"“Thick. Heavy. Big boned. Plump. Full figured. Chunky. Womanly. Large. Curvy. Plus-size. Hefty.” To sixteen-year-old Emery Jackson, these are all just euphemisms for the big “F” word—”fat.” Living on a Southern California beach with her workout fiend dad, underwear model sister, and former model mother, it is impossible for Emery not to be aware of her weight. Emery is okay with how things are. That is, until her “momager” signs her up for Fifty Pounds to Freedom, a reality show in which Emery will have to lose fifty pounds in fifty days in order to win the million dollars that will solve her family’s financial woes. Emery is skeptical of the process, but when the pounds start to come off and the ratings skyrocket, she finds it hard to resist the adoration of her new figure and the world of fame. Emery knows that things have changed. But is it for the better?"
What inspired you to write a book with this topic?
First of all, covering reality TV has become a huge part of my job description at E! News. Safe to say, I have learned a lot about the process – from casting, to producing, to the resulting creation of reality celebrities.
And the issue of body image and our society’s abnormally excessive focus on being thin is something I think a lot about. I am guilty of allowing myself to buy into this distorted view of beauty that the media has promoted over the years. I wanted to explore how this plays out on the personal level, and that is how Emery Jackson came into creation. But the issues that Emery deals with are issues that people of every age – not just teens – struggle with. I mean, if you internalized all the messages that are sent either explicitly or implicitly to us via the media, you couldn’t help but feel inferior on so many levels. Obviously, that is very unhealthy, but on some level we are all guilty of this. Emery finds herself inhabiting the Big Girl world, the Skinny Girl world, the private life and the celebrity life. She comes through the process with some amazing insights that I think many readers will appreciate.
When writing, How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell in Love, did you already know how you wanted it to end? Or did that come along with the writing and the way the characters developed?
I really didn’t. I just wrote the story, and I tried to be dedicated to what Emery would naturally do. Luckily, the publisher didn’t make me outline exactly how it would end. And I am grateful to them for that. I didn’t want to have it end how I would personally end it. It is Emery’s story and ultimately she ends things in a way only Emery really would be capable of doing. I think we are so trained, especially if you are a reality competition show fan, to expect certain endings. We want the final rose ceremony! We expect that dramatic weigh-in and predictable result! We want the post-show reunion special where everyone trashes each other and settles scores! But, in real life, things don’t always work out like they do on so-called “reality” shows.
Losing fifty pounds in fifty days can be pretty unhealthy, does Emery see repercussions of that in the book?
I don’t want to reveal how much weight she loses – whether it is more or less than fifty, or fifty exactly. I want to leave that up to readers to discover. But there is no doubt that her weight-loss effort, while incorporating some healthy dietary habits and exercise regimes, is overall extremely ill-advised. Most experts will tell you that the kind of crash dieting that occurs on shows like The Biggest Loser are not good for you. It might be good for ratings, it might make good episodic entertainment, but it is not what is best for your body. We need to really look at these kind of extreme weight-loss shows – as viewers, as doctors, as producers, as journalists, as participants – and ask ourselves if this end-justifies-the-means ethic is truly a path that should keep being walked.
A lot of girls and women are dealing with the issue of being overweight, or at least feeling that way, what kind of suggestions do you have?
I think Emery Jackson says it best in the book: “The difference between being ugly and beautiful has zero to do with your appearance.”
With this book released, do you have another book in the works? Does it revolve around weight loss as well?
I am writing a series of thrillers that are set in Hollywood, and involve celebrity, but not specifically about weight loss. But you can bet that the characters in my next books will be coping with private struggles of their own!
About the Author:
Ken Baker is the E! News/E! Online Senior Correspondent and Breaking News Editor, an acclaimed author, producer, public speaker and former pro hockey player.
Ken reports breaking news, conducts celebrity interviews, delivers investigative reports and hosts a range of news segments for E! News, E! Online, E! International, E! News specials and the network’s live events.
Baker has published six books. His newest work is a novel due out in April 2014 titled “How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love,” a story about an obese teen who is pressured by her family to go on a reality show to lose weight and, in so doing, learns the real meaning of freedom.
His debut novel, “Fangirl” (Running Press, 2012), told the story of a pop star who falls in love with a fan amid a sensational tabloid drama. Ken is adapting “Fangirl” into a movie in collaboration with Converge Media.
Ken is currently at work on a series of Hollywood-themed thrillers set for release in 2015.