SallyAnn Salsano is best known for creating and executive producing MTV’s mega-smashJersey Shore, but there’s a lot more to this TV vet than meets the eye. Acting as honorary den mother to that pack of party animals would be more than enough to keep her busy, but SallyAnn has three more shows on the air, too: Nail Files, a TV Guide Network docudrama set in an upscale manicure parlor; Repo Games, a high-stakes game show on Spike TV where contestants play for a chance to keep their repossessed property; and Love Handles, her show on Lifetime Real Women about overweight couples who have reached their breaking point with themselves — and each other.
In this exclusive interview for Wetpaint Entertainment, SallyAnn dishes about her latest projects, her personal journey with body image, and changing people’s lives.
Wetpaint Entertainment: Love Handles is about overweight couples transforming their bodies and their lives. What makes this show different from other weight loss or body transformation shows?
SallyAnn Salsano: A lot of weight loss shows just focus on the exterior. This is a show that’s about sad couples in crisis. These are people who are at a breaking point — not only is their weight a problem, but also it’s their relationship. You’re not just going to see them running on a treadmill, getting yelled at, and weighing in. There are personal victories that happen along the way. These couples are in the midst of deciding if they should be together. Each couple goes through therapy and we are 100% invited into the couple’s therapy, and some of the stuff you hear is stuff that everyone in their life has thought, but most people have not even had the courage to admit or say out loud, let alone do it on TV.
You struggled with your weight and body image over the years. Has that made you more sensitive in how you depict these participants on the show?
Yeah, I make no bones about it. I lost about 140 pounds. I was in a long-term relationship, which was great. Seven years, and it was wonderful, but I never felt happy. And it was my own self. Once I lost weight and everything was better, I realized it was my own issues I was dealing with, and you have to make the decisions for yourself — is this the right thing for me, is this what I want for my life? I did other weight loss shows — I did Dance Your Ass Off. Season 1 of that show was about dancing and weight loss, but at night, I was in the rooms with contestants, and we were all sitting around and literally crying, telling our stories about what we dealt with. That’s what most people don’t think of. Most people who are overweight just put on a happy face and go out the door. You never see the struggle, and this is about the struggle, and how your weight not only affects your health, but can affect your dynamic in a relationship.
Is there a tension on the show between people who are trying to lose weight for themselves versus trying to lose weight for their partner?
Yeah, there are definitely some guys on the show who will say out loud, “I never wanted to be with a fat girl, and here I am.” And when a girl hears that, it’s really tough. And then there are people who are, like, “I don’t know if I would still love him if I lost the weight and he didn’t.” It’s an honest show. Duh, if you’re three hundred pounds, you want to be one-fifty, and that seems to be the message on most weight loss shows. But the reason why people want to be one-fifty is not necessarily that they want to put on a pretty dress. It’s because they don’t know what it’s like to walk into a restaurant, to walk into a movie theater, to go to a family party, and not be thinking “Oh my God, am I the fattest person in the room? Oh my God, should I sit on that chair? Like, oh my God, I’m a girl who’s desperate to get married, but my biggest fear is being in that white dress in front of everybody.”
Have there been any major lessons you’ve taken away from Love Handles, personally or professionally?
Professionally, it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. It’s one of those shows where afterwards, you get the handwritten letters, the phone calls: “No matter what, you completely changed my life.” When you watch the show, there are couples who can’t conceive and aren’t sure if they’re going to make it, who got married now. They were using the weight as a stop-gap and now they’re 100% moving forward. And to get that phone call or that email from someone saying “Because you did this, my whole life changed, and here’s how I’m better,” it literally is the greatest feeling of all time.
Don’t miss Love Handles when it returns to Lifetime Real Women, August 6th at 7PM and August 7th at 3PM & 4PM!