Big woman's road to activism began when she beat the MVA

June 20, 1994|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Sun Staff Writer

Well, she's still fat.

Regina Elizabeth Guy, the woman who proved to the Motor Vehicle Administration -- and the world -- that she's not too fat to drive, tips the scales at 336 pounds. Correction. Make that 336 luminous, in-your-face-and-proud-of-it pounds.

In 1990, Ms. Guy was a 25-year-old, 367-pound nursing assistant deemed by the Motor Vehicle Administration as too fat to drive a car without special equipment. She took that as a rebuke, and so did a great many other fat folks who made Ms. Guy's case a cause celebre.

Today, Ms. Guy remains a fat activist. She is organizing the Larger Than Life support group, which will sponsor its first dance party July 2. The organization is a loose-knit group of about 15 fat friends and

"FAs" (that's "fat admirers") who lean on each other for fun and support. It's a haven, of sorts, for large people stuck in this thin-obsessed world.

But way before Larger Than Life was a fleck of an idea, Ms. Guy was living an everyday kind of life, never suspecting her weight would land her on national news.

XTC The saga began on a summer evening when Ms. Guy drove a friend's car with the high beams on. A police officer stopped her but didn't mention her weight at that time. But a few weeks later, Ms. Guy received a letter from the MVA saying it was going to examine her ability to drive again.

She was also asked to appear at a hearing to explain why her license shouldn't be revoked.

That letter quoted the officer as saying her weight made it impossible for her to sit behind the wheel of a car without special equipment. Ms. Guy got angry. Then she got a lawyer.

When the day for the hearing rolled around, local and national press converged upon the scene en masse. Under the bright glare of television cameras, Ms. Guy successful ly demonstrated to everyone that she had no problem driving her blue Dodge Aspen.

After that, Ms. Guy made national television appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show and CBS' "This Morning" to speak for the rights of fat people.

Today, the cameras are gone, but Ms. Guy is still active for her cause. And people shouldn't, in some misguided attempt at political correctness, refer to Ms. Guy as "weight-challenged," or even the seemingly benign "overweight."

L Ms. Guy is quick -- quick -- to correct those PC euphemisms.

"Fat! The word is fat! Not over weight," she says. "Over whose weight? Over what weight? Being called overweight is not acceptable, and 'fat' is not a four-letter word!"

Ms. Guy no longer works as a nursing assistant. She is busy starting a telemarketing business with a partner. And she has lost a few pounds, but not from dieting.

"I 'dieted' my way up to this weight," she says, explaining the effects of yo-yo diets. Ms. Guy concentrates on eating low-fat or no-fat meals now.

During a recent lunch, she ordered the chicken salad and staunchly refused an offer of french fries that were sitting near her. "I'm trying, I'm really trying to eat healthy," she says. "But on the other hand, if I really want a burger every once in a while, I will have one."

She's switched to skim milk, cut down on red meat, eats more turkey and low-fat cheese. "I'm not trying to lose weight. I'm trying to eat healthy," she explains.

She says things like her blood cholesterol and blood pressure are in good shape. Her weight goal? "If I could level off at 300 . . .," she says, leaving the question unanswered.

But then the moment of introspection is over and her characteristic feistiness returns.

"Being thin doesn't give you all of the brains, all of the ability for doing everything you want in life," she insists. "And being fat doesn't take it away."

This attractive woman with flawless skin and long, thick, curly red hair admits to being a "flamboyant" dresser when going out at night. She wants to let everyone know it's their problem -- not hers -- if they hate the way she looks. "If they don't want to see it flapping around, then don't look!" she says.

OK, so no one will ever accuse Regina Guy of being an introvert.

"You know how Kramer always bursts through that door on 'Seinfeld'?" says friend Peggy Williams. "Well, that's exactly how she is. That's how Regina enters a room."

However spirited she may be, though, Ms. Guy hurts when made the butt of derisive jokes and stares because of her weight. "I cannot go into a club without being ridiculed," she says. This is the side of Ms. Guy that isn't all laughs and snappy comments, friends say.

"Regina does have a lot going on inside of her," says friend Sheila Hunt.

For Ms. Guy and others, hanging out with friends from Larger Than Life is comforting -- it's why she began the group. "I can just be myself," she says.

Ms. Hunt, 37, does feel comfortable in any crowd -- no matter what size its people are. "But I do have friends who are very uncomfortable in a crowd, and for them, the support group is a good idea," says Ms. Hunt, who weighs about 200 pounds.

And for the people who love fat folks?

"This is a place for you to come meet them," Ms. Williams says. "Men who like fat women always tell me that they can't meet any. They say fat women always stay inside, and that's true. But, fat women and men can come here and be comfortable," she says.

And Ms. Williams knows firsthand the abuse some people heap on fat people.

"I weigh almost 500 pounds myself," Ms. Williams says. "I look at the group as a way of going out to listen to music, have fun, have a good time and not be the only fat person in the room."

Larger Than Life can be reached at (410) 675-8091.

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