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'The Biggest Loser' producer Lisa Hennessy: We're not exploiting the kids

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 01/02/2013 

The Biggest Loser executive producer Lisa Hennessy insists the upcoming fourteenth season of the reality weight-loss competition, which will feature teenagers 13-17 years of age for the first time in the show's history, isn't taking advantage of children.

"We've done [the show] in a way where I feel like, you know, there's a lot of criticism out there right now in terms of exploiting kids. We're not exploiting the kids. We're helping the kids. And I really truly think that this is something that needed to happen, and we're really helping these kids in a major way and showing by example," Hennessy said during a recent conference call with reporters.

"[For instance], to see [Sanjana "Sunny" Chandrasekar]'s transformation over the last three months is incredibly inspirational. And what she's done in her community and with her family is incredible, and it's going to be a really amazing season and a really great thing for everybody to watch as a family."

Hennessy went on to explain why show executives decided to feature kids on The Biggest Loser although they were aware putting kids in the limelight might spark some serious controversy.

"You know what? It was the right choice I think for what's happening in the country right now. Childhood obesity is a big epidemic. And The Biggest Loser is the premier show dealing with weight loss. And so, it was a tricky decision and we didn't take it lightly," she said.

"We sat -- we put together an obesity summit talking about it before we made the final decision. And I feel like it was the right decision to make for what's happening in America, because kids are the ones that are coming to us saying they need help and such. And so, we took it very seriously."

Hennessy apparently has high hopes for the next season of The Biggest Loser and is confident in her product.

"The fans will not be disappointed," she noted.

As for the return of trainer Jillian Michaels to the show, Hennessy told reporters she's got a season full of girl power on her hands.

"This is the season for Jill to come back with us adding the kids to the cast, and it's the season for -- it sounds silly to say but, you know, we're bringing a lot of feminine energy to the show. [I'm] an executive producer who is female [and] Jillian's back," she explained, adding that childhood obesity expert and pediatrician Dr. Joanna Dolgoff will also be joining the cast to assist the kids in getting healthy and achieving their personal goals.

"We have Dr. Dolgoff on the show. You know, it's really about empowering women and working in collaboration, and it's been fantastic having [Jillian] back."

The fourteenth season of The Biggest Loser will premiere with a two-night event on Sunday, January 6 at 9PM ET/PT and Monday, January 7 at 8PM ET/PT on NBC. 

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