For over 17 years, Los Angeles-based radio personality Kurt “Big Boy” Alexander has been lighting up the airwaves and entertaining listeners, first as an evening host, and then with his own morning show “Big Boy’s Neighborhood” on Power 106 FM. Starting out as a bodyguard for the West Coast group Tha Pharcyde, Big Boy was able to get the attention of those in the radio business based on his fun and likable personality alone. However, weighing over 500 pounds at the time helped him get noticed, too. Big Boy truly was a Big Boy, and it wasn’t until legendary actor and rapper Will Smith issued an on-air weight loss challenge to him, that he began to take his health and weight seriously.
After an up and down battle, Big Boy decided to have a duodenal switch prodcedure done, and the result has seen the once 500 pound man lose over 250 pounds and now sport a slim frame. With his morning show now syndicated across the nation and a series of acting roles behind him, Big Boy now adds the title of author to his repetoire with his new book “An XL Life: Staying Big At Half The Size,” which details his life and the events surrounding his weight loss. AllHipHop.com sat down with the iconic radio personality to discuss his fascinating career and just-released book in this new in-depth, exclusive interview:
AllHipHop.com: I’ve been a listener since when you started at Power 106 in the evening and The Baka Boys were on in the morning.
Big Boy: That’s history right there. The Baka Boys were the ones that put me in a position to get that job.
AllHipHop.com: You started out as a bodyguard for Tha Pharcyde, and you had no prior radio experience before you become a radio personality, right?
Big Boy: None whatsoever. When I was a kid, I used to have one of those old tape decks. My little sister and I would play around, and I did my own show called WKURT – because Kurt is my real name. As far as real radio experience, I had none. I never thought that I could be a radio guy or even had a voice for it. Even when I was around The Baka Boys, I never thought that I could do this. I love music, and I love entertainment. I knew that eventually I would do something with music involved.
I was a student of the music and entertainment first. When I became involved in radio, my boss told me that he could teach me radio, but he couldn’t teach me to be a personality – and I had that. I’ve always had the personality.
AllHipHop.com: So being a bodyguard wasn’t your aspiration, I take it?
Big Boy: No. I wasn’t the guy that said, “I want to be the best bodyguard in the world.” I would watch Tha Pharcyde on stage and be like, “Man. I want to do that!” I enjoyed being a bodyguard, but when my duty with Tha Pharcyde ended, I wasn’t trying to go get another client. I had a level head and was good at protecting people. There was an opportunity that came through a friendship to be a bodyguard for that group, and it was exciting for all of us. We traveled and those were my first stamps on my passport. It was my chance to be around music.
AllHipHop.com: Did you have any dangerous moments as a bodyguard? You know, bust a head or two?
Big Boy: Tha Pharcyde was a level-headed group. It wasn’t like we were out getting shot at, or I had to run these guys out. The one time we did have, it wasn’t even Pharcyde related. We were in Dayton, Ohio, in some little redneck hick part of town. We got in to it with some guys that were on some racial stuff. Me and the other group bodyguard handled it accordingly – beat the sh*t out of them [laughter].
AllHipHop.com: Were you nervous when you got behind that radio microphone for the first time?
Big Boy: No, because I didn’t know what it was. There are some people in radio now that know where they’re going, and they have these big expectations. They put all of this extra pressure on themselves. If somebody would’ve told me to go in there and do a kick a** job because I was going to get billboards and have the opportunity to buy my mom a house – it would’ve been hard with that extra pressure. Going in there and being told to just remember my name and the name of the station, it was fine for me. I wasn’t thinking about how many people out there were listening. I was just in a room with my guys having fun and that allowed me not to be nervous. I sounded like my listeners and they in turn enjoyed me.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve worked with so many big names in music and entertainment throughout your career.
Big Boy: Yeah! I’m a fan of the business. Even after being at Power 106 for 17 years, I trip out on having someone like Drake coming in. It’s crazy that I can see Jennifer Lopez, and she knows me. I remember paying to go see Ice Cube in concert, and fast forward years later, he’s performing at my birthday party. I pray to God that I never get used to that.
AllHipHop.com: Which celebrity do you get starstruck over?
Big Boy: Still to this day? Ice Cube can come in, and I’m like, “Damn. That’s Ice Cube.” The same with Mariah Carey. Then there was the time that I sat down with Michael Jackson. I grew up on Michael Jackson! This is Ida’s son, Kurt Alexander, sitting down with Michael Jackson. Crazy! I understand that cats are human beings and not to put them on pedestals, but it’s just wild that I can sit down with these people, and they know who I am.
AllHipHop.com: What’s your most memorable moment on the air?
Big Boy: It took us about a year to put together this Jennifer Lopez backstage breakfast. At the time, I was having a lot of problems with my post-duodenal switch gastric bypass surgery. I had a catheter to my chest that was feeding me. I was in the hospital, but I checked myself out to do this broadcast. My doctor told me that if anything went wrong with my feeding tube, I could have a seizure within 30 minutes. My doctor doesn’t want me to sign out, but I do it anyway. I guaranteed him that I would go back to the hospital once I was done. I get there and we have 600 people at this live broadcast backstage breakfast. Jennifer Lopez is there, and I’m literally walking in with the hospital bracelets still on. I go sit down, and then I notice this white liquid. When I sat down, I severed my feeding tube cord. I now have 30 minutes before having a seizure.
It took us a year to sit down and put all of this together. I’ve got 600 hundred listeners who are die-hard Jennifer Lopez fans. I’ve been promoting the show, and we have to record it so it can be on the air. I called my doctor and told him what happened. He told me to leave ,but I explained the situation and told him that I could knock the show out in a couple of hours. He told me to go ahead and do the show if I really needed to do it, but to go to the hospital as soon as it was finished. That meant no lingering and taking pictures with the fans. I did the show, but I had to go right back in to the hospital after that.
Another moment that I remember is when my mother passed. I called in to the station and spoke to my crew and told them about what happened, and why I couldn’t be there with them. I shared that with the listeners. Also, the 9/11 show was memorable. We came in that morning ready to do a regular show. Fuzzy Fantabulous walked in and said that some idiot crashed in to the World Trade Center. We watched the news live on the air and saw the second plane crash into the Towers. We are watching this chaos and tried to go back to doing a regular show, but we couldn’t. We had to change the whole climate of the show. We friends in New York calling in and telling us the things that they saw. My boss calls that one my best show.
AllHipHop.com: How were you able to do a show with the thought of possibly having a seizure on your mind?
Big Boy: Once the show started, I didn’t even think about it. If I would’ve invested my time worrying, something might’ve happened. It felt effortless once the show got going.
AllHipHop.com: I was listening that morning when Will Smith called in to your show and gave you that weight-loss challenge.
Big Boy: We were on the air with Will, and we were talking about it. Off the air, we spoke about it some more, and Will asked me how old I was. I was 32 at the time. He asked me about my heart. You could tell he cared. I started losing weight, and the deal was for $1,000 a pound [lost] to my charity of choice. Will kept checking in, and six months later, I lost 111 pounds. We did the check presentation for the charity and right after, that I went out and got some chicken nachos. I put all of that weight back on. That’s when I started to feel horrible. I had shortness of breath, lower back pain, and my legs were feeling numb.
AllHipHop.com: And that’s when you decided to have the surgery?
Big Boy: Yes. The procedure that I had is called the duodenal switch. With this surgery, I can’t go back to 500 pounds. My body will not allow it because it’s a malabsorption procedure. The body absorbs everything across the board – every vitamin and nutrient. It also takes knowing when to tell yourself that you don’t need something. I don’t eat a lot of fried foods anymore. I’m conscious about my eating.
AllHipHop.com: If you didn’t get that surgery, do you think you would have been dead by now?
Big Boy: Definitely. I knew that in the midst of all of the great vibes, comedy, and laughter that I was having, I would be dead in less than a year if I didn’t do something drastic. There was a feeling that I can’t tell you – I’ve never had that before. I told myself, “Dude. You are going to die.” I wouldn’t have made it to 2011, going in to 2012, with the same horrible feeling and eating habits. I started to do research on the surgery, and I asked myself if I had more life behind me than in front of me. When you think about it, do you see any 500 pound men that are 66 years old walking around?
Big Boy: Exactly. Whatever your vices are whether it’s drinking, eating, unprotected sex – it’s like a charge card that you’re charging. At some point, a statement is going to come, and what’s the price that you’re going to have to pay? Is it your heart, lungs, liver, or kidneys? Whatever you charge, you’re going to have to pay.
AllHipHop.com: This led you to write this new book?
Big Boy: Yes. When I had the surgery, I never thought to write things down because I was planning to write a book. It had gotten to a point that so many people had questions about the surgery or losing weight, that I became like an ambassador for weight loss. I tell people that this surgery is the last option. It’s not the first, and it’s not the easy way out – especially with all of the complications that I’ve been through.
AllHipHop.com: So people really do feel like having a surgery is their easy way out?
Big Boy: I’ve had people tell me that they want to lose 50 pounds and want to do that surgery. You know, I had one friend who had the lap-band done, and he didn’t even know what part of his body the lap-band was at! That’s how quick we as people are jumping on the surgery table now. I’m not pro or con. I’m not telling anybody what they can’t do. I’m on my “Fried Chicken Anonymous” right now. All I can talk about is myself. If you ask me about my opinion or about what I went through, then I can give you an answer. If you are going in to this thinking that it’s going to be instant happiness? Naw! If you’re not happy before you lay down, you’re not going to be happy when you wake up.
AllHipHop.com: How challenging was it to write this book?
Big Boy: It was very revealing to me and it unveiled a lot. I thought I knew myself. The more I spoke to Sarah Tomlinson – the one who helped me with the book – I had to peel off a lot of layers. I had to see my addiction to food and realize how I came to 500 pounds. One time I was editing and reading over the pages on vacation. My wife was sleeping and the kids were in the room – and I’m sitting there crying. It was to the point where I woke my wife up just by how loud I was. It wasn’t just the obesity. It was reading about my family, all seven of us, being homeless and sleeping in the mall. It was about my mother taking my sister’s radio away and pawning it. The reason why you won’t see any baby pictures in my book is because we lost all of our stuff in storage and in a fire. Then there are the happy moments. It was crazy and difficult to write all of this, and it was hard to hand it over to my family. That’s their story also, and they let me know that I kept it real.
AllHipHop.com: What’s next? You have your radio show. You’ve done acting, and now you are an author.
Big Boy: I’ve got some television stuff. I just did a production deal with VH1. I executive produced a movie called Exit Strategy. I’m in that also. I also just shot the pilot for “Big Boy’s Neighborhood.” I’m just trying to extend that brand. My kids like food and electricity, so I’m trying to provide that for them [laughter].
Big Boy’s new book, An XL Life: Staying Big at Half the Size, is available on December 27 via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major book retailers.