TLC has spent the last few years carving out yet another reality show niche for itself– in this case, producing shows about people who are of unique physical shapes and sizes. My 600-Pound Life, My Giant Life, Little People Big World, and 7 Little Johnsons are all TLC reality shows about people who are taller, shorter, or otherwise differently-sized than what we typically see on TV>
But perhaps none of TLC’s size-focused reality shows have produced a more prominent single breakout star than Whitney Way Thore, star of My Big Fat Fabulous Life. First gaining fame via her viral “Fat Girl Dancing” YouTube video, Whitney has used MBFFL to not only give viewers a glimpse into the life of a full-figured women who isn’t ashamed of her body, but aims to teach other people– big or small– that nobody should ever be made to feel badly about themselves because of how they look.
Besides being about the trials and tribulations of a plus-sized lady navigating a society that says all women should be slim and trim in order to be beautiful, MBFFL follows star Whitney in various other aspects of her life, from dating to dealing with family drama. And for as salacious as some of the stuff that happens on camera might be, as it usually goes with reality shows, it’s the behind-the-scenes secrets that are the juiciest.
Here are 15 Dark Secrets Behind My Big Fat Fabulous Life.
15. The truth behind Whitney’s cat catching fire
During the second season episode where Whitney is preparing to move out of her parents’ house and in with her friend Buddy, she casually mentions how her cat Henchi was on fire once– and that it was her own fault. This rather shocking revelation is blown by pretty quickly in the episode, but naturally, viewers demanded an explanation.
After Whitney’s Facebook page was inundated with requests for clarification on the burnt kitty incident, she decided to come clean on what went down. She explained that Henchi would often rub against the space heater in her apartment in South Korea where the pair once lived, and one night Henchi must have lingered a little too long or got too close to the heater and his tail caught fire. Whitney claims that Henchi wasn’t even aware he was on fire, and she only realized what was going on when she smelled burning hair.
14. Buddy was arrested for assaulting a cop
While people primarily tune into My Big Fat Fabulous life to see star Whitney Thore, the show is also filled out by a colorful cast of supporting characters– mostly Whitney’s family, friends, and occasionally, significant others. Once Whitney moved in with her friend Buddy Bell, he became one of the most prominent people on the series.
But fans wondered how much Whitney really knew about Buddy– whose real name is Luby– when it came out in April of last year that he had been arrested for a violent incident just a few years prior. In 2014, Buddy was arrested during a rock concert for trespassing, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and most shocking of all, assaulting a police officer. Ultimately, he was only charged with disorderly conduct and given a fine and probation.
13. Whitney was put on a diet by a doctor at age 5
In her book I Do It With The Lights On, Whitney revealed a lot about her lifetime struggle with her weight, and more specifically, dealing with the judgments of those around her as she grew up. In one of the more shocking revelations, Whitney says that a doctor put her on a diet when she was only five years old, despite Whitney’s insistence that she was only a few pounds overweight at the time.
“Just after preschool, I was indoctrinated into diet culture,” Whitney writes. She says that it immediately set her up to feel ashamed of being anything but the perfect weight from an extremely young age, and that it set in motion years of struggle and frustration. To have a doctor tell you that you need to go on a diet at an age before you can truly process such information would be damaging for any child.
12. Lennie’s real name isn’t Lennie
During My Big Fat Fabulous Life‘s run, the most prominent boyfriend Whitney has had so far has been Lennie Alehat. Does that name seem a little… off to you? Well there’s a reason for that: It’s not his real name.
While digging a bit into Lennie’s sordid past– more on that in a bit– RadarOnline discovered that “Lennie Alehat” is an actually just an alias, and that Whitney’s bearded now-ex-boyfriend’s real name is actually Nathanial David Lee. It’s not exactly known why he was using an alias, though it’s easy to assume that he didn’t want TLC– and therefore, Whitney herself– finding out what dark secrets lurked in “Nathaniel’s” past.
11. “Lennie” was arrested for DUI and assaulting a cop
If Lennie/Nathaniel did change his name to try to cover up indiscretions, what could’ve been so bad that he was afraid of anyone finding out about them? Well, it turns out that it wasn’t just past incidents but two active warrants that were out for him at the time that he was on the show.
In 2008, Lennie was arrested for DWI and was three times over the legal limit. As if that weren’t bad enough, he violently resisted arrest– including after he was already handcuffed– and was accused of repeatedly “spitting on police equipment” during the incident. Lennie then violated the probation he was sentenced to, but ultimately completed it by 2010.
10. Whitney developed her first eating disorder at age 13
Whitney’s memoir I Do It With The Lights On goes into great detail about how hard it was for her in school, being bullied for her weight and called names like “Baby Beluga” and saying she had a “whale of a tail.” It would be a lot for anyone to deal with, but for a young women at an already-awkward and difficult age, it was too much for Whitney to handle.
So, just as she was entering her teen years, Whitney developed her first eating disorder. Sharing the nitty gritty details of her struggle, she writes, “I grew to crave the hollow feeling of an empty stomach, the red rawness of my throat, and the acidic taste afterward.”
9. Whitney’s run-in with comedian Kerryn Feehan may have been staged
In the explosive season three finale, Whitney confronted comedian Kerryn Feehan over her act that goes pretty hard against overweight people. The two have a tense exchange, which of course is ultimately framed as Whitney putting Kerryn in her place. Well, according to Kerryn, producers planned it that way.
During a Reddit AMA, Kerryn fielded questions about her time on the show and claims that Whitney didn’t just happen to show up to see her set, but instead that she was specifically asked to be on the show– and to eventually have it out with Whitney over her act. Kerryn of course agreed, because it meant exposure on a popular TV show, and the comedian proudly wears the event and the controversy it stirs on her sleeve as she proclaims herself a “fat-shaming comedian” on her Twitter account.
8. Whitney’s picture was wrongly used in a clickbait ad
Anyone who has spent any amount of time on the internet in the past five years has seen those ads for articles that promise to shock you with what celebrities are worth, which ones are dead that you didn’t know about, and what a celeb looks like after they’ve lost a lot of weight.
The problem is that the pictures for such articles are often deliberately misleading, for instance showing a very much alive actor for a list of celebrities that are dead, or pretending that a picture of some Playboy bunny is the after image of Mama June. In Whitney’s case, a picture of her was used for an article about celebrities who had experienced a dramatic weight loss, with the teaser line “You Won’t Believe Her Transformation! She’s Too Skinny Now!” The article itself, of course, featured no further mention– or pictures– of Whitney.
7. A spam filter almost stopped the show from happening
Email spam filters aren’t completely fool-proof, not only letting obvious spam make it to our actual inboxes sometimes but also letting real email get filed away into a spam folder. Because of the latter, it’s necessary to glance through email spam folders before they are cleared out, just in case legitimate correspondence found its way in there.
A spam filter probably can’t be blamed for being skeptical of an email from TLC promising the recipient her own show, and decided to just shuffle it off to a spam folder for eventual deletion. Fortunately, Whitney is one of those people who knows that you should always scan your spam folder before you clear it, as she did have an email in there from TLC offering her a show, and it was legitimate.
6. Whitney found out she was the “other woman”
A constantly underlying theme of My Big Fat Fabulous Life is Whitney’s attempts at love– attempts that, sadly, seem to always end up going sour. During the hiatus following the season four finale, things were looking as though season five was going to be not only about Whitney finally having a successful relationship, but maybe even feature a wedding with this new beau. But, again, disaster reared its ugly head.
This time, Whitney found out that boyfriend Avi Lang wasn’t just dating another woman, but was actively planning a wedding with her while dating Whitney– which led Whitney to conclude that it was her who was the “side chick.” Whitney then outed the cheater online, finally realizing that it wasn’t just shyness that was behind his insistence she never post pictures of the two of them together. Lang had been telling his fianceé Nada Louis the same thing, not surprisingly.
5. A doctor sent Whitney a very rude letter
It’s hard to know why many people don’t think that celebrities are human beings with actual feelings, but nonetheless, hearing brutal “honesty” from complete strangers seems to come with the territory of being famous these days.
In February of 2017, Whitney alleged that she received a letter from a man claiming to be a doctor who decided he needed to share how he really felt about her and her life. The doctor disputes Whitney’s claims that her excessive weight gain is at least partially due to polycystic ovarian syndrome and says instead that it’s because of “plain old gluttony.” He then goes on to call her a “big fat pig” and says that she lives “a disgusting existence.”
4. Keeping her birth control down helped her kick bulimia
Among the eating disorders that Whitney developed in her teen years was bulimia nervosa, which is defined as binge eating followed by making yourself throw up– or purging– all that food you just took in. In addition to the many harmful side effects of bulimia, one in particular helped to convince Whitney to finally give up the dangerous practice. That reason, as it turns out, is a rather unusual– but still valid– one.
Once in college, Whitney decided to go on the birth control pill. As she thought about it, she realized that when she purged from her bulimia, she would also be potentially throwing up her birth control pills, which meant risking being pregnant. In Whitney’s own words, “I knew I’d rather be fat than pregnant, so I stopped throwing up my food.”
3. South Koreans spit on Whitney on the street
Sometimes it’s good to have a change of scenery, especially if your life isn’t going the way you want it to in the place you’re currently living. Whitney did just that after college, living and working in South Korea for a time– but as it turned out, the people of South Korea were capable of being even more cruel to overweight people than Americans had been.
Whitney says that people in South Korea weren’t shy about harassing her on the street for her size, and that in addition to complete strangers blatantly laughing at her, people would occasionally even spit on her as they walked past her in public. While Whitney had dealt with similar things in the U.S.– sans the spitting– it was generally at least from classmates or peers. Being openly bullied by complete strangers was a sobering new level of harassment for the future reality star.
2. Whitney endures vicious cyberbullying
Not only do people feel entitled to say whatever awful things they want to celebrities, social media makes doing so easier than ever. When you’re a polarizing public figure like Whitney Thore and you have a large social media presence, you’re most definitely going to hear people’s least-filtered thoughts about you.
In addition to hearing the things you’d probably assume she hears from online trolls, most of it concerning their detailed opinions on her body, Whitney says that she is told to kill herself on a near-daily basis. Why some people immediately go the “you should kill yourself” route with any celebrity they don’t like is anyone’s guess, but it can’t ever be an easy thing to hear– especially with that kind of frequency. It definitely speaks to Whitney’s confidence and her determination to spread her message that she is willing to endure that.
1. The show is accused of glorifying obesity
Any time there is a public female personality who weighs more than 120 pounds and isn’t ashamed of it and/or isn’t actively trying to lose weight, the backlash is inevitable. So it goes with My Big Fat Fabulous Life and its star, who critics accuse of trying to promote or otherwise glorify being overweight.
Whitney’s response to her critics is that she is simply trying to promote self-confidence, and that it isn’t about fat or skinny, healthy or unhealthy, it’s about everyone having the right to feel good about themselves, and to not be shamed because of how they look.
Beyond just the show, Whitney has started the hashtag and motto “No BS,” which is short for “No Body Shaming” not to promote obesity, but to combat people being criticized for not having the so-called perfect body.
Do you have any other My Big Fat Fabulous Life trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!
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