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Viral sensation Whitney Thore debuts in TLC reality show

Photo above: Of course there will be dancing in Whitney Thore’s TLC reality show, “My Big Fat Fabulous Life.”  |  TLC

If you’re one of the millions who’ve caught Whitney Thore’s dance videos on YouTube, you’re going to want to turn into “My Big Fat Fabulous Life,” the reality show starring the dancing queen that debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, on TLC.

Thore became a viral sensation quite by accident. She was working as a radio producer on a North Carolina morning show that was looking for videos for the station’s YouTube page. Well, they’d come to the right person. A lifelong dancer, Thore had been making videos of herself and her moves forever. So she put one up about 1½ years ago. It was titled “Fat Girl Dancing.”

To date, that video has had more than 6.2 million views. Something about the 5-foot-2½, 380-pound Thore dancing — with great moves and such joy in her face — struck a chord. One video became another, and another. Before she knew it, she was getting messages from across the globe, people supporting her positive message. That sparked Thore’s launching the No Body Shame Campaign (#nobodyshamecampaign), which promotes self-love and acceptance. The videos and campaign have helped Thore remain positive.

In “My Big Fat Fabulous Life,” viewers will see Thore — who’s quick with the witty remark — as she goes through the adventures and challenges she meets in our society, where people who might be politically correct about other differences can be brutal about those who are not thin. And yes, there will be dancing during the nine-episode series, including Thore teaching a dance class.

The 30-year-old is back living at home with her parents, who from what I’ve gleaned from reading Thore’s Facebook page, can be quite the characters. So there’s that side of her story, too, that many will feel a kinship with. While living back home at this age requires what she calls “a delicate balance,” during a telephone interview she says she knows she’s “really, really lucky to have them” because they are so supportive.

Thore wasn’t always fat or so accepting of her size. She had been thin until she went to college, where her plan had been to double-major in theater and dance. Within six months she had gained 50 pounds and flunked out of the dance portion of her major because she didn’t want to see herself in the class mirror. By the time her freshman year was over, she had put on 100 pounds.

A diagnosis later would show Thore has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormonal condition that among other things, makes weight gain extremely easy and weight loss difficult. Though she once lost 100 pounds through obsessive exercise and bad food choices, she eventually regained that weight and more, leaving her at her current 380 pounds.

She’s hoping the reality show “can help open up a conversation and dialogue about being fat.” One thing she remembers, when she returned from college after just six months with 50 pounds more, no one — friends or family — mentioned it. Not so much because they were being polite but the idea of a person, particularly a female, being so overweight was such a shameful thing. After all, as Thore points out, it’s so drummed into young females that they have to be thin to be happy or successful in life.

Thore’s glad the show provides an opportunity to show a fat person living life — and joyfully at that. “We’re grossly underrepresented in TV time,” she says. Living large, as she does, is “unfortunately not unique at all.” (With her videos, so many people have told her, “You’re living my life.”)

And if you think it’s just the overweight who are embracing Thore and her positive attitude, think again. Very often it’s thin people who get on board with her body image views.

That’s fine with her, and she hopes everyone — fat or thin — will get and embrace the message she’s trying to convey: “Everybody deserves to live their life to the fullest.”