“My mother was someone who was loved very publicly and she should be mourned publicly,” Whitney Way Thore tells PEOPLE ahead of the show's new season
Whitney Way Thore is honoring her late mother in the best way she can in the upcoming season of My Big Fat Fabulous Life.
In PEOPLE’s exclusive tribute video, the 39-year-old celebrates her mother, Barbara "Babs" Thore, who died on December 7, 2022 of cerebral amyloid angiopathy.
The clip highlights some of her best moments on the reality show, showing her close bond with Whitney and her loving marriage with her husband and Whitney’s father, Glenn Thore.
Ahead of the new season, Whitney spoke to PEOPLE about how she’s approaching it without her mother by her side for the first time.
“It'll be the first season without my mom, and it starts with her funeral, so that's going to be really difficult I think for us as a family to watch,” she says.
In recent weeks, Whitney has received some criticism about including her mother’s funeral in the new season of My Big Fat Fabulous Life. However, she’s unfazed by the hurtful comments and says it actually wasn’t a hard decision to make because having the funeral filmed made the situation easier for her.
“When my mom was dying, she was in the ICU for about a month and we expected that she would die,” she recalls. “And my executive producer had reached out to me very sensitively and said, would you like us to film this?”
“I asked my dad, and my dad immediately said yes. The way that he kind of thinks about it is that my mother was someone who was loved very publicly and that she should be mourned publicly. He, like, inserted Princess Diana or the Queen of England, all that,” she says with a laugh.
Whitney admits that it was also helpful to have the show’s crew members with her during the hard time “because they’re like a family to me.”
“We have one crew member who's been with us for 10 out of the 11 seasons. So it felt actually just supportive to have them there,” she says. “And I didn't really notice them filming it actually. So it was just easier, rather harder.”
Whitney says that the upcoming season is really a big tribute to her mom. And in her absence, she’s excited for people to “see a whole new side of Glenn Thore” as the show will be centered on helping her dad cope.
“I joke a lot with my dad. I've always said that my mom was the star of the show. This was all just really a vehicle for her to be brought to the world,” she explains. “And now that she's gone, I told dad, ‘You're going to have big shoes to fill.’ And I think he actually did.”
This season, Whitney and her brother Hunter create a bucket list of adventurous activities for their dad to do in order to cheer him up, including getting a tattoo, going indoor skydiving, taking an international trip and reconnecting with his “long-lost daughter.”
“I wanted him to have some joy in his life and we had to find things to give him a reason to live, honestly, because he literally said to me that he did not want to live without my mother. Some scary things that you don't really want to hear from someone you love,” Whitney says. “I think the hardest thing for both my brother and me is seeing my dad like that."
“So, obviously we're mourning my mother and then also trying to think about how we can best support my father. So it was difficult, but my family is so wonderful,” she adds.
As Whitney continues to navigate her new reality and cope with the loss of her mother, she tells PEOPLE that she’s grateful to have the support of her fans and see how much Babs meant to those who’ve watched the show over the years.
“When my mother died, oh my God, the support was so incredible,” she says. “It was amazing to see how many people my mother affected and how she's going to live on in so many people's memories for the rest of their lives. That was really amazing.”
My Big Fat Fabulous Life premieres on Tuesday, September 5, at 9 pm ET/PT on TLC and will be available on discovery+ the same day.
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