“There’s a Smokin’ Hot Mama Waiting to Bust Out”, and you can watch her on WE tv. Yes, Mama June, the notorious mother of Honey Boo Boo, the chubby little beauty pageant queen from Toddlers & Tiaras who captured the hearts of redneck America, has undergone a radical transformation to keep that reality television income flowing.
Mama June, otherwise known as June Shannon, 37, shocked American television viewers with her redneck lifestyle, her four children sired by three different men, and the leveraging of her youngest child, Alana, as a child beauty pageant queen. As if Toddlers & Tiaras wasn’t a horrifying enough look into a world where parents enter their children into creepy beauty pageants in order to earn a few bucks, and more importantly, live vicariously through their offspring, TLC, the network that hatched the original series, gave Mama June, Alana and their family their own reality series, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
The offshoot of Toddlers gave us a bird’s eye view into a world where Mama made ends meet through “extreme couponing“, and feeding her family a steady diet of prepackaged, processed foods. Mama was famous for her “sketti” noodles, which she slapped against her kitchen cabinets to test if they were cooked, and then served up with heaping globs of ketchup. Of course the family was overweight and unhealthy, but somehow, with camera lenses pointed at her, Mama managed to lose some weight.
In 2014, after it was reported that Mama June was allegedly in a romantic relationship with a registered sex offender, TLC cancelled the series. We thought we’d seen the last of the Honey Boo Boo brood, but no such luck. Once you get a taste of reality television money, why go out and get a real job? You could instead re-invent yourself for a new network and a new audience, which is exactly what Mama June did.
On February 24, 2017, the first episode of Mama June: From Not to Hot premiered on WE tv, promising to showcase the weight-loss battle Mama June had been waging, along with her consistent plateauing due to her inability to stop herself from eating. According to the story, she’d had gastric sleeve surgery in 2014, or 2015 (I’m not too well-versed in “redneck-ese”) and was unable to lose enough weight despite having the bulk of her stomach removed. Now that the aforementioned reality television income is rolling back in, Mama June got herself a personal trainer and has gone from 360 some-odd pounds to a size 4. The world is now waiting with baited breath to see how the initial surgery, plus a boob job and one or two skin removal procedures has transformed June Shannon from a “Walmart shopper” to a “Redneck Hottie”.
I realize the tone of my writing is coming across as a bit pissy, so hear me out: I was on the path to weight loss surgery after my breast cancer diagnosis, but due to insurance limitations and the opinions of the “professionals” at the University of Washington Weight Loss Center, I was deemed an unfit candidate for the procedure. Granted, I’m not in the same weight class as Mama June, but I am carrying around enough excess weight to qualify for it. Unfortunately, the aforementioned professionals were reluctant to perform the procedure, and sent me packing. I’m fairly confident the reason they didn’t want to deal with me was because I came to them after a cancer diagnosis. They came up with all sorts of reasons why they didn’t think I’d be successful, even though I was given a clean bill of health by all the doctors I saw. Moreover, my insurance provider did not want to foot the $40,000 bill for the surgery, and my coverage does not allow me to seek treatment anywhere else.
I’m pissed off because even under the best of circumstances, weight loss surgery is a very tough procedure to undergo, physically, emotionally, and financially. There are doctors out there who will perform the surgery if you show up at their office with a suitcase full of cash, but if you don’t have a spare 40 grand lying around, or top-of-the-line health insurance, you’re pretty much screwed.
If you’re like me – sans cash and getting your health coverage courtesy of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid extension, you will be asked to jump through dozens of hoops in the hope that you will eventually get the go-ahead to have the surgery. But, be warned: It is a pitch battle and you will be asked to jump some pretty punitive hurdles. And even though you’ve done everything that’s been asked of you, the answer could still be “no”, as I found out last year. In my case, this was a logical next step, as I am also a type 2 diabetic, have high blood pressure, and have had breast cancer. Losing weight will take care of the first two chronic ailments, and research has shown that when you’re not carrying around excess weight, you stand a better chance of not having a recurrence of cancer. Even with all that logic and evidence, the answer was still a resounding “NO”.
Being a notorious redneck reality television star opens many more doors than if you happen to be an anonymous schmuck with no aspirations to star in your own television show. Plus, you don’t have the backing of a major media conglomerate that is willing to throw thousands (perhaps millions?) of dollars at you in order to garner the highest possible ratings. If June Shannon hadn’t have scored with her then six-year-old daughter on Toddlers & Tiaras, she’d now likely be shooting insulin, and gearing up for her first joint replacement. She’d be shopping at the local medical supply store for a cane or a rollator, instead of trying on Daisy Dukes at Forever 21.
Look, I’m not saying that June Shannon or anyone else doesn’t deserve the chance to be his or her best possible self. It’s just that no matter how hard some of us try to live a good life and take care of ourselves, we still have to shovel shit against the tide. Cancer is not fun; being overweight is not fun; getting older is not fun. The vast majority of us have to trudge on, doing the best we can without the perks of celebrity. It would be nice to have an occasional departure from the anonymous, ever-growing “have not” segment of society, to hearing, “Yes, I can help you even though you’re not a Kardashian or a Housewife.”
Not every life has to be lived in the spotlight, and not every spotlight shines its light on reality. If I weren’t on intimate terms with the struggle to improve and maintain my health, I wouldn’t have written this down. Since I know how hard it is, I wanna be like Mama June; I want someone to reach out a hand to help me, because, damn it, I deserve it just as much as she does.