Judy Garland Was Told She Looked Like a “Pig In Pigtails,” Strict Diet Nearly Led Her to Starvation

By: Stephen Thompson | Last updated: Nov 15, 2023

Judy Garland will be forever remembered as the beautiful, round-faced girl who acted as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. 

Her exceptional performance made the film a household classic preserved in the hearts and minds of many. However, there is a heart-wrenching backstory that changed her life.

Making a Big Impression at the Audition

Garland auditioned in front of Louis Mayer of MGM when she was just 13 years old, and won the role regardless of the stiff competition. She had a silky and powerfully soothing voice that amazed the film producer, who decided to cast her without the usual screen test procedures. 

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However, he cared a lot about how she looked, a concern that caused trauma for little Judy, who was cast in the film and exposed to unfair treatment when she was just 14.

Setting Unrealistic Standards

The producers were not shy about letting Garland know she looked like a “pig in pigtails.” They put the poor child on a strict diet that brought her close to starvation. Garland, who had just become a teenager, eventually formed the habit of starving herself in order to please those that set the high bar.

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Directors would often call her the ugly duckling just because she looked different from other young actresses her age. Despite the constant insults, she was sexually harassed on the set by the time she was 16.

A Damsel in Distress

She endured the abuse for years until she could put an end to it and quit, an action that made Louis Mayer cry—he claimed that he already fell in love with the young actress.

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What Garland endured affected her personal life. She was married five times, of which four ended in divorce. When she got pregnant during her first marriage, MGM and her mother urged her to terminate it, causing her severe mental and emotional trauma.

'Finally, I Am Loved'

Substance abuse had become a norm in her life by the time she became an adult, and it eventually led to her demise. She has been in and out of mental institutions after several breakdowns and suicide attempts.

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In 1969, she passed away due to an accidental barbiturate overdose. However, despite her sad end, she claimed she was very happy three months before she married her fifth husband. “Finally, finally, I am loved,” the star said.