Fat Exploitation of a Different Kind

May in Atlanta will see an event billed as “The First, The Only National Pageant for Bariatric Surgery Patients.”  The embarrassingly-named “Flab to Fabulous Pageant” will be awarding the titles Mr. & Ms. Fabulous. I’m compelled to wonder what man outside of an Atlantic City lounge act will hope to wear the crown as “Mr. Fabulous” and what self-respecting woman would call herself “Ms. Fabulous” with a straight face. Winners over 40 will be crowned “Mr. & Ms. Active Fabulous.” I assume to prove that you’re not dead yet when you’re over 40.

The event is described as a competition, but one that purports to “showcase the hard work and dedication it took for contestants to transform from ‘Flab to Fabulous'” For an entry fee of $97, contestants will be judged  on multiple rounds of essays, photographs, and videos to be submitted by mail. An unindicated number of semi-finalists will have to travel to Atlanta to compete in person to be one of 51 finalists for each of four categories. That’s 204 finalists. No wonder a ticket to the pageant itself is $98—it will be an endurance feat for the audience and judges alike. At stake is “$25,000 in cash and prizes” to each of the four category winners, though it’s unclear how that’s been valued between a tiara or crown and sash (really), trophy, modeling contract, personal appearances, a makeover, year’s supply of vitamins, year’s gym membership, something about being in an unnamed national magazine, and a sponsor’s goodie bag. Possible glitch with that last one—there don’t appear to be any sponsors. And no specific cash prize amount is listed.

There is the potential for thousands of people to enter (more on that in a minute) and those who attend as semi-finalists and then advance to the “finals” will pay all their own expenses to spend a week in Atlanta. How they will be judged on their, uh…fabulousity seems rather vague but there will be an evening wear competition.

Does an event like this offer any redeeming value? I’m hard-pressed to come up with even one good reason. We might imagine that the intent is to educate the public on the “hard work and dedication” of the contestants, making a case against the widely-held “easy way out” misconception applied to weight loss surgery. So how would something called the “Flab to Fabulous Pageant” do that exactly? By showing “before” photos of the finalists as they strut the catwalk and pose their slimmed-down fabulous selves in evening wear? By sharing their personal stories as they answer questions from the judges?

“Biggest Loser” has become a successful reality show because the public wants to see fat people suffer and pay for making what is perceived as a free choice to be fat, weak, and lazy. “Before” pictures and even the most movingly-recounted testimonials will count for nothing coming from a “Flab to Fabulous Pageant.” If anybody even bothers to watch what might be an interminable online video feed. I doubt the public will be clamoring to snag a $98 ticket to the actual pageant. Yes, seriously. It’s going to cost almost a hundred bucks to sit through 204 finalists at the Hyatt Regency.

I’ve done a bit of digging around. The organizer of the pageant claims to have been the “CEO of the Fabulous Foundation for 12 years.” But it’s been incorporated as a non-profit with the state of Georgia only since last April. The address of record is a UPS Store mailbox. The organizer further describes herself as “a highly sought-after weight loss and management motivational speaker…a lecturer, educator, author, and relationship activist.” The link to her speaker site re-directs back to the pageant site. Her Twitter page has four followers; she’s made two tweets. Her YouTube page has one video about the pageant, one video about her teeth, and a year-old video about the safety of hotel rooms. Signing up for her newsletter returns an email from a person with her first name but a different last name.

This Fabulous Foundation is described as providing “continuing education scholarships to integrated healthcare professionals who specialize in weight management.” Um. Who would that be? Scholarships to do what? I mentioned that there could be thousands of entrants. The pageant website is advertising to hire “Field Directors,” people who would be paid salary and commission to sign up contestants. The finalists alone will represent nearly $20,000 in entry fees and it’s not indicated how many semi-finalists they’re expecting but the Field Directors are promised “unlimited earning potential” so I’ll assume it’s as many as they can sign up. What’s each sign up really worth? Semi-finalists who will compete in Atlanta to the finals will be required to pay or find sponsors to cover $6600 in expenses. Purchasing a $300 ad page for yourself in the program is encouraged. At these amounts, the cash haul from just the 204 finalists would be well over a million dollars. This is serious business.

The four lucky winners will spend their reign making various types of public appearances. Where these appearances are and who’s paying to get the winners there isn’t indicated. But returning to next year’s pageant to crown their successor will be at the Fabulous person’s expense according to the official rules.

The costs to host this event seem like they will be quite high. Besides FOUR crowns and tiaras, there will be salaries to the Field Directors, organizers, and advisors, panels of judges for the various rounds of competition packets submitted by the entrants plus multiple groups of five unnamed judges for the Atlanta-based phases, loads of hotel-related expenses (at an upscale hotel) to put on an event large enough to host hundreds of competitors for a week, a welcome reception, two semi-finals events, the pageant itself, and an awards banquet. And there’s entertainment! Performers at each event and Ruben Studdard at the pageant. His “personal acting coach” in Birmingham is one of the organizers. From what I know about events like this, it’s possible the organizers can collect a percentage of the business they bring to the hotel.

So I wonder how much money will be left over for “scholarships” to those desperately needy integrated healthcare professionals? I wonder indeed.


    • Jen on January 11, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Exploitation Supreme. Laughing my fabulous ass off at any person who falls for this bullshit.

    1. I think it’s fair to expect that any organization that’s supposedly been around for TWELVE YEARS would have an easily-found track record of service. But apparently, um. No.And a highly-sought after speaker would have a website filled with glowing testimonials. Can’t find that either.

      I found something about a fundraiser they hosted back at Halloween. The “donation letter” appears to provide “support” only as it might relate to being in the Flab to Fabulous Pageant.

      1. How much do I love the Wayback Machine on Archive.org? The “highly-sought after motivational speaker” had a website back in 2010 that claimed “Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world in the weight loss industry have benefited” from her seminars. That’s a lot of attendees so surely we could find information about these popular events? The homepage for her speaker’s website has been re-directed to the Pageant website, but not the internal pages. Supposedly there was a seminar at a Dave & Buster’s that hosted 170 attendees for $149 each.


        Maybe the events didn’t do so well as by the following year, she was using the website to sell cranberry sauce from the homepage:


        Her Linked In page makes reference to another non profit foundation she heads up:

        “BCN’s prestigious Reach For It Scholarship Foundation gives 2-$1000 scholarships each year. We want to encourage any weight challenged high school to apply for our scholarship. Social stigma is bad enough against our community,even worse without an education.Make sure to apply. Do not limit you future.”

        Wow, two grand a year in scholarships. That’s prestige alright! Don’t limit you future!

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