T Lo Interviews Jay McCarroll
After 45 minutes of heavy duty Project Runway gossip, we finally managed to tie Jay down to our couch, turn on a recorder and get him to talk about the topic that was supposed to be the focus of this interview: his dramatic weight loss and his time on the current season of VH1′s Celebrity Fit Club. But, as is so often the case with Jay, the conversation went in every direction imaginable, from the aforementioned Project Runway gossip, none of which we can post (but plenty of which was salacious), through to his fashion career, his childhood, the reasons behind his weight issues, and the price of reality television fame. Whatever the topic, if Jay’s going on about it, it’s always a good idea to turn on a microphone.
This is how you should start: “After 45 minutes of heavy duty Project Runway gossip…”
That’s exactly how we’re going to start it. Why did you decide to do Celebrity Fit Club? You said on the show that you were doing it because you wanted to get laid.
Well, it was like the end of summer and I wasn’t having any huge fashion deals come my way, and I’d been working out all summer, just trying to get in shape, and I was at a friend’s wedding and they called, and they were like, “Well you have to make a decision,” and I thought “Why not?”
They approached you?
Yeah. I wouldn’t even know how to – I like, live in a cave. I don’t even know how to call anybody about anything. At first I was like, oh God, that’s like career suicide. I love how you’re taking notes now. You’re writing “career suicide.” Thank you. But then I thought, oh, I get to live in L.A. for like 3 months, and they’ll pay for all your meals and they’re paying you handsomely to lose weight, and I was like, “I’m fucking doing this shit.”
At first it was about the money because I was thinking how I’d like to invest some money back into my business. But then I got there and I started thinking about my father and how he was diagnosed with diabetes at 35, I was turning 35 at that time, and I started thinking this was the perfect time to do it.
And I always loved watching The Biggest Loser. I just love that show, and someone wanted to give me that chance!
[Diversion regarding Trainer Bob and Jillian Michaels gossip that we can’t mention.]
Weren’t you risking getting a has-been label appearing on a show like this?
Yeah, but I also thought for myself, it was just about the life experience. When else is someone going to hand me money to and pay me to lose weight? And It’s driving a lot of people to my site who had never been to my site before and they get to see my stuff. Fuck it, I want to have life experiences. I had a paid vacation in L.A. where all I had to do was work out and get every meal delivered to my front door for 3 months. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that? It was so good. And the Dancing with the Stars people were in the same building and I was on the treadmill next to Bruno three days a week. It was a very surreal experience.
This was one of my favorite things: I slept in a room with one guy who had his dick in Whitney Houston and one guy who had his dick in Britney Spears. Like, when would that ever happen in my life? I just live in my little world in Philly and I don’t look for these things. I don’t go on the red carpet or do any of that stuff. It was a funny experience for me but it was really beneficial. It helped me through a lot of stuff.
What was it like being around celebrities like Bobby Brown and Kevin Federline, whose whole lives have been tabloid fodder? Were they different from what you expected?
Well Bobby Brown, he’s …eccentric. Like, one day I was like, “What was the most asinine purchase you ever made?” Because you could ask questions like that with these people. And he bought a 15 million dollar helicopter. And I asked him where it was now and he was like, “I don’t know. It just went away.”
So these people have been in a totally different – they’ve been at the top of their game and they went to every awards show and they met every famous person. Even Nicole Eggert screwed Marky Mark. I mean, my God. If you could be the girl fucking Marky Mark back when he was doing the Calvin Klein ads? You would have been considered the luckiest girl in the world. Flash forward however many years, and you know, you go through life.
It’s just very surreal. I mean, Shar Jackson was on The Cosby Show. I mean, I’m like one person away from Britney, Whitney and Marky Mark.
Was there anyone you didn’t get along with?
There were 8 of us and we were forced to be in the same situations together, and towards the end it got really rough because people’s true colors came out. And I think I come across like a little goody two shoes because I actually took it seriously and followed the plan. I think they kind of resented me because I was kind of the teacher’s pet.
How did you feel when they named you the team leader?
God, the psychologist questions over here. “How did you feel when…?” I kind of just wanted to go there, hang out in L.A., lose weight, and get paid. And then they made me responsible for people who had drinking issues and stuff. It was just hard because people have their lives and I felt like I didn’t want to interfere.
It’s a weight loss show, not an addiction show, but certain people had very clear addiction issues. I was very outspoken with the producers and I was like “Hey, I’m a ‘team leader’ for the sake of this competition and this television show, but I’m not a drug and alcohol counselor and I can’t help these people.”
Did you think it was going to be as hard as it was?
NO! I thought I was going away to a spa vacation! Fuck! But when you realize after you go away to this boot camp where they have cameras on you and they’re recording your every move and they’re going to weigh you on national television in boxer shorts and a tank top every week, you learn to say, “Oh, fuck. I better take this seriously.” It’s harder out in the real world because now I have access to ice cream and bread.
What’s Harvey like?
Totally cool. He’s a hardass but he genuinely cares. He’s hardcore Harvey. He was like a sniper when he was in the military.
And what about Tanisha?
Oh my God.
She is like, the perfect reality show personality –
It’s true. Do you want to interview her right now? I can call her.
She’s just very dramatic. But she’s funny. She has a huge following. The pet control board came to my neighbor’s house yesterday but they knocked on my door by mistake, and they were like, “Ohmigod, I just watched you on TV two nights ago! I can’t believe you know Tanisha!”
What other questions do you have there?
Was it worth it?
Oh, yeah! It’s nice, because I get to shop for clothes and I don’t have to wear Muu-muus. It’s been fun.
Would you do it again?
No. It was really hard! Now it’s just a matter of finding a balance. Because I’m back in a world that has bread. I know I’m never going to be 150 pounds and I’m never going to have a six-pack and I needed to get over that. Now I’m about maintaining what I’ve lost and staying healthy and making good choices. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to have ice cream. I just don’t eat a whole gallon of it.
Did you get compliments on your weight loss when you were in New York for fashion week?
Oh, yeah. People have been very positive about it. That’s the only thing that worries me. You’re a public figure and you lose weight on television and everyone’s happy for you and then you gain the weight back and it’s a whole other story. I don’t want that to happen. I also know reality, like today I had a six-hour meeting about my new fabric line and I didn’t have time to like, sit down and have grilled salmon and then head off to the gym. I was occupied with other things. Now it’s a matter of working it deeply into my schedule. I have to.
You’re a lot more upbeat and optimistic on this show than you were on Project Runway.
I don’t think I’m a nasty person, am I?
No, of course not. You just seem way more into it on Celebrity Fit Club.
I think part of it’s the subject matter. Being empowered, and they’re having you face your fears and your life, but on Project Runway you were stressed out, they were encouraging you to be bitchy about other people.
This wasn’t about bitching about the other contestants. It’s not that kind of show. It’s more about your personal experiences and your past and what that’s bringing to what you’re going through now. Where on Project Runway, it was like “I hate her dress!” But then I said the funniest shit on Project Runway! I just rewatched it during the last blizzard and the best thing I said in the whole series, it was about Wendy Pepper and the last challenge…
Oh, about how you’d think she would have remembered to put lipstick on.
That’s’ it! That’s the funniest thing I said on the whole show. But everyone always remembers “the bitch’s dye.”
Were you embarrassed by some of the emotional stuff you go through on the show?
I figured if I was embarrassed by it I wouldn’t have talked about it. When is this interview going up? In a future episode I talk about something that I’ve been wanting to talk about for like a billion years. Something from high school.
I remember coming back from the show and laying in bed, because I was like crippled with pain from all the training, and talking to my sister on the phone. Seriously, when I first got home I was in so much pain. I remember I was in the shower and I couldn’t lift my arms up to shampoo my hair, I had to bend over and put my head in my hands. Anyway, I called my sister and I said, “Listen, things are going to come out on this show that I need to get past.”
Like, my father’s nickname was Butch; he was a bricklayer, he was a football player; my brother was a football player, and then there’s me, who wanted to make things out of lamé and twirl batons. So I was completely confused growing up. And you don’t want to go home and eat salmon and brown rice. You want to go home and eat potato chips and ice cream because they fill you up. Everyone has some sort of issue or addiction and there’s always a reason why it’s happening.
And that ties into my attraction to fashion. You don’t feel beautiful, but you feel drawn to beautiful things and you want to make beautiful things and have beautiful things all around you so people won’t notice that you’re not beautiful. That’s where I ended up. I wanted to be in a place where I felt like I could add beauty to the world because I felt like I had no beauty to offer the world myself. But then getting to that track in fashion and getting to that place where what is considered beautiful is completely repulsive to me, i.e., Kelly Cutrone and her world, there’s nothing beautiful about that. It isn’t real. Fashion week and all that stuff, when you’re a fat teenager, that’s what you aspire toward.
But when you’re an adjusted 30 year old, that stuff doesn’t look beautiful anymore. And that’s just how I feel about it. It’s just a circus of dysfunctional fucking people who have low self esteem and body image issues. Fashion is full of people who drink coffee and smoke cigarettes for a meal.
Did you give up on fashion?
No. It’s taken a different form. I was never one of those people like Austin Scarlett, who I really firmly believe loves, breathes, eats fashion, like Marc Jacobs, people like that. But I love fabric and color and you can’t go to college for loving fabric and color. There was no major for that and the only one that fit was fashion. I always felt like I had to tailor what I like in order to make a 3-dimensional item for the body. And I still do. The process of making clothes is totally interesting to me, but…I don’t know.
I feel like I have enough talent and creativity and I feel like I’ve proven that and I feel like if it was something I really wanted to be doing in my life, then I would be doing it. But there’s something that turned me off about it. I’m still totally fulfilled making my own clothes, on my own timeline, in my own way. I’m not making couture gowns but I never wanted to. I admire it, I think it’s gorgeous, I love to look at pictures of it, but I just don’t do it. Watch Eleven Minutes. There’s a film of me trying to show a line at New York Fashion Week and I am stressed out of my mind and I hated every minute of it.
How do you feel watching that documentary now? Do you feel like it was a waste of time?
God, no. I’m proud of it. Think of when you did something really difficult in your life, like you got your Master’s degree or something. Imagine if a film crew followed you around and it got shown all over the country. It’s great. It’s like this great visual depiction of all the heinousness I had to go through. But I’m proud of it.
We thought it was a good depiction for people who maybe don’t have an understanding of how the fashion industry works.
I think out of all the fashion documentaries out there, it’s the most raw, the most real.
And who knows what I’ll be in ten years? Maybe I won’t be the next Alexander McQueen, but maybe I’ll be the next Tommy Hilfiger. Maybe I’ll be the next Gap. Maybe I’ll be happy just doing basics and separates. Who knows?
Thank you, Doll. It’s always a pleasure.