LOS ANGELES — The fluctuating weight of Kirstie Alley
has kept the once-svelte "Cheers" star on the cover of tabloids for
years, a predicament she made fun of in fantastic, over-the-top fashion
on the 2005 Showtime comedy "Fat Actress." Now those body
issues have led her where so many celebrities go in the hopes of
remaking themselves for the public: reality TV.
It's there that Alley said she discovered what her
everyday life looked like from the outside. "When I see the footage,
I'm shocked. I see myself playing with my lemurs, and then I see
footage of the stuff around my house ... it does look a little Alice in
Wonderland-ish. Apparently, I am very eccentric. I had no idea."
Alley's new A&E series "Kirstie Alley's
Big Life" was originally conceived as a project she'd produce, a weight
loss show not unlike "The Biggest Loser." But when the major networks
passed on it because she refused to eliminate the participants
competition-style, producers asked if instead she'd let them film her
own journey trying to slim down. Eventually she agreed to the project
because, she said, "I hate being fat."
Of course, the kooky mishmash of her Hollywood life is a perfect backdrop for the show, which airs Sundays at 10 p.m. (ET/PT)
on A&E. Also helpful: The Emmy award-winning actress is a loud and
proud Scientologist (she credits Scientology for helping her nix a
cocaine habit) and keeps her infamous pet lemurs in a cage right
outside the entrance to her Los Angeles home.
She's hardly self-conscious about it. Like any actress who chooses to live and work in Los Angeles,
Alley is relishing the positive attention from cameras that aren't
being wielded by lurking paparazzi. "Now that the show is filming,
there are less of them. Usually, there are 10 cars parked outside at
any time," she said. And they better watch out: During an interview at
her house, Alley revealed that she has a private investigator check
into their backgrounds, and has turned in at least one peeping
photographer to the police when it was discovered he was a sex offender.
In "Kirstie Alley's Big Life," the
cameras document her second major attempt to drop pounds, this time
with the help of a guy friend she recruits as a "chubby buddy." It's a
benign half-hour show filled with fumbling assistants, botched
workouts, quality time with her kids, True, 18, and Lillie, 16, and a
lot of laughs at her own expense. Alley is usually the first to poke
fun at her problems, evidenced best by "Fat Actress," in which she
lampooned herself first and Hollywood second. When she pushed for her Jenny Craig
commercials to be "self-deprecating and hysterical" — "They have
chicken fettuccine. ... FETTUCCINE!!!" she screamed in one ad — instead
of something more earnest, her partnership with the weight-loss
But it's time, Alley said, to restart the part of
her career that isn't all about her figure, and that means keeping the
weight off. Why film the makings of her comeback? "So I'm in a pickle
again, and we sort of know how my life will go at the end of the pickle
because I've had a 30-year track record in films and television. But
during the pickle is what I think might be interesting for people to
Anyone familiar with Alley's Emmy-winning work on
"Cheers," or her active Twitter account, knows she can be very funny.
Brazen too. Asked how she put back all 75 pounds she famously lost a
few years ago — a triumph she celebrated by baring her new bod in a
bikini on Oprah Winfrey's show — Alley said, "It took
me awhile to figure out I can't eat 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day,
which is what I ate my whole life and stayed thin. It (ticks) me off."
"Kirstie Alley's Big Life"
premiered in March and from the first couple of episodes, it's obvious
that shrinking that 230-pound frame will be an uphill challenge. But
since those episodes were filmed, she's already shed 20 pounds using a
weight-loss plan she just launched called Organic Liaison. (When
"Today" show host Meredith Vieira asked her in an interview two weeks ago about a report written by Roger Friedman
of the Hollywood Reporter alleging that the program was "a front for
Scientology," Alley cursed — and then she laughed. "It's not true,"
Alley said. Does the church profit? "I'm way too cheap to do that.")
Oprah is among those cheering her on. Alley
contacted the talk-show host, who has also battled weight issues in the
public eye for years, on a whim a few years ago. "I sent in a tape cold
of me going, 'Oprah, look at me, I'm really fat. I think if I had a
better looking kitchen, I would be thin. Can you help me?' And she
did," Alley said. She's been back several times. "You know you have
those friends who invite you over because you're sort of the court
jester? I feel like I'm Oprah's jester."
Alley has always done whatever makes her happy.
"When I decided to do 'Cheers' people said, 'Oh my god, don't do that.
Stick to movies.' And then after the show, I went back to movies. Then
I wanted to spend time with my kids, so I started doing commercials and
people said, 'Don't do commercials!' But I'm like this — I don't care!"
For now, that means getting back down to 145 pounds,
maybe producing a movie — one about "real women," which is in the works
— and sharing her life with an audience. "I like to inspire people.
That's why I got into this business. I want to inspire people to do
something ... I don't know what, but something!"
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