Melissa McCarthy On Using Her Power to Fight Against Gender Pay Disparity

“Having a say in something means as much to me as getting a fair price. I never want to lose my voice,” the ‘Life of the Party’ actress explained in her May cover story for Glamour.

Melissa McCarthy took aim at the gender pay disparity existing in Hollywood in her cover story of Glamour published Monday.

With several studios and production companies under fire recently for clear disparities in pay, particularly for actresses Michelle Williams in All the Money in the World and The Crown’s Claire Foy, the Life of the Party star again highlights the issue and opened up about the first time she realized she was earning less money than her costars.

“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,” McCarthy revealed, later explaining that she was determined to never feel as if she lost control of her career. “I was like, ‘Wait, wait, wait.’ I thought, ‘This is based on bullshit. This 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.”

In her career thus far, McCarthy has formed a hefty resume of comedic roles, including an Oscar nomination for her role in Bridesmaids. After cultivating her success onscreen, the comedian emphasized her dedication to ensuring that she is always her own boss and has her voice heard.

“I think you have to play. It’s like this: You can stay in a local theater and work for the art of it, and that’s great. Or you can say, ‘I can make this my business,” McCarthy said. “And if you want to do your business well, you’d better learn how to handle those negotiations, how and when to push, and when to lay off. Having a say in something means as much to me as getting a fair price. I never want to lose my voice.”

The actress also revealed that she has learned to never fear walking away from a project, which has ultimately led her to embody a “power” that women must embrace, she says, rather than stray from. “When you finally are like, ‘Thanks so much for asking, but I’m going to pass’—that’s power. That’s easier said as you get a little more power, but 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 attributed her confident perspective on advice she received from Jennifer Coolidge, something she continues to pass on to her costars. “Jennifer Coolidge, who is one of the funniest creatures on the planet and the reason I got my first job in a movie, taught me, ‘The second they stop working for you, fire them.’ Don’t think, I don’t want to be a bitch, I don’t want to cause trouble. If you paid for a bottle of water and then that person told you to just take off, you’d say, ‘Give me my water. I paid for it.”

Though McCarthy now says she feels a sense of power in her career, the actress admitted that it was a long road to reach this point. “When you spend 20 years working your butt off, you know yourself better…I think the best thing I could have done was struggle until I was 30. I always assume every job is my last. Twenty years of desperately trying to get a single job gets deep in your DNA.”

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