Outside, in the toilet that is Times Square, it was raining. We sat silently in the Rum House, dressed to the nines in floor-length gowns, desperately sucking down rum punch. It was almost six o’clock. We looked at each other with deranged smiles that communicated: How did we get here? But deep down, we both knew we had absolutely, entirely, without question brought this on ourselves.
It started out as a joke. “Who has Oscars story ideas?” our editor asked. “What about poop?” we replied. But then we really started to think: Well, what about poop? When people talk about the Oscars, they never seem to talk about poop. Crash diets, yes; couture gowns, of course; bathroom lines, seen that; the actual awards, check ― but not poop. And yet poop was all we could think about.
You see, we’re both the special kind of people for whom anxiety manifests in the belly and out the butt. If we were to one day be nominated for an Academy Award, we predict the hours leading up to our category’s announcement would be spent swishing elegantly in and out of stalls. At the Oscars ― where we’d presumably be plucked, buffed, painted, poured into heavy-duty Spanx ― this sounds like quite the hassle. Imagine: you’ve never smelled better, had smaller pores or looked more like Aphrodite rising from the ocean foam on a giant oyster shell, and all you can think about is answering that most animal of urges.
And sure, maybe celebrities can whisk discreetly to the Academy restroom and unloose their bowels. But for Hollywood’s most glamorous starlets, who often wear tight and complicated dresses with voluminous skirts over architectural undergarments, even peeing can be an acrobatic task. Bryce Dallas Howard once “joked” on the red carpet that she wouldn’t be drinking any water during the ceremony so that she wouldn’t have to deal with her dress during a pee break. Haha, performing femininity requires denying your body things it needs to live!
The point is, pooping would be even more challenging: For one thing, while Spanx come with handy pee-holes, they have no apertures for poop.
The question, then, is twofold: Do celebrities feel any kind of way about pooping during awards shows? If so, do they take any proactive measures to prevent said pooping from occurring?
It was a mystery that would lead us down a dark and uncertain path and deposit us in the Times Square bar outside this year’s Writers Guild of America (East) Awards, preparing to ask famous people on the red carpet about their bowels. With begrudging but clearly documented approval from our editors, we resolved to get to the bottom of this persistent mystery, by any means necessary.
First, weeks before the awards, we emailed every famously outspoken star we could think of, with the hope they’d answer our brazen query: Do you take any preemptive measures to ensure you won’t poop at The Oscars? To our chagrin, most of the supposedly “down-to-earth” celebrities we emailed did not respond. Dame Helen Mirren, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep and Chrissy Teigen never got back to us. In fact, only Fred Specktor, Mirren’s agent at CAA, responded to us, kindly advising us to “ask Stan Rosenfield,” an LA-based PR veteran who also represents the dame. Rosenfield did not return our emails, but according to his Twitter bio, he’s “a person of few words,” so that fits.
If you’re already thinking to yourself, “I’m sure Helen would just hold it in, guys. The Oscars are just, like, three hours long.” ― yeah. At this point, plenty of our peers offered this banal theory. But come on. The one possibility we refused to countenance is that celebrities do nothing to stop their ears to the call of nature on Oscar night.
Why? Because, as any lady mag will tell you, celebrities spend weeks honing their bodies for the red carpet. Famous nutritionists, trainers, hairstylists and makeup artists talk ad nauseum about how their star clients get injections, tone their upper arms, condition their hair, and, of course, eliminate bloat.
And what is “bloat” but anything extraneous in your body, like water, gas ― or, ahem, poop ― that distends your abdomen?
We live in a colonic- and cleanse-friendly culture in which even image-conscious superstar Beyonce has admitted to flushing out her system with The Master Cleanse ― a 10-day diet consisting only of homemade lemonade meant to eliminate waste in the body ― before a big event (“Dreamgirls”). As one brave Health writer who tried the cleanse attested, “eliminate waste” is “basically a fancy way of describing water-like diarrhea.” So what are cleanses and colonics, really? Sadistic rituals meant to remove bloating, i.e., accumulated waste, i.e. poop.
We just wanted some celebrity to talk candidly about how he or she attempts to empty their bowels on Oscars night, specifically to prevent a BM from interrupting their Big Moment.
Satisfied with our logic and no one else’s, we forged on. Maybe, we reasoned, Oscars-bound celebrities were taking some sort of laxative?
We asked five nutritionists if our theory sounded plausible and not one seemed quite convinced. Nutrifit founder Jackie Keller said she didn’t know anything about “this stupidity about celebrities taking laxatives” before awards shows. Herbalist Zoe Kissam of Traditional Medicinals (makers of the popular senna-based tea Smooth Move) seemed disconcerted at the mere suggestion. “Unless you are occasionally constipated, this is not the tea I would recommend before an event,” she advised. “I would be concerned if someone on the red carpet said they drank Smooth Move.”
Kissam’s alarm piqued our interest: Clearly this laxative tea was powerful. Celebrity nutritionist Tracy Lockwood sort of confirmed our suspicions, saying marathon runners occasionally use the stuff to ensure they don’t have to go during the race. A celebrity nanny coordinator (who asked not to be identified so as not to be associated with an article about poop) even called the potent beverage “the biggest taboo in Hollywood.”
There are real risks to Smooth Move, Kissam warned us. Apparently, because senna stimulates colon contractions, too-frequent consumption of the herb can make you dependent on it to stay regular. As a safer alternative to routine flushing, she suggested dandelion tea, a diuretic with a mild laxative effect. According to Shape magazine, Jennifer Lawrence drinks dandelion tea before the Oscars! Doesn’t it just sound so light and airy? A diaphanous BM blowing in the breeze. Had we made a breakthrough?
After three weeks (!) of investigating, having gained no clarity from the bizarro rituals of celebrity cleansing, we feared we were no closer to our original goal: the truth about stars’ Oscar night pooping secrets. With celebrity sources (including Jennifer Lawrence) consistently failing to come through (except that nanny coordinator, she’s a hero), we turned to that deepest well of truth, the internet. We pored through “Get Her Red Carpet Body” photo spreads online and trawled Reddit, where tireless moderators repeatedly deleted our celebrity poop questions in forums like r/StupidQuestions and r/NoStupidQuestions. We covered blackboards with our findings, leaving messages like “Flat Earthers?”, “Reddit Conspiracy?”, “LAXATIVE TEAS!” and “Is celebrity poop really just a light drizzle?” in conference rooms throughout our office building.
Things weren’t going as planned. We could have given up, we could have abandoned the project, we could have admitted that Oscars pooping isn’t the critical issue of our time [editor’s note: change to “should have”]. Nevertheless, we persisted. We decided to put our bodies on the line.
I Woke Up Like This. Poopless.
Without consulting our editors or, really, any adults, we devised a plan. We would attend the Writers Guild Awards (East) on Feb. 11, and we would try our darnedest not to visit the W.C. (We should note here that HuffPost’s union is represented by the Writers Guild.)
Unfortunately, the publicists coordinating the event only granted us access to the evening’s red carpet portion, and not to the main event, but so it goes. We planned to use this opportunity to corner celebrities on the carpet and ask them if they shared our crippling concern about awards ceremony pooping and whether they’d taken any preemptive action to avoid sullying the Edison Theater bathrooms.
One week before the big day, we adjusted our diets and bathroom regimens to best mimic what we’d gleaned about those of image-conscious celebrities prior to a big awards show. Both of us based our diets on the recommendations of “nutritionist to the stars” Oz Garcia, with slight adjustments: Claire subsisted on a clean diet of lean protein and leafy greens while drinking dandelion tea at night, much like Academy Award-winning superstar Jennifer Lawrence. Priscilla opted for a healthy vegetarian diet without dairy or processed grains. She also dosed herself with Smooth Move tea on Tuesday evening, hoping this would give her ample time to recover while still remaining an empty vessel, bowel-wise.
We tried to go further, in the name of truth, by getting all the excrement flushed out of us by a hose-wielding professional. “We do get a lot of celebrities and models that get colonics prior to an event, runway and photoshoot,” Manhattan colonic purveyor Fluid Water Therapy told HuffPost. In theory, this is to cut down on bloat ― but again, bloat and poop essentially cover the same territory. Our editors, unconvinced by this airtight logic, rejected our expense requests to put the luxury poop removal treatment to the test.
When the Sunday of the WGAE Awards arrived, we were hollowed out and hungry. We both noticed the teas had moved things along, but the funny thing was, our bodies didn’t ever seem to reach the end, as it were. (Apparently digestion is a continuous process that is an essential part of being alive!)
We met in the thick of Times Square that night, dressed, like any self-respecting journalist covering the red carpet, in revealing gowns that showed off our new poop-free bodies. Or... to put this delicately... less than poop-free. Not an hour before the red carpet began, one of us had to hustle to the bathroom for a last-minute bowel movement, gown and all. No, it doesn’t matter which one.
Fortified by rum punch and nihilistic recklessness, we arrived at the WGAE Awards and positioned ourselves amongst the other, significantly more casually dressed journalists on the red carpet. As the celebs filed by, we asked one after the other whether they were concerned about pooping during the awards show and how they prepared for the possibility. “Are you worried about pooping tonight? Have you done anything so that, you know, you definitely won’t?” we asked attendees.
“That’s literally all you’re asking?” queried one mildly concerned publicist.
And it was.
We occasionally interspersed our probing questions with compliments and apologies to loosen up our subjects. “You look beautiful tonight, and we’re so sorry,” we told the finest comedians and actors working in New York City. “Are you worried about pooping tonight?”
As we’d hoped, many celebrities literally could not avoid answering.
“I voided everything earlier,” Anthony Atamanuik, the creator and star of “The President Show,” told us frankly.
“I’m very regular,” actress and comedian Robin Thede said. “I go in the mornings. If there was a morning award show, I’d be in trouble.”
“I was nervous earlier, so I went already,” revealed comedian Amber Ruffin, who was hosting the event.
Actor Adam Pally told us he was “terrified” about having to poop that evening (Points: us!), but that he had already taken care of it during a free moment in his schedule earlier that day. “How did you make sure it happened during that free moment?” we asked. He looked confused. “How does anyone?” he said. While we pondered this scatalogical mystery, Pally darted off to talk to Us Weekly.
“Veep” actress Anna Chlumsky, who is currently co-starring with Pally in a Broadway play, suggested bananas as a natural way to lock that down ― though she stopped short of admitting she’d noshed any herself. (Half-point!)
Star on the rise Lucas Hedges probably wanted to talk about “Lady Bird” or at least “Three Billboards.” Not today, Lucas. We hit him with our classic query: “Are you worried about pooping tonight?” Despite initially looking a bit bewildered, the young Hedges took the question to heart. He explained that while he wasn’t worried about pooping that night, he had been at past awards shows. Presumably the Golden Globes were more high-pressure. (So many points: us!)
Megan Abbott, a novelist and writer on “The Deuce,” looked sweetly shocked by our line of questioning before finally saying, “I try to eat healthy” (score for our clean diet strategy!).
We weren’t always brave enough to ambush the very famous people walking by us that night. For example, we chickened out when Ann Dowd, before we could get a word out, placed her hand on ours and asked if we were having a good night. The unprompted gesture of kindness left us unable to bring ourselves to ask the Emmy Award-winning actress about doody.
By the time the most famous stars ― Tina Fey, Seth Meyers, etc. ― hit the red carpet, none of them were made available for press questions, a decision that we can only assume arose from our crass queries earlier in the night. By this hour we were pretty certain publicists were steering their celebrity clients away from our spot on the carpet anyhow. And at the tail end of our week of cleanses and dieting, we were ready to eat real food.
Can You Handle The Poop?
Following our red carpet debut, we giddily inhaled burgers, fries and chocolate shakes as the WGA Awards kicked off down the street. When we locked eyes and noticed each other’s svelte, waste-free waistlines, we couldn’t help but smile. We’d come so far.
Some might say we learned nothing on our journey to the center of the colon, but those people would be full of shit. We learned, for example, that Spanx definitely don’t have a poop-hole. We learned that eating kale and drinking dandelion tea will definitely make you poop, but that the poop will simply keep coming. We learned that pooping remains weirdly taboo for an activity that every human being on earth does literally every day. And we discovered that some celebrities are incredibly open and understanding when interrogated about their bathroom habits. Especially you, Lucas Hedges.
Most importantly, we learned that laxative tea should definitely not be underestimated, especially in an office setting.
As the Oscars approach, we urge you not to ignore the fundamental issue of whether or not celebrities are pooping during this historic event. Are they scarfing bananas that morning to keep things tight? Are they getting colonics the day before to remove the goop? Or are people just letting loose, when necessary, in the illustrious restrooms of the Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theater, in between the awards for Costume Design and Documentary Feature? (We called the Dolby Theater and asked to speak to a bathroom attendant, hoping to get more insight from the closest thing to a firsthand witness, but they curtly declined to comment.)
We didn’t find many solid answers to our original questions in the course of this journey, but we may have learned something still more important: to embrace our messy, gross, human bodies.
“I don’t have a lot of shame,” said “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star and co-creator Rachel Bloom with admirable forthrightness during a phone interview months into our journey. “I don’t really think [pooping is] degrading.” Exhibit A: She was the only celebrity who agreed to be interviewed on this subject without being cornered on a red carpet.
If she has to poop at an awards show, Bloom said, so be it. “The red carpet has this mystique,” she said. “I think now many people are interested in pulling back the red curtain.”
And maybe, when we finally pull back that curtain, we’ll find what we were looking for all along: a big ol’ pile of crap.