Pop quiz! Which beloved, bilingual Hollywood actress making her big-screen return this week boasts a career as long as Meryl Streep’s, a martial arts affinity that rivals Chuck Norris’s, a list of facial nips and tucks that would make Joan Rivers blush, and the distinction of being the first (and ideally only) person to ever attend the Emmys with a boyfriend of another species? Oui! The answer is Miss Piggy. And with the premiere of The Muppets on Wednesday, we thought it time for a slideshow honoring a career that’s encompassed more than even a non-swine starlet could dream of: best-selling books, magazine covers, endorsements, movies, a hit TV show, and, of course, that Henson-ized version of a Burton-Taylor romance with Kermit the frog. Young Hollywood, this is how it’s done. Get your notebooks out.
Why: The first season of The Muppet Show
What: Miss Piggy made a brief appearance in the premiere as half of a dancing couple (presumably before she got some vocal coaching, as she sounded like a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and Margaret Thatcher). But she truly made a splash at the top of the second episode by socking Kermit in the jaw. It’s so strange now to see her before she was a superstar – before the first eye job, the first snoutoplasty, the first anti-frizz and hair dyes. Just a simple country pig in an evening gown, trying to punch a frog, like nature intended.
Why: The cover of Dynamite, a popular children’s magazine
What: Wisely, Piggy learned early that lavender is great with her coloring and decided to wear it for her first major magazine cover. Smart move: How else would people know which up-and-coming acting pig she was, exactly?
Why: The Muppet Show
What: By the second season, Piggy’s wardrobe options exploded in lockstep with her megafame. Her star power was such that producers could put her torso-to-torso with sexpot Raquel Welch and know their girl would hold her own. (It helps that Miss Piggy’s blonde locks are smooth and lustrous, while Welch was apparently going through a period of looking like she was recently electrocuted. Although come to think of it, nobody really knows what went on between them backstage … )
Why: The cover of the New York Times Magazine, with creator Jim Henson and on-again, off-again paramour Kermit the Frog
What: Miss Piggy looks fabulously seventies in her DVF-ish printed dress and center-parted hair. Like any good diva, she’s completely drawing focus away from everyone else in the picture, even though those people are her boyfriend and her boss. Tyra Banks would be proud, and also probably tempted to do an all-Muppet season of Top Model. (Which is not as much of a departure for that show as you’d think.)
Why: The Muppet Movie
What: It seems only fitting that in the first minute of Piggy’s big-screen debut, she would be wearing a crown. Yes, she was playing a beauty queen, but we’re also pretty sure Piggy assumed this was a documentary.
When: 1979 and 1980
Why: The covers of People and Life magazines, which cemented her status as the breakout Muppet
What: Piggy’s two cover coups, a year apart, highlighted both sides of her public persona: the saucy vixen, and the ambitious take-no-prisoners pig. It’s a sign of her versatility that she can look like the ringmaster of the Piggycat Doll Circus on one and a porcine president on the other, yet rely heavily on tulle headgear for both.
Why: The Academy Awards
What: If we know Piggy, then she was probably miffed that it took the Oscars four years to invite her, and thus overcompensated. Yes, this was during that heady era when celebs rarely used stylists. (Frankly, Piggy’s lucky Björk didn’t yet exist, or else she might’ve been the dress instead of the guest.) But that’s no excuse for wearing a hat that looks like Bob Mackie cracked an egg on her skull. When one is a pig, it’s best not to look one rasher shy of a Denny’s Grand Slam.
Why: The Great Muppet Caper
What: In her second film, Piggy plays a model-wannabe who works for a designer. That does not explain the mustache — we view that as an example of this magnificent swine’s willingness to go whole hog for a joke — but it does account for the lilac ruffled cape and swimsuit, which obviously puts Piggy in the pantheon of iconic bathing beauties like Farrah Fawcett and Bo Derek. We suspect the celebratory crown of sparklers, donned during her synchronized-swimming musical number, was contractually mandated to make up for the ‘stache. Piggy is brave, yes, but no idiot.
Why: The covers of her best-selling lifestyle book, Guide to Life, and TV Guide
What: It wouldn’t be a Piggy-flavored lifestyle handbook if it didn’t have a cover trumpeting maximum glam. But we actually prefer her more casual look on the cover of TV Guide. Nothing says “eighties lifestyle expert” better than heart-shaped sunglasses and a shirt stolen from Don Johnson’s Miami Vice wardrobe, and trust us, it’s no accident that the frog is just a blurry dot of Astroturf in the background. Never let it be said that farm animals can’t be feminists.
Why: Because she’s Miss Piggy, that’s why; if she wants to hawk Polaroid, she will.
What: By now, Miss Piggy’s self-empowerment and fearless drive to karate-chop her way to the top have made her into an icon on par with Joan Collins. So who better to emulate in a major ad campaign? That hat is so Dynasty, we can practically feel the martini splashing on our skin as she hurls it toward us.
Why: The cover of her workout album Aerobique, including the hit song “Snackercise”
What: Sure, she’s shamelessly aping Jane Fonda, but the fact that Miss Piggy can so cheerfully champion aerobics — when she herself only does it by forcing someone else to sweat — is part of the miracle of her unique genius.
Why: The Muppets Take Manhattan, Piggy’s third starring movie role
What: This film may be a highlight of Piggy’s acting career, but it is also the nadir of her style. There are more ruffles in these outfits than at a Super Bowl party, and even worse is that hair. Most people shouldn’t have a perm, much less pigs; the mark of a truly wretched coif is when it manages to age you even though you are made of synthetic materials. We can only dream of the divinely savage comments Joan Rivers whispered in Piggy’s ears between takes.
Why: TV Guide’s cover story on the Muppets’ life after Jim Henson’s death
What: Henson’s death was tragic — we still get sad about it sometimes. In fact, we’re sad about it right now. But while everyone deals with death differently, someone should have taken Miss Piggy by her porcine shoulders and told her that the Grief Makeover almost never makes you feel any better — especially when you base yours on Mare Winningham in St. Elmo’s Fire. (Also, can we discuss the misguidedness of juxtaposing this story with that Matlock headline, thus implying that Andy, too, was thinking about shuffling off this mortal coil? Yow.)
Why: In The Kitchen With Miss Piggy — proceeds from which supported Citymeals on Wheels — was intended as a parody of Oprah’s cookbook (although we suspect Paula Deen has a framed copy of that cover somewhere in her guest lavatory).
What: Only the Muppet Queen could dare to mock the Daytime Queen and escape unscathed. But while we appreciate the staggering amount of name-dropping involved in making your celebrity friends write your cookbook for you, the fact remains that Miss Piggy hangs out with chickens — she has to; Gonzo is always dating one — and thus we could have lived without her endorsing ways to eat them. We do, however, appreciate how extremely well accessorized she is on the cover.
Why: A Baked Lay’s endorsement
What: Of the four major things in this ad, only two are still culturally significant: the pig, and the chips. Sorry, ladies. Life lesson: The pig always wins.
Why: Muppets From Space, in which Piggy plays a newscaster (as if the hair didn’t make that blindingly obvious)
What: Well, what else are you supposed to wear when you have Josh Charles hogtied in your office? There’s no point in putting on lingerie if he can’t move.
Why: The premiere of Muppets in Space
What: Piggy looks like a (slightly) more modern Marie Antoinette, if Kermit will pardon the reference to a culture that consumes frog legs. It’s over-the-top, but frankly, bravo to her for embracing her role as American royalty. Next up: dinner with Kate Middleton, oui?
Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./1999 Ron Galella, Ltd.
Why: The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz
What: Obviously there is no way a star of Miss Piggy’s caliber would agree to let anyone else wear the giant traffic-cone-and-tulle ensemble of Glinda the Good Witch. But she is also smart enough to know the world loves a sassy villain, so she played both the other witches too. While we can’t condone dropping a house on our beloved, we do think sticking her in an eye patch and leather — very Cher-as-a–Hell’s Angel — was an inspired idea. Perhaps not snout-flattering, exactly, but it beats green skin.
Why: The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz premiere
What: Hard to tell what’s shocking Kermit more: the sight of his lady as a brunette, the sight of so much of his lady’s cleavage, or the sight of Robert De Niro making out with her forehead. Let’s just write this off as a phase, shall we? It’s easier. (Except possibly for De Niro, who — judging by Piggy’s expression — may have gotten himself clocked in the nose.)
Photo: Evan Agostini/2005 Getty Images
When: 2005 and 2006
Why: At the Heatherette show at New York Fashion Week, and the Julien MacDonald show in London
What: Finally, Piggy is back to being the blonde glamour-puss that her public demands, making the rounds of both New York and London Fashion Week in designer duds (naturally). She is also officially the most restrained-looking celebrity to ever appear at Heatherette, which usually featured fabric only as an occasional accessory to nudity. We’re not crazy about Miss Piggy’s bangs — we want to see your pretty snout, girl — but we do appreciate her ballsy lifelong devotion to the boa.
Why: Modeling for POP magazine
What: Prada, darling, what else? Without a TV show on the air or a movie in the theatres, it’s wise of Piggy to remain in the public eye as a fashion plate and force of nature by doing custom-costumed spreads for the occasional obscure magazine. How very Tilda Swinton of her.
Why: The Late, Late Show
What: This was an unfortunate misstep. When you are a timeless legend and you’ve been out of regular work for a while, you probably shouldn’t show up on an after-hours comedy show looking like somebody’s Aunt Gertrude. You can’t rush your Betty White moment, Piggy. You can only be ready when it comes.
Why: Piggy’s third book, The Diva Code
What: Piggy looks very Carrie Bradshaw in her flirty tulle skirt and giant flower pin. That’s an apt homage for what is at least partially a dating book, but the reference is maybe a year too late (vous should be setting trends, not following them, Piggy). However, between this, the Jane Fonda workout, and the Oprah-style cookbook, it’s become pure Piggy to take what another celebrity is doing and, while mocking it, also somehow do it better.
Why: A poster advertising The Muppets
What: It’s always a little unsettling to see Miss Piggy’s legs, because she looks a lot more like Queen Elizabeth II from the knees down than we ever expect (and … was Fozzy always that pear-shaped? We’re just saying). We’re a tad disappointed that she’s relegated to the back, and in a wig that reminds us of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally — especially when she’s playing a proper fashionista in the film. Maybe they were just saving all the good stuff for the celluloid.
Why: The premiere, at long last, of The Muppets
What: After 35 years, the pig’s still got it — you hardly notice those refreshing facial tweaks unless you’re, say, flipping through a lengthy pictorial of her life. (Think her doctor does humans?) What’s more, the hair is once again soft and flattering, and the white frock is Old Hollywood at its classic best, letting Piggy pay homage to her storied past while also stepping into what we hope is a busy future. After all, there hasn’t even been an unauthorized Andrew Morton biography, so we know she can’t be done with us yet.
Photo: Frederick M. Brown/2011 Getty Images