Star Jones Exclusive With Prairie Miller: On Loving Yourself And Others

Star Jones may have maintained an impressively high score getting convictions against defendants as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn before scampering up that ladder of success – and down again – to all-girl TV talk on The View. But right now, 46 year old Jones may be more into guilty as charged, when it comes to second thoughts about romance, as her 2004 marriage to Al Scales Reynolds is about to dissolve. And even as the new ‘Star’ing guy in her life may very well be 26 year old NBA sensation, Dwayne Wade.

Whether or not this trophy lady/boy toy matchup can stay the course is pretty much a wait and see phenomenon. But Star was hugely more positive during this exclusive phone conversation, when weighing in on her personal body image issues. The once increasingly hefty part-time shopaholic media legal analyst turned celebrity pundit, took a look at herself in the mirror one day and decided, full-figured is just not the same thing as fat. And she set about spreading the news regarding her Star system for trimming down, while growing by leaps and bounds when it comes to female self-esteem.

Star dialed me up not a minute too late for this interview, boasting, ‘Oh no, I’m pretty good with keeping up. I’m just sitting here with my dog, and she’s going to sleep here right next to her mama.’ Here’s that conversation.

PRAIRIE MILLER: How do you feel about all this media scrutiny on you?

STAR JONES: When you make yourself vulnerable, you open yourself up to potshots and criticism. I’m ‘out there.’ You know, I expose myself. And I don’t really see it as being picked on. I don’t think that’s the right word.

I think I’m the subject of inquisitiveness, and the subject of conversation. And I don’t whine about it. The benefits that my life has afforded me, far outweigh the burdens. I wouldn’t be so presumptive and tacky to complain about my life, so I don’t.

Do you think younger men are the way to go?

SJ: The energy actually makes the relationship even more fun. There’s a willingness to try and do all kinds of things.

So what’s your ideal man?

SJ: The vigor and vitality of a younger man, and the maturity of a man’s man.

What about the media hits you’ve taken over being too much of a material girl?

SJ: That’s really their problem, not mine. You know, people don’t realize where I come from. I was raised in a housing project in Trenton [New Jersey] by my mother, who was a single mother for a long time.

And my mom worked two jobs to make sure that my sister and I had absolutely everything we could ever want and need and desire. She told us not to allow anybody to place a period in your life. You make the determination of how far you can go.

And I decided a long time ago, that I would shine for my family. Anybody who sees it as bad, that really speaks to their prejudices, not to mine.

Do you feel any of those attacks have to do with men out there feeling threatened by a successful woman? I’m thinking of Hillary Clinton.

SJ: Well listen, there are definitely people out there who are intimidated by successful women. But you cannot have it both ways as a woman. You cannot say, I want to be thought of as one of the players in the game. But if it gets to be intense, don’t go after me ’cause I’m a woman.

Okay, so your life is like an open book in the media. But is there anything we don’t know about you, that you’d like to share?

SJ: I’m terribly shy at times. Most people think that I’m out there all the time, the life of the party. But my happiest moments are sitting inside my own home, and just watching football.

So, I am simple in my likes and desires. Really! And as extravagant as I can be, there’s nothing better in the world than pizza and a Michelob on a Sunday night.

Star, talk a little about your struggle with weight problems and how you worked that out in your book, Shine.

SJ: Well, that’s probably the one expertise I do have – being a woman. I had reached a crossroads in my life. And I think everybody looking from afar would have thought, gosh, she had it going on. You know, with the successes and all those things that, from the outside looking in, look really great. When in reality, I was in crisis.

Is your tell-all intended for men too?

SJ: I really hope so. Because I think it makes you a better man to know what we’re thinking! But I really hope that me having been candid about the struggle that I faced, will help other women. And benefit them as they assess their own struggle.

What process did you go through, to figure everything out?

SJ: Well you know, it’s really interesting, because there were several stages for me. I was very much in love with my full-figured body. I mean, anybody who watched me in the beginning of The View, you know I was not the girl that was worried about fitting into a size eight!

And that’s because I was vital and vibrant and healthy at that time, with that full figure. Then I moved from full-figured to fat, and then from fat to obese. Finally, I moved from obese to morbidly obese. That doesn’t work! I went from being a round little girl to being somebody who couldn’t move.

What was that like?

SJ: Not having seatbelts that would fit around you on an airplane. Not to mention clothes that don’t fit properly, the heck with that. How about that your knees hurt when you walked. I just was deteriorating. And that’s when you know you crossed the line.

And I had to stop using cute words to describe myself. I wasn’t chubby. I wasn’t full-figured. I wasn’t fluffy. I wasn’t plus-sized. I was fat, out of shape, sloppy and obese.

But don’t you think that body image anxiety is culturally imposed on women to please men, and that men don’t apply it to their own bodies?

SJ: Yes. I really think that we in this country, we encourage young girls to get into real weight issues, and at a very early age. There’s a lot of mean-spirited prejudice out there. But by the same token in this country, we don’t eat the way we’re supposed to.

You know, we don’t practice portion control. We don’t exercise the way we’re supposed to. We know this about ourselves. It is indicative of America. And I think in my zest to not embrace the ideal body, I allowed myself to be sloppy and sedentary. And not to take care of myself.

But we have to, as women especially, find that place that allows you not to buy into somebody else’s version of what is fabulous. But to actually be fabulous yourself.

Now for a nosy reporter question. Do you see any children in your future?

SJ: I get asked that question by every interviewer! I definitely want to have children in my life. But I just don’t know in what way it’ll manifest itself. It’s funny, the moment you start dating someone seriously, that question is always there.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.