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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.

DSSPostSig

One Person Can Make a Difference Choose To Be That Person

It’s so hard for me to decide what to write about sometimes. Usually I have so many ideas that picking one is difficult, tonight though I have one pressing thought in my mind.

“One Person Can Make a Difference.”

Pam Davis and I at the OAC Convention Costume Party Welcoming Ceremonies Dinner in Dallas, TX October 2012

This was the title of a blog post by Pam Davis, RN, CBN, Chairman of the OAC Board of Directors. It really got me to thinking.  Several months ago I was sitting at a round table with four other women at the OAC Advocacy Training Session where we were taught the basics of advocacy and participated in mock legislative visits. The biggest lesson that I learned that day at was that the power of one person, telling their story, can make a huge difference.

Your voice and your story are the most powerful advocacy tool that you have.

Before attending the OAC Convention in October I had a dream, I wanted to become a personal trainer, go back and work with other pre-op Bariatric surgery patients and help them achieve the same sort of things I did through my weight loss journey. I wanted to help others fight this obesity epidemic.  But my dream was a little bigger than that too, humbled and grateful for the insurance coverage that had covered not just my gastric bypass, but three rounds of extensive reconstructive plastic surgeries, I wanted to make sure that I did something to help make sure that other people received those same sorts of benefits, and I wanted to make sure that I somehow helped those less fortunate than I.

I have said before that the OAC Convention was a life changing experience for me.  Let me tell you a little bit about my life since October.

Since leaving the OAC Convention in October I have worked on making sure that wherever I go, and whatever I do, I am using my voice and my story to try to make a difference.

This Sunday I embark on a whole new adventure. I’ll be flying to OH on March 3rd to spend some time with Heather’s family. While I am there I will be meeting two women for the first time that have been following my blog and my journey for a while now.  I’ll be attempting to hook up with the OAC while I am there, taking a trip into Washington DC and hopefully doing some advocacy work for them. While I am there I have two women that are currently working on losing weight that are committed to running a 5K with me.

Thanks to my time at the OAC Convention, and the people I met there, I’ll be spending the entire month of June in Dallas Texas at the Cooper Institute taking classes to get my Personal Trainers Certification and a few other certifications as well; this was made possible for me by a $600 donation form a blog reader that wanted to help me help others and generously donated the amount I needed to take the CPT Course. More was made possible by the Susan Sterling Scholarship I received from the Cooper Institute for $500 and the rest, well; the universe is looking out for me. I have faith.

Once I get back from the Cooper Institute and have my CPT Certification I am planning on a business Launch in July with a small-scale fundraiser for the WLSFA so that any money we raise goes to helping someone else start this journey.

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Since October I’ve had lots of exciting things happen but there was one, which beyond a shadow of a doubt changed all the cards for me. Since last year I have had a sort of pseudo-friendship on Facebook with Celebrity Fitness Trainer Chris Powell.  I’ve had several exchanges with him and his wife Heidi Powell on Facebook and it is one of my biggest dreams to meet and work out with them.  Recently I posted something on Chris Powell’s Facebook page and some of my friends went in and commented. There were a few comments that just really took my breath away.

“I admire Pandora for all she does to bring us all together and help us be successful. She’s not just in this for herself; she sees the big picture and is doing something about it” – Angie Bulakites

“Pandora is my WLS idol!!! Her amazing determination and willpower inspire me every day to continue on in my personal WLS journey to a healthier and happier life.” – Jessica DikeyBariatric Beginings

“I have only met Pandora once in person and heard her talk and ask the right questions and in that one small time frame of our interaction she has impacted my life tremendously. I can only imagine how my life would be if I saw her more often. Everyone she come in contact with whether it be on Facebook, her blog, or conferences and I can only assume in person as well.” – Michelle Mata

“Not only has this woman transformed herself into a fitness inspiration, she is actively helping others make the same journey. I urge you to give her your support. She is moving small mountains.” – Colin Hatcher

But the one that brought tears to my eyes was Heather’s cousin, a woman I have yet to meet:

“Pandora is truly an amazing woman! she doesn’t just inspire WLS peeps. she has been such an inspiration to me and my husband, to the point that we have joined a gym and have completely changed our way of eating. since January 6th, my husband has lost 32 lbs and i have lost 17 lbs  my husband has diabetes and sleep apnea, among other health issues and I have battled with my weight my whole life, but there is something real about Pandora that has sparked something in us. I think she has just saved our lives. we, and our 4 daughters thank you for inspiring her!!!” – Jennifer Heredia

In her article Pam tells you “All you need to become an advocate is your personal experience and to feel passionate about the issue. The OAC will help you with the rest.” She couldn’t be more right. Just attending the OAC Convention changed so many things for me and propelled me forward in my goals of helping others and now, there are many people; Some that I met at that Convention. Some that have known me for years and some that have never met me at all, that will tell you that I have made a difference in their life. In fact, some of those very people nominated me for a WEGO Health Activist Award and their judges selected me as a finalist among sites that have to do with all sorts of different sort of health issues. It was never my intention to become an “Advocate” it was just my intention to help make what was a lonely and hard fight a little easier for someone else. It was never my intention to be an “Activist” I just really wanted to help others and continue my WLS Journey through doing so. Pam is right, when you start sharing your story, when you start sharing your personal experiences:

  • You will be heard
  • You will be appreciated
  • You will make a difference
  • And you will be an advocate
  • And you’ll feel amazing when you see it happen.

There is nothing more rewarding than to know that I have touched people’s lives in the way that I have. The fact that people feel like I bring them together and help them be successful or that I inspire them in their WLS journey and their quest for a happy healthier life or that some people feel I have helped saved their life is amazing to me. It tells me that I am doing something right. I know that the path I am on started at the OAC Advocacy Training Session and that the OAC has empowered me an helped point me in the right direction. If you are not a member of the Obesity Action Coalition I encourage you to join and stand with this national non-profit organization whose sole focused is helping individuals affected by obesity.

93 Million Americans are affected by Obesity and advocacy comes in many forms. Whether you are writing blogs, going to the hill or signing petitions and sending letters to your elected officials you can make a difference in the lives of these people by getting involved in the OAC Advocacy & Support Programs.

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

One Person Can Make a Difference Choose To Be That PersonDSSPostSig

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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