Lisa Ann Walter: Sheryl Lee Ralph Helped Me Stop Making Mean Jokes About My Body

At the NAACP Image Awards, the “Abbott Elementary” actress broke down in tears and thanked her co-star for letting her embrace her “flesh” and “booty.” Mrs. Howard will not put up with jokes about one’s body that are self-deprecating. Lisa Ann Walter — who plays the wise-cracking second grade teacher Melissa Schemmenti on “Abbott Elementary” — found herself getting emotional on the 2023 NAACP Image Awards red carpet Saturday while explaining how she came to realize that jokes she used to make about her appearance were doing more harm than good. Walter teared up while crediting her Emmy-winning co-star Sheryl Lee Ralph (who plays the no-nonsense kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard on the ABC sitcom) for helping her have the epiphany.

“[Ralph] has said to me, ‘I will not allow any of that negative talk. I know you’re making jokes, but I’m not having it anymore. You are beautiful, and this is what it is, and you will own it and you will love it,’” Walter told Essence on the red carpet. “And I have stopped making those comments. It’s huge.” Walter hammered down on the need for everyone of all shapes and sizes to embrace self-love.

“It’s important that all of us feel it,” Walter said. “And people say, ‘Well, what is that saying? You’re saying you shouldn’t be happy if you’re thin?’ No. Everybody is beautiful, everybody is the way God made them. We’re not all supposed to be the same.” Walter’s powerful message was sparked earlier in the interview after Essence gave her a compliment by asking what “they were feeding” her and Ralph on the set of “Abbott Elementary” to give them such curvaceous bodies.

Walter gobbled up the praise, but noted that when she was “growing up in the ’80s, late ’70s” she felt at odds with her body due to very rigid standards for beauty, noting that “white girls were not supposed to have meat, we’re not supposed to have booty.” “I was taught that because I didn’t look like a Charlie’s Angel, I was supposed to be self-loathing.” Walter echoed a similar sentiment to The Wrap on Saturday night, but elaborated on how damaging trying to have a “perfect” body could be on a young person.

“I spent an entire life trying to lose 10 pounds that God gave me to have a beautiful, womanly figure,” she told The Wrap. “It has given me a lot of pain, a lot of stress and tears, and it’s a disease. We need to stop with this crap.”

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