NBC’s long running series, The Biggest Loser, is in its 14th season.
It tracks obese contestants who compete to remain on “The Ranch” by losing weight and strategically voting to eliminate one of their group each week. The three personal trainers who act like drill sergeants include an out lesbian, Jillian Michaels, who tries to get into the minds of the contestants and help them vanquish the reasons for their obesity, and one man who is widely rumored to be gay, Bob Harper. The gay allure of the current season goes beyond watching those extremely attractive trainers and is centered on the radiant smile and bright personality of its first out gay contestant, 21-year-old and fresh-faced Jackson Carter of Utah.
As of the episode aired March 11, he has lost a total of 98 pounds and continues to survive elimination.
Tony Adams : Jackson, I was a fat kid, so I know what it feels like. Tell me about your experience of growing up fat.
Jackson Carter : I endured a lot of bullying because of it. I always had trouble with my weight and it is never over. I still have a lot of work to do. It’s like Jillian Michaels always says, “Everyone has an addiction. We just wear ours on the outside.” I now control the demons that used to control me.
TA: You came out young, at 14! How did that happen?
JA: I told a friend of mine that I thought I was gay. He told my mother that I had something really important to tell her. She kept asking me what it was until finally I told her. She said “That’s it?” It set a good tone for our relationship. I could not be more thankful.
TA: Wait, aren’t your parents Mormon?
JA: My parents were raised Mormon but are not practicing. They let me make my own decision about whether or not to practice that religion. They are amazingly supportive. In school, so much of my happiness had been tied to what everyone else thought of me. I am looking forward to a life where I couldn’t care less what others think of me. Soon after I came out, I heard about OUTreach in Ogden, Utah. It’s a center for LGBT youth. They helped me so much. Now I am a volunteer there and I am on their board of directors.
TA: Dish about life at “The Ranch” and your competition!
JA: It’s the opposite of what you’d expect. My being gay is almost a non-issue with the other contestants. Having Jillian around — She has a partner and kids — was a real help. At the start, I thought I’d have to “play the game,” but I learned that my biggest competition was myself. Before the show, I was afraid of succeeding. When I was younger, I was always told that I wasn’t good enough. Now I am unstoppable!
TA: Have there been times on the show when you felt the physical challenges were beyond you?
JA: Yes. I got very sick early in the show. I passed out, vomited and had feet problems. Then, I got to the point where it didn’t matter. I learned that if you can get your mind out of the way, you can do anything.
TA: How has being on The Biggest Loser changed your life as a gay man?
JA: In the gay community, you know what it’s like if you are not blonde and ripped. You get lumped in with the bears. Now I am somewhere between the bears and the fit crowd. The big change is that I love my body even with all my skin folds and imperfections. I am still single and in the market. The show has helped me so much. I feel like a freakin’ rock star!
Watch The Biggest Loser on NBC Mondays at 8 p.m. EST. Tony Adams