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Actress Kirstie Alley said profits from her new weight-loss product do not go to the controversial church of which she is a member.
After regaining all the weight she lost for Jenny Craig, Kirstie Alley has embarked on another public diet. But this time, the weight-loss program she’s selling is her own — and, the actress said, reports that’s it’s somehow connected to her Scientologist religion are unfounded.
On Tuesday in New York, TODAY’s Meredith Vieira asked Alley directly whether the “Organic Liaison” diet program is connected to Scientology.
“It’s such bullsh....” Alley started to say, before Vieira interrupted and stopped her from finishing a barnyard epithet.
‘It’s not true’
Vieira said that several Web sites and Scientology critics have reported that the directors of Alley’s company are top-level Scientologists, and that the business’s address is at the same building that houses Scientology offices in Clearwater, Fla.
“There are a lot of questions about how close these two groups are, and whether this isn’t just a front for Scientology,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Roger Friedman told NBC News.
“It’s not true. It’s not true,” Alley told Vieira. “I’m the top executive. The address in Clearwater is my accountant, and he’s a Scientology Jew. I don’t know what to say to it.”
Alley is one of several Hollywood celebrities — Tom Cruise and John Travolta are others — who are high-ranking members of the religion founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Two years ago it was widely reported that she donated $5 million to the religion, earning her “diamond meritorious” status.
Vieira asked Alley if Scientology shares in the profits from her weight-loss program.
“No, they don’t. I’m way too cheap to do that,” she said with a laugh.
Battle of the bulge
In 2005, Alley, who had ballooned to 200 pounds, signed on with Jenny Craig as a spokeswoman and did a series of commercials that followed her as she lost 75 pounds using Jenny Craig products.
Then Alley and Craig parted ways and the former “Cheers” star started gaining weight again. This time, she hit 230 pounds before she decided to develop her own weight-loss program.
Alley also signed with A&E for a reality series that will chronicle the 59-year-old’s efforts to get down to 145 pounds.
The show, “Kirstie Alley’s Big Life,” also features her two adopted teenage children, son True and daughter Lillie. It’s something of a departure for Alley, who professes to hate reality shows.
“The reason I hate reality shows is I don’t like snippy, backbiting, mean, degrading shows, and that’s pretty much the arena of most reality shows,” Alley told Vieira.
Her show is different, she said.
“I felt there was a place where you could see my kids don’t do drugs. They’re not banging down the booze. Our household is happy, we get along, we love each other,” she said. “We’re not all dysfunctional. We’re not all mean to each other. I thought there was a valid arena to see something that was real, that wasn’t mean.”
Alley is a paparazzi magnet, and the tabloids love putting “fat shots” of her on their covers. She’s been accused of being a serial dieter who’s alternated between fat and skinny for years. She said the perception is not true.
“I’ve actually only spent about four years of my entire life fat,” she told Vieira. “Once I lost it the last time, I didn’t think this would happen again. When it started happening again, I realized I need to create something for me that helps me with two things: craving, because that’s a big deal for me, and wanting to eat too much.”
In an excerpt from her show, she was shown in her bedroom with True and Lillie talking about her weight.
“When I started out in my career, I weighed like 118,” she tells her kids. “I think the first time they started this ‘fat’ thing was when I was pregnant and I had a miscarriage, that was really upsetting. And I actually gained 12 pounds, so they followed me around, and instead of talking about my miscarriage, they talked about how fat I was. It was mean. Evil.”
“That’s sick,” Lillie says.
“So it means that fat pictures of me sell tons of magazines,” Alley answers.
To Vieira, she added, “I think it sells magazines. That’s all. If it didn’t sell magazines, I wouldn’t be on the cover.” Alley said she once had lunch with Elizabeth Taylor, who said much the same thing.
“She said, ‘You and I, we have something in common. We’re always in the tabloids,’ ” the Emmy winner told Vieira. “You can’t quite figure out why. The paparazzi have followed me since the beginning of my career.”
A Pied Piper?
Alley said a side benefit of filming her own reality series is that the paparazzi who once camped out outside her house have disappeared. She assumes that’s because people who make a living photographing others don’t like being photographed themselves.
Alley’s Organic Liaison program costs about $5 a day, or about $1,700 a year, for the three supplements that are supposed to cleanse the body and curb appetite, according to her Web site. It advocates eating organically as being healthier.
The site has two disclaimers. One says: “Organic Liaison is a calorie-based weight loss program. Weight loss differs depending on the size, age, gender and activity level of the individual and is often more rapid at the beginning of the program. A weight loss of 2-3 pounds/week is expected as an average.”
The other says: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
Alley say she’s already lost about 20 pounds, all of it in front of the cameras. She said that some 50 or 60 people have tested the product. “One of my friends has lost over 55 pounds,” she told Vieira.
“I didn’t think I was going to be the Pied Piper for weight loss, but I’ve sort of become that,” Alley told Vieira. “I’m having fun doing this. I do need to be sort of a role model, whether it’s self-appointed or outwardly appointed. That’s sort of my responsibility now.”