Big Sexy, "Bring on Big Sexy": once you go big, you never go twig

Quick Take: Big Sexy, “Bring on Big Sexy”
Can a reality show about curvy women change the national discourse? Maybe, but not this show. 

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Review: Big Sexy, “Bring on Big Sexy”
(S0101) I seriously don’t know what to make of Big Sexy, TLC’s new reality show about curvy women pursuing their dreams in New York City. The feminist side of me likes to see a show where women populate a cast that aren’t stinking rich by osmosis, hot messes clawing one another’s eyes out or just narcissistic asses.  On the contrary, Tiffany, Heather, Leslie, Nikki, and Audrey are all nice women who happen to be BFFs working in, or in the orbit of, the New York fashion industry. They are also big (and some are tall) ladies that are unapologetic about their sizes.

In theory that’s empowering, yet the show’s producers are fixated on placing the women in humiliating situations where their weight is confronted time and time again in a very unflattering light. That treatment creates some serious discrepancies between the “big and proud” sound bites that all of the ladies like to zing in their camera confessionals and the lifetime of difficulties they are still admittedly struggling with day-to-day.

I’m not saying the show should white wash the everyday discriminations that these curvy women face, but you really undercut women owning their physical selves when you shine an uncomfortable spotlight on it 24/7 and then edit the episode so it comes off as the thing that defines who they are.  Is that the angle the show takes because otherwise these women wouldn’t be interesting enough to follow just living their everyday lives? It’s hard to say because there’s nothing these ladies do -- from clubbing to visiting friends to staging a runway show for big women -– that doesn’t revolve around weight. So I think the million dollar question that needs to be asked is if these women and their weight are being exploited in the shallow guise of self empowerment? It’s a question I still didn’t feel comfortable answering by the episode's end.

In the premiere hour, the five friends, who all love clothing, modeling and makeup, manage to “sneak” into New York’s Fashion Week to check out some of the big shows.

Shenanigans alert: Uhm, no one sneaks into NYC Fashion Week and gets a row of seats next to the catwalk unless your name is Klum, McCartney, or Dior. Let’s just dispose of the producer orchestrated fibs and not act like it was a “surprise, surprise” that Tiffany was able to get backstage time with a major designer to pitch being an oversized model in person. Yeah, that’s the kind of “reality” that blows my regard for a show in seconds flat.

When Tiffany is politely rebuffed, the women all decide to go to an after-party club where they are caged by the bouncer from entering. As they watch skinny men and women let in, they are finally ushered in but told to pay a $30 cover. Insulted, the women leave and then bitch about it incredulously on the street. Only Audrey, the over six-foot, Gothish gal, is unfazed by the behavior that she says she encounters a lot. Was it a set up to catch the ladies in a moment of weakness? Who knows but it stinks of it being probable.

The next morning at a diner, the women all gab about the encounter and the lack of curvy women models at the shows so they decide to do their own large model runway show sponsored by Redress, the shop where chipper Leslie works. It all smacks of staging because they only have a “week” to pull it all together and it has to be done impeccably or large women will never be taken seriously as potential models in NYC again!

Filling the rest of the show, aside from the show planning, are the ladies attending a Big Beautiful Women party where men who like large women are on the prowl. They’re unimpressed by the men that show up and then are totally offended when some other women shake their booties for a Thunder Thigh contest. Uhm, who wouldn’t be?

Next they try speed dating where Tiffany tells off a man that admits he only dates big women when he’s drunk. None of the gals find any matches so it’s a bust.

The only woman in a relationship is Nikki, who is seeing Steven. He appreciates her size without judgment and they, aside from Leslie, come off as the most balanced people in the show.

Each woman gets time to explain their weight issues and it’s all sad stuff as they seem to have similar experiences with their parents, their overall lack of dating, coupled with their issues of self worth. For example, Audrey has model thin parents who made her feel awful growing up about being tall and overweight. But they invite Audrey’s mom to the runway show, where she doesn’t come off as an ogre but genuinely supportive. At least that felt authentic and wasn’t played for nasty drama.

The runway show itself was peppy and brave but the audience looked stacked with supporters. I’m not sure how many industry titans were present to witness the event. I’m going to guess none and that truly is that industry’s loss.  But based off this episode, I don’t think Big Sexy is going to be a game changer when it comes to changing the perception of large people in the mainstream because the series isn’t very authentic at all.

By Tara Bennett

About the author

is an author (The Lost Encyclopedia), a national entertainment journalist and a media studies adjunct professor at Rowan University. She's been a film, TV and pop culture junkie for as long as she can remember and she's got the old TV Guide's to prove it. Pray for her thighs as she spends far too much time at her desk writing or her couch watching what she loves.

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1 Comment
On: Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

We seem to see this dynamic with a lot of reality shows these days. The producers feel there's not enough drama with the basic concept so they feel compelled to spice things up. 

By the way, shouldn't a show called Big Sexy really be about a large and stylish gentleman of color? This show in my mind demands a catch phrase along the lines of, "Now I'm gonna get my swag on." 

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