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April 07, 2017 01:51 PM

 

When I pulled up to Mama June Shannon’s house in Hampton, Georgia the first thing I noticed was the blinds … or what was left of them. By the looks of tattered white plastic barely hanging in the window, I assumed a cat had gone to town and ripped them to shreds. But alas, no felines inside. Just June’s three-legged dog Jelly Bean.

I flew in from New York City and arrived around 10 a.m. for our photo shoot — June’s first since dropping 300 lbs. and undergoing a drastic body transformation for WE tv’s From Not to Hot. In the kitchen, a catered breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits, hash browns and an assortment of pastries covered the table. I said a quick hello to June as she grabbed a couple of muffins and some hash browns (she ate with her hands, no fork) and headed upstairs to have her hair and makeup done.

Perry Hagopian

In the meantime, I meandered around her “dining room” an area off to the right of the kitchen that had been transformed into a storage area fit for a coupon-clipping queen. Plastic shelves were jammed with hundreds of bottles of laundry detergent, all on display under a hanging chandelier. Quite an impressive collection. In fact, I’ve never seen so much Gain in one place in my life. Ever.

FROM COINAGE: Here’s When It’s Worth to Buy Organic

 

Two hours later, June emerged, all dolled-up and ready to sit down for our interview. However, by that time breakfast was long gone, and an impressive spread of barbecue chicken, pork and beef with all the fixins (sweet and baked potatoes, green beans and large quantities of butter) had all been laid out for lunch. “Let me show you how it’s done,” she said dunking a piece of cornbread into barbecue sauce and popping it in her mouth. “This is the way you gotta eat it.”

When we finally made our way into the sparse living room, cornbread still in hand and crumbs on her shirt, June settled in on the couch to start answering my questions. Just as we were about to begin, PEOPLE’s photo editor gently suggested she change her shirt for a more flattering option. June agreed. But instead of trading out her top in private, she lifted her shirt in front of our entire crew and exposed herself. “What? Y’all never seen boobies before?” she hooted. “Screw going in the other room, I can change right here.”

Emily Strohm

I couldn’t help but laugh. But neither could the stylist, video team, producer or photographer. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve met June (it’s the third), so I had an idea of what to expect from her. Belching, cursing and just generally not caring, that’s all the norm. But seeing her “boobies” was a surprise — even to me. Later in the day she snapped a few topless selfies and gave us a heads-up right before she had to fart. Crass, yet courteous.

  • For more on Mama June Shannon’s weight loss transformation, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

While she might be physically transformed, June’s still the same lady I met a few years ago minus the “turkey neck,” “bat wings” and about 300 lbs. If you ask her, which I did, this transformation has merely boosted her already high confidence. “I thought of myself as being sexy before,” she declares. “Now, I’m the s—.”

The finale of Mama June: From Not to Hot airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET on WE tv.

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