Rachel Hunter's Strange Diet Campaign

Two thirds of Americans are overweight, but model Rachel Hunter is not one of them. At 5-foot-10 and 147 pounds, Rod Stewart's ex-wife seems like an unusual choice to be a Slim-Fast celebrity spokesperson. And on Monday she told NEWSWEEK that she is happy with her current weight and has not tried the diet shake. And yet, she is the face of Slim-Fast's new campaign—starting this week—called "Find Your Slim." Press materials urge consumers to log onto iVillage.com to join Hunter and enter a 10-week "Find Your Slim" before-and-after photo-and-essay contest. Press materials say Hunter "will incorporate Slim-Fast into her life as an approach to reaching her personal weight-loss goal and will encourage consumers to do the same by setting a simple, doable weight-loss goal of between 10 and 20 pounds." A Slim-Fast spokesman attempted to clarify, saying:  "We do anticipate that Rachel will, when she needs to, use Slim-Fast." But he added: "She is not obliged to use Slim-Fast. ... It's less about the product and more about the campaign."

So does using a spokesperson who doesn't even pretend to use the product help a company's promotion efforts?  Experts like Americus Reed, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, say the company is taking a risk—just like Pepsi did when they hired Michael Jackson, who was quoted saying he didn't drink the beverage.   "It can only undermine the effort and create skepticism," he explains. And will consumers understand that Hunter is promoting Slim-Fast's campaign, not the actual drink? "They would not make that distinction," he says. Hunter, 36, talks with NEWSWEEK Karen Springen about why she signed up to promote this campaign. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK:  Slim-Fast representatives called you in March, asking you to endorse their new "Find Your Slim" campaign. Were you insulted, thinking that they thought you were fat?
Rachel Hunter:
No. It was more about the message that I decided to do it. I think it's a really good, positive message for women to "find your slim."

How much did you weigh then?
I still weigh the same. I haven't started taking Slim-Fast. My message is more that I agree with what they're saying. If I've got a photo shoot coming up, then I would try it. It's not really about me going on Slim-Fast.

You haven't started it yet?
No. I have kids, and I skip breakfast in the morning, and I have to deal with weight maintenance constantly. As I've gotten older, you have to maintain. I'm kind of more than willing to try their product.

You're 5-foot-10 and 147 pounds?
Yes. My weight fluctuates. It can go from 140 to 147. People get stuck on numbers constantly. It's not about numbers. It's about how a woman feels about herself. We have these numbers in our heads, and really it's about how you feel.

What's been your highest and lowest weight?
My highest would be when I was pregnant, twice. I didn't even jump on the scale [but] it would have to be up there. Add on 35, 40 pounds, I'm sure. The lowest, I was about 135.

Does your weight play a role in "La Cucina," the new film you're working on, about chefs?
No. The great beauty about acting is as long as it's great for the character, you can turn up as is. In the world of modeling, it's part of the job description. You maintain yourself and you have to look good.

Do you plan to go on the Slim-Fast diet for 10 weeks along with the "Find Your Slim" contestants?
No. Again, if I did that, I would be 20 pounds lighter than I am. If I'm fine like I am right now with how I am, then I would stay like that. This is not about me losing weight.

When do you think you might drink the shakes?
I'm pretty comfortable with the weight I am right now. We all reach these stages [when we want to lose weight], like after Christmas.

No specific time frame?
If I told you I was going to have one this afternoon, and I didn't, that wouldn't be good. It's a good message that's being put across here about being an individual and being a woman and finding your weight. It's not really about when I'm going to take the next Slim-Fast.

What's it like to get slammed by the tabloids for being not rail thin?
That's why Slim-Fast [is taking] me.  I don't get into that. I'm very comfortable with who I am and the weight that I am. The tabloids are tabloids.

How much did you stress out about staying thin before?
We came from a modeling era that was very healthy and very athletic. That's how I was.

What kind of pressure is there to stay thin in the celebrity world now?
The fashion industry never changed. There have always been peaks and valleys with different body types that have come in. Now it's so much more. These girls and the tragedies that happen are terrible, but they're not only tragedies that happen in the fashion industry.

What do you think of [former model] Tyra Banks saying she felt great at 161 pounds—and then immediately losing weight?
That's her decision. She is fantastic at what she does, and that's her decision.

Are you exercising, too?
I do a machine called Powerpulse. It's something you do Pilates on. I do a lot of walking and hiking and spinning. I eat a very healthy diet. Coming from New Zealand, that's the way we are down there. I think it's about maintaining good exercise, good diet.

You're dating Canadian hockey player Jarrett Stoll. What does he think of the diet?
I don't really involve him in my work. ... This campaign has only happened in the past two weeks. I've been traveling quite a bit. Once I get home, I was thinking it would be great to have a shake in the morning. For sure, when I get back, I actually ordered the strawberry shake.

Then you'll probably drink them for breakfast?
Yes. Just as far as maintenance, it will be in the morning—because of running out the door and not eating anything.

You don't have a contract with Slim-Fast to lose weight?
It's more to take the pressures off that women face right now. It's more about finding their own ideal size. No one's saying, "Lose that amount of weight." It's just finding your own slim.

Are they paying you to do it?
I think that's irrelevant.

Anything else you wish people knew?
Have a good healthy attitude. Exercise, eat good and maintain and not be hard on yourself.

You don't want to go below 140?
No. I look very horsy when I get thin. It's not attractive.