Fat chance at success

The Mamas - three plus-size women - hope their weight will help them to the top of the charts.

Hamamot 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hamamot 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It is difficult to see Racheli Levy, Libby Shmil and Sara Tveto as something beyond a gimmick. As part of a new, pre-made girl band, these three large-size women are being sold to the public as "fat women who can sing." They're called Hamamot - a Hebrew slang word taken from the English jargon, the Mamas. "When people see us they think we are a gimmick and that we're only fat. But we're much more than that. We came to the audition as singers. And that's what we are," says Levy. The group has been in the making for a year-and-a-half and was formed by Avi Gueta, the impresario behind mega-superstar Sarit Hadad. Gueta's decision to create an XL size band attracted hundreds of wannabe pop stars to auditions around the country. He told the Hebrew media that the concept is popular abroad and there's no reason it shouldn't do well here too. "I don't think we need to be judged by our size," says Levy. Yet, this is exactly how they're being sold to the public. But for Levy, Shmil and Tveto, any path to the spotlight will do. "There's nothing we can do about it," says Shmil. "The Israeli public judges one by appearance. We can't hide from reality." "We think that while society is stereotypical, it is ready to accept something new," says Levy. "We're daring to do what we're doing. Finally someone is getting up and saying, 'Enough, you don't have to be thin to be a great singer.' We're big and we have amazing vocals. I'm not an exception or a deviation. I'm a great singer who joined a group of other great singers. Now we hope society will accept us." Indeed, these three women were all drawn to singing years prior. Levy, who hails from Netanya, says she has been an amateur singer for some 19 years. She cites R&B influences, especially singers like Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. For Shmil, it's all about gospel and rock. The Rishon Lezion resident says she has been singing since age four, entertaining whomever would listen. As for Tveto of Haifa, she says house is her genre of choice, but that she's happy to sing anything. The group's first single, unsurprisingly, is a mix of musical styles. While Hamamot have original material in their repertoire, they chose to release the song "Cinderella" - a remake of the Israeli band Sexta's hit - as their first single. The metaphor for their single is overt - they too hope to move beyond anonymity, overcome prejudices and capture the spotlight. Their song is meant for the dance clubs and has seen some radio play. "I still can't believe we're on the radio," says Tveto. "I cried when I heard our song." Other pre-fabricated bands have met with mixed success here. Shmil is optimistic though, saying that with the help of Avi Gueta and her belief in God, their outcome will be different. Levy injects that the group's belief in themselves will also help afford success. LEVY, SHMIL and Tveto met one another after successfully passing the auditions for Gueta's new band, but it seems that they have little in common other than being large women who like to sing. Levy is outspoken and opinionated (in a good way). The primped 24-year-old runs a PR business from home and has also dabbled in modeling and journalism. Shmil, meanwhile, is rather quiet for most of the interview, though when she speaks it's clear she has something to say. The more mature 27-year-old counts working in a bank and CD store among her past jobs, and is now focusing solely on her Hamamot career. Tveto, the youngest in the group at 23, is hoping to have parallel law and singing careers. She also speaks her mind, but seems somewhat intimidated by her co-singers and allows Levy to wrest control for much of the interview. Perhaps their biggest difference, paradoxically, is how they view their largesse. Tveto admits that being big is a handicap. "Everyone has a limitation or handicap of some kind, but that doesn't mean one has to stay at home and be afraid of his or her own shadow," she says. Levy takes offense to this statement. She says her size is what makes her beautiful. "There are people in much more difficult situations, with real disabilities," she says. "I can go on a diet if I want. This is me. My being big is not a handicap." While they have visited one another's homes, there seems to be a lack of real cohesiveness among them. It is doubtful these three women would be friends if Hamamot was not a common project. And as such it is not surprising that when asked whether this trio is their ultimate career goal, they replied - almost in unison - that every one of them "wants a solo career, but at the moment we're thinking only about this group." And while Hamamot are undoubtedly a publicity stunt - whether these women like it or not - nowadays being an attention-grabber seems to be a guaranteed step into the spotlight. In recent years, reality television shows have become the platform for launching new singing careers. Levy, Shmil and Tveto might not have won A Star Is Born singing contest, but they hope to prove that Gueta's "A Star is Made" enterprise is just as effective. As the Post interview winds up, Tveto reports that her rising star status has already begun to reap benefits: She was given a discount at a patisserie after the baker recognized her. It's a start.