American actress, born in 1947 in Borger, Texas. She's really a fairly minor actress -- she's had only one film credit, with a couple of guest appearances on television -- but she's interesting in a bunch of other ways.

First, she weighs over 500 pounds. As far as I know, she's the heaviest dramatic actor, male or female, in film history. Second, she's not a professional actor. In fact, she was discovered after appearing on Sally Jessy Raphael's talk show in 1992--the topic was "Too Heavy to Leave their House". Cates had refused to leave her home for years because of depression and embarrassment about her weight. After much encouragement from her weight-loss group, Cates had agreed to travel from her home near Dallas all the way to New York for the show. Author Peter Hedges, who wrote the novel "What's Eating Gilbert Grape", as well as the film's screenplay, saw the talk show and asked Cates to play the role of Momma in the movie.

Despite misgivings and nervousness about her ability to act with professionals, Cates delivered a powerhouse performance as a woman who felt humiliated by her own weight but who was also fiercely dedicated to her family. After the film's release, Cates also appeared in guest roles on "Touched by an Angel" and "Picket Fences".

Since "Gilbert Grape", Cates has appeared in only one other film -- a TV movie called "Wolf Girl" -- and a stomach-stapling operation didn't help her take off any weight permanently; however, she has recovered very nicely from her depression and now does some part-time volunteer work trying to promote positive self-image and healthy attitudes about weight among teenagers.

Most research from the Internet Movie Database ( and from an interview with Cates by Lynne Murray (

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