Win, Lose and Awe

GH Legend Genie Francis Dishes On Her Emmy Win and Continuing Weight Loss

Soap Opera Digest: You must be getting tired of having people tell you how great you looked on Emmy night.

Genie Francis: Are you kidding? Never. It took a lot of hard work to get here.

Digest: How did you feel walking down the red carpet?

Francis: Surprisingly calm.

Digest: Was choosing the dress difficult?

Francis: It was painstaking! I've been dressed by others professionally all my life. I don't have a great deal of confidence in my ability to do that for myself. It's not my thing. But I had some feeling about it. I certainly wanted to look my thinnest. I wanted an "Old Hollywood" kind of feel. I did not want to wear black because it's not a funeral. It's an occasion to celebrate. And I didn't want to be too overdone. I wanted understated elegance. So, the dress is by Vicki Teal. I got dressed at Bergdorf's. Everything was from there.

Digest: What was the response from ABC when you won? Did anyoen mention coming back to GH?

Francis: I really don't know what holds them back. There was no indication [of a future return]. Jill [Farren Phelps, executive producer] was wonderful. She said to me before it started, "Whether you win tonight or not, you deserve to win." That meant a lot.

Digest: Digest recently conducted its own focus group survey, and the character viewers most wanted to see return was Laura -- by a landslide.

Francis: You're kidding! Tell that to Brian Frons [laughs]. Put it in yellow highlighter, please. No, don't. I don't want to put pressure on him because we have no idea what he's dealing with.

Digest: Okay, so let's talk about how you got into shape. We've already spoken to you about your new gig as the spokesperson for the Medifast diet plan. Sum up what your goals are.

Francis: At this moment, I've been on it about five weeks. I've lost 11 pounds, but by the time your readers see this, it will be about 13 or 14. I don't want to say a goal weight because I don't want to be boxed into a number. My goal is to get back to what I was before I got pregnant. A size 6, just where I was when I was 30 years old and I went back to the show [in 1993]. I did make it back after the first pregnancy. I was there for like two months then I got pregnant again. My agents joked that "As soon as she starts to look too good, Jonathan will get her pregnant again [laughs]."

Digest: Have you always felt pressure to be thin?

Francis: Always. I never felt like I was the right size to be an actress. Never once. Well, maybe when I wsa 24 [laughs]. Most actresses you see are lanky and I did not come from that gene pool. I've been dieting pretty much since I was 12. I remember the day when one of our producers came down and said, "Laura's going to go on a diet." It was humiliating. I was about 14 and 1/2 or 15 when the producer decided to put my character on a diet. That's hard to deal with at a young age.

Digest: Not Gloria Monty?

Francis: No, this was when I was first hired, before Gloria got there. She never gave me a hard time about my body. She used to say to me, "[imitating Monty] You've got a great little figure, honey."

Digest: Did the pressure lessen as you got older?

Francis: There's enormous pressure for women to look a certain way, especially as one gets older. I know for a fact that weight has held me back in my career. Breaking into nighttime was difficult. In fact, a producer once told me, "You're not nighttime material." When I left GH at 40, I don't think I cared enough to get the weight off. I was busy being a mom. I didn't mind being a size 12. It was when I got to work when that became a problem. Looking back, it would have been better to retire. Surprisingly, what did not motivate me to lose weight was the fear I had that I was too heavy to be on television. That feeling only sent me to the pantry! Whether it be the pressure from producers or comments from the powers-that-be, I could not lose weight because they wanted me to. It only sent me into a panic.

Digest: What changed?

Francis: I needed to transform. Since then, I've seen the world. I let go of my desire to be on television and the desire for stardom and fame. I let go of all those things, gave them back to the universe and, just recently, the universe came and gave them back to me.

Digest: Have you talked to your daughter, Eliza, about body issues?

Francis: We don't have those conversations yet. She's only 10. But I will tell her that being happy about yourself is the most important thing. It's so sad to see these young girls today. A size zero is unhealthy! I'm aiming for a size 6 -- that's healthy [laughs].

Digest: So, what's been the best part of losing the weight?

Francis: The clothes! I'm not buying myself clothes now because I'm just visiting a size 10, so it doesn't make sense to spend the money. But I do look forward to shopping for the sake of fashion, not for fit or covering up. I've already emptied my closet by at least a third and now I'm about to do it again.

Digest: What words of encouragemtn do you have for fellow dieters?

Francis: If you feel like you're at rock bottom and can't recover, if you've given in to being overweight and you're tired of being miserable, you can change. You can love yourself again. What we're really doing here is learning how to love and honor yourself. Choose to be kind to yourself today. There are a lot of challenges in life and a lot of things that are out of our control, but our weight is in our control. Make a pact to change it.

by Tom Stacy

Thank you to Yasmeen for this article!