Chaka Khan Speaks On Why She Lost Weight, Being A Sex Symbol, & Weight Loss Surgery Rumors | A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Chaka Khan Speaks On Why She Lost Weight, Being A Sex Symbol, & Weight Loss Surgery Rumors


Originally posted 2012-06-25 11:13:43.

Ch-ch-ch-chaka Khan, Chaka, Chaka, Chaka Khan gave an interview to Huffington Post last week discussing her soon-approaching comeback (I feel like she’s been all over the place this year!) and the rumor that she might’ve had surgery to assist with her weight loss:

Congratulations on your recent weight loss. What’s your reaction to those speculating that you had surgery?

They can say whatever they want. Only I know what’s really going on. My weight loss had to occur, because I was diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes and I also had high blood pressure. And I’ve been on medication for that since last year until the beginning of this year. And I ended up going, “Oh, no, no, no, no, this is enough. I can’t live like this.” And I have a new little daughter to raise [my granddaughter], I adopted her so I have to be here. … [She] was really my first and major influence to lose weight and get healthy so I can be here for her. What I did was stopped eating and went on a strict unconditional fast for a couple of months. And went off meat, became vegan, stopped all the dairy, stopped all the meat.

And with that mindset are you seeing a significant change in the material that you’ve recorded in the past?

I’m not playing it so safe. I feel like I have no boundaries, musically, right now. There are none. Any restrictions that I place upon [the music], I place them on myself. The hardest thing right now is to trust that instinct. It’s the same instinct on many different other levels for other stuff. But I think you’ll see something different.

In the past you’ve contributed to various soundtracks, not to mention your cover versions of a few notable James Bond themes. Can fans expect you to record for another blockbuster in the near future?

I certainly hope so. A lot of doors have opened significantly for me since I dropped the weight. And I have mixed reactions to that, but I’m going to strike the iron while it’s hot. So there’s been lots of meetings with lots of people. I’m coming out with a perfume line called, Khanasutra, a line of candles, and Chaka Lips for the holidays.

With you receiving mixed reactions stemming from your weight loss, what are your thoughts on some calling you a sex symbol?

Well, I’ve always been a sex symbol. When I was fat I was a sex symbol. Some men like it that, you know. But I don’t think about that. That’s so far from my mind right now [Laughs].

First, shout out to “I’ve always been a sex symbol. When I was fat, I was a sex symbol.” Tell it, girl.

Secondly, I’m curious. There’s always this cover of “well, did she have surgery? Did she not?” whenever a person unravels a new body, and if they don’t answer us immediately once the question arises, we feel some kind of way about it. Almost like, we feel entitled to know what’s going on, how they did it. I don’t know if it’s because we want that person’s experiences to validate our own experiences (or our thoughts and feelings on how those experiences should go) or what, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s a bit unnerving.

Then again, at the same time… are you making yourself a role model simply by being a publicly-present Black woman, in the day and age of everyone trying to figure out why Black women are so fat, with a much slimmer figure than you originally had? And, if so, should you simply expect to receive these questions and be prepared to answer them? I mean, to this day, I still get people who firmly believe I “had the surgery.” It’s also easy for me to give a definitive answer of “No, I didn’t.” I don’t have to reply, “they can say whatever they want.” Just as much as it unnerves me that people feel entitled to ask, it also bugs me that a definitive answer wasn’t given.

It all vaguely reminds me of another celebrity who was less-than-forthcoming about her surgery, only for it to end horribly. I’m… I’m just sayin’.

I’m happy for Chaka, nonetheless.

So, I’m curious. What do y’all think?

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The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.


  1. KareBareStare

    June 25, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    Most of us who struggle with the battle of the bulge are looking for quick fixes that work without having to go under the knife. Let’s be honest, Chaka lost that weight in what seems to be overnight. True, she has access to things that normal people don’t but even Oprah didn’t drop the pounds that fast. I think people just want to know if it’s truly possible to get that small in such a short period of time. You have pictures to prove the years of work it took for you to get to your current weight. I just saw Chaka earlier this year on tv and she was about 50 pounds heavier. We all know the only way to truly lose weight is to be patient and give it some time. But if there is a little glimmer of hope people want to know what it is. We can dream can’t we.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      June 25, 2012 at 11:36 AM

      I think these are really great points. Seriously.

      It also makes me a little sad.

    • NotLeviathan

      June 25, 2012 at 3:13 PM

      It’s totally reasonable to expect that with the right level of focus and effort, one can lose a significant amount of weight – even at a more advanced age. While, I’m not as old as she is, I lost 75 lbs last year by simply making similar kinds of changes in diet that she did and gradually amping up my exercise the point that I was burning 700-1,000 calories per day in the gym, 5x/week. Sustainable? Maybe not at that intensity but it’s a year later and I’ve kept off most of the weight.

  2. Eve

    June 25, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    I love that she mentions that she has been a sex symbol at both sizes.
    Also, there are people who lose small amounts of weight and because of their body composition, it seems like a lot more. Chaka may be one of those people. From my understanding, vegan diets are no joke. That change in diet, plus exercise, could lead to extreme weight loss in a short time.
    I know a few people who have done “the surgery”. Their experience has led me to believe that it’s never easy. they still have to work out, weight train, all that.
    I commend Chaka for making the decision for health and family reasons. She is an inspiration to me.

    • Layla

      June 25, 2012 at 7:11 PM

      As someone who has endured weight loss surgery, I can tell you it is not easy. The easiest part of the entire experience was laying on that table and letting the surgeon do his thing. It took lots of work to drop 150 pounds; I changed my diet (eliminated soda, sugar and fried foods) and I exercised daily 5x a week. The most important change I had to make in order to lose a whole person was to change my way of thinking.

      Now 9 years later, I have gone back to old habits and gained 60 of those 150 pounds back. It can and will come off again once I change my way of thinking, change my diet and start moving.

      Whether she lost the weight as she stated or by way of gastric bypass surgery, what’s important is that she did something that is going to help her live longer and be healthier. And she looks fantabulous to boot!!

  3. Alinda

    June 25, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    In a society where instant gratification is a way of life for many, as stated in the previous response, people are always looking for a quick fix. Through sites like this one, and others, the understanding can be spread that living a healthy lifestyle is not an outfit you can go and buy when you choose as needed, instead that it is a decision and choice that you make that is lifelong, has its ups and downs but ultimately is beneficial on all levels. I wish there had been a site like this and dialogues like this when I was growing up – my path to living a healthy lifestyle would have happened a lot sooner.

  4. Tanya

    June 25, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    So, I will start with I did have the surgery 2 years ago and I am still battling this weight/health thing. I had the band which I have really had no sucess with. Weight loss surgery is just a tool and anyone that says it is the easy way out is very mistaken. Now 2 years later I am doing what I should have done in the first place. I work out atleast 4 days a week. I got he running bug and I am preparing for my 2nd 5k in September. This time I plan to run the whole thing (first time I did more walking than running). I decided in January to get on the ball. When I started I could not run for one minute without being winded. On Saturday I ran for 12 minutes with stopping! I am a work in progress and wasted A LOT of money having surgery. The only way to lose weight is to eat less calories and exercise more: calories in vs calories out. Surgery can help you control calories in but is is really not a long term solution. The only solution that is long term is being committed to changing your life. You have to change what you eat and you have to move more. That’s it, nothing more. If you have surgery and don’t eat less and move more, you will not lose weight. Even with surgery you have to work at it. You can’t get comfortable because at some point the tool won’t work as hard for you.. You will have to show some self restraint.

    I have chosen to do better, most of the time. I’m certainly not perfect. I think this will be a life long battle. I will always have to conscious of what I eat and how much I move my body. As soon as I let up, I’ll gain weight. So, I’m proud of Chaka, no matter how she did it. If she had surgery, I’m proud she understood she needed help to control the calories in part of this journey. If she didn’t have surgery, I’m proud of her for being strong enough to commit to being healthier and using all her will power to do so. Let’s face it, if this were easy, everybody would be a healthy weight, not that weight is the end all to being healthy (some of the “healthiest” looking people have more health problems then obese people) I am luck to not have any health issues from my weight (yet) and I want to keep it that way. So, to that end, I’ll be at the gym tonight and out on the track tomorrow. I am worth being better today than I was yesterday.

    • Veronis

      June 25, 2012 at 9:15 PM

      Thank you for telling the true I can relate,Everyday you have to make the right chose to do right

    • Cassandra

      October 24, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      Tanya! Awesome post! I completely agree. I haven’t had the surgery but have been battling weight for a few years…counting calories, playing tennis, and working out more…

  5. Sunni

    June 25, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    I love a transformation reveal as much as the next socially invested person. Though it’s hard for me to see or feel the “need” for the method of weight loss to be disclosed. I know we all want to know for various reasons, however, we have to own that it is just a “want”. For those that would prefer to keep the state of their health, fitness, or “surgeries” private, they must be respected. Rapid weight loss maybe due to an illness, mental anguish or financial hardship. Appreciate those who choose to share and focus on the value of being fit mentally as well as physically.

  6. Miz_Fit

    June 25, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    I have mixed feelings. When all is said and done, whether she had surgery or not is her business. That said, I want instant gratification but not a quick fix (if that makes sense) because I know quick fixes just as quickly lead to quick failures. So when someone has great results in a seemingly short time (which for me is less than a year – I can’t think beyond it taking over a year. That’s just overwhelming for me). I take notice. But when I find out they did it through surgery or some weirdness (….”strict unconditional fast for a couple of months…?!?”), I’m disappointed, since those are routes I can’t and won’t take. Though, I wish folks who’ve had it would admit to surgery rather some “miracle diet” or worse, an unhealthy one. IMO, all having the surgery means is that you’re human.

  7. AyanaM

    June 25, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Hmmm, I’m concerned. WIth this statement in particular:

    “What I did was stopped eating and went on a strict unconditional fast for a couple of months.”

    Although I love my girl, this is a strange and kind of dangerous statement to make. IF, she had just said “I went vegan” I think I could say “oh, cool.” But to just stop eating…for a couple of months? It’s actually disheartening to me. I am in this struggle trying to stay sane and healthy.

    I agree that many of us who look to Chaka (and any other celbrity or personal friend) for inspiration would be discouraged. I WISH I could just stop eating- no, that’s not even true. I want to eat sane, healthy, ethically, etc. To just stop consuming food, not for a weekend, but for months (plural)??? I’m saddened by this. I want her to be healthy for her grandchild and general quality of life and simply “not eating” is not the way to go IMHO…

  8. Nika

    June 25, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Because of the health insurance we have at my job people get “the surgery” all the time. Out of all the people who’ve t had it that I know only two have maintained the weightloss. All of them will tell you it isn’t easy and you have to make drastic changes. That being said whatever she did I’m glad she made the choice to do something about her weight. I myself thought of doing it, but after witnessing some of the food restrictions and others failures I decided to do WW instead. Hopefully she inspires other older folks to get out there and get healthy.

  9. Lee

    June 25, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    Chaka Khan looks AMAZING!!! I’m glad that she took whatever steps neccesary to improve her health and quality of life. She is asset to this world and I can’t wait to hear her new work. And Chaka is right, she has always been a sex symbol…thank you for re-releasing your slamming body :)

  10. Vee

    June 25, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    Congrats to Chaka Kahn on her weight loss she looks great!

    Like she mentioned she did it for herself and her granddaughter whom she is raising. I remember seeing Chaka Kahn last year at the Essence Music Festival and she did look like she had lost weight.

  11. DebbieDew

    June 25, 2012 at 6:18 PM

    Love her! She looks fab! She’s right, people can think what they want. Chaka knows her journey…why question it? Life’s short. I can appreciate her journey, applaud it and continue on my own.

  12. Toni

    June 25, 2012 at 7:49 PM

    I have always loved my girl Chaka. I’m so happy for her weight loss. I was so excited to hear about how she lost it. I must admit that the whole stop eating and fasting for a few months is completely unrealistic and I believe potentially harmful for me. I love food and fasting makes me want to do harm to others who come between me and my food! lol. But.. She still inspired me to go walking today and that’s always a good thing. She has every right to her privacy, she really doesn’t owe anyone an explanation. I love her and wish her health and happiness.

  13. Melissa Teague

    June 25, 2012 at 7:50 PM

    I will also start by saying that I had the surgery (last month, as a matter of fact), but I began my weight loss journey (this time!) six months ago. This has NOT been EASY. I had to make big changes in my life before I ever got on the surgeon’s table. Part of these changes is my time in the gym and away from the kitchen table. My efforts are paying off more quickly this time, but make no mistake, I have not taken the easy way out. I got help to make a lasting change in my life. Now, with that said, I am honest and upfront with the people I work with, the people I work out with, and other people who matter. I don’t want to mislead anyone. However, Sisters, not everyone matters.

  14. MzTee

    June 27, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    However Chaka lost the weight — surgery or through a change in lifestyle — she looks great. It’s honestly no one’s business how she did it or even why she did it. Today’s society has become too obsessed with knowing everything about celebrities lives from what size they wear to whom they are dating. Celebrities are people too and are entitled to privacy just like us regular Joes and Janes.

    I guess I’m old school, but I still believe certain questions shouldn’t be asked. How did you lose the weight is one of them? Say the person looks great/amazing/fabulous/fantastic/wonderful or whatever adjective you choose and keep it moving. If I were a celebrity and that question were posed to me, I wouldn’t answer it. Because as I stated earlier, it ain’t nobody’s business how Ms. Chaka lost her weight. And, if ‘fans’ get salty with her on how she chooses to respond to a very personal question that is posed to her…it makes me question whether they really are fans of hers any way.

  15. Tammy Stewart

    June 28, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    She looks great. She is inspiring me to buckle down and face that fact whether by surgery and/or lifestyle change. It must be done.

  16. Jean Wr

    June 29, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    It’s her business how she lost it. Looks like she feels great. Congrats Shaka!

  17. RC

    July 30, 2012 at 10:16 PM

    Come on black people. Y’all know how we do..meaning ya’ll know how we talk and how something like “I stopped eating” means that she stopped the non-stop munching and unhealthy portions. She did not forgo food for months…that’s absurd to even assume, especially since she was on medication and had a rigorous touring schedule. Come on people. If someone said I all but killed my child last night..,,would ya’ll really be on the phone dialing 911. Black speech uses exaggeration to prove a point. Stop acting like ya’ll don’t know. Damn.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      July 31, 2012 at 9:00 AM

      “Black speech?”

      I didn’t know “exaggeration” was a language tool of only Blacks. *blank stare*

      • mizteesimpson

        January 22, 2013 at 8:41 AM

        I agree, I think Chaka’s words were taken out of context, however I’m happy to see she’s happy with her weightloss however she did it . Congrats Chaka(wish it was me)!

  18. Leah Young

    August 12, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    Good for Chaka! If you want to know if what she says works, then try it yourself. Why does she or any other person need to lie about how she dropped the weight.? If we spent as much time on our health as we do exercising our tongue we’d look like Chaka.

  19. Brend Webb

    September 29, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    I remember when Chaka came to Little Rock Arkansas a few years ago and performed. She was much larger than she is now. She put on a hellva show. It was so packed and you couldn’t move because there were so many people. She gave us an excellant performance. She showed so much love for such a small city. In returned we gave it back to her. Her size was not a factor. I personally know how hard it is to loose weight and keep it off. Excercise is a key factor. The fact that she is 59 and look as good as she does is wonderful. All I can say is GO CHAKA.

  20. Maliqua

    February 21, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    Who cares how she lost the weight. When your health is a factor you need to do whatever it takes to fix. If it is surgery, well so be it. She looks great, I am sure she feels great and I bet she does not have the health problems anymore. Good going Ms. Khan!

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      February 21, 2013 at 10:32 PM

      Uh, no.

      It always matters “how.” You gonna starve yourself to lose weight, only to cause more problems in the long run? Will it be okay to lose your hair, teeth, cause damage to your kidneys and possibly even your digestive tract just because “hey, you’re not fat anymore?”

      Seriously. Perpetuating this desperation to lose weight, at the risk of other equally-if-not-more-important matters must stop.

      • christine

        July 9, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        I’m not knocking weight loss surgery..hey if its your thing go ahead. But what some folks fail to realize you can get that extra 100 pounds sucked out..but if you’re not happy won’t make a difference. I’d just like to have my d’s moved away from my knees

  21. mrsthomas

    February 22, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    It took Chaka over a year to lose the weight. No one noticed because she had a substantial amount of weight to lose. She never hid how she lost it from day one. She said she did not chew food but went on a strict liquid diet for I think three months. She was specific with saying she used her Vitamax often. So I guess I am not sure why there is such a big deal and always has to be a conspiracy theory. Her weight loss is very consistent with her statements. The lady looks awesome!

  22. Joyful2

    October 20, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    Thin or thick Ms. Khan was and continue to be one gifted, beautiful and sexy black woman!! Who cares if Chaka Khan…slaved or paid to lost the weight…its her business!! Having issues that cause health problems that keeps you weighted down with the ball and chain of meds that’s not working…because you are weight down with too much fat…and doing nothing is crazy. I’m just thankful she had the resource of perseverance to maintain through fasting and whatever other means that was necessary. Truth be told if I had the resources…YKR :)

  23. PVJohnson

    January 2, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    Chaka khan Rocks!

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