her character be a feminist.
"Whether it's Hollywood or the boardroom, women everywhere feel pressure to fit into a certain kind of mold,” says Messing. "How to dress, how to do your hair, how to speak… I hope that people see me as someone who embraces who she is and embraces difference in everybody and celebrates difference.”
To further share this message with the world, Messing has teamed up with TJ Maxx for the brand’s “Maxx You” project, which encourages women to celebrate their individuality instead of trying to fit into whatever mold society places on them — a lesson that she learned early on in her career.
"When I first started, I was told to get a nose job -- I didn’t,” Messing says. "My first TV show, they made me wear fake boobs to make me large-breasted, and I felt silly and like a fraud. That was the last time that I allowed that to happen.”
For many women, though, taking this kind of stand doesn’t come quite as naturally. “Research shows that many women celebrate individuality in others – but not in themselves,” Serena Chen, PhD, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, said in a statement. In fact, 51 percent of the women in the study copped to "filtering their individuality” because they thought it would help them succeed in society. But, as it turns out, no one is doing themselves any favors by trying to fit into a mold they don’t actually belong in.
“When women are true to themselves, they report stronger, more satisfying relationships. They were happier (96% percent), more successful (87 percent), and less stressed (89 percent) when they embraced who they are as individuals,” Dr. Chen continues.
The Maxx You project strives to create a community through live events and a Facebook group that will help women learn to live by Messing’s example of staying true to themselves.
“My hope is that through this initiative women can break through and say, 'You know what? I don't care what your expectations are, I'm going to live a genuine life,’" Messing says. “Try to key into that little voice in your head. I think when you're younger, it's very hard to hear that voice because you’re always looking outside of yourself for guidance and very affected by the judgment of the people close to you and to society at large. I think what I would say is, become friends with that voice because that voice is really going to guide you to happiness, and it's your life.”