MTV hopes size doesn't matter with 'Chelsea Settles'
On paper, Chelsea Settles sounds awfully familiar. She’s 23. She dreams of a career in fashion. She leaves home and moves to Los Angeles to pursue that dream. She has a boyfriend who should be kicked to the curb. And she’s having the journey filmed by a camera crew.
But she’s not starting off where Lauren Conrad left off (and "Unwritten" by Natasha Beddingfield is nowhere to be heard). “She’s great. I love Lauren,” Settles said in a recent phone interview. “But I think viewers will quickly see that I’m nothing like her.”
The series, which premieres Tuesday night with a one-hour episode, starts off with producers asking Settles a series of questions -- which results in us learning about her love for Kim Kardashian. But it isn’t until a minute later that the camera finally focuses on Settles. All 324 pounds of her.
“I didn’t feel like I was watching myself,” Settles said about screening the first episode. "It was weird. I had this whole thing where you hear yourself on the phone and you’re like, “Do I sound like that?” It was just so strange. It was so hard to see me in that form. I know back then I was so hurt and so scattered — I was just really broken and looking to make a change that I thought I would never be able to make.”
The change included moving more than 2,000 miles away to pursue a career in fashion — a move made more troublesome given that she’s leaving behind a severely diabetic mom — finding a roommate off the Internet (she swears MTV didn’t do the pairing) and losing weight.
It all came to be after Settles saw a casting call on MTV's site looking to follow a girl on her weight-loss journey.
"I was in a single-parent household, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do anything on my own," she said. "Only, this experience taught me that I had it in me all along. Once they met me, they saw there was more to my story than just the weight-loss aspect.
"I went into it not really knowing what to expect because I’ve never done anything in television," she said. "I watched tons of weight-loss shows, though, so I was under the impression, ‘Oh, yeah, it’ll be great. They’re gonna ship me to a ranch, and the weight is going to come off. Once I got started with it, I realized there was a lot more that went into this. But it's all for the cause. I don’t want people to feel like you’re alone because for so long I felt like I was."
Settles is a new kind of MTV heroine. At a time when MTV is riding high off reality shows such as "Jersey Shore" and "Teen Mom," which recently aired its Season 3 finale, "Chelsea Settles," along with her counterparts on "I Used to Be Fat," which also premieres Tuesday, is serving as an inspirational alternative.
“It’s not so much about how quickly I’ve changed physically,” Settles said. “I know I’m still a work in progress. I'm not settled yet.”
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Photo: Chelsea Settles in her new self-titled MTV show. Credit: Clair and Jeremy Weiss/MTV