Melissa McCarthy Responds to Critic Who Called Her a 'Female Hippo'

06/13/2013 at 02:25 PM EDT

Melissa McCarthy Responds to Critic Rex Reed Who Called Her 'a Hippo'
Melissa McCarthy
Casey Rodgers/AP
Melissa McCarthy has won over audiences with her comedic performances and warm Midwestern charm, but the Oscar-nominated actress admits that a scathing film review earlier this year that referred to her as "tractor-sized," could have a negative impact on young girls who might not conform to the traditional definition of Hollywood beauty.

In an new interview with The New York Times, McCarthy spoke out for the first time about the criticism, saying her initial reaction was "Really?" followed by, "Why would someone O.K. that?"

The review – written in February by Rex Reed of the New York Observer, who panned the film Identity Thief and called McCarthy a "female hippo" and a "gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious" – drew criticism nationwide.

McCarthy, 42, said that if the review appeared when she was 20, "It may have crushed me." But now, in "a strange epidemic of body image and body dysmorphia," she said comments like that "just add to all those younger girls, that are not in a place in their life where they can say, 'That doesn't reflect on me.' "

Controversy aside, McCarthy enjoys a robust career and family life with husband Ben Falcone and daughters Vivian, 6, and Georgette, 3 – even if she admits to feeling "intensely guilty" as a working mom.

"I just thought, that's someone who's in a really bad spot, and I am in such a happy spot," said McCarthy, who next appears in The Heat alongside new pal Sandra Bullock. "I laugh my head off every day with my husband and my kids who are mooning me and singing me songs."

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