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Interviews: Mama June & trainer Kenya Crooks on her new WE-TV show 'Not to Hot'

This was posted on Thursday, February 23, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

"Mama June" Shannon is a hustler when it comes to staying in the limelight.

The Hampton resident who found the spotlight first courtesy of her daughter Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson on "Toddlers & Tiaras." She then parlayed that into the hit TLC show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." After a scandal regarding a former boyfriend who had molested one of her daughters, that show was axed. But she found her way onto WE-TV's "Marriage Boot Camp Reality Stars," which led to her own reality show on the same network debuting Friday night.

The show starts with her shocked reaction to her ex husband David Michael "Sugar Bear Thompson informing her he's getting married to another woman. In reaction, she decides she wants to get down to a better weight.

Mama June, who had already lost 100 pounds in 2015, then had gastric sleeve surgery. But her weight loss plateaued. At the time of the series beginning last year, she still tipped in at 352 pounds.

Over the next few months, she proceeded to shed even more pounds. She said in an interview that she has had to stay out of the limelight in recent months so as not to spoil the "reveal" when finale episode airs but the show is teasing she had gotten down to a size four.

Although she wants to find a new man, she said she has yet to date anybody seriously.

Her daughters Alana (now 11) and Lauryn "Pumpkin" Shannon (now 17) encourage her but Mama June said they didn't exactly follow her weight-loss strategies themselves.

I spoke with her trainer Kenya Crooks in Douglasville earlier this month. Over seven episodes, he helped her with a better diet, weight training and cardiovascular exercise.

"You won't recognize her," he said. "The difference is night and day. It's going to be ridiculous. But it will also be extremely inspirational."

Crooks said he was mentally prepared coming in based on seeing her on "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." "I will work you hard but I'm your psychologist, too... I kind of played the role of her counselor, her brother, her weight loss expert, her pastor... to help her get to the better version of herself."

He worked with her for three months for the show and continues to do so: "Weight loss is a life-long commitment. It's not like it's a finish line and they're done."

Crooks, who has been training for 17 years, said she was so out of shape, he had to start her on two-pound weights for her arms. She complained a lot in the beginning, he said. "Once she started seeing those curves and improvements. Once she was able to run a bit longer and endurance got better, she got better," he said.

He admits he was brought in to help her close the deal. WE-TV knew of him because of the Braxton sisters. Plus, he has run commercials on WE-TV reality shows. "I was always on TV," he said. "It was a match made in heaven."

On the diet side, he had her cut out carbs. "She liked to do the pizza stuff, the spaghetti stuff," he said. "She was really really huge into bread. We had to cut that out and monitor how many calories she was taking in." He had to convince her to eat stuff with green colors. "The only thing that was green was the mold in the house," he joked. He even managed to get her to consume kale. He focused her on lean meats, fruits and vegetables. Once she gets back to carbs, he said to do it in moderation. "You just can't do it every day," he said.

A Clemson football player, he tried to break into the NFL. When that didn't work out, he got into training. Over time, he expanded into sales. "It's now a multi-million dollar business," he said, noting his website, which sells supplements, an on-line weight loss program and DVDs.


"Mama June: From Not to Hot," debuting Friday, February 24, 10 p.m. WE-TV

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.