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Reese Witherspoon recalls when she 'burst into tears' over magazine caricature

The "Big Little Lies" star reflected on the sexism she faced while building a nearly billion-dollar business.
/ Source: TODAY

Reese Witherspoon has faced her share of sexism as she built a nearly billion-dollar business.

The "Legally Blonde" star recently recalled the time she "burst into tears" over a 2015 magazine caricature of her and other female actors-turned-entrepreneurs that portrayed them as "domestic divas."

Reese Witherspoon remembered crying after she saw a caricature of her and other successful actors who had become entrepreneurs in a 2015 magazine story labeling them "domestic divas." David Livingston / Getty Images

Witherspoon, 45, spoke to Kristen Bell and Monica Padman on the "We Are Supported By" podcast about a 2015 TIME magazine story titled "Hollywood's New Domestic Divas" that includes a graphic of Witherspoon holding a vacuum cleaner, Blake Lively stirring something in a bowl, Gwyneth Paltrow holding a cake, Jessica Alba wielding an iron and Lauren Conrad carrying a bucket of cleaning supplies.

"I had started a clothing business. Gwyneth (Paltrow) was really growing Goop. Blake Lively had a business, Jessica Alba had a business, and they did a caricature cartoon of all of us," Witherspoon said.

"We were in ball gowns, and they stuck our heads on. And Jessica was holding an iron, and I was holding a vacuum cleaner. The whole thing was so offensive that I burst into tears."

"Gross," Bell said. "Whose grandpa drew that?"

Witherspoon said TIME apologized for the graphic.

"It was in a massive publication, and I've since been in that publication, and they said sorry, but I'm not even talking about 10 years ago," she said. "I'm talking about 2015 when we decided we're going to be entrepreneurial, we were going to do something, take a swing, invest our own money, our own time, our reputation and try and do something that George Clooney has done, Robert De Niro has done, and getting lampooned for it."

Witherspoon wrapped her recollection into a discussion about the struggles some women face about "staying in their lane" when they try to change careers or expand from acting into creating a business.

"That message to little girls is if you've had success in one area, you can't have success in another," Witherspoon said. "I just think it's so limiting. Media can be so punishing."

"Don't even try it," Bell said about what women hear from critics. "You're lucky you had success in one area. You should be grateful."

In addition to being one of Hollywood's biggest stars, Witherspoon also has become a formidable presence in the business world. The media company that Witherspoon created, Hello Sunshine, has produced programming like the hit series "Big Little Lies" and "Little Fires Everywhere" as well as the hit movie "Gone Girl." Earlier this month, she sold it to a firm backed by private equity giant Blackstone Group Inc. for a reported $900 million.