I’ve taken a little bit to write about this experience because I needed to sit on it and decide if I felt that there was any weight bias present before I broached it.
My chosen sister and I have been friends of going on ten years now. We have been New Kids on the Block, or NKOTB fans since they first appeared on scene in 1988 as the USA’s first real Teen Beat, Heart Throb magazine boy band. Like good little blockheads we followed their journey. We went to their reunion tour together in 2008 and we went to their next concert together in 2009. We took turns making trips from California to Oregon to be together for their concerts.
This year, when the tour was announced I knew that with two small kids at home there was no way Deb was making the trip to Oregon even though it was her turn, and decided I would come to Dallas for the concert so that we could go together. We also decided that this time, we were going to go all out and we were going to get five-star VIP tickets which cost $395 a piece. This would give us a chance to meet the members of the band and take that ever coveted photo with them that we both wanted. We were both willing to pay $395 to get it. Our Families were willing to do it for us as well, and the early purchase sort of came “Happy Birthday” to us presents. I even re-arranged my schedule and ended up not going to Fit Bloggin’ 13 which was being held in my own hometown in order to go to the concert.
So let me tell you my experience: I get rushed into a room with all 5 members of NKOTB. The awesome women that helped us set up our group outside to help make sure that they and we got to stand next to the NKOTB member we wanted too had things all set up so I rushed right over to Jordan Knight. “I have been in love with you for like 25 years,” I laughed as he hugged me. Then he saw the shirt I was wearing, a “Remix” theme shirt that Deb and I had made in hopes of getting their attention. He asked me about my weight loss, told I was amazing and a Remix and the hugged me again and then stood there with his arm around me. As I realized I had a few moments before the photo I turned to Danny Wood standing on my left. “You inspired the hell out of me.” I told the fitness fanatic of the group. “You’ve done great, keep up the good job.” he told me and gave me a hug. Suddenly photos were snapped and it was time for us to leave. I stopped on the way and asked Donnie Wahlberg if I could have a hug. He looked at my shirt, smiled at said “I can’t hug you because half of you has disappeared.” Then he threw in a bigger smile and a “I know who you are,” comment that I could only guess meant he had actually seem some of the posts I had put on Facebook and Twitter trying to get his attention.
At this moment I nearly had a heart attack when I felt what I thought was Deb somehow rubbing the back of my head affectionately, only to turn around and realize it wasn’t Deb it was JORDAN KNIGHT! His hand was on the back of my head rubbing it in what I can only say was a very intimate touch to this 25 year fan. My heart was racing and things were going way too fast as I tried to lock each moment into my permanent memory. Next I passed Jonathan Knight who stopped me with a dumbfounded look and had a short conversation that started with “Is that really you? You don’t look like the same person. Wow. I don’t believe it.” Jon’s comments caught Joe McIntyre’s attention and he stopped me and grabbed the bottom of my shirt to look at it. He was a little amazed, and as I pointed out to him that the photo on the shirt was taken at their concert in 2009 and that he had actually noticed the shirts we were wearing that day from the stage he went in for a closer look. As Joe was talking to me, security guards were letting me know that I needed to get the heck out of dodge because our five minutes was up and it was time to get the line moving and get the next group of women in to meet the bad. As we walked out of the meet and greet area I had a little mini Pandora moment were my body flailed around and I screeched and squealed like a little girl with excitement and announced that Jordan Knight had rubbed my head. I’m sure the band heard me do it, heck I am sure they could have seen me do it, but Jordan Knight touching me like that made this evening more than a bucket list moment of “Meet Jordan Knight from NKOTB” and turned it into one of those moments as a young teenager when you fantasized about this pop star crush and what it would be like if he was your boyfriend and practiced kissing him with your pillows.
Now let me let Deb talk about her experience:
As Pandora said, we were fortunate to connect with 7 other ladies who wanted to stand with the other guys so we all were able to stand next to our favorite NKOTB Guy (JOEY ALL THE WAY!) I was SO excited – my first time meeting the guy i teasingly tell my husband is the one guy i would cheat on him with (sorry sweetie!). Anyway, talking to one of the other girls who had met Joey before, he was very sweet and engaging and i was looking forward to having a short talk with him. So our group gets to the front of the line and suddenly we are there! The guys are there! I get to HUG THE NKOTB!!! so i go down the line and quickly give hugs to Danny, Jon, and Jordan (Donnie was already surrounded and the photographer was starting to grumble at us to get next to who we wanted to take pics with, so i missed my chance to hug him) and then there was Joey. Beautiful blue eyes and all. I gave him a hug and we took two pictures. I gave him a huge smile and said that i was so excited to meet him and…..nothing. No response. Hilary, (one of the girls in our group) who had met him before, made a point to say again that this was my first time getting to meet him and again, he looked at me and gave me a slightly empty smile and that was it – we were being herded out for the next group to come in. On one hand it was an experience i could now mark off my bucket list. On the other hand, it was a bit disappointing. I never expected to suddenly be BFF with Joey, but I had hoped for at least a verbal response of the “so great to meet you” “thanks for coming out” or anything. But nope, not a single word was said. I have experienced this before – the look, empty smile and quickly being forgotten as the cuter, smaller girl comes along. It made me sad, but really nothing i haven’t experienced before and nothing more than I sort of expected. Guys who have beautiful women throwing themselves at them don’t need to spend any energy on the big girls they have no attraction for (I don’t even mean that in a necessarily sexual way – generally speaking my experience is that people don’t engage or respond to those that they have no attraction for in any context). There’s an amazing Dustin Hoffman video where he talks about an epiphany he had when he found himself to be an ugly woman when getting ready for Tootsie and realized that he’d ignored and bypassed women he found unattractive and likely had bypassed some very interesting people. So all in all – not an experience that I will do again. The experience I had was not worth the price I paid.
I have spent over a month sitting on this deciding how I was going to write about it. Was there a weight bias here? As much as I hate to say yes, I think there was. At first, I wanted to convince myself that Deb and I had just done a really good job with my t-shirt and that it had done its job and gotten their attention. That’s great for me, we made slender Pandora stand out among the other slender girls in the crowd. But does that change that my friend, who is still struggling with her weight, was treated so differently than I was that it actually made me question whether or not she was treated differently because of her weight? No it shouldn’t.
NKOTB is a band that is well aware of the unhealthy weight status of many of their fans. In their promotional venues they make points to talk about loving their fans in all shapes and sizes, their song Remix is pretty much dedicated to the “Big Girls” out there that we’re nobody’s in high school and got ignored, teased and picked on.
So how does a woman who used to weigh 420 lb. walk out of one of your concerts with her best friend and hesitate to write about it for over a month, this bucket list moment of our lives, because she can’t honestly decide whether you exhibited weight bias in your actions… and if you did, how she approaches it from an Obesity Advocate who is passionately against weight bias?
If I had not personally gotten a vocal response from Joe McIntyre, if he had no words for me that night as well, I might have chalked the entire thing up to him being drunk or medicated, because he definitely looked out of it; or maybe chalked it up to him having a bad night. But since his lack of words and interaction didn’t extend to me, I can’t help but believe a little bit that there was weight bias involved. And as a 25-year NKOTB Fan, that used to be one of the biggest girls at the concert venue, I have to say, that it makes me very very sad to say those words.
It crushes me actually. I have seen NKOTB since their reunion as a band that understood that the generation of women that makes up their fan base was plagued with the obesity epidemic that riddles through the country. I believed that they were the type of band that wanted to promote their fans losing weight and getting fit and healthy so that they had nice long happy lives and when the Remix song hit this new album and I heard it the first time, I thought, how amazing that they wrote a song about this. So many of us were that ignored girl. This song will hit home for some many of us. Then the video came out and I saw this big girl dancing around owning the video, and I thought, this is awesome that you’re showing that women are beautiful no matter what size they are.
But sometimes actions speak louder than words. And what you showed me at the Five Star Meet and Greet in the difference in how you treated me versus how you treated my friend said a lot. I never thought I would be standing on this side of a weight bias issue, I never in my life thought I would be the slender girl being treated differently that her sister by someone in a weight bias issue. It is a little bit of a shocker to me. But more than that it is a disappointment. For 25 years I have loved this band, and in one night, they really broke my heart. Weight bias is no joke, it hurts feelings, it makes people feel bad, and like Debby said herself, she would never do this again because of the experience she had.
25 years of my being a die-hard Blockhead and an Old School New Kids on the Block fan – I thought NOTHING could change that. Naively I thought I would always love this band the way people loved Elvis and the way my mother loved the Beatles. I was wrong. Because I love those fighting Obesity more and if this band doesn’t they’ve lost me as a fan.
Perhaps my opinion would be a little different if I didn’t also think that it has gotten to a point where the band is a sell out and everything is about money. Perhaps if their concerts were as good as they once were and they were as interactive with their audience as they used to be. But with the addition of $400-$1000 Meet and Greet Tickets and $150 “After Party” tickets, really they are on and off the stage and saving all the personality and interaction for the meet and greet and the after party now and the actual concert is suffering for it.
I watched the I Heart Radio concert that they did before this tour started and it was hands down 100x better and more interactive than what I saw from them on stage that night.
All in all, as sad as it makes me, NKOTB has sort of shown me where their priorities are now, I guess it’s not far off of what you expect from a rock star: sex, drugs and rock and roll… I just never expected it from these five men. Surprise. The world never changes really, just your perception of it when you look through different glasses.