“The Biggest Loser” trainer Jillian Michaels was being interviewed on the Buzzfeed series “AM to DM” when she opined, “We should always be inclusive, but, you cannot glorify obesity. It’s dangerous. It kills people.”
Well, of course she believes that. She’s a trainer. Her business is fitness, so it would be hypocritical if she said that it didn’t matter if people aren’t fit.
Interviewer Alex Berg , however, cited the example of African American singer Lizzo, who is unquestionably obese and who flaunts her fat. Michaels was unimpressed, saying,
“Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? Why aren’t we celebrating her music? ‘Cause it isn’t going to be awesome if she gets diabetes,” Michaels said. “I’m just being honest. I love her music, like my kid loves her music, but there’s never a moment when I’m like, ‘I’m so glad she’s overweight.’ Why do I even care? Why is it my job to care about her weight?”
Berg later tweeted,
What I was going to say here is that Lizzo has been incredibly important in giving so many of us a possibility model for accepting our bodies as we are and celebrating bodies that are normally ridiculed. Had to restrain myself from defending Lizzo’s honor!
Now Michaels is being flamed on social media as a fat-shaming bigot. Oh–and a racist of course, because she is white and Lizzo is black. I’m not even going to address that, as there is no question in my mind that if Berg had mentioned an overweight white singer like Wynonna Judd or Adele, Michaels would have said the same thing.
I will observe, however…
- As in so many debates, the inarticulateness of the adversaries is a problem. The question isn’t whether Michaels should “care” about Lizzo’s body; the question is whether it should be, as Berg claims, it should be off-limits for criticism. As for “celebrating” her appearance, that word is also confounding. If an alcoholic artist says, “I’m a drunk and that’s the way I am, I’m not apologizing for it,” do we have to celebrate alcoholism?”
Berg would be on sounder ground if he advocated respecting people’s own choices in their lives, including their choices regarding their weight.
- If part of Lizzo’s act is being fat, and it works for her, it is not Michael’s place to attack her priorities. Micaels makes her living by being fit and selling fitness. Great. Lizzo’s brand is Proud Fat Singer. If she has concluded that she’ll get richer, sell more records and have a better life fat than she would being Jillian-thin, that’s a valid choice.
Looking like Michaels also takes time. Those who decide they would rather spend that time reading, playing, socializing or creating are making trade-offs just as valid as Michaels’, who has decided to spend her time exercising rather than reading books, based on her interviews.
- Now, those choosing to be fat should know what they are choosing and the attendant risks. There is nothing inappropriate about a fitness trainer explaining why a body like Lizzo’s has its long-term drawbacks.
Of course, we all know the real culprits are dollar stores.
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