‘Biggest Loser’ Winner Michael Ventrella Struggles with Life after the Show

LIVING (LESS) LARGE: Since winning on the weight-loss reality show The Biggest Loser last season, Michael Ventrella has struggled to capitalize on his 15 minutes of fame

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Biggest Loser Michael Ventrella
“The good part is I’m living, not only with my body but with my life,” says Ventrella of his post-Loser experience.
Last spring, when Michael Ventrella, a finalist on NBC’s hit reality show The Biggest Loser, stepped on the giant scale that would weigh him like a prize head of cattle, he did so with a certain swagger. He took off his white sweatband, twirled it around his finger, and flung it to the studio audience as if it were a garter. To win, the 31-year-old Bartlett man needed to weigh less than 269 pounds, almost half his starting weight of 526 pounds. The numbers on the scale flipped wildly back and forth, then stopped at 262. Fountains of multicolored confetti exploded, and Ventrella was smothered in hugs from family members and his celebrity trainers. He raised his arms in triumph. He’d won $250,000, and he believed his life had changed for the better.

In some ways, it had. He started running marathons. Women asked him out. At a recent breast cancer marathon, his new physique attracted wolf whistles from female admirers. His Facebook page has more than 5,500 fans.

But aside from the ego boost and the excitement of fitting into pants with a 38-inch waist, Ventrella hasn’t found a way to capitalize on his celebrity. His prize money is long gone, half to the taxman and the rest to paying off his student loans, credit cards, and truck loan. “I have no money coming in and a lot of money going out. That scares me to death,” he says.

Ventrella is basically broke, and though he spent the fall in Los Angeles, he’s officially still living at home with his parents. He has no health insurance. Most of his time is spent attending promotional events for The Biggest Loser, a Survivor-type show in which contestants are sequestered for 18 weeks on a ranch, work out for eight hours or more a day, and are ranked by percentage of weight lost. At weekly weigh-ins, the two contestants who have lost the least weight are vulnerable to being voted off.

As the most recent winner, Ventrella isn’t on NBC’s payroll, although he is spending much of his time promoting the show. It’s part of the contract he signed as a contestant; he receives only a modest per diem rate, plus expenses. Sometimes the network argues over paying his parking.

“It’s been good and bad,” he says. “The good part is I’m living, not only with my body but with my life. A year ago, I’d be trapped in a basement bedroom, jamming out on my computer.”

And the bad part? Well, it turns out that in the weight-loss world, reality kicks in when the reality show ends.

* * *

On a late summer day, Ventrella, sporting a red bandanna around his forehead and wearing a Superman T-shirt, sips a glass of water in Marino’s Pizzeria & Italian Cafe in west suburban Wood Dale. It’s a cozy spot where he and his cousin used to hang out when they were kids. (His uncle and the restaurant’s owner are partners in a construction company.) No doubt the generous portions at Marino’s—along with the Italian home cooking of Ventrella’s mother, Maria—played a role in his relentless weight gain over the years.

The menu offers fried calamari with fries. A heaping serving of homemade ravioli in vodka sauce can be augmented with meatballs, sausage, or chicken, and the Saturday special is Cheesy Beef, a sandwich on garlic bread—served with fries on the side, of course. But today, Ventrella sticks with water only.

Even aside from the bountiful meals, nature, it seems, stacked the deck against him from the start. Born at 12 pounds, Ventrella doubled his weight in the first month. By the time he was 13, his waist was the same size it is today. But his growing heft wasn’t all negative. He made the football team at Glenbard North High School and became a standout lineman. After high school, he attended the College of DuPage and then transferred to Columbia College Chicago, where he majored in marketing. Later, he began working as a DJ and spent six years performing at Medusa, a nightclub in Elgin.

The work contributed to his ongoing weight gain. Surrounded by booze and bar snacks while he jammed, he regularly chowed down on fast food on his way home in the early-morning hours.

Ventrella knows that maintaining his relatively svelte physique is critical if he is going to turn his Biggest Loser status into cash. After four months, he has regained more than 20 pounds, but he says he isn’t as focused on keeping his weight down as he is on building muscle. “My objective is different now. I’m bodybuilding. It’s inevitable I’m going to be gaining weight,” he says. “The one thing that does terrify me is not being able to support myself or support the ability to go out and help people.”

It’s not that Ventrella hasn’t tried to turn his 15 minutes of fame into a living. He has scouted for an agent, asking the Biggest Loser trainers, Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, for recommendations. But West Coast agents weren’t interested in him, and the agents who have sought him out are sharks, he says. For now, his agent is his mom, who appeared on the show with him and lost almost 120 pounds.

Given Ventrella’s transformation, he briefly thought about going on tour as a paid inspirational speaker, but most of the groups that invite him to speak are nonprofits, such as Children’s Memorial Hospital, and Ventrella doesn’t feel comfortable charging them for his appearance.


Photograph by Scott Council

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comments
4 years ago
Posted by mayamoo55

Not sure if the whiney tone in this article came from the author or Michael himself, but this TV show helped a man to lose an enormous amount of weight, stave off chronic diseases associated with obesity and undoubtedly increased his life span by a significant amount. What better prize can you ask for? And money to pay off credit card and student loan debt to boot? Michael needs to count his blessings and good fortune to have been afforded this opportunity to focus strictly on weight loss and restoring his health. Most obese people have to do that while they take care of a family, work, manage a household....I don't spend $300 at the grocery store, EVER, and I am feeding a family of 4 (we have student loans and credit card debt to pay off...). Maybe you need to spend some time focusing on gratitude and learning to see the glass as half full. All the best to you, Michael :)

4 years ago
Posted by Shahadaroba

MayaMoo55, The tone of this article seems to stem from the author's attempt to make this some sort of "expose`" on weight loss competitions or the nature of reality star fame. Ms. Chandler's agenda resulted in an interview that overshadowed even Michael's infectious optimism and positivity. Michael is very cognizant and grateful for everything that his time on The Biggest Loser has afforded him. His health and the ability to become debt-free are invaluable prizes and he knows it. He is so very very grateful for all that he has learned and all that he hopes to pass on to others ~ rest assured, there is no "boo-hooing" on his part due to his present circumstances whatsoever.

4 years ago
Posted by cherylfrommn

i was so glad michael won...he was an inspiration..but a week after the finale he was whining he wanted his life back and now he is whinig he inst getting enuf attention? u had your 15 minutes...get over it move on..and as jillian says KEEP ON WALKIN!!!

4 years ago
Posted by dw52

I'm confused. He isn't working and doesn't have insurance. Doesn't have money left. How did he pay for a body lift? Didn't he have a job when he went on BL?

3 years ago
Posted by pollyanna08

i agree you have to count your blessings. If i were the winner of biggest loser, the fact that i lost hundreds of pounds is a major trophy prize for me already. it's like my gateway to the next chapter of my life. just don't expect too much from the celebrity world. you may not be a celebrity but it's a start of a feel-good look-good lifestyle. i am sure there is much to do. just gotta be optimistic about it and work your way through. it's already a big plus that you were guided to lose weight. :)

3 years ago
Posted by browneyedmeg

As I recall, the show gives you the opportunity to LOSE WEIGHT. It does not promise that all aspects of your life become perfect after the show.

He won 250,000 dollars for losing weight. I lost weight and I didn't receive any compensation. What was he expecting?

3 years ago
Posted by Get Real

Posted by Shahadaroba: "rest assured, there is no "boo-hooing" on his part due to his present circumstances whatsoever."
Friend him on facebook for a week. He complains about being broke and having to run around fulfiling his Biggest Loser contract, just as in this article. He even goes far enough to bash people for wearing cheap clothes, being "white" and other endless put downs. He complains and whines and works hard to make others feel less than him. I would not call that inspirational. He went from being the biggest loser to a big loser, and a let down to his supporters.

3 years ago
Posted by Proudmommyof4

I actually saw this guy walking in my neighborhood and he was utterly rude and unapproachable. I had my son who LOVED watching him on TBL with me. My son would have benefited so much from a few kind words of motivation and this guy wouldn't even admit who he was. He acted like a prima donna movie star and I would wager his attitude on the show and off is why he can't get a job. I have no sympathy. I'm sure he'll be the next Eric, he already looked bigger when we saw him.

3 years ago
Posted by pinkster88

Regardless of what Michael says in his article, if I had the chance to be on TBL, I wouldn't even care if I won or not, having my health intact is what means the most to me. I've been watching the show for a while and it's given me the motivation to lose weight. I've lost almost seven inches on my waist and I'm determined to keep on losing. I work and subscribe to DISH Network and anytime that I need some motivation, I can go view over 15 different episodes from the "Biggest Loser" on DISHonline.com. Trust me, after having so many providers, I know DISH is definitely giving me a value that I've never seen before!

*Danielle

3 years ago
Posted by English Rose

Season 9 is currently being screened in the UK, this week I watched the Final 4 episode - but of course I have cheated by also logging on to the net to see who won etc.

What worries me is the "after the show" story. Obviously all the contestants have a really poor relationship with food and therefore are in danger of gaining weight again once away from the spotlight. is any support offered from the programme makers?

Mike - it was great to see you win. (I did hope you and Ashley would fall in love and get married and Daris would get that girl at home he so obviously adored).

Well done for the magnificent achievement. You look absolutely amazing!

Now you have done that you can do anything- the world is your oyster. don't bother chasing fame - get a regular job and have a lovely normal life

With my best regards - Jane

3 years ago
Posted by Sunshineday

Proudmommyof4 you are absolutely right. He is a fraud and a jerk. So gee, can't imagine why no one wants to hire him. His fame will fleet as quick as it came, and he will still be living with his parents with no job.

3 years ago
Posted by baqaqi

Don't know what Facebook account Get Real is referring to. Michael is always very positive on his fan Facebook account. If it's his personal page then he must have been a little overoptimistic and not terribly circumspect about who he friended. You should always be allowed to bitch to your friends who will know when you're being serious, when you're joking and when you're merely stressed and need to vent.

3 years ago
Posted by Martinigirl56

Few months ago I had the blessing meeting Michael at a speaking event he donated his time to be at in Oak Brook for a Woman's health convention. He was totally passionate about his efforts to help people struggling with weight issues. Michael was funny, charismatic, and so nice. I can not believe some of the posts here. During his speech he did mention how unfair some people are to his new life due to jealousy and bitterness, but he laughed it off with kind humor so I don't believe it was whining at all. I have to defined him and his character because since meeting him in March I have lost 23 pounds with the simple advice and words of encouragement he spoke to us about. I actually got a personal email from him 3 weeks later asking how I was doing. Michael is a sweet sweet man. I am so happy for him and can't wait to see what he can accomplish with his drive to help children's obesity.
Michael if you ever read this I want to say THANK YOU again for your motivating words and help. Bless you child. Stand tall and confident as I said to you before GOD blesses his children that carry on his good will in the world!

MaryAnn

3 years ago
Posted by LucyBryant

I met Michael with my two children at an event for children's obesity in Texas. I could not have been more pleased with his demeanor and professional attitude. He not only conducted himself in a very caring way towards the children but was also very informative to them about the dangers of children obesity, in a way which they understood and kept their interest.
Michael stayed after to chat with all the families. My kids talked with "Mr. Michael", as they called him, about healthy eating and staying active. He showed them some fun active games that are healthy alternatives to television watching and video gaming. Michael was one of the most loving individuals I have ever met. I could tell he was very proud of his new found level of health and happiness and wished the same for everyone.
His dedication was very high and he was extremely charismatic throughout the event. His enthusiastic personality really connected with not only my kids and I, but with everyone there. He was extremely passionate about everything and was friendly to all.

I am so happy that I got the chance to meet this young man. My children still talk about him and how much they enjoyed his company and teaching tactics.

3 years ago
Posted by honey

I cannot understand the logic of the man concerned expecting to be employed by life for an appearance on a reality show.
Why doesnt he get a real job?
He lost an enormous amount of weight, that should be the reward, not to want to be continually paid for the rest of his lfe.
Few people will get his chance, he succeeded, now he has to move on with his life, and go out into the real world.
No sympathy from me.

3 years ago
Posted by dsimlergoff

I give Michael alot of credit just for being willing to bare all on national television. Since he battled through all the pounding on the show, I'm sure he'll do great in whatever he chooses to do for a career whether it's related to his Biggest Loser success or something all together different.

3 years ago
Posted by dsimlergoff

I give Michael alot of credit just for being willing to bare all on national television. Since he battled through all the pounding on the show, I'm sure he'll do great in whatever he chooses to do for a career whether it's related to his Biggest Loser success or something all together different.

3 years ago
Posted by tinawantstoknow

Its called "Get A Job"! Great that he lost all that weight, but weight problems and staying in shape is something everyone has to deal with. Just because he was lazy and didn't take care of himself for years and years doesn't make us all need to pay his way in life. He won $250,000 which is more the most of us will ever get at one time ever.

3 years ago
Posted by OhHellNo

Someone is living in his own private Idaho. Mike Ventrella wanting a GIRLfriend is huge 2nd helping of certifiable DELUSION. I know him from real life. He ate himself to 500+lbs because he has shame about being gay in a traditional Italian family that he fears will not accept him. And this act of continually repressing his true identity has made him one of the biggest bullies I have ever encountered with extraordinary manipulative skills, a catty & shallow personality,and an amazing Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde quality. If you believe he is inspirational and a truly kind spirit then you, my dear, have been had. He needs to get a grip, grow a sack, and come OUT already. COME ON? Women catcalling him??? The only people Mike would want catcalls from are Dolph Lundgren-ish, blonde haired, blue-eyed MEN. How do you people not see that he's NOT HETEROSEXUAL. What straight guys have the dvd box set of Queer as Folk and love Mo'nique? Oh, that and who have sex with men? Wake up.

3 years ago
Posted by BIGGESTFAKER

Ventrella THE BIGGEST FAKER.... He's is living in his own little CLOSETED world. I know who he is and what a horrible person he is. He has got to be one of the most shallow people I know..not to mention he's a compulsive liar.I completely agree with everything OHHELLNO says..
I didn't like him prior to the show for some internet drama he caused with me. What pissed me off the most about Ventrella is when he said he was looking for a girlfriend...WHAT?!?!? He's gay! A flaming queen at that.. I'm dating a guy he was after a few years ago. And umm , his dogs?? GAY!
He's constantly talking shit about ''white'' people. He forgets where Italy is located... in Europe!

The Ventrella you see on TV is a complete act. He is a miserable person inside and out. He isn't sincere . Everything he's doing is for money and it shows. Just look on his FB page. He complains about money all the time..

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