Kirstie Alley is back in the spotlight again-this time, documenting her public battle with weight loss in her new reality show, Kirstie’s Big Life. But now, the former Jenny Craig spokesperson is involving her kids: daughter Lillie, 15 and son, True, 17. We caught up with Kirstie the week before the premiere to chat about not lying, raising non-spoiled children, and combating those pesky Scientology rumors. –Andrea Zimmerman
What’s your parenting philosophy?
To do whatever I have to do to support my children. It’s 100% my responsibility to [release] them into the world with as much knowledge and survival tactics as I possibly can. Also – and maybe this came from being an older mother – just love them! No matter what they do, love them but don’t spoil them and make them into brats – that does them a great disservice. [My kids] aren’t going to be entitled or get anything they want in life; they’re going to earn it.
What advice did your parents give you?
My dad said, “Buy everything in cash and don’t lie.” At first I said, “Don’t lie? This guy’s nuts. That’s not going to make a difference.” [But] it does.
What’s been your biggest challenge as a parent?
It hasn’t been particularly challenging. That’s probably where scientology helps a family, because as scientologists we’re taught that you are responsible for what’s going on in your life. And that’s great because kids – especially teenagers – have secrets that they don’t feel like they can tell you. In scientology, we learn to make a space safe for our kids to tell us anything so that the kid knows that he’s not going to get nailed when he tells you. If the kid doesn’t [feel safe], they’ll just draw away from you. So with my kids, sooner or later they’ll come to me and say, “I smoked a cigarette or I did this:” And I have to bite my tongue and say, “Okay, I’m glad you told me that” because I am. It keeps you close. So challenge-wise, sometimes my son is a little too brutally honest and it’s too much information, but I’d rather have that than the opposite.
Did your kids have any influence on your decision to do another reality show?
Probably. There are nights when I’m grief-y and think, “Oh, my kids are 16 almost 18; they’ll be leaving the house soon.” I had gotten a little needy, wanting them to do everything with me. So when they said they wanted jobs, I thought, well, [including them in the show] would be a good chance to see them every day. Although I hate reality TV, I thought, this is an opportunity for me to create something that I consider good reality TV. When we pitched [the show] to A&E, we said, “We don’t hate each other and we’re not going to pretend like we’re taking drugs.” It’s like Ozzie and Harriet meets The Addams Family because we’re really eccentric but pure, a little old fashioned but a bit like we just dropped down the rabbit hole.
How do you talk to your daughter about weight and body image? Do you think she feels any pressure?
Being fat’s [not] her goal but being a [specific] weight isn’t her goal either. She’s pretty sane on the subject. Let’s ask her: Lillie, do you feel any pressure?
Lillie: A little bit but it’s not something I pay attention to a lot. I can see that a lot of my friends do, but I don’t want to do that.
Kirstie: When you look at magazines – and this is just my viewpoint – there’s natural weight. A lot of girls at 14, 15 are naturally skinny as hell. But as they get a bit older, there are horror stories when they smoke instead of eat, [do] drugs, take diet pills, throw up to make themselves stay [skinny]. There’s such insanity in that. But I think there’s insanity on the other side, too. Like who gives a f*ck, let me be fat. My personality doesn’t necessarily want rules, but that’s not successful in the final hour. There are rules, there are penalties, there are barriers – it’s just the way this universe is built, so get used to it.
Were you concerned about what you’d look like on the show?
At first I wasn’t concerned. I thought, “I’m not one of the Kardashians; I’m not going to have hair and makeup, let them see me natural!” But then I saw footage and I thought, “Oh my god! Natural’s not good anymore! Natural’s good when you’re 27!” The other day, I said to my cinematographer, “Do you have to shoot my ass every time? It’s supposed to be [Kirstie’s] Big Life not [Kirstie’s] Big Ass, come on! But my personal goal is that you can shoot me from any angle, any place.
You’re very close to John Travolta and Kelly Preston. Are they almost part of the family?
John’s like he’s my husband, [especially] with financial affairs. He’ll call me out of the blue and say, “How much do you have in your savings account? If you didn’t work for three years, what would you do?” He’s my sounding board.
Why do you think scientology has been criticized so much in the media?
The only thing that I can come up with is that it’s a new religion; it’s only been around since the fifties. I think people are curious. We think certain things are barbaric like lobotomy, electroshock, unnecessary drugging of people; we’re pretty outspoken about it. There’s a lot of money behind drug companies. But you’d never say, “What religion is Jenny Craig?” Or J.Lo, who has a clothing line. “Oh my god! This is a front for Catholics!”
The last time you lost weight you posed in a bikini on Oprah. What are you planning this time around?
I’m thinking about doing the whole nude thing.