It’s been over a week since TV3’s Lisa Cannon was announced as the first ever Weight Watchers Ireland ambassador and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration – I’ve taken slight breaks from thinking about Weight Watchers to think about: my new lipstick; the moral and ethical ramifications of having a sugar daddy; and body positivity. Although that actually brings me right back to thinking about Weight Watchers.
Weight Watchers’ big announcement
More specifically, it brought me to thinking about the decision by Weight Watchers Ireland to bring Lisa Cannon on board as their first ever brand ambassador. The announcement came hand in hand with a Sindo magazine cover “revealing” her 10lb weight loss, and her pledge to continue losing. Lisa’s Instagram (which I love because she dresses adorably) is full of – along with #ootd posts – healthy meal ideas and workouts.
While we’re on the subject of loving Lisa’s Instagram, let’s get this out of the way: I love Lisa. I worked with her a lot when I used to style for Xposé. She’s such a warm person – I think she’s the only Xposé presenter I regularly hugged (no offence to the rest of yiz!). She’s funny and smart and generous and – this is a tricky one – I would never begrudge her getting a job. I think she’s incredibly talented and deserves every success. Plus, any woman who becomes a power lifter in 12 weeks gets my vote.
‘Fat’ is not a dirty word
But here’s another tricky one: in all of my years working with Lisa and, later, looking at her on TV or on red carpets, I would never have called her fat. She has never been fat. (And, crucially, I’m not using “fat” as an insult. “Fat” is not an insult. It’s an adjective. I sometimes would refer to myself as being fat – when I was fat.) Lisa is petite and curvy; in the time I regularly saw her, she would have been a size 10-12.
So the idea that Lisa would be Ireland’s first brand ambassador for Weight Watchers is bizarre – how much weight could she possibly lose? How much weight should she lose for her role to be considered “successful”? What kind of message does this send to the hundreds of thousands of women around Ireland who are similar in size to Lisa, in no way fat and already struggling with the inevitably negative feelings they have towards their perfectly lovely and fully functioning bodies?
Is this an issue of representation in general?
When I was thinking about this (a lot), I started wondering who else would have worked. In the US, Jennifer Hudson (below) went from a size 16 to a 6 and then cut ties with Weight Watchers (Jessica Simpson replaced her). In the UK, however, they hired Patsy Kensit who, by most people’s reckoning, wasn’t in need of any major weight loss.
But I realised – with a shock – I couldn’t think of a single famous Irish woman who is above a size 14. When I worked in Irish magazines, we would frequently have discussions about who to put on the cover. The same names would come up, over and over again. All white, all size 8-10, all straight-haired and straight-toothed and distinctly vanilla. It appears that there existing outside of those definitions presents a serious barrier to success for Irish women.
In a way, I understand Weight Watchers’ decision. Lisa is eminently likeable and lovely, and with the rise of the #fitfam and Slimming World, Weight Watchers needs the publicity. I just wish that – when they chose their new ambassador – they had a more diverse range to choose from.