Things are running a little (read “a lot”) behind schedule on the day Melissa McCarthy is unveiling her plus-size clothing line, Melissa McCarthy by Seven7, to the press.
The combination of the Spy actress’ own volubility and a few friends dropping by unannounced (including one Victoria Beckham) is how I landed here: perched on a chair in a New York hotel hallway and being kept company by McCarthy’s assistant (and niece, incidentally), who has been holding a cold slice of pizza for the actress for at least a half-hour.
Once I’m in the room with the 44-year-old actress, there’s one more delay: McCarthy and one of the statuesque women modelling the collection for us are having a moment. “Those pants look so great on you!” she says to the model, who’s wearing dark-wash skinny jeans.
McCarthy, in a silky grey tunic and flowing printed kimono (also pieces from the line), is just as warm and effervescent in person as I had hoped she would be.
“I haven’t worn denim in five years,” says the model, smiling broadly. “These are the first ones that actually fit me properly.”
A few minutes later, I’m seated on the couch across from McCarthy and I ask her about the exchange. Her demeanour immediately changes from playful (we’d been discussing how much she loves Canadians) to serious.
“It’s pretty overwhelming,” she says, her blue eyes widening. “This is the first time I’ve seen real women wearing my designs, and every time they walk into the room, my heart kind of flutters.”
McCarthy, who has won an Emmy and was nominated for an Oscar, is fresh off a string of blockbuster roles. She has earned a reputation for playing women who are unapologetic about who they are (Bridesmaids, Tammy, The Heat), and that’s the spirit she has brought to her foray into design.
“You should never have to dress in a way that’s ‘appropriate,’” says McCarthy, describing her vision for the collection as purposely “random.”
“You shouldn’t have to pick a team, pick a side, pick a mood. One day I want to wear a stylish little dress and a heel and the next day I want to wear ripped-up jeans and Converse. That’s the fun in clothing.”
One of McCarthy’s biggest goals in designing this collection, available in Canada exclusively at Penningtons, was to make getting dressed in the morning a positive experience for every kind of woman.
“There are so many things that make you feel negative in the world. You shouldn’t be self-inflicting negativity; you should be putting yourself in something fun that puts a little kick in your step.”
McCarthy also knew what she didn’t want: a collection of “bad shapes with terrible fabric” that can make women who wear over a size 12 feel like second-class citizens.
“You feel like you’re not invited to the same party as everybody else, and your self-esteem goes down,” she says. “But if you feel pride in what you wear, you go out into the world with a little bit of joy and then you’re a little nicer to this person and you smile at someone on the street who was maybe having a bad day. They’re little things, but it starts to snowball. And if my clothes can be part of that—my God, I’d be so happy!”
For McCarthy, that snowball effect started with her parents, who were always “wildly encouraging” and saw nothing unreasonable about a girl moving from a farm town in Illinois to NYC to pursue her acting dream—with “like $32” in her pocket.
That buoyant self-confidence carried McCarthy through her early years in NYC, where her first agent (working out of her studio apartment, FYI) tried to tell her that she couldn’t possibly work until she lost weight. (McCarthy was a size 6 at the time.)
“While I was sitting there, I was thinking ‘If I’m such a bag of poison, why are you seeing me? I can’t change everything about me, so I’m just going to leave your office/closet and go out and do more plays.’”
McCarthy adds that she has always believed that when people are negative, it usually stems from an insecurity of their own.
“Every time someone tells me something’s impossible, I think ‘No!’ I kind of think that everything’s possible. It doesn’t mean it’s all going to work out—I’m not nuts—but I never lead with ‘I doubt it.’”
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.