More: How long have you been in the music business?
Martha Wash: Let’s put it this way: “Raining Men” will turn 30 years old next year.
More: OK, you just dated me.
MW: People in the business can’t believe it either, but it is true and it is good to still be here. That song is an official classic.
More: How do you view the music industry, considering it has been unfair to you?
MW: Over time it has gotten better in terms of accepting us full-figured women being out there. When I was starting to sing with Sylvester as a backup singer, there were no large background singers or front artists—maybe Mama Cass [Cass Elliot] but that was it. In that respect the industry has come a long way. Look at Adele now. She is great. I would like to think the public can like whomever they want regardless of a person’s appearance but rather for her sound and music.
More: Does it upset you that the music industry treated you differently because you weren’t a size 0?
MW: Yes. Even when I recorded with Two Tons O' Fun, the record industry didn’t know what to do with us or how to market us. We were large women who could sing. However, the thinking at these companies can be very narrow-minded, and they feel they need to dictate what the public hears and sees.
More: That must take a toll on your self-esteem?
MW: It didn’t bother me too much because that is just what I was—I was a large woman who loved to sing—so I had to deal with it. After I had my last two solo, I decided to do it on my own. I mean, why bother with a record company if they aren’t going to promote you and market you?
More: Is that why you recently lost 75 pounds?
MW: That was for health reasons. I became sick. My weight got really out of control. I was paying attention to it but I wasn’t paying attention to it, if you know what I mean. I saw the numbers but I kept saying, “If I gain five more pounds, then I will do something about it.” Then I wound up gaining 10 and 15 pounds. When I realized how much I weighed I was shocked and said, “I really have to get the weight off.”
More: Were you ill?
MW: I had gall bladder problems. I had to get my gall bladder removed. I was filleted like a fish because the gall bladder adhered to my stomach so the doctors had to scrape it off, which was no fun. I had to be in the hospital for two weeks and then go back a year later to remove the stones they could not get to before. As a result I developed a liver infection.
More: How did you drop the weight?
MW: Diet and exercise. I joined Curves and started working out three times a week doing cardio and weight lifting. I did the dieting on my own as opposed to following a program like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. Basically, I ate a lot of salads.
More: That's a great ego boost?
MW: I felt good, really good. It was great to see the dress sizes start to drop. It took about a year to lose the 75 pounds. You have to always remember to have the mind frame to say, “I can do it,” because there were moments when I got discouraged because I didn’t lose any weight for, like, a week or two.
More: Why get discouraged?
MW: I didn’t understand why the weight wasn’t dropping all of the time. I was saying, “I am eating right and exercising. Why isn’t the scale moving downward?” But I learned I had to plow through it. To keep going, I had to find something that worked for me.
More: You kept it all off?
MW: I gained about 30 back. It is an everyday struggle. When you are traveling a lot like I do for work, it is hard to maintain a diet regimen because of the hours, which are usually late. I might not finish until one or two in the morning, and the only thing open at that time are fast food places—room service at your hotel is closed.
More: I get it.
MW: Once you start eating that stuff it becomes hard to stick to a diet. The worst part is, then you go to sleep since you have to be up early.
More: Getting back to the size 0 image. When you look at the popular artists of today, do you feel the music industry is now embracing women with curves.
MW: I would like to think so, because women do have curves. Women come in all shapes and sizes and we need to be celebrated.
More: Do you ever wish you could press rewind and enter the industry now that size doesn’t matter as much?
MW: No, not at all, because I think I might not be able to get into the business now. While it has come a ways in terms of appearance, in terms of the music I am going to say, no. It seems like there is no loyalty anymore. I have seen record companies drop artists who have been with their label for years.
More: You are also the spokesperson for QSAC—Quality Services for the Autism Community.
MW: They are a nonprofit organization providing comprehensive services to individuals with autism and their families in the New York City and Long Island area. I met some folks from that organization when they were having a talent show and they asked me to be a judge. What I learned through my journey was that autistic children grow up to be autistic adults, and my thinking was, you don’t hear that side of autism being talked about. I want to help spread the word.
More: Why get involved? Was it personal?
MW: No. I don’t have an autistic person in my family, nor do I know anyone who has an autistic child. When I saw how QSAC helps get people jobs and helps them be a real part of the community, I knew I wanted to stand behind it and help make a difference.
More: You also work with the Huntington Arts Council?
MW: Yes. I am a presenter at the Long Island International Film Expo.
More: What about your dynamic voice? Are you back in the studio?
MW: One solo CD, Martha Wash, was released in 1993 and the second solo CD, called The Collection, was released in 1997.
More: And now?
MW: I just released a new single called “I’ve Got You.” It is a great ballad about lifting people up and knowing other people may be going through what you are going through. You can also watch the video on YouTube.
Click here to read Eva La Rue Returns to All My Children.