Melissa McCarthy’s story is truly an inspiring one. The Gilmore Girls star spent nearly two decades trying to break into Hollywood and it took years of admittedly hard work and a little bit of luck before she racked up nominations for the Academy Awards, the BAFTA awards, the Prime Time Emmy’s and one successful win at the Golden Globe Awards.
Her rise to success and her struggles were some of the topics that were addressed in a recent in-depth interview with Glamour magazine.
According to the feature piece, after moving from her hometown in Plainfield, Illinois, to New York City at age 20, Melissa racked up credit card debts and, at one point, couldn’t withdraw cash from an ATM because her bank account balance was under $5.
But once she made a splash with the 2011 comedy ‘Bridesmaids,’ she rose quickly to become the fourth highest-paid actress in Hollywood. According to Forbes, McCarthy made $18 million between June 1, 2016 and June 1, 2017, just behind Emma Stone ($26 million), Jennifer Aniston ($25.5 million) and Jennifer Lawrence ($24 million).
“I’ve gotten lucky,” she said in the interview, “and I’ve worked hard.” She has also negotiated her way to the top. As her husband, comedian Ben Falcone, puts it, she has “fists of justice” and is relentless about getting the roles and production deals that she wants and deserves.
When approaching any negotiation in Hollywood, “I always think, ‘Is the deal fair? Would you be asking the same thing of a guy in this position?'” says McCarthy in the interview. “And if the answer is ‘It probably wouldn’t be happening [to a guy],’ I’ll dig my teeth in for months.”
She’s also learned that you have to be willing to walk away, she tells Glamour: “As you start up the ladder in whatever field you’re in, you have to walk if people won’t give you what you’re worth. Once people don’t respect you enough to give you what you’re worth, they’re never going to.”
McCarthy also addressed the issue of unequal pay in Hollywood and how she dealt with the disparity. “There were some jobs when I was paid what most [of my costars were]. And then people who climbed the ladder with me were suddenly making 15 times what I made,” she said. “I was like, Wait, wait, wait. I thought, This is based on bullshit.”
“This is not based on anything factual to me. I hated that feeling of not being in control and not being able to do anything about it. I think that feeling is what keeps the fight in me.”
That being said, it’s no secret that women in Hollywood have a long way to go before bridging the unequal pay gap. According to the Forbes report, between June 1, 2016, and June 1, 2017, the world’s 10 highest-paid actresses made a combined $172.5 million. In contrast, the 10 highest-paid actors earned more than double that amount: $488.5 million.
The world’s highest-paid actress, Oscar-winner Emma Stone, earned $26 million over the 12-month period. While that might look like a huge amount, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the amount the highest-paid actor made: Mark Wahlberg, who topped the men’s ranking, earned $68 million, which is more than double of what Stone made.
Melissa had a lot of advice for aspiring stars. One of them was to give every gig her very best. “I assume every job is my last. Twenty years of desperately trying to get a single job gets deep in your D.N.A,” she said.
She also talks about how its sometimes “OK to say yes for the money.”
“I think everybody has a rate for when [your gut is saying], ‘Why would I do that? That’s not interesting.’ And so you name a crazy rate to make somebody go away. And then, if they are like, ‘Sure!’ you will literally own the moon after this—you just have to shut up and do it,” she said.
She also thanked her fortune and says that she has the highest level of gratitude for where she is today. “I’ve been lucky that in the last 10 years I’ve only taken things I had the highest hopes for, but the time will come when I’ll be like, ‘Does anybody need me to sell cheese slices?’ Because I’ll do it. Just give me a paycheck. And I will work really hard to sell those cheese slices,” she said, typical of her brand of comedy.
Melissa remains a beacon of hope to all aspiring actresses. A legitimate rags-to-riches story in Hollywood – one that was achieved with a strong moral compass, an iron constitution and of course, “Fists of Justice!”