You can tell by the marketing that they’re vigorously going after Black folk -- women and men -- to seemingly make up for lost time. In the midst of watching TV One’s “UnSung” marathon on New Year’s Day, I lost count of how many times I saw the new -- and odd -- commercial of Jennifer Hudson serenading her pre-weight loss self on behalf of Weight Watchers.
On other channels, I haven’t missed a beautiful and fresh-faced Janet Jackson hawking products for Nutrisystem. And though I haven’t yet seen the ads for Mariah Carey on behalf of Jenny Craig, I have seen her newly svelte frame, which she’s back to flaunting in her signature spaghetti-strap, ankle-length dresses. The new mother of twins claims to have lost 70 pounds.
I also haven’t caught ads for Charles Barkley, who recently became the new macho face of Weight Watchers in a clear effort to get men in shape too.
I can’t knock the hustle of the weight loss companies, nor can I sugarcoat the need for Black folk as a collective to take back their health. Sixty-nine percent of non-Hispanic Black women are overweight or obese, according to the Office of the Surgeon General. Black men aren't doing much better on this front: Fifty-eight percent of non-Hispanic Black men are overweight, according to the Surgeon General.
But are celebrity endorsements of weight loss programs likely to make us purchase? Over on Frugivore, which bills itself as a “fruitful lifestyle magazine,” writer Arielle Loren was doubtful.
“Most of these programs are not affordable for the average family,” Loren wrote. “And thus, it’s unlikely for Black celebrity spokespersons, regardless of status, to inspire the average individual to purchase these products. How likely is it for a thousand-dollar weight loss program to make it into the hands of those who need it most?”
Loren also wondered if the average person on a weight loss plan could achieve the results that celebs have. “Yes, these celebrities have used the weight loss programs that they’re promoting, and their bodies have benefited from the products. But they also have thousand-dollar celebrity trainers that have complemented their new dietary lifestyles, and helped them shed numerous extra pounds.”
Oddly enough, I wasn’t inspired to sign up for Weight Watchers the first time I saw Jennifer Hudson belting out “It’s a new day!” I was, however, motivated to get up and go to the gym more often, eat in moderation, and stay away from the kitchen after 7 p.m. But sign up? Eh…
I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. “It doesn’t sway me one way or the other,” wrote a commenter on Loren's story. “I recognize most celebrities will sell their mamas if the price is right. Weight loss is a great way to get press. The classic redemption story.”
Do celebrity endorsements motivate you to sign up for a weight loss program?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk