Hilliary Begley is an Asheville-based comic turned actor, who had a starring role as Aunt Lucy in the Netflix film Dumplin’ after being discovered on Facebook. Begley talked about newfound fame as well as her other projects. She will be performing stand-up at the Idiot Box in Greensboro on Friday. Get tickets at here.
Dumplin’ debuted on Netflix at the end of last year and stars actors like Jennifer Aniston and a soundtrack by Dolly Parton. What has the sudden fame of being in a film like that been like?
It’s honestly not been that much. I have some random people recognize me. Like on Christmas Eve, I was shopping with my brother and a woman came up to me and was like, “Hey, I know who you are, but I don’t wanna out you.” Some Uber drivers recognize me too. And every big girl in America wants to be my friend. My Instagram following doubled in the week the movie came out.
Why did you get into comedy?
In 2012, I MC’ed for a hip-hop show dressed up as Ursula from the Little Mermaid. That and mostly drinking and telling jokes at parties at my friends’ houses. I was so scared, and then I started. Just yesterday, it came up in my Facebook memories, one of the first shows I ever did was six years ago. I just talk a lot.
You character, Aunt Lucy, was Willowdean’s role model in the film. Who was yours growing up?
All the women in my family are pretty influential on my life. Aunt Shawna, my dad’s sister, she and I have the same face. She didn’t grow up big, but she was bigger during my teenage years. She’s got a larger-than-life personality, a super jovial spirit. She was encouraging about me being big and being okay. She looked at me like I was an inspiration; we learned from one another.
At one point, Willowdean’s best friend says to her, “I never thought of you as fat.” That seems to paint “fat” as derogatory or a bad thing. But isn’t the point of the movie to show that being fat doesn’t equal ugly or less than?
I did think that was a little strange. I feel like it’s not just about big girls. I am all for being pro-fat, but I think the actual point is that it doesn’t matter what you look like or what your body is. People view each other differently now than they did, like being nonbinary or transgender. There are people who want to be animals now. I think we should be taught from a young age that we are enough, which is hard.
I thought that it was just girls like me that had insecurity issues. But I found out that it doesn’t matter. We all have those feelings. Every person on the planet has self-doubt. That’s part of being a human, I think, is second guessing yourself. But at the end of the day, you have to know if you are being completely true to yourself, that you are okay with you. And if you are okay with you, everybody else will fall into place.
Dolly Parton’s music plays a big role in this movie. Did you have a musician or something like that that played a vital role when you were growing up?
Reba McEntire! When I was 9 years old and heard Reba McEntire’s “Fancy,” my whole soul vibrated. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but I could feel it in every fiber of my being. She’s another incredible, iconic woman. Initially they wanted to make her into a pop singer and she said, “No, I don’t wanna do that.” So they let her go. But she did it anyway. She said, “I’m gonna do what I wanna do or I’m not gonna do it at all.” And now, she’s got album after album.
Has the movie changed your view/opinion of beauty pageants?
I still think beauty pageants are insane. I think it’s so weird. I never did it. My mom and dad were like “No, this is not for you.” It puts too much of an emphasis on beauty. I think it’s weird to line up a row of girls and judge them on their beauty. We don’t do that with men. It just seems strange.
Is there anything you’d like girls and women to know?
Love yourself, like literally. Love yourself. Even when you’re questioning you. Even when you don’t know or you’re not confident. Know that everybody feels that way and resonate in it. Even in the self-doubt. Then pick your feet up and keep going. And you are enough no matter what you do or where you came from. And you are enough, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.