Lifetime’s new reality series “Livin’ Large” aired Friday, Sept. 22nd at 8 p.m. CST and I had the immense pleasure of sitting down with the entire cast – all natives of Chicago, to learn about the concept of the show, how this process has impacted their lives and the message they want to deliver to the world. If you have the opportunity to see the six-episode marathon, I believe you’ll agree that it’s nothing like you’ve seen on television before.
Based on the name of the show alone, “Livin’ Large,” one might imagine someone living a very highfalutin lifestyle behind gated communities, struggling with which high-end charity event to attend or deciding what lavish vacation they’ll take – but the show’s quite the contrary actually.
“Livin’ Large” is about family love, and unconditional love for yourself and others. The show follows your average family going through things like everyone else and experiencing life obstacles while in pursuit of their dreams. There’s one caveat to all of this – they are plus-size individuals. In a world designed for thinner people, the family—the Stepneys– face so many obstacles; however, they are not letting their size hold them back. In fact, they are even more determined to make their dreams a reality because they’ve been stereotyped for so long. The Stepneys lean on one another for support and exemplify a strong family bond.
The family consists of Anicya – the inspiring singer with a larger-than-life personality; Adam – Anicya’s twin and music producer; Anthony – a pastor and the oldest of all the siblings; Crystal – Anthony’s wife, who you’ll come to see is not your typical First Lady; Danisha – Adam’s girlfriend who’s struggling with gaining the family’s acceptance; and of course, there’s the matriarch of the family, Cherrie Stepney, who keeps everyone and everything in balance.
Anicya makes it very clear that “Livin’ Large” is not another weight loss show. “We are not pushing the plate away! I love chicken way too much so you’ll see all of us eating,”says Anicya. “You’ll see us doing what everyone else does – dating, preaching at church, producing music, performing on stage and even ziplining.”
On the show, you see the Stepney family living their lives with little to no concern about what the world thinks of them or their size. “We have dreams we’re trying to accomplish,” says Adam. “My mom always encouraged us to be ourselves and to be leaders. I can’t let the world dictate how successful I’ll become.”
The Stepney family hopes their new show aids in transforming the way the world sees plus-size people. “They see us as disgusting and call us obese, which is a terrible word to call anyone,” says Crystal. “We hope the world sees how happy we are in our skin and how much we’re just like them.”
“Livin’ Large” is a really positive show and it is all about “acceptance.” Everyone wants to feel loved and accepted, and the Stepney’s are no different. After the first episode, you’ll immediately notice how loving this family is and they’ll have you hooked. They are confident, hilarious, intelligent and happy – ingredients for a joyful life.
Life is too short to focus on weight loss when you have so much to accomplish. Living life in the fast lane, even when the fast lane can’t quite fully support them, is what the Stepneys are all about. Despite their size, they have adopted this motto. “We are living our lives and having fun while doing it,” says Anthony. Of course, with extra weight comes health concerns, but each member of the Stepney family says they have a clean bill of health.
“The world has so many thin people living a very unhealthy life yet they aren’t stigmatized like we are,” says Adam. “I have friends who I can outrun and they’re a fraction of my size, but I’m seen unfavorably by the public because of my size. Don’t assume I’m unhealthy because I weigh more, that’s not always the case.”
The producers of “Livin’ Large” are clearly targeting “outsiders,” anyone who doesn’t feel as if they belong. Whatever that belonging is, producers wanted outsiders to feel comfortable in their skin, embrace who they are and learn to accept others for who they are. “We hope our show opens up discussions amongst family members about acceptance and self-love,” says Cherrie. “I taught my children to love GOD, each other and their fellow man. I always encouraged them to look beyond the exterior and see what lies inside a human being. The world is full of people who judge you based on what you wear or how large your house is, I wanted them to love people for who they are.”
Growing up we’ve all heard the old adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I believe in their own way, “Livin’ Large” has reminded us of that. In a scene, a thin producer asks Anicya if a woman of her size can be seen as beautiful and with no hesitation, Anicya’s response was not only hilarious but very befitting – “can a woman of your size see herself as beautiful?” This is definitely a confident family.
“You can’t just tell me I’m supposed to see myself a certain way and I believe it,” says Danisha. “I view myself as a very attractive woman and so does my husband (Adam). I hope the world can see through our show that it’s important to be yourself regardless of your shape or size. And I love that Lifetime decided to do a show like ours because you don’t see people who look like us on television often.”