Michelle Buteau is having a mo’ment. The TV host of The Circle, author and actress is now starring on her most personal project yet. Survival of Thickest, a new dramedy based on her memoir of the same name, drops today on Netflix.
Buteau plays Mavis, a 38-year-old stylist who wholly embraces her curves and wants other to do the same. “I'm overcome with joy and excitement that I get to be size 18-20 with opinions and celebrate myself, and then people hire me,” Buteau declared to EBONY at the series’ VIP red carpet screening inside Metrograph in New York City.
“What's so beautiful about it now is that I'm the boss and I'm in charge. And we're gonna be the change we need to see. Because when you have a platform like Netflix, use it.”
Mavis is navigating life after a major break-up, and let’s just say, it gets a little messy. "If you're not a mess, you're not living life, honestly,” she exclaimed. While Buteau is a 45-year-old married mother of twins, she can recall the tribulations Mavis goes through as she finds herself and her purpose. “What I did was take everything I learned in my twenties and thirties and apply it here because something happens when we're about to turn 40, or even 50. Like, are you actually gonna live like this for the rest of your life? Are you gonna be in this job and in this neighborhood and with this person?”
While you ponder that life dilemma, take note that's there’s no uncertainty about Mavis’ namesake. “Mavis is my grandmother's name. I loved her so much,” Buteau shared. “She was my person, my first soulmate. What does it look like when you're a strong woman, and you're influenced by other strong women? The answer? It's Mavis."
From humble beginnings at a VH1 morning talk show to now helming her own Netflix series, the excitement of embarking a new project remains the same. “The way I felt every morning at Big Morning Buzz Live, when it was live television, is the same feeling I have now,” Buteau said.
But now, she’s calling the shots as Thickest's series co-creator and executive producer.
“Most of the heads of our departments are Black women, because it’s important for everybody to see that we can be in leadership positions and get it done, and not only get it done, but better.”
And then there’s the series' fashion, which celebrates all sizes and genders. "My costume designer Keia Bounds found a bunch of designers that wanted to run with me." The series brings inclusive brands, like Wildfang, to light. Buteau admits that while the the fashion industry is making more of an effort to cater more to every size, “there's still a lot of work that needs to be done and this was the perfect job to showcase it all. And quite frankly, I wanted a budget for fashion. No shade, but I wasn't wearing the bargain rack."
Survival of the Thickest is currently streaming on Netflix.