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My Opinion

January 25, 2010

How to get fired as host of a popular weight loss television show

Oxygen has apparently replaced, Marissa Jaret Winokur,  the host of Dance Your Ass Off, with what many people are calling “a skinny host.” Now, in case you glossed over it and before I get to my point, let me repeat the name of the show one more time; Dance Your Ass Off.

Marissa Jaret Winokur © NBC

“To go from an eating machine to a dancing machine,” is how Oxygen describes the show on their website, “Bringing dance and diet together, Dance Your Ass Off features talented, full-figured contestants who will have to lose to win.” And by lose, they are obviously implying, weight. One of the many “Mad Fashionista” blogs incorrectly stated that the goal of the show is, “not to become thin per se, but to become graceful in their bodies. And to bring them out from under the cloud of shame many large people feel about themselves and to enjoy performing before an audience.” These are the blogger’s own imaginary, heartwarming, made up goals for Dance Your Ass Off, and by so doing, the blogger has incorrectly used per seThe goal of Dance Your Ass Off, is to lose weight though dance. It is after all, what the name implies.

Diana Falzone, the host of “Cosmolicious with Diana” a show on Cosmo Radio (Sirius Radio) feels that this is, as she said on her show, “unfair.” Diana was audibly annoyed by Oxygen’s decision to replace Ms. Winokur and expressed frustration that this is the way “the business is.” She expressed sorrow for Marissa Winokur and went so far as to state that changing the way “this business” (a reference to entertainment and the TV industry) operates, will not happen in any of our lifetimes, and will take “centuries.”

I disagree. It will never happen, nor should it. You see, as much as Ms. Falzone’s point is valid; the decision to terminate Marissa Winokur was (probably) unfair; it was not, however, uncalled for.

As one reader, on the People magazine website commented, “[Dance Your Ass Off] is about overweight/obese people trying to lose weight and yet Melissa [she meant Marissa], the HOST [caps are the commenter’s] of the show, is still overweight (her BMI probably technically puts her in the “clinically obese” category) going into not the first, but the SECOND [again, her caps] season of the show with no apparent progress. How could she legitimately provide encouragement to the contestants?” I think this comment makes irrefutable sense.

See, the fact here is, people, Ms. Falzone included, want to change the way “people” as a whole, think. I happen to think it is easier to change yourself before attempting such a large scale, and quite possibly, futile endeavor. Furthermore, Marissa Winokur had a deal, probably bounded by an employment contract. If Ms. Winokur truly wanted to keep her job, she would have lost weight, “you need a host to be able to say – I did it and you can too,” according to another reader on the People magazine website.

Weight loss via regulated, effective exercise makes us feel better — about ourselves. It changes our outlook on life, and ultimately, our productivity increases, something any employer would not only appreciate, but expect. As Diana Falzone so rightly observed, jobs that are high-energy such as nightlife and television oriented positions expect you to look a certain way, “you have to include a photo with your resume,” she said on her radio show.

Now, anyone who applies for such a position is making a deal that is signed on the dotted line, a deal to work at an establishment that is superficial. It is not only a promise to your future employer but to yourself; you, and no one else, chose to apply based on your looks. Naturally, if you fail to deliver, then like all evaluations processes, the contract is nulled.

On the flip side, I feel it is the duty of employers to provide either a discount or a stipend so their employees, their representatives, can maintain what it was that got them the job. As time consuming as most of these types of “image oriented” jobs are, employers should have an agreement with gyms to offer significant discounts (much the same way model agencies do) as well as offer time off to exercise. This should be mandatory and part of the contract. Employers who hire a person based on their looks, cannot fairly make time consuming demands without allowing any time for sustenance.

According to People, Marissa’s rep stated that “Marissa’s reasons for not returning to Season 2 are the following: the format of the program did not allow her to interact with the contestants and offer them encouragement and support, and criticism she received from producers regarding her appearance.” Seems to me that Marissa’s “people” aren’t taking responsibility. A deal is a deal, and when it comes to contracts, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. If Marissa Winokur knew she would have a difficult time losing weight — and keeping it off — while being the host of a popular television show, she should have had her lawyers include a clause in her contract either requesting time off to exercise, or asking for a personal trainer and chef (or all of the above).

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