From 1997 to 2006, attorney Star Jones was a fixture on the groundbreaking ABC daytime talk show, The View.
Struggling with her weight for many years, Jones finally made the decision to have gastric bypass surgery in 2003. While, according to Barbara Walters, she had initially said she would speak on the show about her experience, in the end, the 58-year-old decided not to, leading to difficulties on and off the show for Jones.
Star Jones’ weight loss struggle
For years, Jones simply could not control her weight. In fact, she seemed to gain weight with very little effort. It was painful for her to watch herself on taped shows of The View.
She told Oprah Winfrey in 2009, “There’s a difference between being happy when you’re full-figured and being happy when you’re morbidly obese. I had given the audience full-figured Star full blast, and when I changed to morbidly obese Star, I didn’t have the courage to let that mask down. I didn’t have the courage to say: ‘Y’all, I ain’t happy no more. I’m scared.’ “
Viewers were contacting the show to express their worry for Jones’ growing size – and some were simply unkind.
“[A]s I got bigger and bigger,” she told Winfrey, “the mail turned nastier or concerned. [They said things like,] ‘We can hear you breathe.’ I think the last year before the surgery I never watched myself on camera at all.”
Her decision to have gastric bypass surgery
As the attorney told Glamour in a 2007 essay, at her worst, by 2002, she had gained 75 pounds within seventeen months.
“I pretended not to see how big I was getting,” she wrote, “but not only did I see it, I was disgusted by it. I also pretended not to see the side looks and smirks from friends and strangers, or to comprehend the backhanded compliments I often received.”
Finally, a caring friend confronted Jones about her weight, spurring her to at last take action for herself.
“While it was easy to deny the little voice inside my head, I found it impossible to deny my friend’s,” she wrote. “I knew in my heart that her love and respect for me were pure. I cried; I got angry—but eventually I took the first step and walked into a doctor’s office.”
She had the gastric bypass surgery, which she called “a success from the beginning. There were no major complications, and within a few months, the weight started to melt away.”
However, Jones said, she still had not dealt with many underlying emotions, which affected how she approached the topic of her surgery with The View audience and the public at large.
Star Jones on her inability to speak about her surgery
As she articulated in her Glamour essay, Jones said speaking about her surgery, to her, felt equal to admitting she was a failure in public.
Barbara Walters, in her memoir titled Audition, said of Jones’ gastric bypass surgery, “[A]fter the operation, Star said she didn’t want to become what she called a “poster child” for the procedure and have to answer a lot of questions. I understood that, but it put us all in a terrible position. It meant we virtually had to lie for Star, especially when she said again and again on the air that her weight loss was due primarily to portion control and Pilates.”
Jones began seeing a therapist who assured her that “transparency is not humiliating—it is humbling.”
It wasn’t until after she left The View in 2006 that she felt she could talk about her surgery out loud with others.
“[T]rue freedom and healing started to come when I began to talk about my surgery with strangers, around the time I left The View,” she said in Glamour. “I talked openly to people at the airport, to my taxi driver, to women in my exercise class. . .. How ironic: I was hell-bent on keeping the specifics of my weight loss private in an effort to maintain control—yet talking about my weight loss finally gave me the control I’d hungered for.”