In July of 2012, I wrote a blog called “Olympic Fat Shaming – A New Event?”.
Essentially the gist of the blog discussed how the media seemed to be taking swipes at some of the athletes who didn’t meet the visual “standard” of Olympic athletes. It also discussed how because of their non athletic appearance, it was difficult to get corporate sponsorships to afford the competition, and that grass roots financial support was the only way for them to get there.
One of the women that I highlighted was Olympic weightlifter Holly Mangold. I supported her financially. I bought her “Holley Mangold Has a Great Snatch” t-shirt, even though I’d never wear it, just to support her Olympic effort. Obviously I blogged about her. Many people in the fat community did as well, especially after late night talk show host Conan O’Brien tweeted about Ms. Mangold prior to the Olympics when he wrote:
I predict 350 lb. weight lifter Holley Mangold will bring home the gold and 4 guys against their will.
She handled this quite well, and became an unofficial poster girl for fat acceptance that summer. She responded to Conan, handled him well when she said:
Holley was also the subject of a great feature on MTV called “I’m The Big Girl”. http://www.mtv.com/videos/true-life-im-the-big-girl/1667111/playlist.jhtml
I’m linking this because the readers can see how this was a very size positive story. Her words:
I hope when people see that, when they see me, it will give them the self-confidence to follow their dreams, to keep going when others say they cannot do something.” Her path has been simple. “My parents just always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be,” she says, “and, silly me, I believed them.
The fat community believed in you as well, and even with an abysmal finish to the 2012 Olympic competition (she finished 10th, which she attributed to a wrist injury), the fat community supported her. Evidently that support was not enough for Holley, who this week announced that she would be a contestant on Season 15 of NBC’s show “The Biggest Loser”. One of the things that caught my eye was that she indicated that her weight contributed to her poor performance at The London Games. Really? So the wrist injury that was discussed after the Olympics wasn’t the truth? I didn’t see you mention anything about your weight being an issue after the events ended. Why the change?
Again, Holley’s words as she promoted her appearance on the show:
They’ve talked about how I was the inspiration for big girls. I felt like I never got the chance to be the in shape, smaller girl. I never had that chance. This is kind of like my second chance to do that. I wanted to show them all that you can do it.
Couple of issues here. First, her comments contradict what she’d said in the past about her weight. “I’m comfortable with my weight” does not translate to “I never got the chance to be the in shape, smaller girl”. Second, when you say “I wanted to show them all that you can do it”, you’re falling into the trap of thinking that everyone can do it, which is so obviously wrong. And it’s not wrong in suggesting that eating well, and exercising won’t have their benefits, but it’s assuming that you’ll always lose weight in the process. It appears you’re singing a completely different tune, Holley. It seems like you’re turning your back on the people who supported you (evidently not enough) to seek the corporate monies to allow you to compete again in 2016.
I know that NBC is likely offering you more than the entire world of size/fat acceptance had given to you in your 2012 endeavors. I know that losing the weight will likely get you other endorsement deals (think of Holley doing the Weight Watchers commercials). Money can do a lot for your career and long term well being.
I’m just sorry that it came at the expense of a movement that you seemed to be aligned with.
I don’t know if the season has started or perhaps ended already. I don’t want to pass judgment before I see any of the shows (which I typically don’t watch because of all of the fat shaming going on), but it’s really hard to be objective in light of some of her recent comments. All I can do is hope that she didn’t completely sell out, and hope that I’m wrong.