I'm so excited to have the chance to interview actress and comedian Erica Watson. We tried to do an interview a few years ago, but our schedules didn't line up, so it's great that she's coming back to New York City and the stars aligned for us to speak about her one-woman show Fat Bitch!, a funny, provocative glimpse at the American "fat and sassy" black woman stereotype.
In Fat Bitch!, Erica explores society’s obsession with weight, race and class and how black women’s bodies have always been subjected to both admiration and ridicule. Drawing upon iconic images including "Mammy" and "Hottentot Venus," Erica illustrates how media images have impacted her self-esteem as she touches on PETA’s "Save the Whales" campaign aimed at overweight women, the "war on obesity," and the controversy surrounding President Obama’s nomination of a plus-sized black woman for Surgeon General.
1. This February, you are returning to the Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC with your one-woman show Fat Bitch! about life as a plus size. What excites you about doing this show again? I love performing at The Laurie Beechman because the audience is so diverse, and they come prepared to have a good time. The energy in the room is amazing and it creates a space that allows me to have a great show. I'm excited about having a great time with the audience.
2. You are also making your Philadelphia debut this February with Fat Bitch! What made you want to bring the show to Philly? Every time I would perform on the East Coast, people would always ask "What about Philly?" So I decided it was finally time to perform in the city of brotherly love...and I hope they love me too!
3. What initially made you want to write Fat Bitch!? and what was it like emotionally to go through all the issues you wanted to talk about in this show? Have you found peace with these issues since performing the show? In some ways the show wrote itself. My weight has affected so many aspects of my life that it felt natural to bring these stories to the stage. I have found peace, but the show is always evolving because new things happen that I have to explore on stage.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Fat Bitch!? For those who have seen your show, what is the most meaningful feedback you've received? I want people to understand that you should not judge a book by it's cover. There is always more than meets the eyes. I hope after seeing my show people will start thinking differently about women's bodies. I also hope size discrimination stops once and for all.
5. As a plus-size performer, what challenges do you feel you have faced that you may not have were you not plus-size? What's the meanest criticism you had told to you or read about yourself? How did you react to it? I know that some people are just not ready to see a woman like me in certain roles. There are times when I know that I am perfect for an opportunity, but I don't get hired because of my weight. But no matter what, I have to keep pushing towards my goals. I've been told that I was too fat and ugly to be on TV. People will always be negative but I've decided to be my own definition of beauty.
6. What do you feel is your biggest success so far? Working with major film directors like Spike Lee, Steven Soderberg, Lee Daniels and Chris Rock has been so rewarding. Ultimately starring in Spike Lee's Chiraq has been a dream come true. I went to film school to be a director so I could be like Spike Lee and to now have an acting role in his movie is amazing!
7. On "Call Me Adam," I have a section called "One Percent Better" where through my own fitness regime, I am inspiring people to improve their life by One Percent everyday. If you could improve your life by One Percent Everyday, what would you improve? I would improve my spirituality and being centered and grounded. I want to be better with acknowledging God and all that he has done in every aspect of my life. Being happy and showing gratitude will open the door to more opportunities, and would improve my life by One Thousand percent everyday!!
Born and raised in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, with a BA and MA from Columbia College Chicago, Erica Watson is an actor, stand-up comedian at clubs around the country, and film/television director. She appeared in the Oscar nominated film Precious; the feature films Dirty Laundry, Top Five directed by Chris Rock, and Chiraq directed by Spike Lee; and Empire, the FOX drama directed by Lee Daniels. She has also been featured on TLC’s Big Sexy, The Dr. Phil Show, The Oxygen Network, The WE Channel, Black Entertainment (BET), MSG-TV, You & Me This Morning, The TV Guide Network and is a recurring correspondent for Windy City Live. Erica is also a blogger for the Huffington Post. Erica was featured in two Gracie Award-winning commercials that she wrote for the Oxygen Network called Tresstify and Kiss & Tell; as well as a guest star on TV One’s sitcom Love That Girl (September 2014). She has also been featured on NBC's Last Comic Standing, and was the director for the reality competition show My Model Looks Better Than Your Model for BETJ. Erica starred in the Broadway in Chicago production of Love, Loss and What I Wore (2012) and went on to star in the final cast in New York Off-Broadway under the guidance of Nora & Delia Ephron as well as with The Delaware Theater Company (2013).