I don't normally watch NBC's The Biggest Loser, but a friend of mine was telling me about one of the contestants and suggested that I write about him on my blog. From what she said and what I've read about Jackson Carter, I have to agree. If you've been watching the current season of The Biggest Loser, you're probably a little in love with Jackson Carter. The adorable 21-year-old from Utah is the reality show's first openly gay contestant, and a regular wellspring of good-old-fashioned positivity.
Jackson says that his primary motivation for going on "The Biggest Loser" is the kids he mentors as a volunteer coordinator and board member for an LGBT youth outreach center. "I want to be a role model for those kids so that they grow up to lead successful, healthy lives," says Jackson. He was born in Roosevelt, Utah, a small town on a Ute Indian reservation, and raised there with his two younger siblings before moving at age seven to Layton, Utah. Except for a brief period in high school when he was very fit, he has always been overweight and experienced bullying both for his weight and his sexuality after coming out at age 14. Now 21 years old and 328 pounds, Jackson is a student at Weber State University, where he is majoring in theater education with a minor in social work, while also working and volunteering. His busy schedule has left him little time to plan nutritious meals or follow an exercise routine, and the convenience of fast food and tendency to eat when stressed haven't helped. Once he loses weight, Jackson looks forward to participating in physical activities with his OUTreach kids, being able to go to the beach and take his shirt off, and changing the lives of those around him who are also struggling with their weight.
So many young gay men, and people in general, find a substitute for happiness in their life. Some people drink, some end abusing prescription or illegal drugs, others eat. Those who turn to food often find it as a substitute for happiness or as a defense mechanism. Food offers them comfort. That was the situation Jackson found himself in. Jackson said, that the bullying started very young. First for his race; he was a white kid on an Indian reservation. He says he remembers going home from preschool every day crying because he didn't have any friends. And even though he had loving, supportive parents, they weren't the best at dealing with emotions either. They solved everything with food and laughter. This taught him that eating would make all those bad feelings go away, which led to weight gain. Then he got picked on for being fat. That's when my family moved to the city. If he thought it was hard being white in an Indian school, he found it even harder to be a gay, fat, white kid who thought he was Indian. He had a mullet, which, while it was all the rage on the reservation, was not stylish in conservative, northern Utah, and he spoke with reservation slang. Ironically, he wasn't really bullied for his orientation [then]. By the time his sexuality became public knowledge, he had transferred to an arts school where sexuality was a non-issue and became an attendee of Ogden OUTreach. So, with the exception of a few jerks, his coming out experience was pretty good.
When asked what were some of the obstacles he faced being gay and overweight and whether he found the LGBTQ community supportive, he answered:
Being overweight and gay is very difficult. It feels like there's a uniform you have to fit into: You have to have washboard abs and wear the tight clothes, and I didn't have any of that. I felt very uncomfortable going out to the clubs and meeting guys, because I wasn't comfortable with myself. A lot of times people wouldn't even give me a second glance, because everyone is expected to fit that image. It was definitely rough and there weren't a lot of places where I felt romantically accepted.
As a volunteer at an LGBT youth program at home in Utah, Jackson initially cited the kids he mentors as the reason he wanted to lose the weight. But as viewers watched Jackson sacrifice himself for his fellow "Biggest Loser" contestants throughout the season, Jillian Michaels and the other trainers had the difficult task of making him see his own value. It seems to have finally set in because after the confetti dropped at the live finale Monday night (March 18), Jackson was singing a brand new tune.
"My life has just started. I am going to hit the ground running; I'm going to do things that I never thought I was good enough to do -- that I was able to do," says Jackson, who couldn't help but get emotional. "I'm going to go out and get into whatever school I apply for. I'm going to be able to pay for it because I can get any scholarship I apply for, because I am good enough. I've never believed that before in my life, and that's better than any prize money."
So, will his newfound confidence revolutionize his love life? "Oh, my God yes. I'm gonna be up on that table, giving a little shake," Jackson says with a laugh. And though he doesn't have anyone special at home just now, Jackson says he's "sure that's going to change."
Jackson is an inspiration in so many fantastic ways. You've just got to love him.