Gay Rosenthal, creator of the reality show "Push Girls." (Gay Rosenthal Productions )
Reality TV producer Gay Rosenthal is behind such groundbreaking fare as TLC's "Little People, Big World" and Style's "Ruby." In Sundance Channel's "Push Girls," Rosenthal explores the world of women living with paralysis — and suggests it is a reality alternative to HBO's 'Girls."
What is it like being Gay Rosenthal, reality TV producer?
That's a hard question. Many times I say, if you had cameras on me, it would be a really fabulous sitcom. It's very busy. Today I started at 3:30 a.m. My days are pretty intense.
Are there shows you think, 'I really wish I had my name attached to that," or vice versa?
The most important thing to me is the quality. I'm also very strategic, so I'm looking at things I would like to possible partner or whatever it is. I really created a brand, and I'm so happy and proud that I created that brand — part of it is, the power to make a difference, shattering stereotypes and changing perceptions. With "Behind the Music," I did every interview, so I had to beg rock stars — especially in the beginning — to trust me with their stories and trust that I'm going to protect them. Luckily, I've been able to do that my whole career. So I can't do something that is in the train-wreck category or trashy; something that falls into those realms is not something I want to be part of.
Some of your shows, including "Push Girls," delve into the worlds of people living with disabilities. How do you do that without being exploitive?
I think it's really paying attention to it and being able to show something in a very well-thought-out [way].... . When I first started "Little People, Big World," which was 10 years ago, it was always about the balance. Yes, there is a gawk factor, absolutely. People want to see, 'Wow, how do they do things that some of us take for granted? Whether it's food and Amy [Roloff] having to climb up on a shelf to get something or how did she have one baby, let alone four babies? It's knowing that people are super interested but also doing it with class and elegance and not making fun. Just showing that they achieve the same things, just in different ways.
What are you conversations like with the subjects?
It varies. With the ladies of "Push Girls," they're very open. They're willing to share everything. And that's great because they want that awareness and they understand that their morning routines are different than yours and mine and they want to put that out there. So many things that are great about the girls is that they are four best friends who are living life and doing what girlfriends do."Girls"on HBO is so reflective of what's going on with that generation.... This, in some ways, is a reality version of that, only they're living with paralysis — they're dating, they're talking about juggling careers, and boys and sex.