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Behind the scenes at The Today Show

As we walked down the New York sidewalk Sunday afternoon, I moaned to my aunt Lori about how stressful it had been finding my way from Kennedy airport to my hotel in midtown Manhattan the night before. It was an endless saga involving hidden elevators, express buses that took their damn time and AirTrains that did not fly through the air but disappointingly looped around the airport terminals endlessly. Eventually I decided the price of a taxi was worth eliminating the chance of getting lost in New Jersey after midnight with only a box of soy protein bars and lip gloss for sustenance.

“So, you appeared on national television this morning without any anxiety, but it was traveling from the airport to the hotel that stressed you out?” my aunt asked incredulously.

“Um, yeah,” I replied. “I really hate traveling.”

Bizarrely enough, it’s true. I didn’t feel stressed at all during my 3 minute and 43 second stint on The Today Show for the same reason I didn’t feel stressed about running a half-marathon. I’d trained hard, I came prepared, and I knew I could do it. Raaarrr! Even before the book came out, I took every opportunity to do interviews so I could practice talking to people about my experiences. I’ve done so many now that you’d have to ask me a truly bizarre question to throw me.

The airports, though, still freak me out.

My hotel was about a block away from NBC studies in Rockefeller Center and I got there at 8:00pm. I was glad the taxi dropped me off because the hotel entrance is so discreet that I would never have seen it next to the Johnny Utah’s, which according to Lori has a mechanical bull. (Don’t ask her how she knows that.) The room was small, but very nice. They even folded the toilet paper in a triangle. Fancy!

I am easily impressed

My aunt met me and spent the night so she could be my official photographer the next day. I had to wake up at 6:00am to shower, blow dry my hair and wear my normal makeup as instructed. Of course, I never wear makeup, so I just put on some foundation and concealer and tried not to burn my scalp with the hair dryer. An official NBC page met me in the lobby at 7:30 to walk me to the show. And yes, with his red-hair and fresh-face he did look a lot like Kenneth, the NBC page from 30 Rock

Not-Kenneth, the NBC page

We walked past the windows of The Today Show studio and then inside and downstairs to the makeup and hair room where Joel and Nameless-Hair-Guy made me pretty. This took at least 15 minutes because cute does not come easy.

With our powers combined, we shall make you look fabulous

As I was escorted across the hall to the green room, we passed a big LCD monitor that showed a live feed of host Jenna Wolf getting spritzed and primped two minutes before show time. Then I sat on a black couch underneath framed photos of all the hosts and examined their spread.

Mmm, cinnamon rolls

For some reason the basket of peaches and apples was exiled far away from the scrumptious mini-muffins and bagels. (See them over my shoulder?) In all fairness, there was also a plate of melon slices on the main table, so they weren’t forcing baked goods down my throat. I did that myself. (Vacation calories don’t count!) According to the listings, Susan Sarandon was scheduled to appear, but I don’t think she did. Scared of being overshadowed, eh, Susan?

Next the producer came in and went over the segment with me. We’d done a pre-interview on the phone a week before where I chatted for 20 minutes about my experiences. I’d also scanned some new photos for the graphics department to show on the screen while I talked. She went over the script and the questions they were going to ask me, which was another reason I wasn’t stressed. After she left I kept going through my answers in my head. I knew I wanted to get four points across:

1) Mention my blog

2) Mention my book

3) Mention my half-marathon

4) Wish my mom a happy mother’s day

I figured if I accomplished those four things without falling off my stool, the interview would be a success.

Soon they were walking me over to the set where we snuck behind a big wooden wall and then quietly weaved through camera equipment. I sat down on one of two stools set on either side of a huge TV monitor that were directly opposite of the couch Lester and Jenna were hosting the show from. They were broadcasting live and if I dared to clear my throat or let out a big fart it would have been heard in millions of households across America. There was a live feed of a reporter covering tornado damage in Oklahoma right behind me and it felt like he was standing over my shoulder even though he was hundreds of miles away.

A female camera operator. How cool!

To the left and ahead of me, a lady stood at a podium and did a short report about…a pelican? I can’t really remember. I just remember watching her and thinking that she was overacting and laying it on thick. Yet, I bet when you watched it on TV it came across as really energetic and animated. TV is weird like that.

Then they went to commercial and Lester walked over and introduced himself with a very firm, politician’s handshake. He checked to make sure he was saying my name right and I told him I was going to try to say hi to my mom. A stage hand tried to steal my fat pants hanging off the back of my stool. No, not without my fat pants! He’d mistaken them for a sweater and put them back on the stool. I can’t remember what else I talked to Lester about if anything because I was distracted by the cameras swinging 180 degrees around to focus on us. The producer had told me to just look at Lester. Otherwise I might get distracted by the teleprompter and the monitors and got a deer-in-the-headlights look when the interview started. So I just focused on Lester’s face as they counted down from 10 and then OH MY GOD we were on national television.

Lester Holt was talking about one woman’s struggle with weight and, holy crap, that one woman was me. I just kept looking at his pretty face, curious about what was being displayed on the monitor but too fearful to look anywhere else. He asked me most of the questions that had been in the script, but in a slightly different order. I dodged and weaved with it, dancing along with him leading. Then suddenly he asked me what I thought of weight loss surgery and, hey now, no one had told me we were going there! I rolled with it though and even worked in a happy mother’s day at the end. He seemed genuinely amused that I couldn’t say “half-assed” on TV and then the interview was over. It was good-bye Lester and I was walking off the set.

Me and Lester and some reporter in Oklahoma

It all went amazingly well. For the past month I have been slightly worried about whether people who meet me at book events will think I’m still fat. I think I look fabulous, but I’m not the skinniest chick in the room either. I don’t really care about what other people think of my body under normal circumstances, but I also don’t want to be known as the fat girl who’s promoting a weight-loss memoir. When I watched The Today Show two weeks ago and saw that my full body would be visible on a stool, I did a little freak out dance. Where was the carefully cropped head shot? I’ve always thought I look my fattest sitting down. When I was morbidly obese, I once saw my reflection in the window as I was sitting in my office chair and freaked out like a groundhog who’d just seen his morbidly obese shadow. Thankfully, when I reviewed the tape of my appearance, I looked great in my lavender shirt and the gray pants from Goodwill that my mom hemmed the afternoon before. I sat up straight, I got my four points across (or three and a half since I couldn’t say “half-assed”), and I didn’t fall off the stool. Mission accomplished.

I also have a newfound respect for TV people. It’s amazing all the time and preparation that went into that short little segment. I’m awed by the amount of energy and pizzazz you need to host a show and the ability required to dodge and weave and go with the flow. My segment got moved from the 36 minute mark to the 42 minute mark and I’m sure they were rearranging other things. Right after we were done, I left the building and walked by Lester and Jenna doing a shot outside in the crowd. They were always running around and changing things up, but looking totally calm and collected as they were doing it, like it had all been planned for weeks.

Then I went out to brunch at Sarabeth’s with family and friends and ordered the Fat and Fluffy French Toast. That’s right. I promoted my weight loss book and then I ate a dish with the word “fat” in the title. And it was delicious. Mmmmm.

For the rest of the day, whenever I looked in a mirror I was shocked at my reflection. “I have a face!” I told my aunt Lori. I have never looked cuter in tourist photos than I do in my New York pics. When I got home and read my e-mail someone said they liked how I’d answered a certain question and I thought, “Did we talk about that?” I honestly couldn’t remember. Yet, all together it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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41 Comments

Red • May 16, 2008 at 1:55 am

Man, it is impressive how much work that takes. It’s probably like when people tell you, “Oh, I’ll start a blog, I have an extra 5 minutes/day to spare”.

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Andrew is getting fit • May 16, 2008 at 2:38 am

Wow, that all looks like so much fun!

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jae • May 16, 2008 at 3:56 am

I was impressed by how at ease you seemed. And you really did look great: your outfit, your hair and make-up, so cute!! I’m glad you’re so confedent and realize that you really do look awesome. That’s one thing I really loved about your book (and you even mentioned it) was the self-acceptance you have. It’s so refreshing. And thanks for the behind the scenes of the Today Show, it was fun to watch and now I know what’s going on when I watch during the week. :) ~j

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Clio • May 16, 2008 at 7:25 am

You did really well on the show. I’m intrigued by how different your account of the Today show experience was from the account by another blogger who appeared on that show a few days prior to your appearance. She was less positive about the whole thing, but I think you were more prepared and went in with less expectations, which made it a better experience. I hope book sales picked up!

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debby • May 16, 2008 at 7:50 am

Here’s what I love about you, Pastaqueen–you’re a real person! You do look fabulous even though you’re not at goal weight, you wear pants from Goodwill on TV, and then tell the world about it, and you still enjoy ‘fat food’ occasionally. You’re my hero!

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Jill • May 16, 2008 at 8:28 am

I thought you looked super cute BEFORE you got hair and makeup done (of course you looked great after too, but just wanted to point out that you looked great before the professionals got you).

And you totally did not look fat sitting down AT ALL!!

Good job PQ!!

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Cathleen • May 16, 2008 at 8:53 am

Saw your interview — you did GREAT.

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Dreamer • May 16, 2008 at 9:19 am

You look absolutely fabulous. There’s no WAY anyone would think of you as “the fat girl who’s promoting a weight-loss memoir.” If I didn’t know any better and I saw you walking down the street, I’d probably just assume you’d been thin all your life and never had to worry about your weight.

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Tena • May 16, 2008 at 9:42 am

You looked fantastic! So at ease and comfortable, like you and Lester were the only ones there. I love that you were wearing pants from Goodwill!! You are my heroine!

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Helen • May 16, 2008 at 9:57 am

I saw the segment and you rocked – totally natural and yes, you managed to get your points across. I am completely jealous since I AM a makeup/hair kind of girl and have always wondered how fabulous I could look if the professionals helped me a little.

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G.G. • May 16, 2008 at 10:10 am

PQ, you don’t just look pretty in those pictures, you look beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

And my reaction to the sitting-down picture wasn’t that you looked fat, but that you have long legs, and the picture really gave me a sense of how tall you are. Tall, with long legs. I am SO jealous.

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PastaQueen • May 16, 2008 at 10:26 am

I know, which makes it all the more shocking that my pants had to be *hemmed*. I think they were designed for a 6’1″ WNBA player or something.

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Jenn1701 • May 16, 2008 at 10:44 am

I LOOOOVE Sarabeth’s!!!! Everytime I am visiting my family in NYC I go there for breakfast or brunch, it is heaven =) So glad you got to experience all this, the tv, the trip, even the freak-out. You have definitely earned it!

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Girl on a mission • May 16, 2008 at 11:46 am

Wooot Woot Wooooooooooooooot!

I saw you on the show and I thought “I know that girl”….I did the same jump for joy that I did when I saw Roni on the cover of Woman’s World. Both your accomplishments have overwhelmed me………even though I’m still stuck in a rut…….you know that one where you can’t seem to kick start your life and get going with a weight loss plan. I just wish I had your motivation and will power to go the distance. I’m still trying to SUFFER through the couch to 5 K program….my problem is, I’m still eating like a pig! I would have went face first in to that place of donuts…..although this week, I’m craving fruits……..I think its due to the fact that I’m eating way too many carbs. I’m on carb overload.

Anyways, back to the show- you looked AMAZING! You are beautiful! You have your 5 minutes of fame and you got to show the world (all of those millions of people) how hard work really pays off for all of the right reasons.

You did not look fat- you looked like a girl to be admired by those obese ladies who are struggling daily!

Cheers to you!

I’m going to follow in your footsteps!

Sincerely,

Girl on a Mission!

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victoria • May 16, 2008 at 12:53 pm

You did great! As your fame & popularity grow, you’ll travel more & more, and you’ll figure out how to do it the stress-free way. There are all sorts of little tricks that frequent travelers like my husband rely on that make a day of travel less stessful than a regular day at the office. (But man, is he PICKY! All this travel causes him to have very definite preferences. I will no longer make travel arrangements for that man because he’s always complaining about my choice of airline, or the seat row I chose, or the type of plane I get us on . . . )

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Laura • May 16, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Great recap of your visit. I thought you looked super cute before the hair & makeup guys, too. Obviously you have a natural beauty (you lucky dog). Hope you have fun in Lexington this weekend!

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v'ron • May 16, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Wow, you looked great, and cute and everything! you’re probably still buzzing over this.

And i’m sure that you already know this, but there’s always going to be the Haters. Don’t worry about the Haters. The Haters will hate somebody who’s 102 pounds because they’re not 98 pounds. They will hate somebody who’s 98 pounds because they’re not 110 pounds. You not only LOOK good, you can tell by your glow that you FEEL good as well, and that’s 98 percent of looking good anyway.

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Joanne • May 16, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Well done from Belfast – I watched the Today clip. You looked fab, PQ, and came across as really intelligent too. You should do TV, you have a great face and voice for it.

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Jen • May 16, 2008 at 6:57 pm

You did awesome! Thanks for the amazing play-by-play of your experience.

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Marshmallow • May 16, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Eeeeeeeeeeee!!! The excitement, it overwhelms me! You look fantastic, and the clip is awesome :-D

[by the way, you might have gotten double requests from me for the autographed book; I got concerned when I put in my request and heard nothing, then I find out that Andrew who also lives in New Zealand got his copy! What's THAT about! Something went missing somewhere, methinks :-(]

Thanks for the awesome Behind The Scenes look into your big TV appearance, you rock!

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Becca • May 16, 2008 at 7:05 pm

You know what? And I hope this comes across as the compliment that it is intended to be – you not only looked great, you looked REAL. You didn’t look plastic, you didn’t sound fake, you sounded and looked like a regular person with a struggle that most of us can relate to who overcame it wonderfully.

I get so turned off by overtanned, overdressed, bony weight loss promoters. They aren’t real to me. I felt like I could totally pull up a stool and just sit and chat with you and Lester. Although I probably would fall off the stool I was very impressed with your poise and balance and posture.

Great job. I love the book.

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Manic Mommy • May 16, 2008 at 9:16 pm

That WAS a really great interview! You look poised and completely together, like you’ve been on national TV countless times!

Next week, Half-Assed goes up on Manic Mommy for a GIVEAWAY so make sure your readers stop by!!!

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Erin • May 16, 2008 at 9:45 pm

next time, fly into Newark. Far less of a headache than JFK :-)

I just noticed that Kenneth (or whatever the page’s name is) has scissors in his pocket. Random.

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Janet • May 16, 2008 at 10:58 pm

Great post! You looked SO beautiful…especially the photo with the red-headed page who picked you up. That smile is unforgettable. You’re a mature, poised young lady who has a realistic grasp of life and a fabulous future ahead. You truly do get it! You deserve the best.

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Rosy • May 17, 2008 at 1:11 am

I thought you did great and this may seem shallow but you looked really striking on tv. Not in ‘once fat, now thin’ striking but in “strong, tall, with so much presence…huge, intelligent eyes and gorgeous smile” striking. Congrats!

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K • May 17, 2008 at 10:20 am

You have a nice voice. And you did look pretty, but then I think you always do. You came over really well – and I really admire how you dealt with the random WLS question. I think I’d have panicked.

Can you really not say “ass” on television? That’s so weird!

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Melting Mama • May 17, 2008 at 4:17 pm

You were gorgeous on television, and calm, amazingly calm. I admire you, well done.

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goodbyetoallfat • May 18, 2008 at 11:16 am

Hi Jennette. I just ordered your book. I have been a secret / hidden reader of your blog for sometime, but have just decided to come out of the shadows myself.

I am right at the START of my weight loss journey, currently weighing in at 320 lbs. Although the one entry on my blog so far might not look like a weight loss / life change blog entry, I wanted to cover some of the personal history that had led to me being fat.

The diet / weigh ins / progress will follow!

Glad you had such a great time at the TV show — I am totally inspired by your success story.

Sharon

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PastaQueen • May 18, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Best to be armed in case of a page fight.

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Miz Booshay • May 19, 2008 at 9:17 am

I am so happy for your dream come true!!!

You look beautiful sitting next to Lester.

Beautiful and healthy and slim!!!

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PastaQueen • May 19, 2008 at 9:39 am

Heh! I only show mine at book signings.

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Donna • May 19, 2008 at 10:28 am

Hi Jennette -

I am a long time reader and fan; I just got your your book last week and finished it over the weekend. I really enjoyed it. I finally started to get serious about getting fit 2 months ago. About a year ago, I asked you how to start moving because I could barely get up the steps without resting. I could never imagine running a half-marathon! But, now after just a few weeks on the treadmill everyday, I can already see the difference in my endurance and energy. My son and I can’t remember why we kept putting off going to the gym – now we make it part of everyday. Sorry to sound trite, but I really think learning about you helped me. I was almost ready to give up – I am 47 and have never been physically fit and I have been overweight for most of my adult life. I thought it would be way too hard for me to become active, but its not. Thanks – and you looked fantastic and very slim on the Today Show.

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Laura • May 19, 2008 at 11:04 am

I still fold toilet paper in triangles, long after my summer job as a Days Inn housekeeper. I think it’s PTSD.

Way to go!

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Sally Parrott Ashbrook • May 19, 2008 at 12:36 pm

That was a fun read! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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Lynn • May 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm

I totally caught you on your premier appearance! I had no idea…and yet, there you were. Great job…really impressive!

I have to agree with the others. You looked real and sounded down to Earth.

Way to go!

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Deby • May 19, 2008 at 4:33 pm

I thought it odd that you couldn’t say the whole name of your book, too. They didn’t display it on the monitor behind you either, just your picture and “Half of Me”.

Amazing that now you can say the “F” word, you can say damn, but they bleep God and I know I heard some program use the word Ass. So why not in the context of a book title?

I don’t get the rules, they don’t make sense.

But your book does and your life does and I’m glad you’ve shared both!

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Deb • May 21, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Super cool you got on the Today show!

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Crystal • May 27, 2008 at 8:55 am

I saw your interview. You did a great job. You seemed very relaxed and looked super cute!

Congrats on a great job and your book!

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Mindy Lankenau • May 28, 2008 at 8:37 pm

I saw your Today Show interview – and immediately found your website … and ordered your book! The book is WONDERFUL – you are such an inspiration to another Hoosier girl that has has lived the same struggles. You’re writing is entertaining and motivating – Congrats on a job well done! Hope the book sells off the shelves!!!!

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Missy • August 22, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Hi Jennette!! I bought your book a week ago and literally started reading it… book in right hand, Mountain Dew and a Ho Ho on the table next to me. By the time I finished it yesterday, I had a bottle of water and a sliced apricot next to me. I have tried every diet known to man..for about a day or two. And your book has made me feel so different. Really truly motivated. I too live in Indiana (Brownsburg actually) I moved here 5 years ago and gained 140lbs since I moved here!! I gained an entire human being!!! I have a million and one excuses why I gained the weight of course!! I swear when I read your book, it’s like I am reading something I wrote. I truly feel the way you did when you were at your heaviest. Looking and feeling this way has made me miserable!! I really think this is goodbye to the fat me for good this time. I can’t thank you enough!! I am so thankful for this blog and especially your book. I hope to write more soon!!! time to say goodbye to 310 LBS AND hello to 165 again!!!!

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

Man looking into telescope

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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