No more than a week after I saw Wendy Williams throw shots at Jennifer Lopez for her lack of talent and numerous endorsement deals, saying “Mariah Carey would never be caught in a Fiat,” news broke that my favorite singer of all time was the newest spokesperson for Jenny (Craig that is). My heart sunk a little because I knew the sort of gimmicky promotions that come along with the territory, and her first “Make it Happen” campaign confirmed my worst fears.
But Mimi is hardly alone in the new trend of black celebrity weight loss spokespersons. Jennifer Hudson set the stage for this, and undoubtedly crushed Weight Watchers’ competition with her catchy tunes, slim physique, and more publicity than the Southside Chicago native could’ve ever dreamed of. So what were Jenny and NutriSystem to do? Hire even bigger celebrity names like Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson to draw in the masses.
My main concern with the latest weight loss campaigns was how they would affect each divas image. While the opportunity boosted J Hud’s career to unexpectedly new heights, for Mariah and Janet, I’ve likened the endorsement deals to offers to appear on “Dancing with the Stars” or any other reality TV show. It’s a sign that they’ve lost their spark and are vying for ways to stay relevant in the media.
Fred Mwangaguhunga, editor of MediaTakeout.com, expressed similar sentiments in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I was really surprised when I saw Janet Jackson doing a weight-loss commercial, he said. “I don’t think this is something she would have done five years ago, given her personality. But times have changed and the way you have to sell yourself has changed, so you use what you have.”
More important than these star’s careers, which have had an excellent run thus far by all industry standards, is the question of what these campaigns mean for black women. Presumably, seeing three black female celebrities successfully shed pounds with these programs would serve as a role model for black women as obesity continues to stake its claim in our community. Kirstie Alley and Marie Osmond may not be relatable to us but these women should be, right? Not necessarily.
Many have criticized Jennifer Hudson as being disingenuous about the way she dropped 80 pounds, but while her story is believable to me, I can’t say the same about Janet Jackson. Janet may have struggled with her weight as a young woman first on the music scene but it’s been some time since we haven’t seen the singer without chiseled abs (sans her appearance in “Why Did I Get Married Too”).