Is "The Biggest Loser" Keeping Its Trainers In The Closet?


When Jillian Michaels came out as bisexual in Ladies’ Home Journal last year, it wasn’t a huge surprise. The fitness guru doesn’t talk much about her personal life in the press, and has never spoken to the LGBT media.

There is speculation about her relationship with another woman based on information on her public Facebook and Twitter accounts, but Michaels has never made an official statement about it.

As a household name and face of nutrition and fitness, she touches the lives of those she meets and even those who only see her on TV or use her DVDS, books or website as a guide to healthy living. She’s consistently on the cover of health and fitness magazines, and a frequent guest on talk shows. She’s even opened up about her current adoption process with the women of The Talk.

But there appears to be a major aspect of her personal life she’s not interested in sharing, and it has to do with what she made mention of in that Ladies Home Journal interview last year.

Whether the decision not to discuss Michaels’ sexuality is her own or, perhaps, NBC’s isn’t clear. But NBC, the network behind Jillian’s hit show, The Biggest Loser, has turned down several interview requests from, and not just with Jillian, but their new trainer this season, Cara Castronuova. Cara, a trained boxer and actress, once dated MC God-des of God-des and She.

In 2007, Cara starred in God-des and She’s hit music video for “Love You Better,” and the following year, she was one of GO Magazine‘s 100 Women We Love. She also starred in the lesbian film Flick’s Chicks. Now that she is poised to become a household name and brand, as Jillian and her fellow trainer Bob Harper have, it appears that NBC would prefer to downplay her connection to the LGBT community. (NBC publicists gave no comment after asked why Jillian and Cara aren’t allowed to speak to the gay press.)

Ironically, NBC has been receiving a lot of press lately regarding their upcoming gay-friendly programming with the appointment of former-Showtime boss Bob Greenblatt to chief of NBC programming. One of his first points of business has been the greenlighting of the recently announced pilot starring a lesbian couple called I Hate That I Love You. Greenblatt was at Showtime for the development of Queer as Folk, The L Word, The Real L Word and other queer-friendly programming such as Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara.

So what does the network have to lose from allowing their star trainers to speak with the gay press? The Biggest Loser itself doesn’t have such a great track record in terms of LGBT inclusion, and they’ve been on the air for 11 seasons. In 2009, the show’s co-creator Mark Koops told Variety that not having gay or lesbian couples “hasn’t been a conscious decision, and we have definitely had a number of gay or lesbian individuals on the show. We are looking for great characters and great stories, so I’m sure we will.”

Though Koops says they have had “a number” of LGBT individuals, there haven’t been any on record as being out while on the show, or at least their sexuality was not mentioned. This is somewhat understandble considering that sexuality is not the focus of the show. But if the “individuals” were out, why wouldn’t the network capitalize on the additional press a contestant could receive for speaking as a member of the gay community?

One openly lesbian cast member wasn’t out while she was on the show. Rasha Pecoraro went on the show with her then-husband, Edwin, in 2006. In 2009, she came out as a lesbian and is now married to Vanna Pecoraro. The press picked up on Rasha’s new relationship and it was reported on TMZ and other entertainment news sites.

“Being the only openly gay lesbian from The Biggest Loser, I feel a sense of responsibility to show America that following your dreams, and following your true desire is what is most important,” Rasha said. “I live my life like an open book, and I am proud of who I am, and I want every person I come in contact with to be proud of themselves, too. I am living proof that dreams come true.”

Though she wasn’t out on the show, Rasha said that NBC has been supportive of her.

“NBC, 3 Ball Productions and Reveille Productions have been amazingly supportive,” she said. “I was a plus-size model before the show, so they have always respected that I am in the entertainment industry, and have always been supportive of me talking to the press.”

Rasha won’t comment on whether she knew about the sexuality (or closeting) of any of the trainers on the show, but she did say that she thinks The Biggest Loser will eventually cast some out gay or lesbian contestants.

“I feel they have wanted to focus more on the contestants weight loss stories as opposed to their sexual orientation,” Rasha said. “Maybe they just haven’t found the right out LGBT person to cast on the show yet.”

Bob, one of two male trainers on the show, has never spoken publicly about his sexual orientation. Contestants have hinted at his sexuality in interviews, and before The Biggest Loser, he starred in a workout video called Queer Abs. This doesn’t mean Bob Harper is gay, of course, but if he is, and if three out of four trainers identify as not-straight and are discouraged from speaking about it, or speaking to the LGBT press, it would seem that one of the biggest shows on television is not interested in us watching.

The unfortunate part is that we need to be watching. A 2008 study found that lesbians are three times as likely to be overweight and are twice as likely to be obese as straight women. We also tend to have higher BMIs (Body Mass Indexes). It would appear that health should be a priority for the lesbian community just as much, if not more, than for any other subset of people. On a show that often celebrates diversity in other arenas – several contestants have been focused on for their ethnicity, where they live in the United States or any other storyline that can be carved out from their differences in family life – it would seem The Biggest Loser would benefit from being more inclusive of gays or lesbians.

It’s not that we expect Cara or Jillian or even the contestants to discuss their sexuality and personal lives on The Biggest Loser – the show is about weight loss and, ultimately, “the game.” But it has a responsibility to promote the health and well-being of all people, and they are missing a much-needed opportunity to appeal to the LGBT community when they have the elements and personalities in place to easily do so.

This post originally appeared on AfterEllen. Republished with permission.

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