MTV’s newest reality star, Chelsea Settles, is young, black, loves Kim Kardashian and is moving to LA to be in the fashion industry. So far, sounds like the typical ingredients for another salacious guilty pleasure based in Hollywood. Add in some scripted bobble-headedness and you have The Hills. Throw in a heap of actual wealth and a penchant for name-dropping, you get Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Subtract tact and add a dash of face-palming and you get Basketball Wives LA.
But Chelsea is none of that. What makes her different than some of her fellow reality TV stars in La La Land is not only that she weighs over 300 pounds, but that she’s quite possibly the sweetest, most endearing person that’s ever gotten an eponymous reality show.
The show’s premiere begins with an emotional honesty that is disarming. “It’s pretty obvious what my number one passion is,” Chelsea says to a producer. The frame cuts to a scene of her in the drive-through at a fast food restaurant. Close ups of Chelsea inhaling more so than eating her food in the restaurant’s parking lot are followed by her saying that she feels better already, right before she bursts into tears and puts her fast food wrappers into the “hiding place” in her car.
According to Chelsea’s doctor, she is morbidly obese with a BMI of 50 percent. Chelsea is ready to change her life. Not only does she want to lose weight, she wants to leave her small Pennsylvania town, head to LA with her favorite cousin and get involved in marketing/branding fashion. Her immediate barriers are her not very supportive, cheating, long-distance boyfriend (Rory, go sit down somewhere), her desire to continue caring for her sick mom and the ebbs and flows of her self-esteem.
There is a gut-wrenching scene where Chelsea musters up the courage to go to a nightclub for her cousin’s birthday only to be essentially turned away at the door by the bouncer. As she heads to her car she is harassed by drunk strangers yelling “You’re a fat b*tch! You’re fat!” In tears, Chelsea drives home alone and sulks for days.
Chelsea is smart, sweet, very stylish, has a smile that lights up a room and you find yourself really rooting for her. I’m not spoiling anything (since it’s in the previews) by saying that Chelsea does in fact make it to LA, but now she has to battle her weight and self-esteem issues in one of the most ego-bruising, superficial cities on earth. Like any other “reality” show on television these days, Chelsea Settles surely has some manufactured encounters and ready-made story arcs, but unlike a lot of other reality stars, Chelsea’s reactions to these real and not so real situations feels genuine.
Chelsea settles? She’s doing anything but these days.
Chelsea Settles is on MTV on Tuesdays at 11pm EST.