Interview with Chastity Bono

Cher with young ChastityChastity Bono

Chastity Bono grew up before our eyes. In the 1970’s, she was a regular guest on her parents’ The Sonny and Cher Show. In the early 1990’s, at the tender age of 21, she was outed by tabloid Star Magazine just as she was getting ready to launch a career in the music industry. She made one album (Hang Out Your Poetry) with her band Ceremony and during this time even appeared in a tiny role in the lesbian independent film Bar Girls.

She left the music biz for her next career move as writer at large for The Advocate, the national gay and lesbian magazine, and officially came out in 1995 on its cover. She later interviewed her mother for another cover story.

During this time, Chastity also began working as a high profile gay rights activist on behalf of the HRC, appeared as a spokesperson to promote “National Coming Out Day,” and campaigned for the re-election of President Bill Clinton and against the “Defense of Marriage Act.” Bono later made another career switch, becoming Entertainment Media Director for media watchdog group GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

While at GLAAD she wrote (with Billie Fitzpatrick) the book Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Families, her personal coming-out memoir mixed with others’ stories of coming out. After her stint at GLAAD, Bono wrote (with Michelle Kort) a second book, The End of Innocence about her outing, her experiences in the music industry, and the illness and death of her partner Joan Stephens from non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

But after a lifetime of high profile visibility, Bono dropped off the media radar for several years, reappearing this past January on season 3 of VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club.

I first met and interviewed Bono on the Fit Club set where the low and high ropes challenges took place at rustic Cali-Camp in Topanga, California. The second interview happened soon after the season ended with Bono phoning in from the West Hollywood house she shares with girlfriend Jennifer Elia plus four Sphinx cats and a dog.

During our two interviews, Bono, 37, spoke openly of how a past addiction to prescription painkillers led her to retreat from the media spotlight and contributed to the weight gain that drove her to compete on Fit Club.

Interview Part 1: 12/10/2005 What made you decide to go on Celebrity Fit Club?
Chastity Bono:
Temporary Insanity. No, it just kind of coincided with a time in my life that I was ready to deal with my physical self, and they called and it seemed like a good idea.

AE: Because on your own, you wouldn’t try to lose weight?
I was starting to do it on my own anyway, but there’s more pressure involved than when you do it on your own.

AE: I would think that having people helping you and training you would be less pressure. What’s the pressure, doing it in front of cameras?
First of all, there’s not as much support as one would think. Second of all, yeah, as a team you want to win. There’s a competition, you’re on TV, you want to do a good job.

AE: Are you pretty competitive, or is it just more self-competitive?
I didn’t realize that I was that competitive until I did the show, but yeah I am.

AE: So had you gained weight recently?
I’d been overweight for awhile, it wasn’t like a recent thing.

AE: Did you do any kind of exercise or eat healthy before the show?
I had just started exercising and getting into that maybe a couple months before the show started.

AE: What was your moment when you decided it was time to start losing weight?
I had just ignored it and let it go and getting into my middle thirties and knowing that if I was going to do this and try to live a healthier lifestyle, now would be the time to start.

AE: How did you get on the show, did they contact you?
They contacted me.

AE: Were you insulted?
No, hell no, I know I’m fat, it wasn’t like, “Oh my God, me?!” I just looked it as a good opportunity to do something positive and get paid to do it.

AE: What contributed to you getting overweight, a slow metabolism?
Well that’s part of it but a lot of it was just drug abuse, and not caring about anything. When I got clean and sober, I just worked on the inside stuff for about a year, and then I wanted to start working on the physical stuff.

AE: So this is recent that you’re sober?
It’s a year and nine months.

AE: So that’s also something you had to decide to change.
Yeah, it’s similar degree of denial. And in that way, it was breaking down the denial of physically — not taking care of myself and how that affected me, and how it made me feel and how I felt about my body.

AE: Have you changed your diet?
I got on a meal plan service, they deliver it, and it’s a combination of The Zone and also eating for my blood type (type O). There’s a book calledEating Right For Your Blood Type and it actually makes a lot of sense…I don’t eat flour, I don’t eat dairy other than eggs, and I eat mostly protein and vegetables and fruit.

AE: How were you eating before?
Well oddly enough, when I was doing drugs, I craved a lot of sweets. Once I stopped doing that, my taste literally changed, what I desire. I don’t know if it was a lack of serotonin that I was just trying to get because I did prescription drugs — painkillers — I don’t know if I was craving sugar to give me kind of a lift, a high, a food high or what…I love to eat carbs, but they’re really not good for me.

AE: Do you have an actual weight-loss goal?
I just want to get to a weight that’s healthy for me.

AE: You’re the captain of the Blue Team, how did that come about?
They chose me and it was something that I told them I was willing before [I started].

AE: What does it entail?
I call everybody a couple times a week, check in, see how they’re doing, deal with people having any personal problems. It’s just being supportive.

AE: Is that your personality?
Yeah, totally. I think it’s totally my personality.

AE: Is that a nurturing…
…It’s a nurturing, it’s kind of a white knight syndrome unfortunately. It’s been hard being the team captain, I didn’t think it would be as difficult as it’s been, but I think ‘cause I naturally put so much pressure on myself, it’s just put more pressure on me. I feel like I have this responsibility to lead by example.

AE: While you’ve been in the public eye forever, people haven’t had this kind of access to you before. Is that something you wanted to do as an identity thing, for people to get to know you?
My career kind of went to a halt because of drug abuse so this also seemed like a good opportunity to get back out there and get things going again, and to get some positive exposure.

(Bono’s lunch break is up and she leaves to participate in a high ropes course.)

Next page: the post-show interview