“Making fun of the fat girl” is the oldest and most cliché gag in TV history. And when Tatyana Ali’s show “Love That Girl” made fun of a fat girl in a recent episode, they were downright cruel. Instead of using a stock image or say, not mocking a plus-sized woman’s body at all, the show used an image of a real, plus-size woman.
And she just happened to be my friend, the actress, comedian and gorgeous plus-size woman Erica Watson.
The episode shows the character Tyana (Tatyana Ali, who you’ll remember as the little sis on “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”) and her friend, Latrell, talking about his new gig working as a trainer. He’s not an actual trainer, but he’s duped some people into becoming his clients by hanging up “before and after” posters. The “after” photo is of Tyana now; the “before” photo is my friend Erica Watson with Tatyana Ali’s head Photoshopped onto her body. Tyana is repulsed, shrieking, “How could you!”
How do we know it’s Erica? In 2009, Erica did a series of press photos for her one-woman comedy show, “Fat Bitch,” wearing a bright green blouse. I know it’s her in the photo because I used the same image when I did a Q&A with Erica on The Frisky and we discussed her role in the movie “Precious.”( Yeah, she’s all-around amazing.) If you look at the press photos and the “before” image in “Love That Girl,” you can see very clearly the show decapitated Erica, put Tatyana’s head on top, and then made fun of the bigger body.
Ironically enough, Erica sent me an email about this incident while she’s in Los Angeles speaking about … wait for it … Love Your Body Day. “Why is my body a joke from the waist down? It’s very hurtful,” she wrote. Erica also noted that the show did not contact her, or the photographer she hired to take the photos, for permission to use it. “People started calling me yesterday saying that they saw it on TV and recognized my photo,” she said.
In the last line of her email, Erica wrote “I am so tired of people making fun of my body, and other women who are plus sized.” I am tired, too, Erica. I am tired of me, my friends, my family, and even strangers being mocked and — let’s just say it, bullied — for not looking the way society tells us we’re supposed to look. It’s just cruel. Don’t think I don’t notice when a couple commenters on The Frisky’s “What Are We Wearing?” posts tell me that I look “pregnant” or “fat.” Thank God I have pals who love and accept me for who I am, not for what I look like, and who drown out the mean words others say.
Shame on you, TV One and “Love That Girl.” That was a real human being you mocked. Shame on you.