Image: Emme
Robert Ascroft/FOX
Emme poses at a photo shoot.
By
NBC News
updated 7/29/2009 2:01:16 PM ET 2009-07-29T18:01:16

Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we speak with model and talk show host Emme about her involvement in a local New York organization for eating disorders, Ophelia’s Place, and the debut of her new show "More To Love."

Question: Could you tell me a little bit about Ophelia’s Place and how it got its name?

Emme: Well, I went to Syracuse University. When I went back for a visit about, I think it’s almost 10 years, my coach told me about this particular woman who had two girls that had eating disorders. She was very, very emblazoned to make a difference in Syracuse. To help young girls and to have a halfway house where somebody who was just getting out of treatment or someone who was just about to go into treatment. A place of resource for individuals and families and to make it comfortable and nice and not threatening and not very clinical. I met her at a fund-raising athletic event and she and I clicked immediately.

And I said, “Mary Ellen, I really believe in acting up locally and thinking globally. And doing what you can on big picture, but you have to start from the hearth and the hometown. I considered Syracuse because I got a full athletic scholarship to Syracuse. I feel very deeply about my roots at Syracuse and everything that I’ve gained from going to school there. I’ve been looking for a charity that I can really attach myself to. And a grassroots one enough, that if there’s an idea, it won’t take a year for implementation from the concept.”

And she said, “Well, I’m your girl.” I think that Mary Ellen was influenced by Mary Pipher who wrote the book "Reviving Ophelia." It was more a reaching-out thing. I have a place, I know where you come from and where you’re going possibly and I just want to be able to help and assist. That’s when she had a little nook in an office building and then she got funding to go into her own building. She’s very, very active in the New York state legislature. She’s up in Albany all the time. This woman from Syracuse! But everyone knows her and knows that her intent is pure and I think she moves mountains that way.

Q: What is your role with the organization?

Emme: My role is I bring my celebrity shine when I come up to Syracuse. I try to go to Ophelia’s Place and meet the individuals. I’ve done that a couple of times. I’ve been their emcee for their big fashion show. I was not able to do it this year, which I was very bummed about, but last year I was able to do that. I’ve done public service announcements numerous times for them. I’ve done conference keynotes.

Q: Like a spokesperson?

Emme: I don’t know if its that official. I just step up. When Mary Ellen calls me, I know it’s serious. I help in any way that I can.

Q: Is there one experience that stands out for you while working with Ophelia’s Place?

Emme: Yes. When Mary Ellen was telling me about their body diversity fashion show, I applauded. I said “Oh that’s great! Not only should you have females with diversified body shape, you should have men out there.” She’s said, “Oh my God, that’s great!” So I said, “It would be just so great if we could see more diversity on the runway because then women in the audience will have either someone with their blue eyes, someone with the dark hair, someone with the darker skin or the lighter skin, or the male or the female, whatever age. It would just be great.”

So when I emceed it last year, I looked out at the audience and had each young lady, or older woman, or portly gentleman, or rounded girl, or curvaceous woman, tall and angular. All of the mix of who we are, walking out on the runway. The response in the audience was raucous, it was joyous, it was boisterous, it was absolutely raising the roof. I think every single person in that auditorium had goose pimples at the end of the day. I’m telling you. They keep on talking about that first show and how it just spread onto this last show. And anybody who gets that ticket, they make it an event. The fashion show, and then different groups of people go to lunch and they carry on and linger trying to hold on to that wonderful feeling that took place. It’s infectious when you do things out of the box and with the right intent.

Q: Is there a national organization similar to Ophelia’s Place that more people can access or it was based on?

Emme: Absolutely. I am the chair ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association. Their acronym is NEDA. That is the national clearinghouse that Ophelia’s Place works with. That is the national clearinghouse for everyday people trying to figure out what terminology means, where to find certain doctors. All the phone calls are confidential, all the information is up to date and very easy to read. Very user friendly. Quite enlightening for someone who is just learning about an eating disorder to help a friend, learning about body image, self esteem, parental, child, it could be grandparents checking in to see what’s going on with the grandkids. Or parents for the first time saying, “OK, think we have a problem.” It’s a fantastic organization and I’ve been with them since ’92.

Q: Can you tell me a little about your new show and what we can expect?

Emme: Sure. "More To Love" is going to be premiering July 28. It is created by two gentlemen, which really is such a celebration of diversity. One gentleman is much smaller than the other gentleman. Both are very, very powerful in Hollywood. Mike Fliess is the creator of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" as well as many other reality shows. Sitting back with Mike Darnell from FOX and Mike Fliess, they are very dear friends. They said, “We need a show for the average guy.” We really only see MTV, perfected images and wouldn’t it be great with the popularity of The Biggest Loser as well as other shows that kind of show the average underdog. Wouldn’t that be wonderful to show love there too?

I mean, obviously, that’s what’s going on in America and we need to portray them. The cool thing is, we have two gentlemen that just are like, “This is the bomb. This is awesome.” They hired an incredible female senior executive producer, Sally Ann Salsano. She has a company called 495 Productions. She is known in the reality genre as a leader in this space. She has been very, very much involved with putting out the right kind of message. When she called me and we talked, I said, “I want to just know if this is really on the up and up.” And she goes, “Absolutely, without a question. This is a dating show for the average guy and that is it. You’ll see all the drama. You’ll see all the curves. You’ll see the celebration of that. And you’re gonna also hear about the issues of how its been hard.”

I said, “Oh my gosh, as long as the rug isn’t pulled from underneath us and there are no jabs.” She said “Oh no. No no no.” I was like “I’m on. I’m on board.” It’s filled with the exotic vacations, filled with the great, cool, dates. I mean, really. The bachelor is very cute and very nice. The contestants are just, very diversified. Individuals that come form all walks of life. You’ll just have to see!

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