October 01, 2007 12:00 PM

ASHANTI SPEAKS OUT

‘Do I Look Fat?’

After a tabloid accuses her of shunning photographers because she felt too fat, the R&B star defends her healthy body image

Gearing up for the December release of her fourth CD, The Declaration, Ashanti, 26, spoke to BodyWatch about staying confident while being picked apart in the public eye.

Did you really refuse to have your picture taken in August because you were too big?

This is so funny. We were vacationing. I was in my blue bikini by the pool. No makeup. The hotel manager comes and says, “There are a couple of photographers, do you mind?” I said, “Well, I’m chilling now, maybe later.” I don’t know if they got offended, but they turned it into something else. I mean, do I look fat? If I felt fat, why would I be in a bikini?

Had you gained weight, as the report said?

I’m human. If I’m not working, I’ll eat barbecued chicken, and if I want Baskin-Robbins, I get it. I’m going to enjoy life. Will I be in the gym every day if I know I’m not going to be on TV? No! But when it’s time to get it poppin’ again, I’m focused. I jump in the gym for a month and I’m solid. I’m ready to shoot the video.

Do you feel pressure to slim down for shoots?

Television puts 10 lbs. on you. So weigh your options: Look good in person? Or to the billions who see you on TV?

Do you diet?

I avoid fried foods and I’m not having ice cream every day. You’d be surprised at the results when you cut that out. This summer I did the lemon-pepper-maple syrup diet for 7 days.

The Master Cleanser? Just lemonade for a week?

When I got really hungry, I ate fruit. I lost 8 lbs. and kept it off.

You were 21 and pretty tiny when you started. Did your body change?

I noticed it’s very simple for me to lose weight and very simple for me to gain. [Back then] I got a little too skinny. I don’t like to see bones. Look, I’m never going to be a toothpick. Size 4 is where I’m comfortable. I’m not a toothpick and I’m not a hamburger.

NEW FALL TV ACTION STARS!

MUSCLING IN

What’s a girl gotta do to take over an iconic action role or stand out in a popular gang of superheroes? Hit the gym!

The BIONIC WOMAN

THE HEROINE

Jaime Sommers (created in the 1970s by actress Lindsay Wagner), a bartender who got into a devastating car accident and is rebuilt with a robotic eye, arm and legs, which allow her to jump between buildings and outrun SUVs. (NBC, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET)

THE STAR

Michelle Ryan, 23, a Brit best known for the soap opera EastEnders.

THE WORKOUT

Since landing the role in February, Ryan (who does most of her stunts) has lived “a whirlwind of shooting and training.” Each day means 90 minutes of sprints and weights with a trainer, plus two hours of Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art, and harness training.

THE SECRET WEAPON

“I work out to the Rocky soundtrack!”

THE NEW HERO IN TOWN

THE HEROINE

Maya Herrera, a Dominican fugitive fleeing to the U.S., joins NBC’s Heroes. The show is keeping her supernatural power a secret until the premiere (Sept. 26), but star Dania Ramirez says, “I’ll give you a hint: You don’t want to make me cry. The reason I’m on the run from the cops is I’ve done something really horrific, due to my ability.”

THE STAR

Ramirez, 26, has some action on her résumé: She played Callisto, Halle Berry‘s rival in X-Men: The Last Stand. An avid volleyball player and Rollerblader, “I’m really athletic,” she says, but adds that Heroes’ 10-hour shooting days are intense: “There’s a lot of running with my character.”

THE WORKOUT

For an hour and a half, three days a week, trainer Ramona Braganza (who shapes up Jessica Alba) puts Ramirez through a cardio and strength regimen, focusing on her legs, glutes and abs. Sliding like a speed skater on two gliding discs “really targets her inner thighs,” says Braganza.

THE SECRET WEAPON

Though she goes home sore every day, Ramirez “is always upbeat” in the gym, says Braganza. How does she do it? “I got an amazing role on an amazing show,” says the actress. “That’s all the motivation I need.”

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