‘Little Lena’s a Big Girl Now’: Lena Zavaroni and the Anorexic Star

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Lena Zavaroni became famous as a child star on the British TV talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1974, suffered from anorexia from age 13, and subsequently died from complications associated with the problem in 1999, age 35. This article uses 165 press articles from 1974-99 to analyse how Zavaroni’s relationship with anorexia was constructed in the British popular press. Existing feminist work suggests that stars with anorexia are worth studying because they make eating disorders popularly visible, with the coverage providing an occasion to analyse how the media constructs anorexia in relation to particular ideologies of femininity. But this article argues that it is important to explore how discourses on fame become intertwined with discursive constructions of anorexia, shaping how such problems are explained and gendered. Because Zavaroni appeared in the media as a child, her trajectory also dramatises how anorexia is seen to be linked not only with the role of the media, but with the development of female identity. Thus, whilst bringing stardom and celebrity into the frame, this article thus seeks to contribute to the feminist work which interrogates how popular constructions of anorexia mark out normative/ disordered femininities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-828
Number of pages16
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Issue number5
Early online date8 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • Anorexia
  • stardom
  • celebrity
  • Zavaroni
  • femininity
  • popular press

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