Tag Archives: The Guardian

When the fatties win, they just change the rules.

Recently I came across a link to this important story in the Guardian that talks about what happened when a fat man won the Mr. Gay UK contest. The contest was open to all comers. There were 4 judges and several rounds of elimination. And at the end of the day, the contest came down to two finalists. One was an chiseled, underwear model type with washboard abs. One was a 419-pound man named Stavros Louca.

The final round was the “underwear” round, where the two guys were given underpants and a vest (undershirt) and told they had to dance around in them. One problem, the underwear given to both contestants we were small. Really small. There was no way on earth that Stavros would fit in them. It was a crappy move–one that could have easily caused Stavros to feel humiliated and back out. But instead, Stavros put those underpants ON HIS HEAD and danced his heart out. In the end, the judges decided the final round would go to an audience vote. And vote they did–overwhelmingly for Stavros. You really should check out the video above.  The winner is quite obvious.  And that night Stavros was crowned Mr. Gay UK–a crown he was to wear for less than 3 days.  It seems just two days after the contest, he received a call notifying him that he had been disqualified on a technicality.  He was disqualified for wearing the underpants on his head instead of trying to put the entirely too small garment on to his nether regions.  So even though there was absolutely nothing in the rules stating that the underpants had to be worn on one’s bottom, and even though Stavros was clearly the crowd favorite, he was disqualified and all but erased from the experience.

This is because Stavros broke the biggest rule of all.  He was fat in a fat hating world.

This reminds me so much of the controversy a while back surrounding Nancy Upton and the American Apparel plus-sized campaign.  American Apparel created an online contest where plus-sized people could submit photos.  The photo with the most votes would win a trip to Los Angeles to star in an American Apparel photo shoot.  The ad announcing this was an massive pile of stinking and offensive fat puns and fat stereotypes.  I present it here:

Think you are the Next BIG Thing?

Calling curvy ladies everywhere! Our best-selling Disco Pant (and around 10 other sexy styles) are now available in size XL, for those of us who need a little extra wiggle room where it counts. We’re looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next XLent model, send us photos of you and your junk to back it up.

Just send us two recent photographs of yourself, one that clearly shows your face and one of your body. We’ll select a winner to be flown out to our Los Angeles headquarters to star in your own bootylicious photoshoot. Runners up will win an enviable assortment of our favorite new styles in XL!

Show us what you’re workin’ with!

To say that blogger Nancy Upton was offended by this tripe masquerading as an ad is an epic understatement.  But rather than just getting mad, Upton decided to post some photos that showed American Apparel just how she felt about this model call.

Nancy blogged:

The puns, the insulting, giggly tones, and the over-used euphemisms for fat that were scattered throughout the campaign’s solicitation began to crystalize an opinion in my mind. How offensive the campaign was. How it spoke to plus-sized women like they were starry-eyed 16 year olds from Kansas whose dream, obviously, was to hop a bus to L.A. to make it big in fashion. How apparently there were no words in existence to accurately describe the way American Apparel felt about a sexy, large woman, and so phrases like “booty-ful” and “XLent” would need to be invented for us—not only to fill this void in American vocabulary, but also make the company seem like a relatable, sassy friend to fat chicks.

Nancy got together with her photographer friend Shannon Skloss and staged a photo shoot that hammered home the stereotypical view that so many people have about fat folks.  There were pictures involving Nancy eating a whole pie, a whole chicken, multiple cartons of ice cream and vats of salad dressing.  She submitted two of the photos to the contest–never dreaming that she would actually make it through the process of being vetted by the company.  Surprisingly company employees let the photos through.  And then, Nancy won the contest–clearly garnering the largest percentage of the popular vote.  And then she un-won the contest.  She got disqualified for not being the right kind of fatty.

Not only was Nancy disqualified for not upholding the spirit of the contest, but in what is perhaps the worst non-apology PR disaster letter EVAR, she was told she should be ashamed of herself for the way she treated the contest and the way she called out the folks at American Apparel for being sizeist douchebags.

So apparently, another more acceptably malleable and less fierce fatty won the fabulous trip to Los Angeles.  Because while it is against the rules to be a fatty, being an uppity fatty is clearly cause to tear up the rule book and just walk away.

Which isn’t to say that fat people in our society can’t win.  They can.  But given our fat-phobic world, they simply aren’t allowed to win for very long.  Brands and groups that put things to a popular vote–a vote which might show that the idea of a one-size-fits-all underwear contest is a little ridiculous or that asking plus-sized women to submit bootyliscious photos of themselves is perhaps a tad sexist, objectifying and just plain icky–find that the winners aren’t the brand representatives they were hoping for.  But luckily there is one positive change.  The fatties in question are no longer guaranteed to slink quietly away in shame.  The fatties in question have blogs, and movies, and social networks and gobs and gobs of friends.  The fatties in question have voices and some of them have decided to use those voices to shout about what an epic pile of disingenuous poo is being shoveled here.  And in that small way, the fatties in question, have in the long run, won.


Jeanette DePatie (The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to speak to your group about how people of ALL sizes can win?  Click HERE!

P.S.S.  Want to win some free stuff?  Join my mailing list HERE!


When the Fat Chick Sings…

Sad, but oh so true.

One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I have a master’s degree in Opera Performance.  Yup, at one time, I was a budding opera singer.  But after I failed to land one of the 5 paid positions in America for opera performers but did land venture capital for a software company, I decided to put aside my operatic aspirations.  Nevertheless, I feel compelled to jump in on the current kerfluffle regarding reviewers commenting on women who dare to sing while fat.

This all came to a head recently as a pile of reviews from a gang of privileged old white guys surfaced in London.  The reviewers skewered Irish mezzo Tara Erraught’s performance as Octavian in the Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier at the Glyndebourne Festival not because of her performing or even her singing, but rather how she looked in a dress–and pants (Octavian is a pants role after all).  Any of us who have had any kind of presence online ever might recognize some of this “troll tripe”:

“It’s hard to imagine this Octavian as this willowy woman’s plausible lover.”  The Guardian, Andrew Clements

“Unbelievable, and unappealing.” The Times of London, Richard Morrison

“a chubby bundle of puppy fat…” Financial Times,  Andrew Clark

These are not troll fodder screen captured in the comments section.  These are quotes taken from “professional music reviewers” in arguably respectable publications.  While one of the reviews mentions in passing that the role is “gloriously sung” most of them focus exclusively on this performer’s looks.  There is a lot of outrage over these reviews, which I share.  There is also a fair amount of surprise that this sort of language is being used to describe singers in one of the most glorious art forms on the planet.  Unfortunately surprise is something I cannot feel about that.

Irish mezzo soprano, Tara Erraught

As a chubby, budding coloratura soprano, I was told at both the undergraduate and graduate level that I would never have an opera career unless I lost weight.  Professors shared their tips for which Weight Watchers meetings I should attend along with my vocal and theater training.  Because even twenty years ago, when I was in college, we in the biz knew that fat female opera singers were enduring caricatures but not successful performers.  Some of us back then called it Kathleen Battle syndrome.  She wasn’t much of a singer.  She wasn’t bad, but she certainly was far from the best.  Working with her was an absolute nightmare.  But she made huge bank back then for two reasons–she knew how to build her fame by building scandal and keeping her name in the press and she looked great in a dress.

No matter how great your singing voice, fail to look great in a dress and you might get the axe.  I certainly remember singing sensation Deborah Voight’s triumphant review in the New York Times for her role in Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss.  I also remember her getting fired by London’s Covent Garden because she “was not appropriate because of the costume that Ariadne was meant to wear in this production.”  In other words, Deborah did not look good in the dress that was selected for the role, therefore Covent Garden would need to select another singer.  Voight has since had weight loss surgery and is often heard “singing the praises” of this procedure.  Naturally since her weight loss, many believe she looks better in a dress. And actually the whole issue of her weight loss has helped to stay in the press–helping her meet both requirements of “Kathleen Battle syndrome”.  Naturally, her bookings have skyrocketed.

And the desire for our divas to be thin is hardly new.  Histrionic diva Maria Callas is well known for being stick thin.  And rumor has it that she resorted to many drastic measures–including swallowing tapeworms to maintain her tiny waist.  Gone are the days when a truly great soprano might hope to have a great dessert (Dame Nellie Melba) or a pasta dish (Luisa Tetrazzini) named after her.

Luisa Tetrazzini was the only soprano that Caruso felt could match him in tone and volume. Too bad she’d be fired today for failing to look desirable in a dress.

I think one of the things I find most appalling about the whole thing is the argument by some of these critics that fat, female opera singers just aren’t believable.  They imply that somehow we can get audiences to suspend their disbelief to the point that they accept:

A husband won’t recognize his wife at a party if she’s wearing a tiny mask over her eyes.  He can hold her hand, flirt with her for hours but not recognize her at all.

Men return from war, disguise themselves with hats and very fake mustaches, call themselves “Albanians” and their girlfriends have no clue it’s them.  In fact the girls fall for each other’s boyfriends and nobody is the wiser until the finale.

An angry dwarf steals a ring and the world ends.  Ends!

A man turns into a swan.

A man falls in love (for reals) with a mechanical doll.

We can accept all of this?  And we can accept that while these folks are doing these things they burst into song SOMETIMES FOR HOURS.  But somehow we can’t accept that a plus-sized gal can love or be loved or be sexy?  Or…

Are we dealing with an increasingly elitist art form that enforces male privilege and classism?  Are we creating spectacle purely to allow rich people to wear designer gowns and reenforce their position as arbiters of culture?  Are we proving yet again that even a woman who can sing for four hours in French and belt out high F’s night after night while wearing a corset and dancing in stiletto heels has no value unless she is also considered appropriately F#%$-able by aging frat boys?

I am deeply grateful that I had an opportunity to study and perform opera.  I still love singing very much.  And I still do, publicly, every week.  But thankfully, I no longer have to diet, wear a corset or worry about not being able to pay my heating bill because of how I look in a dress.  I am The Fat Chick.  And I have sung.  Therefore this blog post has come to an end.  See  you at the curtain call.


Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick