We Talked To Mama June About Her New Weight-Loss Show

Photo: Courtesy of WE tv.
It's no secret that we have some concerns about June Shannon's newest reality show, Mama June: From Not To Hot. The seven-episode WE tv series, premiering tonight, promises to document the "physical and emotional metamorphosis that will leave one of America’s most recognizable personalities virtually unrecognizable," per the network. The show touts a drastic transformation of Shannon's appearance, from 352 lbs to a size four. Shannon decides to undertake the journey after learning that her ex Sugar Bear is getting married; she wants to look hot and snag a date to his wedding.
While there's nothing wrong with the desire to be healthier or give yourself a makeover per se, there are a number of worrisome elements of From Not To Hot: the massive amount of weight loss, the "revenge body" motivation, the food-shaming behavior of her trainer (he raids Shannon's freezer and berates her for stocking pints of ice cream), and the hyper-focus on dress size rather than health. There's also the simple fact that reality shows in general are produced to yield dramatic footage rather than dispense nuanced medical advice or positive messages about body image.
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And then, there's the question that's been put forward of whether Shannon and her family should be back on TV at all. The mom of four's first show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (starring her daughter Alana), was cancelled in 2014 following reports that Shannon got back together with the registered sex offender who spent 10 years behind bars for molesting Shannon's eldest daughter, Anna. She was eight at the time. (This is the only topic I was told was off-limits during our chat, along with exactly how much weight Shannon has lost.)
Whether or not From Not To Hot should exist, it does. So we decided to speak with Shannon herself. During our brief call, we talked about about where she draws the line between reality and real life, helping Honey Boo Boo stay grounded, the backlash raising her daughters to love themselves, and the criticism Lady Gaga got after her Super Bowl performance.
So, how are you feeling now that the show and that journey are over?
“I’m doing pretty good. Just taking it one day at a time.”
Was the transformation you experienced on the show a lot to experience?
“Yes. I mean, it’s been — the transformation has been probably one of the hardest things that I’ve went through in my whole entire life. But actually it’s well, well worth it.”
I’ve only seen the premiere, but it’s clear you go through a lot.
“Yes, it’s definitely not an easy transformation. It’s a struggle, an everyday struggle.”
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There’s a really touching scene in the premiere where Alana is worried about you going through with any kind of surgery — she’s worried about losing her mom. Was all that pretty hard on her?
“It was tough on everyone having to watch me go through that. Especially on Pumpkin and Alana. And it was hard for me to actually see them and not — and [have] me kind of lose control for a couple times. It’s hard, ‘cause I’m a control freak. And when you go in for surgery, you don’t have control over their emotions or your emotions or anything. You kind of just have to give it to them and say, ‘Hey, hopefully everything works out fine.’”
Yeah. Something I think a lot of women struggle with when they’re trying to lose weight, especially as a mom with young kids watching, is balancing loving and accepting yourself the way you are with wanting to change your appearance or get healthy. How do you balance that body positivity with the desire to look different?
“It’s a daily struggle. One day, I’m like, ‘fuck it.’ The next day it’s kind of like, okay, and it may be good for a little while. But you know, everybody has their setbacks. But right now, I’ll tell you what: I’m glad that people are able to see me for what I’ve always seen myself as. I’ve never seen myself as a bigger person, I’ve always seen myself as like a smaller person."
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Oh really? In what way?
“You know, when I look in the mirror, I’ve always seen myself as being like a smaller person. I’ve never seen myself when I was bigger as like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so big.’ Yes, it is kind of crazy when I rub my body and the excess skin isn’t there anymore. For me, it’s just like people are able to see me like I’ve always seen my mental self as.”
Mhm. How do you communicate to Alana that you can want to change your body but still encourage love herself and the way she looks.
“I’ve always told everybody — my kids, everybody — you have to love yourself [first] and foremost and whether you’re big, small, whatever, you have to finally love yourself without anybody worrying about what people think or what you think. I mean, you gotta love yourself regardless. I love my kids at what weight they’re at now, if they lost 100 pounds. And I know that my kids loved me when I was big [and] they love me now.”
How do you encourage your kids to be healthy and take care of their bodies and accept themselves?
“I just tell them every day, just love yourself regardless. I mean, I don't know, I don’t have a certain answer for that.”
We don't see a diverse representation of women's bodies in the media. Do you feel like you’ve been a good role model for larger women, who can see someone that actually looks like themselves on TV?
“I think that nowadays, people do get caught up about the way people look on TV. But I tell people all the time that, you know, you can’t live in a reality show world. You gotta live in the real reality with your everyday. You can't go chasing what somebody else looks like.”
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Yeah. Now that you’re someone who has been on reality shows, do you ever have to remind yourself to live in the real word?
“Oh yes, I tell people that all the time. I say ‘Look, I leave that shit [at work]. It’s like a job. I mean yes, it’s a fun adventure. But I tell people it’s like a job. You can’t — when you get caught up in reality [TV] like a lot of people do, reality stars do, and start chasing that next reality show? That’s where you lose yourself. And I think a lot of people nowadays in the industry lose [themselves] in that. And I never have once forgot where I come from. You know, hey, at the end of the day, I’m not that person.”
What’s it like when you turn the cameras off after filming? Do you breathe a sigh of relief?
“When the cameras are off, I don’t think about it. I don’t think about like, okay, tomorrow. Because like I said, my difference in my reality TV shows that I’ve done: this shit is not scripted. So for me, it’s like, okay, this is real life. This is how things are gonna be. And I don’t plan out my days. I don’t plan how this is gonna happen and this is gonna happen.”
How does Alana like being back on TV again? Do you ever worry about her getting too caught up in it?
“Sometimes I do. But as long as she’s having fun with it, I don’t say, ‘Okay, no, enough.’ Like some days, she has a rough day. And we just don’t film with her, and let her just be a kid. At the end of the day, she’s an 11-year-old child. I mean a lot of people see her when she’s quiet. They’re like, ‘Oh no, that can’t be you.’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, she’s a normal 11-year-old child.’”
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People forget she’s a little girl! Not just Honey Boo Boo.
“Yes. At the end of the day, she’s an 11-year-old normal child that goes to public school and does things.”
How do you help her stay grounded?
“We don’t really talk about it, like I said. And like I said, if you’d see a day in their life, you’d be like, ‘Okay, they’re normal.’ Well, crazy kind of normal. We’re a good kind of crazy.”
Do you have any celebrity role models when it comes to women and their bodies in the media?
“I don’t wanna say celebrity role models. I think that a lot of people think about body image, especially when you’re in front of a camera. But I look at it this way — like being someone like Lady Gaga. She looks great, and the crap — she wore a halter top during the Super Bowl, and it was like the most craziest thing. But people have to have something to talk about. And haters are gonna be haters. People just need something to talk about nowadays, and that was the new thing to talk about. I guess I’ll be the next thing to talk about when the show comes out of how much weight I’ve lost.”
Mama June: From Not To Hot premieres Friday, February 24 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on WE tv.
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