Opinion: Latinos, Too, Want to be Losers on Television

Now that U.S. marketers have succeeded in positioning their sodas, cookies, burgers, ice cream, snacks and burritos among U.S. Hispanics, it is time for the media to step in and sell us the weight-loss reality television show, with Univision, nuvoTV and WAPA America leading the charge.

Come to think of it, the plan is almost picture perfect: Make us real fat, so that then we can feel great for shedding the extra weight in front of millions on national television and winning some fabulous prizes along the way.

U.S. Hispanics are no strangers to unscripted situations on television. Game shows, dancing competitions and beauty pageants are among our favorite TV shows. But for the most part, weight-loss mostly and extreme training have been out of bounds.

Until now.

The nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcaster, Univision, will bring us an original production titled “¡Sí, se puede!,” a Spanish-language version of “The Biggest Loser” co-produced by that show’s creator, Dave Broom, and Cuban media mogul Emilio Estefan.

The show, which is only in pre-production, is scheduled to premiere in early 2012, and at least today nobody seems to be bothered by the irony behind its politically-charged title. (United Farm Workers co-founder Cesar Chavez is said to have come up with the “¡Sí, se puede!” slogan during his 24-day fast in Arizona in 1972. The motto was later adopted by other labor unions and civil rights organizations and more recently by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, which proved to his many followers that, “Yes, he could.”)

Politics aside, Univision is positioning “¡Sí, se puede!” as a competition for families that want to “change their lives for the better.” And, of course, it will be pitching it hard to its growing roster of advertisers, which are surely already salivating at the sponsorship possibilities.

Just ask Puerto Rico’s WAPA-TV, which in 2010 premiered “Transformación Total,” a series challenging contestants to change their health, lifestyle and eating habits. The show can be seen on the mainland via cable under the name WAPA America. It was such a hit that WAPA was able to sign eight principal advertisers in only one week. “This is the quickest selling show I’ve ever seeing,” WAPA-TV President Joe Ramos told me in 2010. Among the sponsors of the eating healthy show? Sandwich chain Subway.

But if losing weight in Spanish is not your thing, and you consider yourself a more “acculturated” overweight Latino, “Operation: Osmin” might be the show for you. Coming July 4th on nuvoTV, Osmin Hernández (“the world’s most psychotic trainer”) will take 10 participants to extremes to get into shape in English –and a little bit of Spanglish.

Ready, set... thin up!

Laura Martínez is a New York-based journalist and the founder of MiBlogestublog.com.

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