Singer JoJo’s Extreme Diet – Why Isn’t Talent Enough?

Actual SizeIn an interview with PopSugar, Singer JoJo has bravely decided to talk about the pressure that she was under to lose weight early in her career.  She explains:

Here’s something that I agreed to do that ended up messing with me psychologically…I was under a lot of pressure with a company I was at previously, and they wanted me to lose weight fast. So they got me with a nutritionist and had me … on all these supplements, and I was injecting myself — this is a common thing ‘the girls’ do, by the way — it makes your body only need certain calories, so I ate 500 calories a day. It was the most unhealthy thing I’ve ever done.

First of all, who the fuck is this nutritionist? It’s bad enough that Dr. Oz endorses crap like this, but at least he got called before Congress and labeled a scam artist.  For all we know this nutritionist continues to starve pop stars for profit.

There is no injection that makes you only need certain calories.  While she doesn’t disclose what kind of injections, this sounds like the HCG diet.  Victims of this scam inject themselves with the hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), which is produced during pregnancy and legitimately prescribed as a fertility medication. In addition to the injections they are restricted to 500 calories a day.

As you might have guessed, there is no research to suggest that this leads to sustained weight loss, but there are side effects which include gallstone formation, irregular heartbeat,  fatigue, irritability, depression, edema, gynecomastia, gallstone formation, irregular heartbeat, electrolyte imbalance,and the risk of blood clots forming and blocking blood vessels. All that risk for an approximately 0% chance of long term weight loss.

Regardless of what type of ridiculous and dangerous diet she was on, nobody was suggesting that it would improve her singing voice or her health, and that’s an issue. In our culture, talent isn’t enough.  For the vast majority of people who want to be singers (or dancers,or actors, or in the public eye in any way,) fitting the stereotype of beauty is the golden ticket that they must have in order to chase their dreams, because in our culture very often we choose our singers, dancers, actresses etc. based on their ability to approximate the stereotype of beauty first, and their talent second.  And that sucks.

How many talented people do we miss out on because they didn’t happen to fit some ridiculous, incredibly narrow standard of beauty?  How many bullshit “Nobody Could Have Believed” e-mails do we have to endure?  How many talented people put their health and even their lives at risk trying to reach that stereotype of beauty?  This needs to stop. Talent should be enough, and the entertainment world should reflect the diversity of the real world.


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17 thoughts on “Singer JoJo’s Extreme Diet – Why Isn’t Talent Enough?

  1. I knew I was going to be a singer from the time I was 5 or 6. I gave up by the time I was 16 because I knew that being “fat” (I wasn’t really even fat at that point, just a little heavier than average) meant I didn’t have a chance. That was over 20 years ago, when our culture wasn’t anywhere near as fatphobic as it is now. I can’t even say how much I admire the bravery and strength of those who go for it anyway. I wish I could have been like them.

    1. dont feel bad—or at least alone. it took me a couple of years longer, but i’d decided to become an opera singer [my parents met when both sang in the chorus]….. it’s a long story, one that only slightly involves weight, but i never did do it. i couldve, my voice was a bit too reedy then [not now, strangely], & eventually i’d decided to be a jazz singer instead, but life interferes…..

      in order to get out of a house where my family NEVER stopped screaming, not long after i’d graduated high school i got married when i was 16, divorced when i was 19, a bit more than three months later my mother was diagnosed with what was thought to be terminal cancer [i cant tell you how horrible this was, even though a year in her diagnosis was finally -slightly- changed & she lived another ten years. a year of watching chemo fail, though….. oh, my mom wanted me to go to art school? i went to art school. i’d gained more than sixty pounds during my crazy marriage? what difference did that make in the face of life or death, etc & ect].

      by the time i was 24, out of grad school, sitting on venice beach, thinking about walking into a café & offering to sing for free [i’d starved off the weight, i looked all right i guess], i was afraid even to audition because i thought a 24-year-old was TOO OLD to be a singer. about then i realized my life was gonna be about kindness instead of singing. it was, & it remains, & it was an odd but needed choice [especially in the cruel late 80s] & it’s hard to explain, & it’s not what i came here to write, but i did write it, & i wrote it in case you might like some commiseration for our comisery.

      so there it is. i hope you feel better now, i do. i feel….. different. ‘better’ rarely enters my mind….. what would it even be like, i wonder.

    2. Exactly the same. For me it was closer to 40 years ago. I wanted to be in musical theater more than anything. I wasn’t out of 8th grade before I learned I had plenty of talent, but I don’t have” the look.” I kept fighting through high school and eventually almost died of anorexia. It broke something in me I don’t think I can ever get back.

      1. My high school drama teacher encouraged some of his students to go to Hollywood and try to get into movies. Others, he encouraged to go to New York, and try for Broadway (they do require different acting styles, by the way).

        To me, he said, “You have the talent, but you couldn’t stand the lifestyle.”

        He was absolutely right. The Hollywood/Broadway show biz life is NOT for me. I’m so glad, though, that he looked at us as individuals, and encouraged us is a way that allowed us to accept ourselves as we are.

        I enjoyed acting in college, as well. It was a blast! My body gets in the way now, because of injuries and illness. But if I wanted it, I could have an outlet in my excellent local theater. Local theater life is sooooo different from Hollywood or Broadway, and I’ll tell you, some of our local actors are every bit as talented as the big stars. One, in particular, blows my mind with his acting chops, and he can sing like an angel, and dance like … Well, he’s a really good dancer.

        And he’s fat. He couldn’t get cast in Hollywood, yet he made me actually weep for the villain. I mean, has that ever happened to you, when you watch a movie?! Seriously, this guy has talent coming out of his ears.

        But the local theater life is just so much better, IMO.

  2. now, here -is- what i came here to write.

    [edi note: i dont know if i’m allowed to write this here. it’s not mean. it’s certainly not judgmental about weight—other than ANOREXIA & HOW & WHY NOT TO EAT 500kcal a day. i always get scared when people pull down that low because i’ve done it so much &, as below, it’s made me incredibly ill.

    part of the reason i got so sick? is because i’m never the thinnest person in the world, this is los angeles &, as of course you know, anything over 120# in l.a. is considered FRIGHTENINGLY fat. so i, too, have been prescribed weight loss, told my knees were gonna go when i weighed maybe 135 pounds, on & on. & i have such severe dysmorphophobia, atop all the ED, that i went with it. stupidly.

    stupidly. at one point i had a tumor the size of a basketball that i’d ignored because i thought it was just cos i was fat. those of us not born to look forever like long-limbed adolescents are TAUGHT dysmorphophobia, along with being taught to have EDs. when i finally had the damned thing removed, the head of ob/gyn at ucla told me it was the second largest tumor he’d ever seen. otoh, my own doctor, whom at that point i’d known for at least a decade, told me during the run-up to surgery that {i’m quoting} it would “be like getting liposuction for free!”. i do think it worked a bit better than the $30,000 worth of lipo that i paid for, that did nothing, & that, throughout the year-plus long excruciating process, no doctor told me ANYTHING like, um, maybe i had dysmorphophobia & so maybe i should stop.

    oh, wait—when i told my plastic surgeon i was eating no more than 1500 kcal while drinking a half bottle of milk of magnesia a day & STILL was not thin, it did freak him out a smidge & so he told me that, perhaps, i could get lapband, as one now only needed to be the great “fifty pounds overweight” instead of 100!

    from this i understood a few things: that he likely meant i should look something like kristin chenoweth, who is noted to weigh 88 pounds. also that my doctor did not hear that EATING TOO MUCH, the ostensible reason for our fine & fabulous fifty pound lapband, was NOT my mothraforking problem.

    at any rate, & even after all that, i wont be mad if you need to put a warning on this or pull it. i clearly didnt write it for mean reasons but if it wont help, you have my blessing.

    i also hope you are doing wonderfully well. if you read the belownoted you will understand why i am sometimes spotty in paying my membership fees. i’m a bit better now, but have been wildly sick. i’m inching upward. eating 500kcal a day, or maybe 800, say, forever & ever is one of the PRIMARY reasons i am mostly gone. damn my life.]

    500 kcal a day? for a long time? injections or no injections?

    an oft-forgot & rarely mentioned side effect is that if you do that for too long you will NEVER be able to eat a normal amount of calories again without immediate, & often extreme, weight gain. the sixty – seventy – eighty odd pounds i mentioned above, that i gained during my woebegone early marriage? was from anorexia followed by eating & overeating. i really DID overeat [the circumstances are so grisly, truly, that i wont recall them here because even hearing them once renders the listener appalled, despairing, on & on. i know. i yakk too much anyway & this bit would just make other people feel bad].

    i’ve only “overeaten” during crisis points—the other time being the run-up to my being a sped whistleblower—but i’ve eaten a version of 500-800 kcals for DECADES with only small breaks. i still do it. it’s wrecked my health.

    500 kcal, you say? among other things, NEVER again try to eat sugar. not only will you gain weight immediately, as if you’ve eaten an ice cream factory, yr affair with a healthy pancreas hath ended. i learned this when, on no food for hours & hours [only a serious health food root beer float. -serious- health food, promise, it’s almost all i ever eat], i had a blood test. my blood sugar was over 500. soon as the results were read i was rushed to emergency.

    you dont want that. i know you dont. i think most people here are healthier than am i. the reason i think you guys are is because at least at some point you were clever or determined enough to say: I AM SICK OF STARVING! I’M MAD AS HELL & I’M NOT GOING TO DO IT ANY MORE!

    good job. it’s a lot better than being sick FROM starving.

    please, people, if you think that ‘this is the time it will really do it’, please know this time will be the same as all the other times. & if you do the extreme calorie cut, this time will make you slightly thinner & much much sicker. i yakk a lot, it’s obvious. if you want even more details, just ask.

    yr weary friend & compatriot,

    1. Please insert a gif, here, of The Hulk smashing literally the entire world, because gaaaaaahhhhhh!

      Does this count as the “famine” from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? It just feels so apocalyptic, to me.

      1. In the book Good Omens by Neil Hainan and Terry Pratchett the horseman of the Apocalypse representing famine had a controlling interest in a large and successful diet company that sold tasteless food with no calories!

        1. I’d forgotten that. Great book.

          Oh, and I’m not sure about Neil Gaiman, but I know that Terry Pratchett wrote some wonderful fat characters. Agnes Nitt (sp?) for example? The woman with a downright magical voice, but because of her body, was made to sing dubbed over (sort of like Singing In the Rain) for the thin girl, who couldn’t carry a tune.

          Actually, she did have a “thin woman” inside her, but that was actually a split personality, and Perdita was a whole different character, not Agnes’ “best self.” And physically, she was never going to leave that fat body.

          I really love how Pratchett allowed her to be, and stay, fat. And AWESOME!

          I have to go back and reach his witch novels, now.

  3. This kind of thinking (needing to fit the stereotype first) literally made me anorexic and almost killed me in high school. Thank you for writing this. I wish it had been longer, but really, there isn’t any more to say about it.

  4. Mama Cass should not be an outlier!

    And why the heck are there more fat men who succeed in show biz than fat women? Oh, wait, patriarchy, using ideals of feminine beauty (and acceptability) that force women to spend most, if not all, of their time, money, and energy into making themselves as small as possible, so that they can’t/won’t compete with the men.

    It’s like asking a Jewish singer to get a nose job before she gets a singing contract. Sure, she might look more “acceptable,” but it will change her voice! (BTW, loved that storyline in “Glee.” Turns out it was autobiographical. Lea Michelle’s agent actually did want her to get a nose job!)

    Talent is talent and skill is skill, and neither of these are dependent on having a “perfect” look.

    So maddening.

  5. Yeah, one of the reasons I hated American Idol was I quickly realized it wasn’t just about talent, they also had to have the right ‘look’ which was young and thin.

    Stories from Margaret Cho and Camryn Manheim just depress the hell out of me.

    I wish it would change. Some days I have trouble telling characters apart because they look so similar.

  6. I was rewatching the tv show Elementary and there was a fat actress as the murdered person of the week and I was like, oh, hey, look, random fat person! …and then it turned out that she was only there so that gastric bypass could be a plot point. SIGH. I love this show and it’s progressive and inclusive in a lot of ways, but body size is not one of them.

    1. I saw that one too. The message I got from it was that fat people are so gullible that they will do anything, and get zapped from someone else who uses them to their advantage.

  7. How is Oz still able to have a TV show and oodles of supporters after he got his butt handed to him publicly via the scolding by Congress?

    I know my mom and step-dad really respect him but they may not be aware of the aforementioned incident.

  8. HCG is what led to Anna Nicole Smith’s untimely death. She was always struggling to keep her weight down. The shaming that poor woman endured was monstrous.

  9. I got a Bachelor’s in opera singing and really expected to make a career in that field. I have the instrument for it, but I realized that I would have to fight way, WAY harder because of my weight and height (in addition to being over 400 lbs, I’m 6′ tall). Very few directors have someone like me in mind when they’re casting an opera. The stereotype of “fat ladies in opera” is gone, there are very few singers of size now, and many opera houses these days choose sub-par singers who look good (read: thin and conventionally pretty) over really talented singers who don’t.

    To be fair, there were other factors that made me realize that I’d never be an opera singer (including my severe anxiety and depression), but I also knew I didn’t have it in me to fight that fight.

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