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An Interview With “Fat Rant” Star and Creator, Joy Nash

Joy Nash’s “Fat Rant” is an internet sensation that has swept the word!

By Jennifer Jonassen

Read this in-depth, candid interview with her to find out how and why she was moved to create this video as well as all of her artistic projects…

JJ: How did Fat Rant come about?

JOY NASH:I wrote the monologue as an assignment for a Solo Performance class I was taking about 6 years ago. My best friend was dying from cancer at the time and I was really irritated listening to myself and others list off our excuses as to why we “Couldn’t” do things. “Oh, I can’t wear a bathing suit, I’m too fat.” “I can’t go to Europe, I’m too fat.” While my friend, on the other hand, was shriveling up like a raisin – losing ability every day – and looking for new and crazy ways to accomplish everything she wanted to accomplish in the days she had left. Her passion made me so aware of how much opportunity and ability I actually had and made me embarrassed to be making those excuses.

Then, maybe a year ago, I was performing the monologue for The Art of Being and Love Your Body Day and lot of audience members would come up after the show and tell me about a sister, or a friend, or their mother who they wished had heard the piece – so I decided to put together a video and make myself some reel at the same time. Two birds with one stone!

JJ: That was a great idea indeed! How long have you been acting?

JOY NASH: I think I was in my first play when I was 13…

JJ: Where did you study?

JOY NASH: I have a BA from the USC School of Theatre and I also spent a semester at the British American Dramatic Academy. I have also done improvisation with Improv Olympic and am currently auditing classes at different studios around town. I think training is really important.

JJ: What are some of the highlights of your career thus far?

JOY NASH: Well, I’ve performed my own work at the Disney REDCAT theatre downtown and had my Fat Rant broadcast all over national TV – I’m told it was even on Qatar TV in Jordan! Also, I’ve just finished shooting a sketch comedy pilot for a show called “Fruit & Fly” and an independent feature called “Break” with Michael Madsen.

JJ: Can you talk about some of the obstacles you have faced as a plus size actress?

JOY NASH: I definitely think we’re overlooked as far as roles go. Every once in a while they’ll be looking for a ‘Tracy Turnblad Type’, but otherwise it’s like we don’t exist. It’s frustrating to know that fat actresses aren’t on most casting director’s radar screens – but it’s also what’s inspired me to create my own work.

JJ: What do you consider the worst experience you have had?

OY NASH: Well, like I said before, I definitely feel like we’re largely ignored as far as parts go. I’ve been playing mothers and grandmothers since middle school. There was a while, right after I graduated from college, where I wondered if I should just move to Italy and be a tour guide until I was actually old enough to be believed as somebody’s mother. That’s also when I started writing for myself.

Worst experience… I think would have to have been my MTV fiasco. I agreed to do MTV’s “Documentary Show,” True Life back in July. My episode was to be called, “I’m Happy to Be Fat,” and they followed me around for 2 months shooting footage for a 15-minute segment. Dude, Reality TV is not for me! I think it would be one thing if I had any say in the direction of the project, but as it was? With MTV having top-secret, carefully engineered plot points that they were relying on me to hit? I was not a happy camper. Luckily, it turned out that MTV had neglected to get me to sign a release at the beginning of our shoot; so most of the hoo-ha they had put together was unusable.

JJ: What is the best experience you have had?

JOY NASH: Man, I’ve been so lucky, there are tons! Almost every single thing has had those moments of elation. I’d say the closest to my heart has to have been working on “My Mobster,” my full-length solo play. It’s the basically true story of my relationship with a criminal from France. My director, producer, and design teams were a dream, response was incredible, and it was so exhilarating/exhausting to perform, and now I’m turning it into a screenplay.

JJ: What kind of roles do you want to play? What is your dream role?

JOY NASH: Geez, all kinds. I’d say my favorites are the character roles. Villains, creeps, lunatics, all those misunderstood folks. My dream, I think would be to star in “My Mobster” the movie. Ha-ha!

JJ: What kind of parts turn you off?

JOY NASH: Anything that makes my size the butt of the joke, or worse, a part that paints “becoming thin” as the most glorious thing a fat person could possibly do. I think that’s even more insidious than just being made fun of for being fat.

JJ: What do you think of the term Plus Size? How do you like your size to be referred to as?

JOY NASH: I don’t really care what other people call me. Plus size, fat, hefty, overweight, voluptuous – whatever you want. I think it says more about the person describing me than it does about me. I call myself “fat” because I like the way it sounds and I think it’s the most neutral term we have. It’s a descriptor. It’s not a moral judgment or an indicator of health or even fitness. Personally, I think “plus-sized” is kind of gendered. I’ve met very, very few men who call themselves “plus-sized”. I like “fat” because it just means “fat”, not necessarily “fat lady”.

They say you only need a euphemism when what you’re trying to describe is too horrible to be named; being fat is definitely not that.

JJ: Who are your favorite role models?

JOY NASH: John Goodman, Camryn Manheim, Queen Latifah, and outside of this whole ‘Jenny Craig business’, Kathy Bates, Marilyn Wann and Kate Harding.

JJ: How did Fat Rant 2 come about?

JOY NASH: I’m on an email listserve for people interested in Fat Studies, and someone was talking about the proposal to enter “Obesity” into the DSM V (the listing and coding of all mental illnesses). The American Psychiatric Association was using the statement that “Obesity is characterized by compulsive consumption of food and the inability to restrain from eating despite the desire to do so.” And the fat scholars were talking about how ridiculous that assertion was, until one person piped up and said, “I’ll admit it… I’m a compulsive eater… I’m also a compulsive masturbator, a compulsive drinker, a compulsive urinator and defecator, a compulsive breather and a compulsive sleeper. I can control my unhealthy urges for while, but eventually I give in.” I laughed so hard I decided to make a video.

JJ: You have a lot of confidence! Are there any moments where you are vulnerable to the prejudices people have?

JOY NASH: Oh definitely. But I prefer to get angry instead of believing that crap. “Why on earth would you think that I’d be interested in your opinion?” is my very favorite response when some facepunch thinks he’s being cute. Also, reading books like “Fat! So?” by Marilyn Wann and blogs like Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose www.kateharding.net and Fatshionista www.fatshionista.com remind me of what’s important and that I’m not alone. I get to decide who rents the space in my head. I’m certainly not going to give any room to the 14 year old on his PC in his mother’s basement, or his real-life equivalent.

JJ: What would you say to all the little girls out there struggling with their self image?

JOY NASH: There is only one you. Don’t waste any more time trying to be like anyone else. You have something no one else can give the world. Figure out what it is and don’t hold back. Maybe you’re fat. Maybe you’re too short or you have weird teeth. They are yours, part of you. In five years you’re going to look at photos of yourself and say, “Holy crap I was cute! What the hell was I so worried about?!” Life is so short. You’ve got to use it up!

JJ: I love that you create your own projects for yourself. Anything else in the works?

JOY NASH: “Fruit & Fly” is my recent co-creation. My friend Michael Mullen and I have written, and are starring in a 2-person sketch comedy pilot. It’s kind of like the love child of Saturday Night Live and cracked out Will & Grace. Cross your fingers that we get picked up! You’ll probably be able to find us on YouTube as well!

Visit Joy on IG @therealjoynash

Photo Credit: Les Delano