Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An Open Letter to Jennifer Esposito

This post was inspired by the buzz last week that Jennifer Esposito was shopping a new reality TV series about her gluten-free bakery to E! What are your thoughts?

Dear Jennifer,
I've never met you, and chances are, I never will, although if I ever make it to New York, you can bet that I'll be visiting your bakery, because seriously? Yum. And if I ever do meet you, I'll probably invade all kinds of personal space to give you a hug, because after all you've been through, you need it. As a celiac soul sister, I felt terrible last fall when you were so publicly going through your situation with CBS. I'm thrilled that you chose to take your difficulty and make it your mission - I, too, chose advocacy instead of trying to hide my illness.When I heard you wanted to make a reality show about your new bakery, I was cautiously optimistic - reality TV is very seldom real, and with an often-misunderstood disease, I could only imagine the different directions it could go, and very few of them were positive. However, you've been so vocal, such a staunch believer in spreading the word about celiac, and I started to have a little more faith.
But then ... when I read that E! was the network of choice ... I just had to shake my head.
Really?
The network whose mission is to provide entertainment and gossip, home to folks like Kim Kardashian and Joan Rivers - you want them to choose how our serious illness is portrayed? I realize not every network is going to want to pick up a cupcake reality show - Food Network's been there, done that, as well as TLC.  But wasn't there someone, anyone, you could have pitched to that wasn't E!?
Jennifer, I don't doubt your commitment to our cause. I know how hard it is to try to balance a career and a chronic illness. But I really do question your judgement here. There is no way that a network like E!, whose bread and butter is creating drama, will ever, ever portray celiac as a legitimate disease with heartbreaking effects. It's going to be reduced down to nothing but dramatics, and after so many people have worked so hard to shake that reputation, it feels a little bit like a slap in the face. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we don't come off as a giant joke, but I'm not optimistic.

Please prove me wrong.

Sincerely,
Alissa

22 comments:

  1. Have you seen her special on The Cooking Channel? I can't remember what it was called, but it was a 30-minute program where she talked about getting diagnosed and how she's adapted her life. She said that her hair was falling out and she lost a tooth because she was so starved for nutrients.

    She also came off a bit ... animated in the program.

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    1. You never really realize how much your body needs specific things until you aren't getting them any more. I was lucky (if you can say that), the only real problems I had were iron deficiency and vitamin b deficiency, so mainly it was my energy levels that were the problem - but they were a problem for a decade. It really makes you think about what a complicated machine the body is.

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  2. So you understand a situation before you put judgement I've pitched this show about seeing what really goes on with this disease to SO MANY networks and NO ONE cared!!!! I have suffered with this disease as much as the next and would not do anything to not show the truth! If you follow my blog and tweets then you should get the person I am and the passion I have for the truth. E! Was the only one to "get it" and I am executive producer on the show. Unfortunately the culture we live in people don't really care about the truth . With the Housewives of whatever and the Honey Boo Boos of the world hearing about a disease if NOT disguised as "pop culture" it will NEVER get seen. It's my belief that making a show "entertaining" an sneeking in the message is the way to go. I know what I'm doing to further awareness about this disease, may I ask what r you doing besides commenting on me?
    Best jennifer esposito

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    1. Jennifer, thank you so much for your reply! I 100% believe you about your illness and your work toward helping those of us with celiac disease. I never questioned that, and I would never, ever try to invalidate someone's suffering. I get it. I do think it is awesome, the work you've done with your bakery - like I said, if I am ever in NYC, I will be eating probably all of your cupcakes. And believe me, if I could get the world to shut off the Honey Boo Boos and Real Housewives, I would, in a heartbeat. But I also deal with the same nonsense you do, day in and day out, people talking about how celiac isn't a real thing, how we're all a bunch of drama queens, how a little gluten won't hurt me. It sucks, majorly. So, yes, I am fairly concerned that a network with a proven history of creating drama and perpetuating unflattering gossip is going to edit the heck out of whatever you produce - despite your best efforts - and make my life and my suffering feel like a joke.

      As to what I'm doing - I fight the good fight ever day, trying to share my experiences, the information I find, and trying to be a worthy advocate for this disease. I support anyone trying to do the same.

      Good luck, and gluten-free wishes your way!
      Alissa

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    2. I write this with complete respect and only to state my feelings. Everyone's feelings are valid including yours. However, I felt a little taken aback by your final sentence.

      Alissa may not had gotten the full backstory of the network situation, these things happen as we are all human. And you explaining the situation is certainly valid as we all need to be informed. However, I felt that the overall tone of the response was demeaning to not only Alissa but to us less known bloggers too.

      In response to "....may I ask what r you doing besides commenting on me?"

      We may be small but we have a lot of heart. We have a voice as well. We try our best to inform others and ourselves as well as try to comprehend various problems. Through blogging we hope to find those answers and to spread awareness about the gluten free lifestyle. We do this for those with Celiac Disease and those with gluten sensitivities/intolerance.

      We may not have fame or fortune but our work is just as valid as yours. We may not have a large fan base but those who follow our blog are just as valid as yours.

      Many of us are part time bloggers and are in various career fields like education, medical and others. Several of us have college degrees and advanced degrees. I, myself, have a few. Regardless of our career path, we do make a difference everyday. We all do something. No matter how small or big we do it and we matter.

      I just want you to know that your words were hurtful to me. I can't speak for Alissa but to me they hurt. They make me feel like I don't matter because I don't have the type of career, etc that you do. I don't know if you meant to sound that way but I just wanted to let you know how I feel and hope we can all have some kind of peace.

      You matter. I matter. We all matter. No one is better than the other person. I hope we can all realize that we all matter no matter what.

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  3. Alissa, you know what you are doing for the gluten-free and Celiac community? You are taking a lighthearted and fun approach to this life diagnosis. As you say in your profile "Celiac disease sucks." Instead of having a pity party you are showing the world that life can go on for a Celiac in a gluten-filled world. For that I applaud you. You have a new blog fan!

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    1. Lizzy - thank you so much! We all gotta keep on keepin' on, and I chose to do it with laughter ... mostly.

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  4. I'll go on the record saying that I hate reality TV as much as the next persona and yes the E! channel is loaded with a lot of crap. I get the trepidation. But either we trust our fellow celiacs or we don't. We have someone in Jennifer who can be a voice for our community. None of us bloggers have the audience that she does. Jennifer is as sincere as they come and I believe this will be a plus for us....a big one. Let's just not pass judgement unfairly...that's all I ask.

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    1. Dude - trepidation is a good word. I'll go with that. No judgement, just hesitation. Sincerity will only get you so far with ratings, and in a television show, that's what it comes down to. And as awesome as Jennifer is, I'm just afraid the network will do their splicey-dicey thing and make even the best advocate look iffy. It's not Jennifer I'm worried about - she has proven that she is hardcore on of us. It's E!. I hate being wrong, but in this case, I really hope I am!

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  5. Alissa Is amazing. She is one of the greatest people I know. When my mom was diagnosed Alissa listened on the phone to my mom. She is a supportive person who helps those around her. She has educated everyone she works with about this illness. This education prepared me for the day my mom got her celiac results. Alissa is my rock star and she has helped me more than she knows.
    Cindy

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    1. Cindy, I <3 you. I'm so glad I could help you AND your mom.

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  6. Jennifer,

    I would also like to add that Alissa is a children's librarian. Besides blogging, she is actually in the world helping children develop a love of reading and independent learning. She is an amazing role model for children who have severe food allergies, celiac disease, and children who are otherwise living with a life altering illness. While she does not have the nations spotlight on her; she does make a positive difference in the world every day.

    Also, I believe that her worries are valid. To me her blog post seemed like a shout out in the dark that this be done respectfully. I also hope it done well. My son has a severe peanut allergy. While he does not have the issues that those with Celiac disease have, it is important that the world understand that certain foods can be toxic to some people. This is not a joke or something to laugh at or gossip about. These are real people who could become seriously ill or die if they ingest unsafe food.

    Ellen

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  7. The show will be about fashion or addiction in 3 episodes. That is the curve every E! show takes.

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    1. Alisa,

      It is very obvious that you are well versed in many subjects, and you have an excellent command and direction of the English language. I applaud you for dedicating your life and career to educating and helping young children as a librarian. I am very confident that your skills of analysis are above and beyond the ''average' individual'. I totally agree with you 100% regarding your sociological perspective with reference to how mainstream media presents and portrays any given message and/or image to its viewers and the general public. However, I believe you have overlooked some true facts and variables regarding the strategy Jennifer Esposito is presently taking via E! to inform the populace of the actual truth of celiac disease and the lives of the people who suffer from celiac disease.

      in my opinion, I think you were rather too quick to judge the aptitude, intellect and direction of Jennifer Esposito on how she wishes to voice the legitimate and serious concerns of celiac disease and the celiac community via the E! network. In fact, you give the impression that you are making a sweeping conclusion of her entire strategy and typecasting her advocacy, strategy, purpose and person by making her guilty of association due to her lengthy career in the entertainment industry. Even the tone you have used in your questions do not come across as passive inquiries but only as a series of indictments.

      Please give Jennifer Esposito the fair and unbiased opportunity to display her true person, aptitude, sincerity, insight and foresight in what is only available to her right now at this present time to educate and inform the populace. Remember, celiac disease was not given a fair light or given any legitimate credibility long before Jennifer Esposito started to voice the importance and validity of this issue. So do not blame her exclusively or the path she has chosen at this time (E!) for any past, present or even future challenges and conjectures the celiac community will have to face as they confront the public educating them about the numerous variables and true facts involved and associated with celiac disease.


      For anyone to imply that Jennifer Esposito has an endless supply of media outlets at her beckon call, and can wield her influence like a highly polished sword by forcing the industry to take whatever avenue and script she wishes; to demand they all play according to her tune like a conductor at an orchestra is outrageous. Sorry, that is the ''reality'' that has been taught to you by the big players in the media industry through social engineering, mass marketing and tapping into human psychology of escapism using materialism and product placement. This is not the reality of Jennifer Esposito let alone most actors and actresses in the industry. She has told that to you point blank. She was very lucky that E! listened to her proposal and accepted it. Jennifer Esposito is merely exercising the options that are available to her right now due to many variables that we may or not be made aware of. Nevertheless, having network exposure is better than having no network exposure at all.

      Please be fair. Watch the episodes first and shortly afterwards then you all can have your true say. Until then, we should allow fairness to take front and centre stage right now. This is simply the common courtesy and respect we should immediately grant all individuals regardless of their status.

      In fairness to you Alisa, please do not take offence to my post in any fashion or form whatsoever. I sincerely apologize to you if I did. I respect and honour your status and you as a person. I am not free of making statements or basing opinions about others or certain entities that did not involve some type of bias or error either. In fact, we are all guilty of this error in judgement at one point in time in our lives or another.

      God bless you and everyone. Take care :)





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    2. Chris,
      Thank you for your posts, and your enthusiasm. I agree, common courtesy is something everyone deserves, and I wish Jennifer nothing but the best. My hesitation is not with Jennifer herself - goodness knows she has been an incredible supporter for celiacs everywhere. I've never questioned her intellect, intention or motivation. My concern is the avenue through which the message is being sent. It seems like there are two camps of people - folks like me, who are nervous about E! sensationalizing our illness, and folks in the camp who believe it is just important for the message to get out, regardless of the framing. I don't think either is wrong.

      Let's all keep fighting the good fight to raise awareness of celiac, as well as other chronic illnesses.

      Thanks again,
      Alissa

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  8. I tuned in and they showed Jennifer in the trailer and watched the entire hour and it was tweeeted she would be on but I did not see her appear. What happened?

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  9. Above all, please let it be known that the entirety of Jennifer Esposito's campaign for celiac awareness does not comprise of Jennifer Esposito only. There are many sincere, honest, unselfish, ordinary and average people that have helped her a great deal along the way as well as loved ones that are very dear to her. So directing any bias towards her efforts has multiple side effects by thwarting the efforts of many good people that worked excessively hard to make the entire campaign possible. Have a good night :)

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    1. The fact that there are so many people taking part in the campaign to make Celiac a well known and respected illness should only further push Alissa's point forward. It is a legitimate disease that makes life exceedingly difficult for an ever growing number of people around the globe and yes, people NEED to know about it.

      But wouldn't this be better marketed to PBS or even any of the Discovery networks? I realize that marketing a show like this is not easy and you have to take what you can get, but at what cost? Is it worth risking making a laughing stock out of the gluten free community just to get the word out there that the community exists?

      The bias is not toward Jennifer, her fans, her supporters or her cause. I think she has done great work as an advocate and face of the GF community. The bias is entirely toward the E! Network and the absolute fact that they proudly produce nothing but television aimed at adults with an IQ under 60. They make role models of the Kardashians, Hugh Hefner's girlfriends and the late Anna Nicole Smith. They find celebrities who are absolute wastes of oxygen and follow them around as they squander millions of dollars on frivolous things, spend their time taking nothing seriously and living their lives as if there is nothing on substance happening in the world. They do this in an effort to get their audience to laugh at people who have more than them; to make a running international joke out of each and every one of their 'characters' on their shows. I mean, they have a show ON THEIR OWN NETWORK (The Soup) that has a weekly segment that makes fun of the trash they produce.

      Jennifer has a great message to bring. It is the same as a college student who writes the greatest research paper ever written, but then attends DeVry instead of Harvard. Regardless of the content, nobody will ever take that student seriously because of the brand that student has put on his or herself.

      Chris, you should continue to support Jennifer, but you, as her biggest supporter, should be scared to death that E! makes a laughing stock out of you, her and every other GF person in the country.

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    2. Excellent post, ''Anonymous''! Why couldn't you have made these statements in the first place? You could have saved me a great deal of writing.

      If anybody believes they can do better than what Jennifer Esposito is doing now by going on E!, let them be the first to take a collection of money from those individuals who believe they can advocate the message from a more reputable platform. Make sure that they have at least two million cash or more in their coffers so that they can choose the network and time slot they want to put on their very own ''special'' or documentary about celiac disease. Be aware that sometimes having that cash privilege does not always guarantee 100% approval. It must be approved by the network executives first regardless if any group and/or individual have the means to afford their time and influence of their network.

      And as for your description about contemporary pop-culture and the low-brow intellect it appeals to, I agree with you 100%. Not even I could have described it any better. You have my full support regarding that issue, Anonymous. But for now, please support a sincere individual who is trying their very best to simply get the message out with the means that is available to them right now. Her success is your success and vice a versa.

      Furthermore, there are many individuals who suffer from extremely painful digestive difficulties resulting in horrific pain and inflammation that have found relief from their symptoms by following the celiac diet and/or completely avoiding all refined sugars and processed foods in their lifestyle. Many people experienced total transformations that was very shocking to the professionals that were observing their progress. The results were absolutely outstanding to witness and experience first-hand!

      Unfortunately, due to the socio-cultural and the socio- economic paradigm of the United States, it not only takes many voices to bring about change but a good old fashioned class-action law suit :) :) :)

      God bless all and everyone. There is no greater wealth than good health :)

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  10. I happen to know that Jennifer Esposito has been pitching celiac aware cooking shows for YEARS. It is true that many executives think there would be no interest and it is not a popular enough subject to attract viewers. If she can find her own way to get the message out and use her natural talent and even comic abilities to garner recognition for EVERYONE suffering, I say more power to her!

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    1. Philip,
      Jennifer pointed something out in her reply to me that is incredibly true, while at the same time is disheartening - the American public would much rather be entertained by the Honey Boo Boos of the world than be educated about something they don't think impacts their day to day lives. You can see it in the shift in programming that networks like History, TLC and Discovery have had - while all three were originally about education (for goodness sake, TLC stands for The Learning Channel), now they are little more than sensationalized fluff. I completely understand that a show about celiac would be a hard sell. That said, I still question the avenue - not the intentions - of Jennifer and her team, and I don't think that is going to change. I still have a lot of respect for Jennifer, as I do for all of the activists out there working to spread awareness. I hope she finds much success, and I'm now bound and determined to get my hands on some of her bakery's goods!

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  11. I wish I could push a like button on these posts! Alissa, you know I love you and think you rock the house!

    The great thing about blogging is that everyone gets to share their opinion and thoughts on various topics. The topic here being gluten free. If everyone wrote the same gluten free blog and went gaga over all the same things, blogging would get boring.

    Not everyone likes the E! channel, to me it's snarky and crass, and I am also shocked that E! was the outlet Jennifer chose to share her message. We'll just have to wait and see, but I appreciate the back story as to why it was chosen (the only one interested). I would have loved to seen this show on The Cooking Channel or OWN or even the Live Well Network. Even a web series would have a great way to test the waters. Regardless, it's moving forward and hopefully will portray the message Jennifer wants to get across without the typical E! catty drama.

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