Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Kickin' Up Dust About Weight On American Idol

American Idol has become a microcosm of modern society

Let's face it: Our culture is obsessed with American Idol. Whether we realize it or not, this simple little talent show has quickly become one of the most talked about and commercially successful television shows of our lifetime. There's a little something for everyone in this show and perhaps it is the thrill of watching these no-name people become household names almost overnight. They get to live the American dream and that's awesome.

One thing I have observed about that show is how it embodies so much more about our culture than just seeing who has the best vocal talent in the country. There are many intricate levels of complexity weaved throughout the show that explain how and why this show is so appealing. Although Simon Cowell likes to often repeat that "this is a singing competition," the fact is it is not. American Idol has become a popularity contest based on both the looks and the talent of the singers.

That's what I addressed in this recent blog post about my fellow South Carolina resident Chris Sligh before he was booted off the show last week after making the Top 10. Although Sligh was ready to come home, I think his weight had something to do with his demise as a contestant.

My theory was intriguing enough to Michigan-based reporter Doug Pullen that he interviewed me about the subject for a column that published today entitled "Idol chop: Which weighs the most on 'Idol,' voice or looks?" His interview with me was prior to Chris Sligh being voted off last week.

Basically, Pullen takes my blog post idea one step further and gives a hard look at the premise that American Idol is much more than just a singing competition. I was honored to be interviewed by him for nearly 30 minutes and I was brutally honest with my opinion regarding fat people living in America today and how they are portrayed.

Pullen quoted from my column and went on to discuss my weight loss.

Here is some of what he included in the column from me:

"I know I was easily passed over for jobs. I know a lot of people that basically associate with me now but never even talked to me when I was 410 pounds."

"It's amazing. I lost 100 pounds before people started saying, 'You know, you look like you've lost a couple of pounds."

"It's funny how weight creates this wall. I have a good personality, too. I always had one, even when I was fat. It's one of those things where people put up a wall...all you see is the fat. You don't see the person inside there who's dying to meet you and tell you all about themselves."

I encourage you to go read the entire column because Pullen did an outstanding job covering every angle of this very difficult subject. In fact, my original column was completely misunderstood by one of the readers named Michelle at another web site I write for called Diet Detective that she responded with a stern scorn of me that I just don't understand fat people.

HA! Now THAT'S funny! A former 400-pounder doesn't know what it's like to be fat, huh? Anyways, I read what she had to say for myself and attempted to be objective and understanding. Here's what Michelle wrote regarding my Chris Sligh piece:

Wow, I'm flabbergasted.

What is the oint of this article? To make those of us who are currently fat and coming to this site to do something about it feel self-consious and bad?

The only thing you can focus on is how fat other people are?

Judgemental people like you who feel the need to weigh in on other's weights (pun intendeD) make those of us trying to lose weight self-conscious and it demoralizes our efforts to lose the weight.

You are the jerk that stares at the fat person ordering a meal, as if they should just starve themselves skinny, without even knowing if that person is on a diet and making an effort.

You even call Carrie Underwood overweight!

I'm unsubscribing from this site.

Of course, I felt compelled to share my response to Michelle's accusations:

Hey Michelle,

THANKS for your comments about my column. The point of my article was precisely that the overweight and obese are discriminated because of their size.

As a former 400 pound man who has been through the pain of judgmental people making assumptions about me because of my weight, feeling self-conscious about my weight, and constantly trying and failing many times over to lose the weight for good this time, I KNOW how you feel because I have been there myself.

The difference is I found a way to overcome that struggle and have been able to maintain a nearly 200-pound weight loss for more than three years and counting. I'm sorry you feel I'm some kind of "jerk" and don't understand, but you couldn't be more wrong if you tried, Michelle. I do know what it's like to be morbidly obese and trying to lose weight.

I apologize if you were offended, but you obviously took offense where there was nothing to be offended about. You would certainly have a right to be upset with me had I not been through the angst of obesity in the past, but I have. Now I've overcome, but I still think and feel like a fat person.

So don't go accusing me or this web site of anything without understanding who and what you are responding to. I regret that you have chosen to unsubscribe because this is an excellent resource, but that's your foolish prerogative.

As for Carrie Underwood, I never called her overweight. If you'll reread my comments, you see where I said I thought she looked better when she was on American Idol than she does now after she lost weight.

Man, some people need to take a step back and breathe (and possibly take a valium or something!) before flying off the handle! Calm down and enjoy life to the fullest. That's what I'm doing now that I'm livin' la vida low-carb!

THANKS for your comments!

So, anyway, that's just a little bit of the fallout from my blog post about American Idol and weight. Incidentally, Chris Sligh flew back home to Greenville, SC last night (they opened the 10:00pm news on the local FOX affiliate with him and his beautiful wife coming down the escalator to greet fans from the "Fro Patrol") and he reported he lost 30 pounds while on the show.

Also, Sligh noted that he'd like to lose enough weight for the May finale show so that people won't recognize him as Chris Sligh. He said he just wanted to rest for a couple of weeks and get ready for the summer American Idol tour as well as get back together with his band for some concerts. Best wishes to you, man! On both the weight and the career!

Hey Chris, I've got a way you can shed the pounds! Can you say livin' la vida low-carb? :)

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