• My Big Fat Fabulous Life is a reality series that follows the life of Whitney Way Thore
• The main cast members include Whitney, her family and close friends such as Buddy Bell, Ashley Baynes, Todd Beasley, Tal Fish and Heather Sykes
• Whitney is a body positivity advocate and published a best-selling book in 2016
• The show has associated shows such as “My 600lb Life” and “1000lb Sisters”
• These shows follow individuals attempting to make the switch to healthy lifestyles and demonstrate the tough reality of obesity without reducing obese people to a number on a scale
What is “My Big Fat Fabulous Life”?
The Pilgrim Studios production premiered on TLC in January 2015, and is a reality series following the life of Whitney Way Thore, who weighed almost 400 pounds at the beginning of the show. Whitney shot to fame when “Jared and Katie in the Morning”, a North Carolina morning show on her former radio station, began posting “107.5 KZL’s Fat Girl Dancing” videos on YouTube which were subsequently viewed millions of times.
Despite suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome and gaining over 230 pounds from a health disorder, Whitney sees the silver lining in every cloud. Navigating on- and off-line bullying and life’s ups and downs while repairing her negative body image, the reality star handles every negative situation with the grace and aplomb that has enamored millions of viewers.
Meet The Cast
The main cast members on “Fabulous Life” are the Thore family – Whitney, her parents Barbara and Glenn, and her brother Hunter – and their close friends Buddy Bell, Ashley Baynes, Todd Beasley, Tal Fish and Heather Sykes.
Whitney was born in April 1984 in Greensboro, North Carolina, and studied at Walter Hines Page Senior High School and Appalachian State University. After a long string of failed relationships, some online sources claim that the bubbly brunette found love with her husband Jason Rose, with whom she shares children Bobbie and Brooks. Sadly, this is untrue: Whitney has been dating a mysterious Frenchman since 2021, who she prefers to keep out of the limelight; the pair are currently long-distance. Neither does she have any children.
A huge advocate for body positivity, Whitney’s best-selling book – “I Do It with the Lights On: And 10 More Discoveries on the Road to a Blissfully Shame-Free Life” – received rave reviews upon its release in 2016. Even so, fans were eager to see if Whitney could lose weight, and what would happen to the show if she did. Since 2019, Whitney has lost 70 pounds – and kept them off – thanks to numerous lifestyle changes, and is reported to now weigh around 310 pounds, although exact figures are unknown.
Barbara, the Thore family matriarch, is Whitney’s greatest support and a pillar of strength for her nearest and dearest. At a young age, she walked down the aisle with her first husband – who was five years older – in an intimate wedding ceremony. Things didn’t work out, but she soon met Glenn, and they formed a tight-knit family.
In December 2021, fans feared for Barbara’s health when the septuagenarian suffered a stroke that left her bedridden. Since then, it’s been a long and steady road to recovery, as the family have rallied around Barbara and take turns watching over her. In October 2022, Whitney and her mother had a great time at a fall festival held in Irving Park, a senior living community where Barbara is currently staying.
Next up is Barbara’s faithful husband Glenn, who has been a calming, steady presence on the show since its inception. In 2022, he and Barbara celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary in a low-key manner, after a rough year full of health problems, including COVID-19.
Glenn is something of a bookworm who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in History & Political Science at North Carolina’s prestigious Guilford College. In 2003, he began working in the graphics industry, eventually taking on the role as Account Manager at Graphic Visual Solutions in 2012. Two years later, he became VP General Manager at Millennium Print Group, and seems to have no intention of retiring anytime soon, despite being in his mid-to-late 70s.
Whitney’s younger brother Hunter is a guitarist and aspiring actor, with dreams of making it big in the entertainment industry. Hunter is in his mid to late 30s and shares a close relationship with Whitney, given the small age gap between them, and often posts his famous sibling on Instagram and other social media platforms. The blue-eyed reality star’s band, Plague of Jackals, specializes in the metal and hardcore genre, and performs at small clubs and other local venues.
Hunter was the one who found Barbara after her stroke, and dialed 911; he later had a tense argument with Whitney while discussing future plans to take care of their aging parents. Although fans have grown to love Hunter since he began appearing on “Fabulous Life”, it appears that the wannabe celebrity had been planning a move to Atlanta for quite some time, implying that his appearances on his sister’s show were also to gain media exposure. Since having moved to Atlanta, Hunter has been working on projects which he will share with fans when the time is right.
Buddy Bell, one of Whitney’s closest friends, has shared much of his personal life on the show. From difficult breakups to a rehab stint he underwent due to a drug addiction, Buddy has been through the wringer many times on “Fabulous Life”, and the show’s viewers have been rooting for him to turn his life around and find true love.
In late 2021, Buddy thrilled fans with news of his engagement. Whitney previously said that it sucked not being able to see her best friend so much, since he was so serious about this new relationship, but she appears to be happy about the engagement, and is still supporting her friend in every move he makes. No wedding date has been set as of October 2022, but Buddy will still make appearances on “Fabulous Life” for the time being.
Ashley Baynes has also known Whitney for over a decade and is another plus-size brunette with a love of life. She has two children – daughter Harper, and newborn son August Daniel, who was born in May 2022. There were odd rumors of Ashley being a surrogate for Whitney, but the father of both children is Ashley’s longtime boyfriend Eric, who prefers not to be on TV.
The rumors began when Whitney, who is struggling to get pregnant without help, asked her other friend Heather if she’d be a willing surrogate. Although Heather agreed at first, she later had doubts and seemed to change her mind, which is why people thought Ashley had taken one for the team and become Whitney’s surrogate. Ashley also helped Whitney with her IVF treatments, and even administered the injections to her friend’s belly several times.
Todd Beasley and Whitney also go way back, having known each other since high school. The fellow musical theater major has earned himself scores of female fans, thanks to his good looks and affable personality, and his genuine friendship with Whitney is praised for being one of the show’s most authentic aspects.
Todd was Whitney’s dance partner in the famous “Fat Girl Dancing” videos that put her on the map, which is why, after being told by a doctor that she’d no longer be able to dance due to her weight and health issues, Whitney asked Todd for help to get back on track, to do what she loves most. Together, Todd and Whitney choreographed dance classes and ran classes. He seems to disapprove of Whitney’s anonymous French boyfriend, but has made it clear that he’ll always be around when needed.
Fellow TLC star Tal Fish was inspired by Buddy’s honesty regarding his cocaine addiction, and came clean about his own struggle to recover from years of substance abuse. “I’m a person in long-term recovery myself and I also work in the substance use field,” he explained. “In order to achieve and sustain recovery, you have to get help from other people. It’s not a battle that you can fight by yourself.”
Tal celebrated two years of sobriety in April 2017, meaning that he’s been sober for almost a decade. Some of his interests include going to the theater, soaking up the sun at the beach, and visiting museums to expand his cultural knowledge. He’s also an avid gym rat, and loves spending time with his mother, who was a constant presence by his side during his substance abuse struggles.
Heather Sykes is an exuberant single mother after splitting from Jared, her husband of many years, for unknown reasons. The brunette has worked as a global director of editing at Market America since 2006, a job she landed immediately after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies.
Heather and Jared – who married aged 21 and 24 respectively – share two children: Ava and Eli. Eli is already an honor roll student, whereas Ava loves performing in school plays and musicals. Heather and Jared are doing a good job of raising their kids to be respectful and well-rounded individuals, and often do family activities together, despite their separation.
Last but not least is Nada, who is seen by some as the show’s villain. In 2018, Whitney was in a dysfunctional relationship with a man named Avi, who was seeing other women on the side. Instead of breaking up with him, Whitney controversially decided to track these women down, and have face-to-face conversations with them.
One of these women was Nada Louis; Whitney, who was absolutely convinced that Nada was just a side chick, was left heartbroken after learning that Nada and Avi became engaged, and that she herself was the other woman. This became a hot topic of discussion amongst “Fabulous Life” fans, with one shrewd Reddit user saying: “I was always amused by the way Whitney and TLC portrayed Whitney as the woman betrayed, when it was actually Nada with whom Avi had apparently talked marriage, meeting her family and all… Whitney was the chick on the side.”
Whitney and Nada buried the hatchet, and even went on activities together, such as a hiking trip during which they had a long heart-to-heart. Whitney was serious about Avi and even considered changing religions for him, so perhaps it’s for the best that she discovered his philandering ways early on in the relationship.
So what’s Nada Louis up to now? Well, the Egyptian body positivity activist has over 10,000 Instagram followers and is currently living her best life after being on vacation all summer 2022. She has also left Avi behind, and is now in a committed relationship with a man named Tony, whom she often posts on her social media profiles. Nada is also singing again, having stopped for many years for unexplained reasons, and occasionally uploads short song covers.
There’s a reality series on almost every topic under the sun, and shows on obesity and morbidly obese people have become increasingly popular in the last few years. “Fabulous Life” associated shows include “My 600lb Life” and “1000lb Sisters”, which we will be discussing in this section.
“My 600lb Life” follows overweight individuals as they attempt to make the switch to healthy lifestyles. The title of the show is somewhat deceptive, as participants are only required to initially weigh over 490 pounds. The famous Dr. Now guides them through a weight loss process, but is no stranger to tough love and isn’t afraid to call out his patients if he feels they’re not putting the work in to get back to a healthier weight.
Dr. Now is an expert in tackling weight issues and analyzes every patient individually, providing them with a tailor-made diet and exercise routine, and conducting counselling sessions whenever necessary. In extreme situations, he will also advise patients to undergo a sleeve gastrectomy or gastric bypass surgery to lose more weight. The show comes with follow-up episodes showing how patients are faring a year after leaving the show; most of them have happy endings and maintain their new healthy lifestyles, but others, understandably, fall off the wagon, and succumb to food addiction once more.
“1000-lb Sisters” is another TLC offering, which follows the Kentucky natives Amy Slaton-Halterman and Tammy Slaton. The show premiered in January 2020, and went viral due to the rather humorous clips of Amy and Tammy’s antics that began circulating online. Tammy, impressively, lost over 115 pounds, whereas Amy has lost over 150.
Although “1000-lb Sisters” has been mocked and vilified by some, others are glad that it demonstrates the tough reality of obesity, without reducing obese people to a number on a scale. Amy and Tammy are very down-to-earth characters – but with strong personalities – and can often be seen doing normal everyday activities during filming, making the show more entertaining.