Body Image Makeovers
For four years, Carson and the other members of the Fab Five transformed sloppy straight guys into gentlemen of style on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Now, Carson is putting his stylish sensibilities back to work as he helps women of all sizes learn to love their bodies on the show How to Look Good Naked. In January 2008, the show became the most-watched reality series premiere in the Lifetime Television Network's history.
"When they first said, 'Do you want to do this show, How to Look Good Naked?' I said, 'I can't do that. I don't look good naked, you know? How am I going to tell other people?'" Carson says. "Then we started doing it, and I realized how women have these amazingly deep body issues."
Her appearance makes her reluctant to do much of anything besides going to work and lying in bed. "It's easier to be in the bed than out there facing life, facing people," she says.
Gabriel, Michael's husband, says the real problem isn't her weight but how she feels about her weight. She regularly opts out of social situations like parties, he says. "The reason is because she's going to feel like everybody at the party is smaller than she is. And I don't feel that way, but that's how she feels."
Gabriel says Michael's feelings about her weight puts a real strain on their relationship. "Everyday I have to hear about how much she weighs and how much she used to weigh," he says. "It affects us even in bed, sexually."
Michael tells Carson that it's more than just parties she avoids. She also says she hasn't visited her son's school for some time. "You can just look at people and say, 'My gosh, she really gained over the summer.' And a lot of the moms get smaller and smaller, and I'm just getting bigger and bigger."
Carson wants Michael to put a stop to that thinking! "Just put that out of your mind because we're never going to be perfect," he says. "Someone's always going to be younger and skinnier and cuter, but no one's going to be you. No one has you, your experiences, your husband, your family. You've got something nobody else has, and you should be proud of that. ... You've got all the ingredients. You've just got to believe in yourself a little more."
"I'm just sick of being so emotional all the time and feeling so whiny—and that's so not like me," Michael says. "I want to get back into living and start being the social butterfly that I once was."
"Sometimes the truth feels good," Carson says.
"Sometimes it hurts, big time," Michael says.
Carson encourages Michael to talk about how she feels about her body. The first thing she notices is her stomach, which she calls a "muffin top." She's not happy about her thighs, either. "Those are bad, too. They're very loose," Michael says. "Look in the mirror at that shaking—it's like an earthquake!"
The part of her body Michael says she hates most is her behind. "It's humungous. When I round the corner you can still see me."
After the jokes stop, Michael gets serious. "I wish I didn't have to feel like this about my butt. I feel really almost guilty that I'm so blessed in so many ways."
Carson tells Michael he sees a different person than what she's identified. "You're sassy, you're confident, you're beautiful. You've got great hair, a great smile. The 'girls' look amazing. Your hips are even with the line of your shoulder. You've got a nice balance," he says. "By the end of our couple of days together, I want you to be able to look in the mirror and see the model within. That might not be the skinny person from 20 years ago, but I want you to see the beautiful person that's still there."
The six models are standing in order of hip size, from smallest to largest. "What I want you to do is walk the lineup, check out their booties and decide which spot you belong based on your hip size," Carson says.
With no delay, Michael chooses what she thinks is her spot near the "largest" end of the line—between a woman with a 49.5-inch waist and one with a 49-inch waist. Is she right?
In actuality, Michael's 46.5-inch waist belongs near the smallest end—she is shocked. "By placing yourself here in the lineup, you've actually added three inches to your hip measurements," Carson says. "I'm not joking here. I'm as serious as global warming."
"What do you think about her body?" Carson asks a passerby.
"Look at her structure," one woman says. "She has a long neck, beautiful décolleté."
"If you were going to rate her body on a scale of one to 10, what would you say?" Carson asks others.
"Definitely a seven or eight, easy," one man says.
"I'd give her an eight or nine," a woman say.
"I would say 10," another passerby says.
Hearing those reactions brings Michael to tears. "I'm happy. I can't believe those people said those things about me," she says. "They're very happy tears."
Carson says hearing compliments from strangers can be the difference in body perspective. "Most of these women hear that tape in their heads saying, 'I'm not good enough. My butt's too big. My arms are jiggly,'" he says. "Their friends and family say, 'Wow, I think you're so sexy. You're great-looking.' But they don't hear it. They need to hear it from complete and total strangers who they don't know and that don't know them to feel like maybe it's true."
No matter how much weight she loses or how many times her husband tells her she is sexy, Anita says she still feels like a "blob." "Once during an argument, which as usual came down to my poor self-esteem, he asked me how I could ever expect someone else to love me when I didn't love myself," she says. "I hear that over and over in my head."
Anita says she does not want her 13-year-old daughter to develop the same low self-esteem that she has faced herself. "I don't want her to waste her life worrying about that," Anita says. "There's too much life to live."
"You don't have to be skinny or any different than what you are right now to start liking yourself," Carson says. "Hopefully, this process will get you feeling better about yourself and will get you on the track to losing weight."
Anita says she gets angry with herself and tired of obsessing about the way she looks. "I just want to be able to be happy with what I've got and not always wish to be something different that I think other people want me to be," she says. "If I could learn to live for myself, then I would be living for everybody else, giving them 100 percent."
Anita points out the parts of her body she doesn't like—her arms, her breasts, her thighs and her belly. "When I was younger, I had a very defined waist, so this is really hard for me to deal with," she says.
Carson asks Anita to pay attention to the beautiful parts of her body. "You have a nice shoulder, and your hips are maybe even a little slimmer than your shoulders. You have great calves. You've got pretty little feet, plus your great face," he says. "The thing to remember is you don't have to be perfect to be pretty, all right?"
After she scrutinizes her assets and flaws, Carson asks Anita to give herself a chance to like her body. "I will be easier on myself and try to like what I see in the mirror," she says.
Walking down the line, Anita decides she must have the third-largest waist in the group, but Carson says she's wrong. "By placing yourself here, you've actually added three and a half inches to your stomach measurement," Carson says.
Carson says Anita actually has the smallest waist of all the ladies in the lineup—and Anita is stunned! "We might have to take you to the ophthalmologist, okay? Because it's not the problem with your stomach. It's from your eyes and how you're perceiving yourself," Carson says.
"It's hard to believe," Anita says. "But I'm believing it."
"I think real, wonderful and beautiful," one man says. "I definitely think curves are sexy."
"Put her in some pumps and a knee-length dress and send her down the runway," a woman says.
"I think she has beautiful natural curves," says another man. "I think her legs are actually quite fine. She has very nice calves."
Hearing all the nice things the strangers said about her body leads Anita to an aha! moment. "I'm the one with the disconnect," she says. "I feel like maybe I don't need to cower in the corner anymore and hide behind people. I could just hold my head up and get out there and be myself. But it is scary to do that because I have been in such a cocoon."
Susan says Michael's breasts are coming out of the top of her bra and splaying a bit to the side. "I tell women [it looks like] about 10 pounds of weight loss when we lift you up a little bit and we get you centered within your bust line," Susan says.
Before her fitting, Michael says she wore a 36D. But after her fitting, she's in a 36FF. "Her bust line, if you look here, is completely in her body frame," Susan says.
Carson says Michael's new panties fit better, too. "Your butt looks amazing in this," he says. "It's not covering too much. It's giving you a nice length of leg."
Anita's old bra was a size 38C, but the pretty new black-and-pink bra Susan helps her choose is a 36E. "Maybe you started out as a younger girl as a C cup, and then maybe you gain a little weight," Susan says. While the cup size often grows, Susan and Carson say it's less usual for the bra band size to get bigger.
Anita discovers that a properly fitting bra with good support causes less of a roll underneath her bust. "Right, because we're not pushing them down," Carson says. When she puts on a sassy red bra, Anita exudes confidence with straighter posture. "I just love it. I feel pretty," Anita says. "You got me to say it!"
"If you're concerned about being big in the hips, you don't want a skinny, peg-legged jean," he says. "That's going to accentuate that shape. You want a little flare."
Carson also says that the right size accessory can serve double duty. "If you have a really big purse, it makes your butt look smaller."
When picking out an outfit for Michael, Carson says knit spandex is a great option. "What it does is it creates shape in the arms." This, he says, reduces arm "rollage" even when she waves.
Since Michael is also concerned about her waist, Carson has her try on a patent leather belt. "What it does is cinches you in and gives you a great waistline."
That flashy belt fulfills another of Carson's tips—feeling sexy by stepping out of your comfort zone!
"I love it. It's just—I feel free," Anita says.
Carson chooses a jacket with a large print to camouflage her midriff, and Anita says she doesn't notice her stomach at all! "It's a nonissue," Carson says.
To make Anita feel taller and leaner, Carson chooses a long, green jacket. "When you feel short-waisted, which you are, you tend to wear very short garments, and that only accentuates your boxiness," Carson says. "If you just wear longer, more column-like things, it just makes you look longer. It's like magic, isn't it?"
After looking at their hair and features, Jude shares his ideas create beautiful looks. For Michael, Jude focuses on hair color. "What I want to do is obviously cover the gray. I want to see two different colors," Jude says.
As for Anita, Jude wants to give her locks a completely different shape. "I think this is just hanging, and you're hiding behind your hair," Jude says.
Michael is ready to see her new hair in 3...2...1... "I don't even look like myself!" she says. "This is unbelievable. I'm gorgeous! I look beautiful!"
"It's you, kid," Carson says. "Take a look. Soak it all in."
"I'm game," Michael says.
"I'm game if she's game," Anita says.
"That was easy. I didn't even have to buy you dinner," Carson jokes.
After her shoot with photographer Matthew Mitchell, Michael was still glowing. "I came alive, and my self-confidence is reinstated. I've been ridiculous," she says. "My heart is good and it always has been, and I feel so much better about myself."
After posing for a few practice frames in her robe, it's the moment of truth—time to take it all off! "I'm not looking, I swear," Carson says.
Anita shines as she smiles for the camera, posing on a bed wrapped artfully in a sheet. "Take a bow," Carson says. "Anita, you rocked it out!"
"That was both the scariest thing I've ever done in my life and also the most exhilarating," she says. "And the most fun!"
And she's not the only one who thinks so! Carson and Michael flag down some passersby to ask what they think.
"You look hot," one woman says. "I think you look very exotic. I love it."
"We were walking down the street and we stopped in our tracks and we looked at you," one young man says. "You look absolutely beautiful."
Carson asks one woman how old Michael looks. "I would say you are 28," the woman says.
"Forty-six, but I love you," Michael says.
"It's pretty hot," Anita says. Soon perfect strangers start weighing in on Anita's super sexy photo!
One man says her skin and eyes look awesome. "The way your body's positioned, you look beautiful," he says.
Another man says Anita looks confident and beautiful—and he's disappointed that she's taken! "Unfortunately, I see a ring on your finger. Are you married?" he says. "Because the woman I see up there, I would want to ask on a date, because that's beauty. That's real beauty."
Anita has finally developed confidence in her looks. "I don't feel like I have to hide in the corner and just can go about my life," she says. "I haven't even heard those voices in my head telling me all those negative things. They're a nonissue."
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