Plus Size Reality Television

Plus Size Reality Television

Reality television has been taking the world by storm since the beginning of the new millennium.  It is the new way to bypass the regular channels in order to get your “15 minutes” quickly as long as you are (as the commercial goes…) among “those willing to forsake your dignity for fame.”  We’ve all seen the bad behavior of young women and men who are willing to do any and everything to stay in the public eye.  How many times have we grimaced at our fellow curvy sisters when they have done something to make us want the ground to open and swallow us up?  Flavor of Love or The Bad Girls Club anyone?  Before I proceed further let us get a clear understand of the exact definition of Reality Television:

Wikipedia defines Reality Television as a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors. Although the genre has existed in some form or another since the early years of television (primarily with game shows), the term “reality television” is most commonly used to describe programs of this genre produced since 2000.  Documentaries and non-fictional programming such as news and sports shows are not usually classified as reality shows.

The early years of reality television rarely displayed an image of a full figured woman as something to be proud of.  On the few occasions that you saw one of us, it was usually because we utilized as comic relief (anyone remember Kathy Kinney from The Drew Carey Show?) or the outspoken (read: loudmouth) best friend. Well, it would appear that times may be changing for the better, curvaceous women of all shapes, sizes, ages and nationalities are filling up our screens in reality television regularly.  And they are doing it while keeping their dignity intact and occasionally bestowing us with a few nuggets of wisdom.  Let’s meet some of the ladies shall we?

  1. Marilyn Crawford is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and Harvard Executive Business School. She has established herself as an expert and a spokesperson in business, streaming and entertainment. She is the CEO of WINDSORPTM, a global streaming and strategic marketing advertising company with multiple platforms.  Crawford travels extensively around the globe and has strategic relationships with world leaders, countries, companies, A List celebrities and influencers.  A beautiful new curvy face in reality TV, she made her debut on Bravo’s Launch My Line.  Launch my line bills itself as “Bravo’s newest fashion creative competition series and features 10 established fashion designers paired with 10 industry professionals, who are highly regarded in their own field of expertise, but have always dreamed of having their own clothing line.”

Aside from the fact that I had been previously acquainted with Miss Crawford, I was drawn to her immediately because she was the only plus sized contestant on the show and her statement that her designs were for the real woman.  When prodded further on the Bravo TV website, she explained, “Real women are women who lead real lives.  In this economy most women work and they have to play the social role.  Real women have luscious curves, but are in good health.  Real women take pride in their attire whether running to work or going to a part. Real women give love, love themselves and get love.”  Although she was hampered from the beginning from an uncooperative expert who just seemed to be taking personal joy in sabotaging her efforts at every turn, she was eliminated at the end of episode 5.  She was the only contestant who thought including the curvy majority in her thought process and I found her energy and positive outlook infectious she was the main reason I tuned in to watch.  Of all the looks the contestants produced, her line was the only one that I could see myself in and for that reason I abruptly tuned out as soon as she was eliminated.  But I have absolutely no doubt that she will get that Lilly Remarkable (LOVE that name!) line produced one way or another.

Word on the street (via The Young, Black and Fabulous) is that America’s Next Top Model alum and Celebrity Fit Club contestant Toccara Jones is getting her own reality show on the Oxygen Network.  No real confirmation on this info yet but they report that the show will follow Toccara as she gets her model/TV personality grind on and perhaps even a peek into her life as an NBA girlfriend.  She is reportedly dating LA Clippers shooting forward Rasual Butler.

Fantasia Barrino is technically a thick chick now…. (According to Tasia’…she’s gone up a few dress sizes from a size 6 to a 10), her latest vacation pics show that she’s decidedly a lil juicier now.  Her new show “Fantasia For Real” on VH1 documents her journey to get her career back on track after lackluster sales of her last album, negative press from The Color Purple and the every day struggles of carrying her entire family on her back since winning American Idol.  I have been following this series since it’s debut this month and although it makes me cringe a little inside each time I turn it on, I will freely admit that I can’t stop watching.

Kim Burrell is a well-known gospel singer from Houston, Texas.  When she learned from her doctors that she had suffered multiple heart attacks while on tour she decided to make her health a priority.  She has lost a whopping 100 pounds to date (no word on how she did it) and still counting and she’s gained a new international endorsement deal, she’s recording the first secular record of her career and she is currently in talks with VH1 to produce a new reality series.

One Big Happy Family on The Learning Channel (TLC) chronicles the struggles of the Cole family of Charlotte, NC.  Collectively the family weighs in at a total 1400 pounds; the family patriarch Norris is 41 years old and weighs 340 lbs, his wife Tameka is 36 and weighs 380 lbs, their 16 year old daughter Amber weighs 348 lb and son Shayne is 14 years old and weighs 308 lbs.  The show documents their everyday life and their attempts to lose weight WITHOUT the help of a trainer or nutritionist.  While I have not watched any of the full episodes I have watched the clips on the TLC website and there is an episode where the family attempts to go to a water park for a day of fun and find that they can’t get on any of the rides because they are all over the weight limits.  The humility and embarrassment they had to face from people pointing, snickering and laughing at them nearly broke my heart.  I wish the best for them, I really do but I just don’t see them accomplishing their goals without help from professionals.  They are way too firmly entrenched in their bad eating habits to do it alone.

Also on the road to a healthier lifestyle, Ruby Gettinger is the star of the highest rated show in the history of the Style Network.  Ruby, her self-titled reality show documents her weight loss journey from over 550 pounds to her goal weight of 150 pounds.  With her current weight at 364 pounds, Ruby keeps a positive outlook and brings a human face to the obesity issue while also shedding a new light on the struggles of larger people in a sizeist society.

Kim “Poprah” Kearney whose large frame and larger than life personality fueled water cooler conversations in offices everywhere during season one of VH1’s “I Want To Work For Diddy”; made a surprise return to the second season of the show.  Kearney was brought in initially as a competitor but revealed herself to be a spy for Diddy, when she wound up being the judge for episode 5.  Back in 2008 blogs were reporting (including mine) that she had a dating show of some sort in the works, no word on if this is still happening but something in my gut tells me we haven’t seen the last of Miss Poprah!

Sunday Best is a gospel singing competition that kind of reminds me of an American Idol for gospel singers, and that’s where the comparisons end.   This show may be one of the few competition shows on television where the size of your body is NOT an issue but the size of your talent is what matters most.  The show features talented curvy girls (and men) who come from all over the country to take a shot at the top prize that includes a new car and recording contract.  The show is hosted by Kirk Franklin and last year’s winner Y’anna Crawley is a big, beautiful sister from Washington DC who won over the audience and judges Bebe Winans and Erica & Tina Campbell of the gospel duo Mary, Mary to beat out over 5000 hopefuls and take the top prize.  Word is that the 2010 auditions for the new season of Sunday Best were held in Nigeria.  I will definitely be tuning in to see how many more juicy chicks come out for Season 3!

Comedienne & actress Niecy Nash is best known for her portrayal of Deputy Raineesha Williams on the Comedy Central television series Reno 911!  She is currently the host of Clean House, a home makeover and interior design show, in it’s 7thseason on The Style Network.  Niecy and her four-person cleanup & renovation crew shoot each episode in the homes of families who are unable to control household clutter.

More To Love is the reality dating competition that debuted last summer on FOX.  The series followed 26 year old plus sized man named Luke Conley as he tried to find love among twenty plus sized women with careers ranging from waitresses to a rocket scientist.  Luke begins by giving a promise ring to each of the twenty ladies with the promise that he would not judge them by their size.  In the end, Luke chose the beautiful Tali to be his future bride.  A little birdie told me that Tali informed the world via her facebook page the she and Luke were unfortunately no longer together.  Hmmm…this seems to be the way ALL of these dating shows end…I bet that means he (or some new dude) will be back for a season two.  Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

A few years back in 2005 Emmy award winning actress Kirstie Alley starred in a “mockumentary” style comedy series called Fat Actress on Showtime.  Playing herself she starred in the show, which detailed the fictitious daily life of an overweight actress trying to make it in Hollywood.  Well it would appear that life is definitely imitating art – since the word is the A&E Network has green lit a new reality series around the actress, who famously flaunted her new bikini body on The Oprah Winfrey show in 2006; as she struggles to lose all of the 75 plus pounds that she has regained after going on the show.

“Carnie Wilson: Unstapled” stars game show host, singer and entertainer Carnie Wilson premiered on January 14th on The Game Show Network (GSN).  The reality show draws back the curtain on the personality behind the game show host, as Wilson juggles dual careers as host of The Newlywed Game, singer, entrepreneur, and activist and more importantly as a wife and mother of two daughters, Lola and Luci.  As the daughter of legendary Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson, Carnie has made a career out of singing, songwriting, acting and hosting a variety of TV Shows.  Her pop group “Wilson Phillips, is currently on tour and next year will celebrate their 20th anniversary in the business and The Newlywed Game, also on GSN is currently enjoying huge ratings success and debuted its second season on January 12th, 2010.

Marissa Jaret Winokur, the Tony Award winning actress is best known for her performance as Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway musical adaptation of John Waters’ Hairspray.  She was most recently seen as the new host of the Oxygen network’s new reality dance competition “Dance Your Ass Off” last year.  It’s been reported that Marissa was booted from the show for various reasons (the blogs say producers were unhappy with her weight and a rep for Oxygen says that they mutually parted ways so she could pursue other things) but the fact that they (the network) replaced her with the incredibly thin and fit former Spice Girl Mel B., speaks volumes for me as to what REALLY went down here.  It will be interesting to see if the show loses it’s curvy and voluptuous fan base because of the change in personnel.

Real women are making huge moves in 2010, and the world is watching to see what will happen next.  The voices of unrest are getting louder and the powers that be have no choice but to sit up and listen.  The fight continues but we are definitely making strides in changing the way Americans and the world views plus sized women across the board.  Moving forward I would like to see even more beautiful curvy representatives not only in Reality TV but in prime time television as well.  Not only in front of the cameras but behind them as well creating, producing and directing.  Let’s continue to shake them up and keep them on their toes fam!