Sunday 15 December 2019

Andrea Smith: 'I’m not proud of being fat but I had to stand up to Katie Hopkins’ onslaught'

Andrea Smith and Katie Hopkins at RTE after their appearance on The Late Late Show
Andrea Smith and Katie Hopkins at RTE after their appearance on The Late Late Show
Journalist Andrea Smith at RTE's television studio before she appears on the Late Late show to challenge Kate Hopkins on weight issues. Photo: Eleanor Keegan

It’s funny what a week can bring.

Last week, I wrote about my weight for the Irish Independent, which generated a very mixed reaction.

Andrea Smith
Andrea Smith

I stated that I’m very happy and content, even though I’m fat, because there are far more important things to be concerned about than the size of your thighs.

On Friday night, I found myself defending my position on The Late Late Show to Katie Hopkins, a woman known for delivering her very controversial opinions with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

Andrea Smith
Andrea Smith

The former UK Apprentice contestant enjoys nothing more than having a go at the fatties, and claims she hates us, we’re lazy and greedy, and she would never hire us.

'Yes, I'm fat, but I'm really happy'

 

Journalist Andrea Smith at RTE's television studio before she appears on the Late Late show to challenge Kate Hopkins on weight issues. Photo: Eleanor Keegan
Journalist Andrea Smith at RTE's television studio before she appears on the Late Late show to challenge Kate Hopkins on weight issues. Photo: Eleanor Keegan

She was on the show because she deliberately put on almost four stone for a TV documentary, and plans to lose it easily to underline her belief that we fatties are weak-willed and miserable.

When I was invited on to challenge her I immediately agreed, even though I knew I was leaving myself open to scorn and ridicule.

During the week many people had agreed with me that being fat is reviled because you physically wear your weight, even though other behaviours – the ones less publicly visible – can be far more damaging.

Other people went down the health risks of obesity and the drain on the health system route.

Andrea Smith and Katie Hopkins at RTE after their appearance on The Late Late Show
Andrea Smith and Katie Hopkins at RTE after their appearance on The Late Late Show

I’m not saying it’s an invalid argument, but I believe that being filled with self-loathing and stress over your appearance is just as detrimental to your health and as likely to make you ill.

I could defend my position on these arguments, but could I do it against Katie Hopkins, the woman who says that she judges her children’s classmates based upon their names, and won’t let them go to parties thrown by children called Tyler or Charmaine?

'You can’t be fat and happy’ - Katie Hopkins

If she could disrespect innocent children, I was pretty sure she’d make mincemeat of me, an obese adult. Even so, I felt it was important to face up to Hopkins on behalf of the fat population, most of whom would be too cowed and filled with shame to risk the onslaught.

And boy she didn’t disappoint. When Ryan Tubridy introduced me, she announced, “You aren’t hard to spot,” and then went on to say that she would hate to be sitting next to me on a plane.”

In the face of her barbs and heckling, I explained that I wasn’t proud of being fat, but if I went around insulting and judging people the way she does, that would be something to be genuinely ashamed of.

While she was getting very personal and rude with me, Ryan was fantastic at keeping her in check, and the studio audience was magnificent.

I was really touched at how supportive and kind they were, and many of them challenged her very directly.

The atmosphere in the studio was electric –she was the panto villain and I the fat Cinderella to her wicked stepmother act.

On a side note, it amused me to think that if an obesity expert like Donal O’Shea had there instead of Katie, I would have been the one drawing all the approbation.

Andrea Smith: At 45 I’ve learned….

Instead, I was up against possibly the only person who could appear on a TV show talking about obesity, and be more vilified than a flag-flyer for the fatties.

While many people worried that I might have been hurt, I wasn’t in the slightest.

I’m lucky that my self-esteem isn’t bound up in my appearance, but I felt sorry for those at home who are troubled by their weight, as many of them were upset by her attitude.

After the show, I met Katie in the Green Room, and I went over and shook hands with her. Was it awkward? I think it might have been for those who thought we might lay into one another, but we had quite a pleasant chat.

I understand that she has a job to do, unpalatable as it might be, and she does it extremely well.

We have all been talking about her since, as we do every time she says something awful. Job done for Ms Hopkins.

We aren’t going to be besties, me and Katie, but I had a ball. And let’s face it, if you’re going to be insulted by someone so publicly, it might as well be by the wickedest witch of them all.

Irish Independent

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