AE: How long has it been taping now?
DP: It started last August so it’s been taping for a while now. Had it not been for my brother’s funeral service that I had to go back for, I actually would still be at the facility right now. My original release date was for April.
AE: Oh, so everybody has different release dates?
DP: Yeah, they recommend an extended stay according to your situation and your weight.
AE: When you originally went in to this, did you know you would not only be dealing with your weight but also coming to terms with your sexuality, because this is coming out in a big way.
DP: Well, no and yes. When they interviewed me at home, they were telling me that it may come out or there’s a possibility of it being known and asked if I’d be OK with that. So it was mentioned to me, but I didn’t know it was going to be the number one thing concerning my weight. It was a miraculous experience to be there. I’m glad I went, I have no regrets about it. I am who I am.
AE: Yes, and I’m sure you’re fabulous!
DP: Ha! Thank you.
AE: How did you come out to yourself? Was it something you always kind of knew or did it come to you later in life? I am always intrigued by the later-in-life lesbians since I popped out of the womb with a big gay bumper sticker on my butt.
DP: [Laughs] OK! Well I started realizing all of this in 2006. I come from a very strict Pentecostal family. I was evaluating my life and I was like, “OK I’m in my 40s, I’m still not married, I’ve tried to date. Something is not happening here. I’ve done all I could do to get answers from God. There’s something wrong here.” And that’s when I noticed I had never had an attraction to men.
I’ve always had friendships with men and there’s love there but I never had the feelings of wanting to be with one like I have for women. It was kind of heartbreaking because I was like, “obviously I’m gay and I need to come to terms with it and deal with it and just take it one day at a time.” So that was about four or five years ago. I really wanted to make some changes. I wanted to leave Atlanta and look at what I need to do in order to get the ball rolling. I always had this big fear about people thinking I was gay and then not being able to be successful without my family. Being at Shades, I had to face those two things and once I did I saw there was hope on both ends. It was like a light bulb came on. I just needed to be able to tell my mom and my family. I hadn’t told anyone at that point.
AE: Did you feel like you had to come out to them because of the show — because obviously with it airing they were going to find out? Or did you come out to them just to be true to yourself?
DP: It was because I wanted to get rid of the pain of being overweight. I was telling a friend yesterday that the pain of me being overweight is the greatest pain I’ve ever had. So to get rid of that pain, I wanted to acknowledge my attraction to women. I had to face it. When I released that and said it out loud to myself, it was a relief.
So it wasn’t about the show. I thought I was going to a weight loss reality show where I was going to win money and kick people’s butts. [Laughs] But I had a very, very good surprise waiting for me and I’m so glad it turned out the way it did because it deals with what’s eating you. I really liked that because it’s so true. The truth about weight gain is figuring out what is making you eat.
AE: That’s a great way of putting it, “What’s eating you?” I like that!
DP: Yes, what’s eating you, man! And I kept asking myself every day in the mirror, “What’s eating you?” and realizing that yes, I am a Christian, but I have these temptations and I had to face that. Whoever doesn’t like it, there’s only one God and they are not him or her. So I’m taking it one day at a time. Actually at Shades we called it “One Splenda at a time” because we only got one Splenda with breakfast and with dinner at a time.
AE: Were there any other gay people on the show or working with the show that helped you with your coming out process?
DP: Yes, there were a couple of other young ladies there and when I was able to talk to them they were such a tremendous support. So strong.
AE: That’s fantastic. I don’t know if you had told any other friends before telling your family about being gay – but did you find that you have a strong support system around you?
DP: It’s different. I have a strong spiritual support system but if they thought I was indulging in the lifestyle or if I found a lover – I would be really criticized. But they’re kind of sitting nervously because I haven’t been involved so far but when I do get involved my support system probably won’t be as strong as it is. So it’s still kind of different. I want what God wants for me.
AE: Well it sounds like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders and I hope you find love. You can’t help who you fall in love with so don’t force happiness with anyone.
DP: Oh no, I’ve seen too many miserable couples. I thankfully haven’t had to deal with that. Just be real.
AE: What are you hoping to get most out of this experience?
DP: I’m hoping mostly for my life to really change in a positive way to where my career and my personal life take off for the best. I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels and just going back and forth – and not really being an aggressive person to pursue my dreams because of my weight. There were a lot of times I didn’t take opportunities, I didn’t go to interviews or go out because of my weight, I just didn’t feel good about myself. And all of those things are gone now. I really feel like I am alive for the very first time. I’m getting smaller every month.
AE: Well I know you’ve got it in you I can tell from your attitude. I definitely think that coming to terms with your sexuality and then being able to shed the pounds is only going to help you be your authentic self.
DP: Yeah and you stay encouraged, too, girl! I can tell you’re down now but take it day by day. What really helped me is just finding out what I really don’t like and facing whatever that is. Face whatever you are angry at or upset about. Give a voice to whatever the issue is.
Addicted to Food premieres tonight at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.