VIEWS FROM A BROAD
with catherine schuller
Size Matters….in the waistland of reality
The much anticipated, Fat Actress, thundered onto the small screen with all the hoopla befitting a reality show created around tabloid retaliation. Not since Liz Taylor’s documented bloated beauty have we witnessed weight gain that was made to look both mockingly repugnant and shocking.
Fame has a horrible unwritten contractual clause. Those who achieve it must give up their right to be non-thin. It is the one demand that is both inferred and enforced and can make the difference in a truly successful career. Cameron Diaz commands $10 million for a movie while Camryn Manheim makes a fraction of that on television. Accident? I think not. You can’t be a heavyweight to be a true box office heavyweight. No matter what the character, the one attribute of the actress is that she is rail thin. Look at Nicole Kidman, not a plussie in the bunch.
Put yourself in Kirstie Alley’s place for a moment. Imagine your every burger binge plastered on the front page of The Inquirer for everyone standing in a checkout line from Boston to Burbank to see. Kirstie probably figured if you can beat ‘em, find a way to defeat ‘em, or at least deflate ‘em. As co-creator with Brenda Hampton, Kirstie plays the title role in a comedic reality farce which has truly touched on a nerve.
The nerve is why she felt compelled to capitalize on her “lightning rod” position. She has suffered all of the slings and arrows over the years, and like Delta Burke has been cooperative and contrite at times, only to emerge as seemingly out of control and defiant at other times. All the while the career carrot dangling just out of reach. The promise of a role hinged on the tip of the scales.
Let’s face it, as Media Spokesperson for Catherines Plus Sizes, I am on television and in newspapers all the time and no one tells me I can’t appear because I am not “television sized.” If the truth be told, if I am to represent this customer, I need to look like her. That is the only thing that saves me. And luckily all of the morning show hostesses I am interviewed by are size 2, 4, 6. They all have confessed that they feel a tremendous amount of pressure to stay thin to be sitting in those very unbroad, broadcast seats. They know their viewers are plus size and they are very supportive of making sure my mission to improve the image of this woman and elevate her to the status of stylish is maintained. I am a spokesperson for the real woman, the broadcasters exist in that perfect aspirational world of fantasy that the entertainment perpetrates. That demon camera is a cruel critic. We all know that the camera puts on weight. Once that axiom is accepted, and it is pretty much a show business “given” --- everyone is off the hook and prejudice can be blamed on a technical truth.
I am fortunate, because I set myself up to be a plus size woman who is working in the industry and who is a role model for all the real women out there who shopping and who the networks realize represent most of their viewing audience. But the morning show is reality TV and not fantasy film and TV. Kirstie was and is smack dab in the eye of the storm.
In what other business but the entertainment world, could you actually lose your job because you put on a few pounds? That is beyond sexism, gender discrimination or prejudice when it comes to violations of human rights. Even the airline industry had to make some adjustments and adjust their stringent weight restrictions for flight attendants. The lawsuits were just too costly and the reasons for those weigh ins were antiquated. But, not in the entertainment world….it’s all fantasy and if you sign up, you had better be prepared for your job description to include being talented with good dieting skills.
Let’s not get into the details of the show, the clichés and the stereotypes, the poorly executed dialogue or the shallow characterizations. Kirstie’s promotional trailer has her dressed in a green satin two piece outfit, complete with full dirndl, that leaves one wondering where her beer steins are and at which kellar she is bartending.
The opening scene with Kirstie writhing around her bathroom, screaming at her agent for suggesting she do the Jenny Craig campaign should have signaled what the rest of the show would be like. Her over the top behavior proved that she still has her comedic chops, albeit pork, together. But she is a savvy woman who came off like a cloying, insecure, Norma Desmond-esque has been. The obligatory meeting with the TV executives about her making a comeback was predictable and unfunny as was the subsequent scene with the black television executive from the meeting, who further underscored the theme that “black men like ample booty.”
That being said, I was disappointed that the vehicle wasn’t stronger and more hysterically poignant. The message underneath the madness needed to be brought to the surface. And given Kirstie’s desperation to have a career at any cost, I question that she is really in it to make a statement about size acceptance. She has claimed herself that she is no fat advocate, rather a human being advocate. So, you know she is only temporarily one of us and exploiting her position and throwing her weight around, because she wants to capitalize on her torment. If we are to understand her motivation, suppose if everyday for three years there were unflattering, contemptuous, purposefully grotesque pictures of my body taken at every angle at every time of day, I would be horrified and then revengeful, too. If in the end if she makes a statement about the “you can never be too thin or too rich” morays of Hollywood, it’s one we already knew. But how many of us are really going to suffer or be tortured as much as she. Her case is extreme and therein lies the unreality part of this reality show. She truly doesn’t represent us in the final analysis and I believe that what is going to happen is that she will succumb and accept the Jenny Craig commercial and lose the weight and gain back her old body, ready to pick up her life as if she was stepping back into an old rerun of Cheers. Fat Actress may be just some backstory to an infomercial, a behind the scenes look at what we didn’t see Anna Nicole Smith going through. And just like Oprah she will represent everywoman, and be that real woman who has struggled and emerged victorious. And just like Oprah and Kirstie we have trainers, chefs and large diet companies to help endorse our affirmations every pound of fhe way. I remember in 1988 I was approached to do a Nutri System commercial… Amazing how being hired to lose weight changes the excruciating impossibilities of the diet. It was a job and I had a goal to accomplish. I would be compensated with money, counseling, a wardrobe, a TV and print commercial campaign and all the packaged food I needed to make my weight loss successful. The day after the commercial was shot, I had one maintenance meeting and I was on my own. The diet squad had loved me and left me. I was the one that coined the “nothing tastes as good as thin feels” slogan. It was wham bam, thank you ma’am.
I thought it was inspired programming genius that Showtime, the network airing Fat Actress, would have Penn & Teller’s Bullshit show airing right on the heels of FA. And their subject matter….the ludicrous amount of money bilked from the American public on workout equipment devices, diet pills and weight loss promises. As Penn said, “No one is going to tell you to eat less and move your body more.” They can’t sell you a Thigh Master of a fat burning tablet with that kind of logical advice.
If you didn’t see the show, you can still view it on the web if you go to the Fat Actress website. Read her blogs on Jenny Craig and do a search on Google to read all of the articles good and bad. One thing seemed to run throughout all that was out there. The message was legitimate, the execution was not. See it for yourself and remember that moderation, health, balance are the goals we can set for ourselves and we can live up to those without calling Jenny and saying, “Help, I’m FATTTT!!!”
Okay, that was Monday. Fat Actress started off the week. I was happy that this month was a month of meeting and greeting many people in the industry at various occasions.
The week before, Stephanie Sack of Vive Le Femme in Chicago, suggested a group of us get together to start a Curvy Council. Just a bunch of us sitting around sharing our goals and dreams and getting to know each other. What an empowering dinner.It set off a great ripple effect as Wendy Shanker’s new book The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life was issued in paperback with a fashion show kickoff on Thursday, March 10th at Macy’s on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. Wendy did a great job of commentating the fashion event and offering her own brand of humor and wardrobe advice throughout the show.
||That afternoon I had organized another casting for Pieces of Ass. You remember I had cornered the director backstage almost two years ago and told him he needed to have a plus size actress in the show. When he agreed we started a year dialogue while the show moved to Los Angeles garnering rave reviews and paving the way for its momentous return to New York. The first plus size actress cast into the show was Katie Walter. Her contract was up at the end of February and Brian Howie, the director, once again emailed me and asked me to send him some new candidates.
I searched my address book and memory bank and came up with a dozen new curvaceous women for his consideration. I saw the show again and hung out afterward with two actresses who flew in after bookings during the day just to meet Brian. He was impressed to say the least and sent me an email saying he loved my suggestions and someone new will be going into the show very shortly. Stay tuned as we Refit the Pieces and get a new curvy beauty into the lineup. The show will have installations in London and Sydney, Australia very soon, so I’ve convinced him to include a full figured woman because he sees how important it is to make his show truly relevant and meaningful.
Onto Friday afternoon where Abby Z, a hip, young designer had her meet and greet party for her spring line at Lord&Taylor in Manhattan. I am a huge fan of Abby herself and helped her throughout the week to prepare. I was pinch hitting for the fabulous fashionista Lisa Alpern, who most unfortunately broke her ankle over the weekend while in Massachusetts. That wretched black ice is an awful thing. We all stepped in to pick up Lisa’s slack and most of the jobs were done and the show went on. Lots of great people came to meet and greet Abby and to see her new designs. Way cool hippie chic Indian gauze and exquisitely beaded tunics, shapely charmeuse shirts, fluttering and feminine shirts to team with the best fitting jean ever to grace your curvy behind.
||Abby Z is truly a line for those who want trend and quality. Her top is on the cover of the Lord &Taylor mailer with her white stretch cropped jean with rhinestone detailing on the back pockets. Check out her website and sign up to be on her mailing list. Her events are the whose who of industry.
|Some luminaries who attended were Emme, Wendy Shanker, Khalia Ali (Muhammed Ali’s daughter), Jackie Tyson (Mike’s sister), Ashlie Atkinson of Fat Pig fame, Venus Divas’ own Michele Weston, Rachel Roth of the Tobe Report, Darren Trentacosta, Curve Style photographer and all round honorary plussie.
The models looked stunning…check out some of the pics I snapped from the gathering. Aren’t the clothes amazingly CUTE!!!???
Allright then, that was my week. I am off to Milwaukee this week to do fashion events for Carson Pirie Scott and then to Nashville for Catherine’s. I will be speaking at the Waldorf at a model’s convention on Easter Sunday and then to Philadelphia to do a Catherine’s sponsored event for den mothers of the Girl Scouts of America.
Hope by the time you read this spring will have finally sprung. This feels like the winter that won’t go away. I can’t wait to don my rope espadrilles and colorful wedgies with some cropped capris. I am itching to put away my coat once and for all. In the meantime, have a very stylish rest of the winter.
about catherine schuller
Catherine Schuller of CurveStyle, has been an actress, model, spokesperson, author and now promoter and marketer. Her quest to find opportunities to change the world’s perception of full figured woman continues to forge new projects and endeavors. Her desire and ambition is constantly rekindled as she finds ways to create new venues to help solidify the full figured femme as the image of the new fashion and real life woman icon.