Michelle Buteau Shines, Loves & Sexes Her Way Through 'Survival of the Thickest'

The undeniable leading lady talks about her stand-up career and shows us that bigger is indeed better!

Editor's note: This interview was conducted before the SAG/WGA strike.

Michelle Buteau has fully and fabulously made her way to our screens, but often as a scene-stealing sidekick. In one of Netflix’s latest big hits, Survival of the Thickest, Buteau has proven that she’s got the chops, the curves, and the chaos to be the leading lady! The stand-up comedian, podcaster, host, actress, author, show-creator, mother, daughter, wife, and most importantly, “taxpayer b-tch,” (her words) penned Survival of the Thickest as a book of punchy short stories detailing the messiness of being a big, Black single woman on the bustling streets of New York City. Thank goodness Buteau bet on herself because that book caught the eyes and attention of the right people and gave us a romantic comedic series that has all of us rooting for Mavis Beaumont!

And such is real life, Buteau faced her own set of traumatic and blessed speed bumps that could have derailed a weaker woman. From failed IVFs to miscarriages, from imposter syndrome to meeting her adorable twin babies, from promising auditions to creating and running a show, Buteau understands that we gotta go through some things in life. “Everybody be going through sh-t. How do we get through it together?” Buteau pondered over Zoom with BET early one morning in July. Not only was her new Netflix show a safe space for her cast and crew, but it also served as a community for everyone to feel good together, and it's just in time for August being National Comedy Month!

'They Cloned Tyrone': The Cast Is Way Too Good And Fly In The Genre-Bending Instant Classic chatted with the star of Survival of the Thickest about sex scenes, Buteau’s journey to here, and what it means for her to pull up folks as she climbs. Let’s talk about your journey to here…

Michelle Buteau: I got into stand-up because people told me I should get into stand-up. I wanted to be a reporter. I did have a professor tell me I was too fat to be on-camera. So I was like, ‘Ok bet, I’ll just work production.’ I still wanted to be a part of something creative. I realized I was too tired of editing basic bitches. I'm like, ‘Do it like this! What? You don't have the inner thing!?’ That is not something you could teach someone, they're born with it or they learn it for themselves.

Enjoying and trusting the process has really made it just so much better, but I've never really got into stand-up being like, ‘I need to be famous. I need to make money.’ I already knew how to host because I was hosting a lot of stand-up shows. You know that thing where you just book a couple of stand-up gigs on TV and then you start auditioning for shows and some other stuff. And in the meantime, you write with your friends. So when people are like, ‘How did you end up running a show and with all these hats?’ You are already wearing all these hats, you are just doing it for free. So by the time you get somewhere, you can actually do it. I think slow simmer is great especially if you age well because you're just gonna own your voice so much more. You're not going to let some high level executive tell you what they think you should do with your own voice.

I saw Lady Gaga years ago and she was playing the piano and she's like, ‘I just want to stop and recognize that like, I'm having this moment in Queens. I've sold out three shows.’ And we're like, ‘Yeah, you did bitch!’ And she's like, ‘I don't even know how I got here. I had my head down for 15 years and now I'm here.’ And oh, I get that. For me, it's been a real process and I’m just enjoying the journey. It's not linear, you gotta celebrate even the small things otherwise, you're gonna have nothing to celebrate. I see so many of my friends spinning their wheels, waiting for this big job to take them over and get so disappointed when it doesn't and that's not what it's about. It's about doing it for you. Did you have a good set? Great. Did you not? Learn from it. Did you have a good audition? That's all that matters. What makes you proud of this show?

Michelle Buteau: It really is my representation of New York and it's some real shit. It's messy. We all have had a messy situation. I've definitely tried to get my Cardi B on and have failed miserably, but I think if we don't talk about it then it's all for naught! Body positivity, sex positivity, inclusiveness in the queer community, and also just listening to yourself–your inner voice, to do something that you love is so important. We're really out here just micro-dosing trauma all motherfucking day, but it hits us and we carry it in our spine, in our jaw and our knees and I'm just like, ‘How do we have a conversation about it?’

Working with an amazing partner, my showrunner Danielle Sanchez Witzel, I have to say, she is the Erin Brockovich to my stories and my feelings. She is out here fighting for it and explaining it. I think having a great partner is so good. Hiring an amazing, diverse cast and crew is also amazing. Everyone's in a good mood. We're so happy to be here. We know that no one's betting on us except for us. We're just in it together.I'm just really proud of myself because I didn't know what I was doing, but I knew that I could do it. I did the best I could and I know I knocked it out the fucking park. You can tell by the cast of the show alone that you love to bring people with you…

Michelle Buteau: It's everything! It’s the reason why we do it. Being happy for someone else's success will never fuck up yours. I think a lot of performers and creators think it should just be them, but that is just to me good old-fashioned fucking patriarchal colonial fucking bullshit. They  want us to think that there's only room for one of us. But in fact, there's room for all of us, and it only gets better. I've always been like that because I just love to see people win and shine and then also other people feel seen because you don't even know, just you being, you looking like you, sitting there saying those words, it's saving a life, it’s making someone’s parent or judgmental whoever the fuck be like, ‘Oh, that's a trans woman but they're funny but there's also normal. They're human.’ There’s so many reasons to love seeing someone like you as the lead in a romantic comedic series, especially because we get to see you engage in intimacy. What does that feel like for you?

Michelle Buteau: It feels amazing. I don't ever need to win a Golden Globe or an Emmy or an Oscar because baby, I'm doing it! I'm out here ordering the double X's on Fenty. We have intimacy coordinators. I'm excited for fat sex. Tell me what my chin does. Okay, let's do something else then. Let's go! It's important because big women, we love our bodies. There's a lot of big people that love their bodies and are deserving of sex and good sex. It might seem creepy to people, but those people aren't comfortable with sex. It's about me. Bodies are just like a vessel to tell a story. Self-love is the best love. What do you love most about who you are?

Michelle Buteau: I love that I love myself and because I love myself so deeply, I'm able to love other people. I am loyal. I am fair. I am hilarious. I don't mind evolving. I want to do that. I love love. I just realized, like my crowd word on-stage, I just took a moment where I was like, ‘I'm not just up here ripping people in a very funny, emotional way,’ I can just see their inner child right away.

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