Monday, October 26, 2009

My Interview with Pam the Blam - Part Two

Pam the Author!

If you missed Part One of my recent interview with author and P90X superstar Pam the Blam, click here.  Otherwise, proceed to Part Two, which begins right after the jump...


Under the pen name of “Nashieqa Washington,” you wrote a book entitled “Why Do Black People Love Fried Chicken.” What made you decide to sit down and write this book?

I’m a pretty open person, and easy to approach, so a lot of people over the years have felt comfortable asking me questions they wouldn’t want to ask other people.  One day, a girl asked me a question and I just thought, “Wow – she’s really asking me this?” I answered the question, and then I just said “that’s it – I’m writing a book!” I want to help people who have these questions, but also keep myself from having to answer them over and over again.

The questions you raise and answer in your book include questions like “why don’t black people move back to Africa?” “why are black women always angry?” and “why do black people talk to the movie screen?” These questions seem like they’d be coming from the mouths of folks who are at best ignorant, but at worst, incredibly racist. So when you wrote your book, who did you envision being your target audience?

Anybody who’s curious. I’m a really curious person, and frankly, I think treating race as a taboo subject is just making things worse. A lot of people have these kinds of questions or thoughts in their minds, and they just don’t have anywhere to go or anyone they feel comfortable asking.

But some of the questions in the book come from people who weren’t exactly curious. When someone asks, “why don’t you go back to Africa?”, they aren't asking me nicely. It’s not as if they honestly wanted to know, “hey, Pam, did you ever think about visiting Africa?” [Laughs.]

Who buys your book?

One group of buyers that shocks me are people who are either married to a black person or have black people in their family by marriage. And a lot of black people buy my book. But it’s really odd: When I sold [the book] in person in Venice, I found that a lot of people would confront me with their own issues around race – telling me about my book or telling me off.

When people tell you off when you’re selling your book, what are they saying to you, and who are they? Are they black people?  Non-black people?

Black people and non-black people. A non-black person could come to me with the same argument as a black person, like, “Why are you doing this? Why are you promoting these stereotypes?” Both groups are very defensive of this idea that I’m setting back race relations and black people in particular, and I always have to say: “Would you like to see the book? Are you even interested in what’s inside? Or are you just going to stand there and give me a hard time based on the cover?” Obviously, I designed the book cover to be provocative, but when some people see it, that’s the end of the conversation.

I’ve also had, though, an equal number of people – both black and non-black – come up and say “hey, great job. I had these questions, and this book is going to help.”

The greatest thing is when a child comes up and sees my big poster board of the book cover and says to their mom or dad, “I like fried chicken” or “what does that mean, daddy?” I love that because they haven’t yet been tainted by racist stereotypes.

Any more books in the works?

Yes! I have plans to do a follow-up piece to this book. I didn’t want to do the same kind of book, so now I’m working on a more solution-oriented companion piece.

Let’s shift gears and move on to the subject I’m sure most of my blog's readers want to know about: Your involvement with P90X. First of all, have you always been interested in fitness and health?

In my own fitness and health, absolutely. I’m pretty athletic. I love sports and outdoor activities, and I can even exercise right here. I’m sitting here looking at my flexiball and resistance bands.

I read that you brought your flexiball and bands to Panama with you.

And my jump rope!  That’s all you really need.

How did you first get involved with P90X?

A friend of mine saw a posting at the Venice Beach Gold’s Gym, asking for people to be part of a test group. We didn’t really know what it was, except that it was supposed to be a 90-day program that promised to “change your life,” and they’d give you these fitness supplements, recovery drink and protein bars for free. So we thought, “Why not? Let’s check it out!”

So for 90 days, you’d show up and work out?

Yes, there was this studio space they rented out, and we went through the workout just like you guys do with the DVDs. 

Did the test group do any exercises or routines that were different than what ended up seeing on the videos?

I can’t speak to whether they were refining it at the time, but the exercises you see on the DVD are the exercises that the test group did.

What were the people in the test group like?

It was just a really diverse group of people. I hate to say this because I’m on the DVDs, but you kind of get the more "camera-friendly" people on the DVDs. We had some larger people in the test group.  I remember there was an actress in the test group, and she was obviously very camera-friendly, but she didn’t end up in the DVDs because she wouldn’t sign away her residuals.

Was she a prominent actress?

No, but she had a SAG card and she was working, so she was savvy about what she could get. She was accustomed to getting paid for her appearances. There were just all kinds of people in [the test group] because they came from all over. They were just interesting, normal people.

And you spent a lot of time with them.

90 days!

How many people were in the test group?

Oh, gosh – I want to say there had to be at least 60.

All working out together?

In a humongous room, yeah. And we each had our own weights, pull-up bars and things.  A lot of people ended up weeding themselves out once they realized what they were getting into. Either they couldn’t handle it or they couldn’t be there every day after work. We had to go on Saturdays, too. But I loved it! I just kept thinking: “Okay, every day, you have to be committed, you have to show up, this man’s going to work you out like nobody’s business, and you get all this stuff for free!”

So how many people finished the 90 days?

I’m really just guessing, but I’m going to say about half of the group. 

That’s still pretty impressive.

I think so. But you have to remember what we were getting too: All of this free stuff! And this woman who was working on the nutrition program would come in and talk to each of us about our diet.

You know, in hindsight, I did not even fully take advantage of what [Beachbody] offered. I didn’t realize what an opportunity this was. I was in pretty good shape when I started, and I was actually skeptical that they could get me into better shape. Looking back, had I stuck to the diet and the plan and all the things they offered in terms of support, I probably would have been in the most phenomenal shape of my life.

What didn’t you take advantage of?

Mainly the nutritional guidance. I definitely strayed afar from the plan. Again, I was already in pretty good shape, so I wasn’t interested in losing weight. I didn’t completely ignore the nutrition plan, but I certainly did not adhere to the recommended portion sizes and the rules that got laid down. What about you? Are you doing the diet?

Well, during Phase 1, I was trying to follow the diet as strictly as I could, but as I'm closing in on Day 90, I’ve kind of thrown caution to the wind.  At this point, I’m still trying to eat healthy, but I’m not counting calories or watching my carbs or portion sizes as carefully.

Right! The portion sizes and carbs and ratios and all that – I can’t be bothered to live that way. I wonder if it’s sustainable for most people.  And if you have a certain amount of muscle that you’ve built up, you’re not going to gain weight overnight if you have that brownie or slice a pizza.  It’s just not going to happen – though you obviously shouldn’t make it a regular part of your diet.

. . .

Click here to read Part Three, in which Pam talks about her first impressions of Tony and reveals which P90X video she did not want to be in (but ended up in it anyway)!