Rolling Out

Will Smith and LeBron James Are Obese? Filmmaker Darryl Roberts Snaps on the Diet Industry in ‘America the Beautiful 2’

Will Smith and LeBron James Are Obese? Filmmaker Darryl Roberts Snaps on the Diet Industry in 'America the Beautiful 2'
Filmmaker Darryl Roberts says he's had it with the diet industry.

Darryl Roberts explored the shocking truth behind the beauty and plastic surgery industries in his documentary, America the Beautiful in 2008. Roberts is back, 34 pounds lighter, and with a new focus: the dieting industry.

In America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments, Roberts turns his lens on the bizarre and outrageous practices of crash dieters and the big pharmaceutical companies that are cashing in on the desire to be thin.

Why did you decide to do this film?
When I was on tour with the first documentary, America the Beautiful, I screened it at 287 universities. During the Q-and-A, someone would always stand up and say, you’ve covered the beauty industry, the fashion industry, plastic surgery, eating disorders, but not the dieting industry. And it had never crossed my mind, because personally, I have never been on a diet before.

I started doing some research on dieting and I came across this thing [called], BMI, body mass index, and according to the BMI charts, Will Smith, Dwayne The Rock Johnson and LeBron James, all of them are either overweight or obese.

I looked at that and thought, wow, Will Smith is obese? I realized that there were some inherent flaws in the way BMI was being used, and there should not be a correlation between BMI and good health because it’s unrealistic.

As far as your research, where did this message of ‘thin is beautiful’ come from?
The thin is beautiful [message] comes from the fashion industry and advertisers who deal with beauty. But the health [message] comes primarily from pharmaceuticals or the dieting industry.

The dieting industry lobbied with Congress to get the BMI numbers of those considered overweight to start at 25, such that almost everybody is considered overweight. According to the BMI chart, and in the black community — because we are built differently — they’ll say we have 70 to 75 percent obesity rates based on this BMI chart, and so when you go to the doctor, the doctor will tell you to lose weight.

And they’ll send you off to get some weight-loss pills or they’ll send you off on a diet. So, the pharmaceutical dieting industry benefits greatly from telling people that you have to be thin to be healthy, and it’s not true.

Are black women falling prey to the thin body image messages?
It’s kind of funny; I was talking with Susan Taylor of Essence magazine about 14 years ago, and she said that in the black community, we’ve developed our own standard of beauty, which is built upon being more full-figured and more curvaceous. When I was growing up, we didn’t really have eating disorders in our community. But now, the madness has gotten so rampant and we are starting to see it.

They’re getting us from the health perspective; they couldn’t get us from the beauty perspective. They scare you with terms like, you’re going to get diabetes, heart disease, and they promote these campaigns very heavily and that’s why we are starting to feel like we need to lose weight in order to be healthy. That’s the central theme that they’re pushing, and that’s how they got us.

What are some of the bizarre diet habits that you explored in America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments?
There was this one woman who would throw up, and to make sure no food was left in her system, she would make sure someone would pound her in the stomach with a bat to get all the last remnants of food out of her system.

And then you have people who went on a cookie diet, where all you eat is six cookies a day and glasses of water, less than 500 calories a day, and the norm is 2,000 calories so that’s a severe caloric restriction. People are now doing a lot of nutty things to be thin.

 Has making this film affected your eating habits at all?
Yes, this film has affected my eating habits. … So I [bought] a bicycle, and I started riding my bike five miles a day, and eating more balanced meals. I would still have chicken and hamburgers, but I would also have asparagus salad, more water, grains and beans. … At my heaviest I was at 298, and now I’m 34 pounds lighter.

Video: Darryl Roberts Loses 34 Pounds While Making Film

What is the message behind your shirt, Enough? Enough of what?
The Enough campaign is what’s happening to us in our society.

Enough of being told that I’m too fat, enough of being told that I’m not good enough, enough of being told that I need to do this, or I need to do that, and I’m just going to start loving and accepting myself the way that I am. So enough is telling advertisers and the industry that I’m going to practice self-love and enough of your nonsense, I’m not having it anymore.

Rolling out event: Darryl Roberts returns to his hometown of Chicago on Friday, Dec. 2 for a special screening of America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments. Join Roberts and rolling out at the Music Box Theater, 3733 North Southport. For more information, visit

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