“I never speak for every Black woman.”
Loni Love caused quite a debate last week when she made comments about Black women’s eating habits on her daytime talkshow “The Real”. Thanks to an interview with Madame Noire, she’s now clarifying her controversial statements.
In an episode that aired last week, Love was promoting Weight Watchers (WW) as a program that can teach you how to “eat healthy” and after giving a demonstration with her co-hosts — Tamera Mowry-Housley, Adrienne Bailon, Jeannie Mai, and Amanda Seales — Love broke down into tears.
“Let me tell y’all, I did not know how to eat,” she said. “Growing up in the projects, we just had to eat what we could.” She continued, “A lot of women in the African American community, we don’t know how to eat because we grew up that way.”
This statement caused backlash, particularly from social media, with people saying Love “pathologizes Black people” when “the standard AMERICAN diet is unhealthy.” One Twitter user also wrote, “It’s not that black people don’t know how to eat, it’s about the lack of access. Research Food deserts sweetie.”
Love has now responded to the backlash in a chat with Madame Noire where she was promoting her upcoming book “I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To”. She explained:
“First of all, I never speak for every Black woman. If you go to my book, it actually explains how I grew up so my statement was for some women. Although, there were some women who were upset, there were a lot of women who understood what I was saying about accessibility capitalism has caused in the poor communities- that has caused us not to be able to eat clean. And not be able to eat the correct way. Which is why you see an obesity rate that is highest among Black females — more than any other race. Even with Black males. Black females have an obesity problem.”
“The thing that I realized about being on a show like ‘The Real,’ I don’t have the time to explain myself. Unfortunately, we have 6-8 minute segments and you have four other hosts. By the time I get in, I may have 30 seconds and then we have to get out. So that’s one of the downfalls. But I also notice that when I’m saying something, I start a conversation. And that’s more important to me to start the conversation. And they’re conversations that we need to have as a community. It’s not meant to embarrass.”
According to a Center for Disease Control obesity report from 2013 to 2016, the percentage of Black women who were considered obese was higher than the percentage of white woman. Access to healthy foods and grocery stores are also less common in Black communities, according to certain reports, and efforts are being made to fix the issue holistically, including giving people transportation and affordable pricing to obtain healthier food options.
However, on the flip side, there is also pushback from activists on focusing too much on ending obesity instead of ending fatphobia and fat shaming. As written in a Scientific American article, “When the focus is on weight and body size, it’s not ‘obesity’ that damages people. It’s fearmongering about their bodies that puts them at risk for diabetes, heart disease, discrimination, bullying, eating disorders, sedentariness, lifelong discomfort in their bodies, and even early death.”
Love also pointed out the need to see “plus-size” models on the cover of magazines in her interview with Madame Noire:
“Where’s our Naomi Campbell,” she asked. “They don’t put us on the covers of magazines. And that made a lot of plus size models mad. But I’m like, they’re not putting us on magazines. That last plus size woman I remember was—and I’ll probably get in trouble for this— was Mo’Nique. All I said was, ‘Where is our plus size legends?’ Because Black women been plus size for years. But they don’t give us a chance to be on the cover of magazines. Now, you might have your blog. You might have a couple of campaigns but I’m talking about where is the plus size Naomi Campbell for Black women. I’m not talking about Ashley [Graham], cuz ain’t Ashley White?”