Okay, when I heard the title of the new Oxygen reality show, Dance Your Ass Off (Mondays, 10 p.m. Easter/Pacific) hosted by Tony Award winner Marissa Jaret Winokur, I thought to myself, “What?” Then, when I read the premise of the show: severely overweight contestants dance away the pounds with a professional partner in a quest to receive $100,000 grand prize, I said, “Oh hell no.”.
But after I watched the first show and saw how the men and women moved gracefully and energetically, doing splits, spins and lifts, I said, “Oh hell yes!” I said,”yes” to their celebration of life. “Yes” to their not waiting to “get to the right size” to dance. “Yes” to having the courage to dance in front a national audience exposing themselves to curiosity and possible ridicule.
Dance Your Ass Off is not just about shaking and shimmying on the dance floor. Contestants must also eat nutritiously and work out regularly. Their weekly combined scores are based on both pounds lost and dance execution. And of course, the contestant with the lowest score is eliminated.
One of the folks dancing her ass off is Orlando, Florida’s own, Tara Guiliano, 33. The Ride talked to this working wife and mom about the show, her family and her goals.
The Ride: Hey there Tara. Before I go any further, I have a confession: When I first heard about the premise of the show, I was like, “I’m not so sure about how this is going to work.” I guess I feared that it would set folks up for ridicule. But much to my surprise, it’s more of a celebration.
What did you think when you first heard about the show?
Tara: I thought what an awesome concept! Mixing dance and diet!!! I’m IN!!!
The Ride: How difficult was the decision to audition?
Tara: It was not difficult at all. I knew of course that everything I had (meaning fat rolls and all) would be shown to the world; however, I think in order to have extreme results, you have to do something extreme to get them. This show was it for me [smiles]
The Ride: Okay, I’ve got to say it: You guys can sure move! Putting skinny folks out there to shame. Do you think you are dispelling any myths/misconceptions about larger —if you want to use the term “fat” — people?
Tara: I think we all definitely showed people that just because your overweight doesn’t mean you can’t move it! The main factor is making the choice to actually get up and move. That is half the battle.
The Ride: Did you do a lot of dancing prior to the show?
Tara: NO!! Just like a lot of other women, when I was 6 years old, I took ballet, tap, and jazz. I think that is a standard for little girls! But other than that, nothing else. (Unless you count me tearing up my living room rug) [laughs]. I know I was not the best dancer of the show but for me, the goal was doing something I have never done before, getting healthy and changing my life forever!
The Ride: How difficult was it to concentrate on both dancing and trying to lose weight?
Tara: More difficult than I originally thought it was going to be. Planning and balancing was the first lesson I learned on the show!!
The Ride: The judges (Mayte Garcia, Danny Teeson and executive producer Lisa Ann Walter) look like they don’t cut any of you any slack because of your size (and in your case one week, injury). Am I right about this?
Tara: Definitely, the judges wanted to make us work. And I am so glad they did. Week 2, I had to work through an injury and looking back I am so glad that I pushed through!
The Ride: It seems that everyone is so supportive of one another. It’s very cool. How quickly did it take for you guys to bond with each other?
Tara: To be honest the bond was immediate. The first thing we all did as a group was strip down to do the first weigh in! We all saw what each of us have for so long been so diligently hiding! Each of us understood what each other felt and I think because of that we were instantly bonded. The amazing thing in this competition was that unlike other reality shows, we all actually wanted each other to succeed in becoming healthy and losing weight.
The Ride: One of your fellow contestants, Alicia, had a bit of a meltdown during a recent episode. Did it surprise you?
Tara: Every one of us was out of our comfort zone and in a very different environment. I feel like we all experienced a “meltdown” of some sort at one time or another. The pressures were tremendous at times and in life any time you make changes this extreme it affects you and can sometimes get the best of you!
The Ride: During the times you felt frustrated during the competition – I would suspect one of them being the time you injured your knee – what did you do to calm yourself, encourage yourself?
Tara: Honestly leaving my family behind and having no contact with them was the most difficult thing to deal with in the competition. However that was also my daily motivator. I knew that whatever I pain I was feeling could not even compare to the accomplishment I would feel after losing weight! And hot damn, I was so right!!
The Ride: You said you want your participation in the show to serve as an inspiration to your children. What do you think Mommy has taught them so far? What is their response to you being on TV?
Tara: I have a son, Cameron, 12 years old and a step-son, Nick 10 years old. They of course think it is awesome that I am on TV!! Especially when people recognize me out in public!! The main thing I wanted to pass on to them was good eating habits. My kids are in great shape and very active in sports. But if you don’t have good eating habits, that is a bad trait to take into adult life. Now my family goes bike riding, bowling, and we spend weekend after weekend at the waterpark!
The Ride: What life lessons have YOU learned from your experience thus far?
Tara: The main thing I learned from the experience is don’t wait until Monday to start living! Start today! And secondly, it is never too late to start exercising and taking care of your body.
The Ride: What is your ultimate goal?
Tara: My ultimate goal is to continue being active with my family, teach my kids healthy food alternatives and to respect myself enough to continue taking care of my body like it deserves to be loved and nourished for the rest of my life! If I can do all of this and inspire just one person to make a change like I did, than I am complete!!!!
Thank you so very much Tara. I am truly inspired!