The Facts of Life was a show about teenage girls at a boarding school, so it would make sense that the actors playing them would get to look like normal teens. According to the stars of the 1980s sitcom, however, that wasn't always the case. Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair, has shared that she was sent to "fat farms" during her time on the show in an attempt to help her lose weight. The actor has also reflected on the way her and her co-stars' bodies were talked about in coverage of The Facts of Life, and how that made them feel.
Eventually, Whelchel explained, those making the show came around and were more accepting of their weight, but there were multiple attempts to have her shed pounds before that. Read on to find out what the now 59-year-old actor recalls about her time on the series.
Lisa Whelchel said she was sent to "fat farms" because of her weight.
A "fat farm" is essentially a weight loss camp that people attend with the goal of slimming down. In a joint interview for People with her Facts of Life co-star Mindy Cohn in 2013, Whelchel said that the producers sent her to more than once.
"The producers sent me to quite a few fat farms! I'd say, 'I'm going to Texas on my hiatus,' and they'd say, 'Oh, no you're not. We bought you a ticket to the fat farm!'" she recalled.
Cohn, who played Natalie, said that that was "ridiculous" because Whelchel has "the most perfect genes ever." Whelchel responded, "Aw, thanks. They were trying to figure out how to deal with our changing bodies."
She also said that the food on set changed.
In the same conversation, Whelchel said that she noticed the food provided on set changed at one point. "Craft services had all sorts of food, and it was delicious," she said. "Then one day they replaced the doughnuts and cookies with carrots and celery. No one on-set was ever cruel. But I was just a young girl. It was hard feeling that my body wasn't acceptable."
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Eventually, the show accepted Whelchel's appearance.
In 2011, cast members from The Facts of Life reunited on Good Morning America and reminisced about the show. Whelchel shared that she had been sent to three "fat farms," but she didn't lose weight and the producers came around to just letting her be herself.
"I'm so grateful that it turned out the way it did," she said (via the Daily Mail). "I looked like a normal teenage girl. We looked like normal teenage girls. You didn't have to be a size two."
Whelchel and Cohn both knew their weight was talked about.
In the conversation with People, both Cohn and Whelchel said they were well aware that their weight was a topic of discussion in the media. "Weight was always an issue back then," Cohn said.
Whelchel added, "An everyday battle. Our bodies were a topic of conversation. There wasn't the internet, but we knew what people were saying. Joan Rivers called us 'The Fats of Life.'"
Cohn said that she also went through an issue involving her weight with the producers of the show. "The summer I turned 17, my metabolism changed. I became active. I came back from hiatus—looking good, mind you—and was told, 'What happened to you? You have to gain that weight back,'" the now-56-year-old shared. "I took offense because Natalie wasn't defined as 'the fat girl.' People on the outside defined her like that, but there weren't fat jokes about her on the show."
Cohn said that her mother told producers "that's not happening," and recommended they to go to a school to see "what normal girls look like at our age."