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Ellen Inspires my new Letter to Joan Rivers about Fat Jokes

Yesterday I wrote a blog about WLS Plastics from the Patient Perspective. There was a reference in it to a school yard bully incident that I used to help people understand the psychological stigma that such encounters can have on you even 20 years later…

The hall was crowded, kids bustling around as they rushed to their lockers to get their books for their next class. She stood at her locker with her back against it, cradling her books to her chest as if she were protecting them.  Her right foot moved slightly as she readied herself to leave but it halted as a frown appeared on her face. Standing in front of her, blocking her way was one of the more popular girls; one of the “mean girls” if you will. “Awe look at the little fat girl hugging her books because nobody else wants to hug her. Stop eating Ding Dongs and Twinkies and you might not leave high school a never been kissed virgin.” The blond-haired girl clutching her books as if there was safety in them, took a deep breath and even though her voice cracked as tears threatened to stream down her face, she responded courageously, “I might be fat, but I can lose weight, you’re just ugly inside and out and you can’t ever change that.”

oca-logo-footerShortly after I posted that article I received a notice from the OAC about a Bias Buster Alert they had posted on their website. ( See: Joan Rivers’ Comments on Singer-songwriter Adele’s Physical Appearance ) When the OAC asks me to do something, I usually do it, and so I wrote a letter to Joan Rivers instantly and fired it off.

Dear Ms. Rivers,

I had the most unfortunate opportunity to view your guest spot on the Dave Letterman show and I feel the need to write you and tell you that I find your attitude and discriminatory comments towards Adele insulting, and a far cry from funny. I feel that your attempt at making fun of Adele based on her size is a sad expression of your views on the morbidly obese.

The fact that you feel that your job as a fashion reporter for the Oscars somehow gives you the right to mock people who are battling obesity is morally alarming and in my eyes pretty much equates you to a school yard bully that is using their public figure status to pick on over 149 million Americans that are overweight or obese.

Furthermore Ms. Rivers your inability to apologize for offending your fans with tasteless jokes that make fun of people based on things like weight and religion has insured that I will never again watch, or in any way support anything you are a part of. You were once a woman I respected and admired for the name she made for herself in her industry, you’ve lost that respect and I can honestly say without some sort of public apology to Adele and the people you offended with your weight biased comments, I will never see you in the same light again.

Jaime “Pandora” Williams  – Portland OR

As I sit here this morning I am still disturbed by this. Now I will say, that I highly doubt that Joan Rivers cares that she has offended me or several other Americans that have struggled with obesity on any level with her comments.  Currently she is busy refusing to apologize for a joke she made about the Holocaust on the Fashion Police last week. I’m sure if the star who is Jewish herself and whose Husband she said lost family at Auschwitz doesn’t care that she has offended her fellow Jews, she cares little that she has offended people who are battling obesity. ( See: Joan River unapologetic about Holocaust, Adele fat jokes )

I used to respect Joan Rivers. Her tell it like it is, call a spade a spade attitude and the way she made such a name for herself was always something I admired. If I am being honest, which I try to be, both with my readers and with myself, her twisted and often taboo sense of humor is something I normally find entertaining and amusing. Joan Rivers has grinned everyone’s ax for years, that is just the sort of comedy that she does. I have to say though, when her making fun of someone was targeted at a person, group of people and issue that hit so close to home for me, I resented her for it instantly.

The other day, I had my first experience where I actually felt discriminated against. I won’t go into details, it really isn’t important, but it happened in the context of business, when my definition of something referenced “Gay Pride” and I suddenly had someone’s “People” telling me that they were not comfortable with that wording. It sort of blew my mind. I found myself having to walk away from the computer.

But strangely enough, you know what bothers me the most about it… I’m jealous. How stupid is that? But it is the truth. I look at Joan Rivers, and I’m jealous that this woman who picks on people, makes fun of their weaknesses and behaves like a catty sixteen year old gossip monger rather than a classy well aging lady gets to be on television and deliver that message to millions of millions of people.  I’m jealous that she has a venue I only dream of having, and I am disgusted by how she utilizes it. It makes me thankful that people like Oprah and Ellen came along and started reminding people how important it is to give back and to help others and to show one another kindness.

Yesterday I felt like I had been living in a bubble where I never really experienced any sort of discrimination because of my size, gender, race, religious beliefs or sexual preferences. Maybe that was because I was super morbidly obese, self-employed and surrounded myself with only people who accepted me and loved me no matter what. But as I start to experience the world more, I realize that some days aren’t amazing even when you are thin. I always thought being thin would change everything and turn the world into a place where everyone followed rainbows and founds lucky pots of gold but I’ve learned over the last couple of years as I live life after gastric bypass and massive weight loss, that just isn’t the case. In fact, I think the world I live in now is a little bit harsher than it was before.

After I read my blog to HJ this morning she told me about a clip on www.AfterEllen.com where Ellen talks about bullying. ( See: Watch Now! Ellen opens up to “A Current Affair” ) Ellen DeGeneres is one of my personal Hero’s. I grew up in the era where my Mother watched Oprah and I fell in love with Ellen. Her motto “Be kind to one another,” is something I try to incorporate into my life.  Each day, when I am dealing with other people I remind myself to be kind and to pay it forward. A very wise man once taught me that each of us is on a personal journey, and during each of our journeys we each have the responsibility to do two very important things. We must know when to stop and reach forward to those more experienced than ourselves for help and we must know when to stop and reach back to those behind us and offer them the wisdom of our experience in the form of a helping hand. This is the theology I live my life by. As I listened to Ellen’s interview, I found myself chuckling a little at how much it applied to how I was feeling today.

 

“When I say be kind to one another, I think, umm… I just want people to, maybe it will seep in… I think people are rude sometimes, and I think people are unkind and I think people don’t pay attention to someone else’s feelings. And I think that there are a lot of kids out there that are bullied…and I think that needs to stop, and I think adults need to know that they are doing the same thing, it’s not just kids. There are adults out there bullying and they need to be kind.” – Ellen DeGeneres

In this same interview Ellen talks about her take on how you can’t control everything, how some things happen because they are just meant to be and how all you can really do is be yourself. For her that means living life as a good, kind and gentle person. Is it any wonder she is one of my personal heroes? There is even a little comment in there about Joan Rivers and how mean her comedy is.

After watching Ellen’s interview today I have to say, I think I got this wrong. I forgot to approach Ms. Rivers the way I would have wanted to be approached, with kindness and gentleness, because I was so upset at the group of people she was making fun of.  So, inspired by Ellen I decided to write Joan Rivers a new letter today.

Dear Ms. Rivers,

I wrote you a letter yesterday scolding you for your weight biased joke against Adele on the David Letterman show and demanding an apology. I apologize, because demanding anything rarely gets anyone anywhere. As a Bariatric surgery patient that often has to explain to people why I chose surgery as my tool to fight obesity and a post reconstructive plastic surgery patient who now gets judged for not being grateful enough for the body her insurance paid for and a woman who has battled obesity since my childhood, it hit close to home and my first response was defensive and off mark.

I called your behavior the equivalent of a high school bully, and while I think it was, I did neglect to give you the benefit of the doubt and credit the fact that this sort of comedy is your job, and what you are famous for doing.

It occurred to me today Ms. Rivers that as someone who has often been made fun of and ridiculed for her plastic surgery selections, I am sure that you understand how that can feel. I’m sure you understand how hurtful it can be. That’s why I would love to invite you to show your fans and 149 million Americans battling obesity, that you don’t really think it is a laughing matter.

You can do so by joining the Obesity Action Coalition and by making charitable donations to the Obesity Action Coalition and the WLSFA. I’m sure once you get to know about the WLSFA you will love them as much as I do! They are an organization that helps fund grant recipients for patients that need plastic surgery to remove excess skin after massive weight loss. As someone who was lucky enough to have her insurance cover several of these procedures I know how life changing these plastic surgeries can be. I am so passionate about these two organizations and what they do in the fight against obesity that I am thrilled to tell you about them so that you have the opportunity to show the world that you’re really not as mean-spirited as your jokes can be and that there is a kinder gentler Joan behind the jokes.

I’ve included links to both organizations for your convenience.

http://www.obesityaction.org/ – http://www.wlsfa.org/

Thank you for your time Ms. Rivers,

Have a great day

Jaime “Pandora” Williams – Portland OR

Thank you Ellen DeGeneres, though you’ll likely never know you did it, you helped me put into perspective my first real experience with discrimination and helped me set the paradigm for how I will deal with these types of things in the future with more positivity and a more kind and gentle approach. You’ve taught me how to find a way to stay true to who I am, as the world shows me more of who it is.

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My spin on WLS Advocacy – What I am doing to help

A lot of people have asked me about my involvement with the Flab to Fabulous Pageant since segment aired on KOIN6 Local News on January 11,2013 about my weight loss journey didn’t really go into great details and they didn’t air any of the details they had about organizations that I am passionate about.

Last week, I was named the Ms. Fabulous 2012 Honoree and invited to the pageant week in Atlanta GA scheduled to take place May 26 through June 02 of this year. 

I’m very passionate about the Weight Loss Surgery community and always eager to do anything that I can to help it grow and flourish. A passion of mine, that I have often spoke of on my blog is to raise money for people who are not lucky enough to get their insurance to cover the costs of plastic surgeries the way mine did. My insurance has paid for all of my plastic surgery, that is pretty much unheard of in the weight loss surgery community, and because of my great fortune I am passionate about paying that forward to my community. My goal is to one day have my own Personal Trainer Business with Vendor Booths at all the events and be using my work and my passion to help pay for other people’s skin removal surgeries. This is something I am extremely passionate about. And that is exactly what the WLSFA does. The WLSFA, Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America, is a non-profit organization that funds grant recipients for patients that need these lifesaving Bariatric Surgeries and Reconstructive Plastic Surgeries after they have achieved massive weight loss so that they can take their lives back from obesity just the way I have.  When I first set out to start my business I mentioned things about how I wanted to help pay for people’s surgeries, I even talked about wanting to set up some sort of Scholarship Donation Program in my Father’s name someday as a memorial to him since he is one of the biggest inspirations in my own weight loss journey. It is this passion, this love of my Father and his down home Texas, “Treat others the way you wish to be treated,” upbringing that drives my passion to make sure I give back to the community the things that the universe has so generously gifted me with.

oca-logo-footerIt is this same philosophy that drives my passion behind the OAC.  The OAC, Obesity Action Coalition changed my life and my participation at their Inaugural Your Weight Matters Convention in Dallas Texas gave me things that I never would have had prior to going. The professionals at that event gave me the confidence in my business approach, what I want to do, and where I am going with career as Personal Trainer as well as the education and empowerment to help me move past some of my own unhealthy body dimorphic issues and the guidance and direction that would empower me to attend one of the most respected schools in the country to obtain my certification. It gave me the opportunity to start making friends within the community, friends that I would bond with and that I know I will be friends with for years to come. It allowed me to meet some women that I looked up to an admired for their voices on their blogs; The World According to Eggface and Waning Woman. It allowed me to get feedback from my peers and it motivated me to push forward even faster with my goals as I truly saw that others were inspired by my success and determination, it allowed me the opportunity to get my voice heard by more women and some of those women are on Chris Powell’s Facebook page today asking him to get involved with this community and help us fight against the stigma and bias that people look on Weight Loss Surgery patients with. When I see a woman stand up and say that I am her WLS Idol, I am humbled, I am honored and I am even more driven because I am seeing first hand that my story can help inspire someone just starting out in this journey and help them know that they can make it. The OAC opened doors for me with their convention and that is why I have done things like volunteered for their committees this year, put myself in DC for a week on my own dime just hoping they can use me and my passion to share my story in an effort to help others get the sort of medical coverage that I did. That is why I have gone to my own Bariatric Surgery Center, and my own Bariatric Surgeon, Leslie Cagle , M.D., F.A.C.S. with Pacific Surgical Specialists and personally asked her to get involved with the OAC and sponsor all of their Bariatric Surgery Patients with OAC Memberships.

My Goals in 2013 Remain the same as always, which is why I am taking an entire week in February, pushing pause on my life here in Oregon and heading out the Dallas to go to the Cooper Institute and take their Certified Personal Trainers course in person. The opportunity to do this comes from a gentleman that preferred I not mention his name publicly  who has followed my blog since I first started it and who wanted to support my career change and saw that I was struggling with the intimidation factor of having to “study” and learn and pass a test again for the first time in nearly twenty years and wanted to give me the opportunity to learn in an environment that I will be more successful in. His gift came with a note that read “Because you wish to support others in their WLS and journey and success and I wish to do the same for you.”

I think that the Ms. Fabulous 2012 Honoree title is an amazing title to have. I was given the title after a couple of hours of conversation with the Pageant Director, Charlie Brown, because we just sort of clicked and my story touched her and my positive attitude, desire to help others in their weight loss journey and overall approach to “Life after Weight Loss” embodied the vision of what she has for Ms. Fabulous.  I see the Fabulous Pageant as a way for the weight loss surgery community to stand up and band together.

DSSAdvocacyFunDSS: Advocacy Through Fun. Please Join Me

One of the things that people love about me is that they respect me because I say what I think and I call things like I see them. And something  that I can tell you honestly as both a person that is trying to come into this community as a professional trainer and as a blogger who passionately cares about this community and the men and women that are members of it is that the stigma against weight loss surgery patients is unfair and biased. Weight loss should be celebrated equally on all levels, whether you lose the weight through diet and exercise alone, or whether you needed a program like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, Whether you were doing Atkins or Carb Cycling with Chris Powell, or whether you had weight loss surgery once, or even twice, the point is not HOW you lost your weight. The point is THAT you lost your weight.

The point is that you found what worked for you. Let me ask you something, if someone was standing in front of you dying of cancer and they had several options to try to attack their cancer, and they decided to choose the one that would go at it as fast and most aggressively as possible; would you fault them?

Obesity is a disease. I was just reading in my Cooper Institute Textbook last night that the leading causes of death in the US today are Cardiovascular Diseases, Cancers, COPD and Diabetes and we all know that obesity causes co-morbid conditions. I had Diabetes, I had Sleep Apnea, I had High Blood Pressure, I had Chronic Back Pain, I had constant skin rashes and sores, I had constant shortness of breath, and I had limited mobility. Gastric Bypass was my chosen method of attack on my taking my life back from being morbidly obese and being able to live a happy and healthy life my father wanted for me.

As Ms. Fabulous 2012 I had the opportunity to sponsor candidate for every category in the competition. I’ve got three contestants that are going to compete under my sponsorship and who I will be helping try to get the sponsorship funding they need to go to pageant week if they make Semi Finals. Two of my contestants are local Oregon WLS Patients who both had their surgery at the same hospital I did, though we had different surgeons and they are both success stories for two of the local Portland area Bariatric Surgeons. I am so excited to have them representing Oregon and I’m thrilled that they are both so passionate about telling their story and helping the weight loss community that they were both more than happy to volunteer to donate any cash prize money they receive throughout the pageant to the WLSFA Pacific Northwest Chapter.

I’ve always been the kind of person that likes to pay back to my community. I love the fact that I get to help some people of this community maybe become the next Mr. or Ms. Fabulous (or Active Fabulous) and help them showcase their own weight loss surgery stories. The fact that I can use this title to try to help our community by raising money for a cause I believe in excites me and the fact that I can hopefully draw attention to something that we all want to fight against, the stigma of Weight Loss Surgery from the general weight loss, fitness and media is unfair and unjustified.

That OAC Convention gave me all this confidence I have right now as did all my friends in the WLS community to really get out there and go for my dreams. There was a Bariatric Surgeon there named Lloyd Stegemann who introduced a room full of weight loss surgery patients to the concept that standing alone we are weak, by taking a chopstick and snapping it in two. Then he held a large group of them together and demonstrated that he could not break them and reminded us that together we are strong.  It is my hope that since you all know what my goals and aspirations are; you will really get behind my endeavor to use this 2012 Ms. Fabulous title to unite our community.

My mission is to prove to the weight loss, fitness and media industry that weight loss surgery is not a dirty word and that it isn’t the easy way out. The Fabulous Foundation chose me as their Ms. Fabulous because I have a story that when I have the floor to share it, disproves that concept several times over. I am living proof that even after WLS we work as hard as anyone else for this sort of transformation.

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KOIN6 Local News Segment Aired on January 11, 2013

Please, go to this link and use the comments section to lend your voice to my mission. Share your WLS Success Story and help break the stigma. Share the stories about struggling with regain and just how NOT easy this journey is. Share the stories about how you now run 5ks, 10ks and half Marathons. Share the stories about the people you reach through your blog voices, share about your struggles to find good protein shakes J — share…. Comment… and take the time to let Chris and Heidi Powell and their Management team know that we want them to stand behind this community too. 220,000 weight loss surgeries are performed in this country each year. Surely I can get some of you to put your sticks with mine so that they can’t be broken?

My Letter on Chris Powell’s Facebook Page: I cannot tell you how much this means to me. I am begging my friends and family to take the time to go comment on this page and help make this happen. If you take the time to read my stuff, please take the time to support me too.

http://www.facebook.com/realchrispowell/posts/10151226631791864?comment_id=25326741&notif_t=feed_comment

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

This is #MyBariLife

BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
Please take the time to visit their website and check them out!

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