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Susan Powter Returns

Susan Powter Returns


A ubiquitous presence on 1990s TV with her signature buzz cut and manic energy, Susan Powter urged everyone to "stop the insanity!" as she dished out her own brand of dieting advice. Now she's back and at age 50 more fired up than ever.

The buzz cut has grown into dreadlocks, the infomercials replaced by video blogging. And at 50, Susan Powter is much more than "a housewife who figured it out," as she once put it. She's Michael Moore with street cred -- a twice-divorced single mom who sliced through the hypocrisy of the food industry before it was fashionable and shed 130 pounds in the process. Her slogan "Stop the Insanity," heard on late-night TV airwaves, preached common-sense methods of eating, breathing, and moving. After six books, two more infomercials, nine videos, and many headaches managing it all, she dropped out to have her third child, Gabriel, now 10. (Eldest sons Damien and Kiel are 25 and 24, respectively.) But evidently the insanity hasn't stopped. Powter's book The Politics of Stupid,self-published in 2002, has been reissued by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. And she's just signed with formidable new management: Rosie O'Donnell's KidRo Productions. With their help she's taking the green movement to new heights, literally, by filming the making of a livable tree house -- footage of which can be seen on Now an out lesbian, she's even teaching yoga on Rosie's R Family Vacation cruises. But the hippest sign of her pop culture re-entry has to be her guest appearance last year on The Simple Life. Says Powter: "Nicole Ritchie looked at me and said, 'You are so not 50. You are one hot, sexy bitch.'"

Where have you been the past 10 years? I fired everyone, and I went to live on an island off Seattle and have a baby. The business of the business is a horror. Fourteen lawyers are horrors. The hemorrhage of patriarchal business hurts me. But I also knew my business was changing--because I know my business.

Why come back now? There's only one reason I come back to work at all: It's called the Internet. There are no boundaries. The speed of light really works for me. It's almost as if the mediums have finally caught up with me. Now there are no layers. I own it now.

How has your audience changed? The consumer is ready now because the spotlight is so easy to point toward the contradictions. People now know. When I said "homeopathy" back in the day, people thought I was talking about a sexual preference. The consumer now knows that something's fucking wrong [with the food industry]. And the entrance back is very easy now.

How did your partnership with Rosie O'Donnell's KidRo Productions come about? Since back in the day, Rosie and I have passed in the airport night, in Admirals Clubs -- nobody had kids then. I hope it's not presumptuous to say it's because KidRo knows a brilliant business investment when they see one and I know a brilliant production partner when I see one.

What are your kids like? I have sons who understand inequality and don't agree with it on any level. And that's an accomplishment. And they are acutely aware of what they put into their bodies. Gabriel, who's 10, is African-American. He was juicing carrots when he was 2.

Your first husband fathered your eldest boys. Care to say who Gabriel's father is? My children are my children because 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I do everything that has to be done in this world -- and I mother. Fathers are not, uh, whatever.... People who want to have 'em, can have 'em. If that's your gig, have a father.

What's the most indulgent thing you eat? The most indulgent thing is not being prepared and just grabbing something quick. There's nothing that can't be increased in quality. Soy everything exists; you don't have to eat bovine growth hormone. You don't have to eat a chicken from a company that debeaks 80,000 birds a day, from companies that are pumping hormones into them. You can always find a choice that works better for your brain and body. Nature is abundant, and food is abundant. Any food shortage is absolutely incorrect. It's the systems that are set up to deliver food -- it's not even food, it's poison. Refined white sugar, refined white flour, and refined white men are directly connected -- especially, refined white men in the refined White House. Don't ever for a second believe that a $256 billion food industry isn't one of the largest lobbies in this country. There's no political system; it's a lobbying system.

Tell me about your tree house. It's a 50-year-old menopausal woman living the way she wants to live. It's a straw bale hay tree house. I have a compost toilet, an outdoor shower. I hang my laundry outside to dry. I grew a fucking zucchini -- I want to do a dance under the moon when I say that to you.

Do you view personal trainer Jackie Warner as taking a page from your playbook? It's funny: short white hair, fitness expert, and lesbian. I don't know, I thought it was done 20 years ago. Listen -- all women who succeed, right on, honey. Make your money, put it away. Get rid of your lawyers. Love your life. Dig it. But I have nothing to do with the fitness industry. I never have. I'm talking about wellness. [With Stop the Insanity] I flapped a piece of baloney in front of a camera and said, "This is a pig's butt filled with chemicals. You slap it between two pieces of refined white nothing, and it's not a good meal." That's what I figured out. It's like being the used-car salesperson of a very big concept. I've never looked like any of those [fitness] women. I don't wear jog bras. I don't have those kinds of abs.

In 2004 you described yourself as a "radical feminist lesbian woman." Is that still an apt description? I am the proudest, the most thrilled-to-be-lesbian woman you'll ever meet. I think lesbianism is the biggest privilege. It's one of the finest privileges of my life. Every woman who lays next to another woman and feels life breathed into her -- and I just did last week in Phoenix! That's all I have to say.

Wow. You're going to leave me hanging with that? Oh, I was resurrected! Listen -- your skin is wellness. Your skin is the largest organ on your body. And it's on the outside. That's sexy. Our clitoris has hundreds of thousands of nerve endings. It's designed for pleasure. "Wow" is what I have to say. I'm on it, Sister Sledge. I'm walking around with that starry-eyed and stupid shit going on. Oh, I'm just the biggest dyke you'll ever meet.

You were twice married, in love with both men... Oh, very much so. I was married for a minute to "the sperm" -- 'cause "father" means you have to actually do something. And I married for love the next time around. And I was a heterosexual woman -- there's no question about that. And I absolutely was never traditional. My ex-husband was living downstairs, I was paying for everything, and my current husband was living upstairs. It was very unusual. But I say it on every book tour: If you take the sexuality out of the word "lesbian," I don't know a 40-year-old woman, especially one who's been married twice and raised her babies, who wouldn't love to come home to what is female: Dishes being done, candles being lit....

Let's switch to your hair: It's gone from buzz to big. The real reason for my current hair is that my mother died at 52. I'm 50. The closer I get to her age, the bigger my hair is. I made that promise at her funeral. And I am going to be a flamingo by the time I'm 60, I promise you that. I am a walking billboard for a reason. Because I am a woman who has survived patriarchy in every way. [Feminist] Mary Daly said it the best: I am Thoroughly Revolting. Capital T, Capital R. I do that for my mother. I do that for every woman I've met for the last 50 years. I do that for every woman I have had the privilege of reading their herstory -- from Mary Wollstonecraft to Emma Goldman -- who have been my lifeline. If those women hadn't left their stories, I would not have made it through about 50 parts of my life. And I intend to do the fuckin' same.

Care to say who you're supporting in this presidential race? I'll quote [activist] Audre Lorde: "You cannot dismantle the master's house with the master's tools." [Politics] is not even a consideration. I'll tell you who I'm supporting in this presidential race: the millions of people who are about to be the victims either way. And please do quote me on that. The power is not [in the people] right now. And that was evident in the last two elections, wasn't it? And what infuriates me is the wasted energy of the babbling conversations [about the environment]. Are we joking? [The damage] has been done. The soil has been demineralized. The air is polluted. There isn't one square inch of the world's oceans that doesn't have trash on it and in it. It's been done. So now we have to survive it. That's why I believe that wellness is the only thing. The fittest of the fit will rise -- that's it.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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