If you know anything about comedic actress Kym Whitley, you know that she’s very funny. She’s also very happy, often seen wearing her thousand-watt smile and keeping it light with fans on social media. But according to Whitley, there was nothing funny about the issues she was having with her weight, privately.
“I’ve always struggled with my weight. This has been a part of my life my whole life, even when I was thin,” she told me over the phone. “Mentally I thought I was big. It’s hard even when you lose some of the weight, because I still feel like the big girl. You can look at yourself, but when you walk away from the mirror, you’ve been in the body so long that you still feel like the chubby person.”
The Twenties actress and Two Funny Mamas podcaster had shed some pounds in the past, but she admitted that bad habits would take her back to where she started. It wasn’t until she saw Tamela Mann, a WW ambassador, have so much success with the program that she realized she wanted to try something different. When the opportunity came around for her to try WW, she decided to get on board, despite past skepticism. She brought along a few friends and family members for the ride, and before she knew it, with the right support system and meals, they’ve lost a combined 277 pounds. Whitley, specifically, has shed 26 pounds since March, getting closer to her her goal of 40 pounds all in the midst of being a working mother during a pandemic. She feels better than she has in a long time.
“When I’m able to put on a dress and I don’t have to put on a Spanx or some kind of girdle support and I just put it on, you feel good. You feel better,” she said. “I run up the steps now. My back feels better, my knees, too. I have more energy. I can do stuff with my son. You start thinking, ‘You know what? I want to do more.’ You can control you. You are the boss. That’s why it makes people feel so good, because I did this. I did this for me. I can control it. You can’t wait for nobody else to do it.”
We spoke with Whitley in depth about her weight-loss journey, being the “big girl” in Hollywood, the pressure to succeed as a WW ambassador, and why she isn’t losing weight only for herself, but also for her 9-year-old son, Joshua. Check out what she had to say.
MadameNoire: Would you say you were struggling with your weight for some time or was there a moment, or an epiphany, where you realized you wanted to take your weight loss seriously?
Kym Whitley: I think it was both. I say that because it’s hard to see yourself unless you look back at pictures. You think you’re doing good because your pants have elastic in it. Your jeans got stretch in it. Everything has stretch in it. You feel like you’re doing okay until you look back on that picture and say “Wow!”
How did being in the industry, specifically on TV and in film, impact the way you felt about your body? Did it make being in the public eye harder?
Absolutely. You’ve gotta have a double, triple dose of good self-esteem in this business. So you have to know who you are and how you feel about yourself. Me, I am a very happy person. So therefore, no matter what size I am, I’m still good on the outside to people and good with how I view myself and my acting. But when I lost my first few, say 30 pounds, I did Next Friday. I was the sex kitten. When Ice Cube showed me the clothes I had to wear, I was like “Whoa, wait! Wait a minute! I didn’t audition like that!” He gave me six weeks and I worked out and I got ready and that was probably the smallest I’ve been. I was committed to that. I don’t know if the industry viewed me differently, but let’s just say they did. They were bringing me in for different roles. Before I was the best friend, I was the auntie, even when I was young. But once I dropped 30 pounds and I was Suga from Next Friday, I went in for the lawyer, the police officer. They saw me differently. I walked in the room with a different confidence. That taught me that the better I feel, the better I act.
What role did not only this pandemic situation we’re in but also being a mother play in your decision to get involved with WW and take the bull by the horns, so to speak?
I think that was my biggest “why.” They always ask you on WW “What’s your why?” And with the pandemic going and they say it’s affecting Black and brown people disproportionately because of our underlying conditions, being prediabetic, all those things, that became a priority. Let me get healthy. And since I have a son, if I leave, who does he have? I’ve got to take care of myself. Now it’s not about me. It’s not about my looks. It’s not about my job. It’s about my life. It’s not only about my life, it’s about his life. So, when WW, the opportunity came, it was a godsend. It is hard to self-motivate. I had never done WW. I never believed in it or thought about it. I was like, points? Oh no. Math? I’m not doing that. But this has been the easiest way to lose weight and change my lifestyle that I’ve ever done. It has helped me become a healthier person and change my priorities. One thing about the pandemic, we have all this time on our hands. I know this is a horrible comparison, but it’s like being in prison. When you come out of prison, you want to be better. People go to prison and some come out with degrees, a better body, they’re reading books [laughs]. I look at the pandemic and we are in a prison. If you’re a good prisoner, you’re going to come out better. So I’m taking the bull by the horns and I’m going to come out creatively, better. I want my body to be better. I want my habits to be better; learning how to eat right and make better choices. That’s what the pandemic has done for me. It’s a blessing and a curse.
You did diet and exercise before. What made you feel like WW was going to work best for you?
When I saw Tamela Mann — let me tell you something. When I saw Tamela Mann walk on that stage at the Oprah’s Vision Tour thing, I almost fell out my seat. I said “Good Lord heavenly Father! There is a God!” You’ve seen people do weight-loss surgery, you’ve seen people do other diets. When I saw that child walk on that stage, and that she could do it, because I know the size she was, when I was approached with the opportunity, I was scared. I was really afraid. Because when you become a WW ambassador, it’s not always about you. It’s about what I can show the world. So that’s where the pressure came and I was very afraid that I would fail them. I get emotional because I really have never been in a position to lead in a healthy way. I look at my Black sisters and I know how hard it is in these neighborhoods to find the right food and do right when you’re a mother and you’ve got all these kids and you’ve got all these responsibilities. So how do I lead them? How do I show them? Because they look at us and they’re like, “You’ve got all the trainers, and all the people to make the food right. You’ve got help so you can do it.” How can I show them a program that I can do on a certain level that you can do with the bare minimum of whatever is in your house? You can do this. One pound at a time.
I’m sure it’s a lot of pressure. People are watching you because you’re a public ambassador, so the accountability is like, oh my goodness.
Yes! The responsibility! Even with my 9-year-old son, he ran over — and I swear, all I did was put a tablespoon of ice cream in my mouth. It’s crazy because you can do that on WW, but I can’t explain that to him. He jumped over and snatched the food out my hand: “Mommy! You can’t eat that!” I said, “Joshua, mommy can eat that, I just got to put it in my app.” It’s so interesting for him to be conscious at nine years old. So as mothers, we’re role models. Our children are watching us. And I remember when I got Joshua, you always want better for your children. Always. I remember when he was on the bottle, he was the fattest little baby. My mother had made him the fattest baby on earth. The doctor told my mother, “You’re feeding him too much.” My mother said, “I feed him until he don’t want anymore.” I looked at her and I said, “So that’s been my problem my whole life. That’s how you started me off!” She did. She fed me until I didn’t want anymore. But I said no, no, no, I’m not going to do that. As a Black boy, he’s going to have enough problems. Let’s not give him health issues and self-esteem issues and all the things that go with that. So I became conscious of it when he was born. But what mothers do is they might check for their children but they don’t check for themselves. We’re so busy stuffing in our mouths what they’re eating or left on their plate, but our children are watching us.
Speaking on responsibility, tell me about how it was getting so many of your friends and family members on board to take this journey with you.
I was so appreciative with WW that they said, you know what, bring your friends along. Like-minded people, you got to have them around you to be successful. You hang with millionaires, you’re going to become a millionaire. You hang with people that don’t want to do nothin’ with their life, that’s what you’re going to reflect and that’s what you’re going to do. So I talked to all of my friends, and let’s be honest, I had three or four that really needed to join, but they didn’t. They didn’t want to. I couldn’t pressure them because they were not ready and you won’t do well if you’re not ready. But what I could do was show them that I started in March and now it’s August and I’m 26 pounds down. Because what I know for sure is August, September, October, November, December, they’re going to come. It is going to come with you or without you. So you can decide to be five, 10, 15 pounds different and live a healthier life by that time or you can be the same person when it comes around. And this ain’t a miracle thing, this is one day at a time. I told them that. So now they’re looking and saying, “Oh, wow,” but you could have been on this journey with me. You see it wasn’t a race or a sprint. I fall down and I make mistakes. I’ll be honest with you. I had a big ol’ piece of pizza last night and I don’t even know how many points it was. The points were off the Richter scale. But this is going to be a way of life, it’s not a diet. I’m going to eat that deep-dish pizza. I sat in front of that TV and I had that piece of pizza, and I enjoyed myself. But today, I get back on the program. I get back on eating healthy food and working out and drinking lots of water. So I don’t deprive myself, but I had to learn that. I had a ball and I didn’t feel guilty. No! I live my life and I get back on.
But my friends that I helped, it might even be more, but we’ve lost 277 pounds together. The confidence I see in these women and these men, it brings me joy. Every other day they’re like, “Kim I would have never done this. Thank you.” We’re on a group chat together and if somebody falls down, we’re on the chat talking about “Let’s do some push-ups together. Let’s get on Zoom and talk about it.” We meet with Alicia our coach and we talk about recipes. We help each other and sometimes we talk about other things that don’t have anything to do with food. But it is such a great support group. The fact that we’re getting healthy together is a blessing. It really is.