American actress (1047-2017). She was born in Borger, Texas and grew up in Dumas, Texas. She's really a fairly minor actress -- she's had only only a few film credits, with a couple of guest appearances on television -- but she's interesting in a bunch of other ways.

First, she weighed over 500 pounds. As far as I know, she was the heaviest dramatic actor, male or female, in film history. Second, she wasn't 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 two films -- a TV movie called "Wolf Girl" in 2001, a film short called "Mother" in 2014, and a film called "Billboard" in 2017. A stomach-stapling operation didn't help her take off any weight permanently; however, she recovered very nicely from her depression and did 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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