But now, just over four months later, the 2008 "America's Got Talent" winner and Sikeston, Mo., native says he's ready, 65 pounds lighter and primed to launch his campaign for the state legislature.
"I feel great," Boyd said Wednesday. "I just got motivated and lost the weight quicker than expected. My friends and family were telling me that I had a real shot. So I just told myself, now is the time."
Boyd intends next week to file in Jefferson City, Mo., as a Republican candidate for the newly redrawn 149th District, which includes New Madrid and Pemiscot counties and part of Mississippi County and includes the communities of Portageville and Hayti.
The filing deadline is March 27, and if no one else files, Boyd will face three-term incumbent Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie, in November's general election. Hodges has represented the existing 161st District, and he could have run in any one of the three new districts that take up parts of the 161st. He chose the 149th last December, saying that the 149th could be more friendly to Democrats.
"But musical accomplishments and being in the state legislature are two different things," Hodges said.
Hodges points to his six years in office, where he already knows how to navigate the political process in an often divided Jefferson City and get the work of the people done. In February, for example, Hodges proposed a bill that he touts as a way to put retail pharmacies on an even playing field with mail-order pharmacies.
He co-sponsored a bill last year with several Republican representatives that would have required prescriptions for pseudoephedrine statewide. He also voted with Republicans on a bill that ultimately mandated that certain welfare recipients undergo drug testing. He's also garnered two awards from teachers groups recently for his work in education.
"I haven't just been up there occupying a seat," Hodges said. "I feel like I have a lot more to offer at this point than Neal does."
Hodges already has a campaign committee, though as of his last finance report filed in January, he only had about $5,000 cash on hand. A search of the Missouri Ethics Commission's website showed no finance committee filings for Boyd as of Wednesday afternoon.
But Boyd said he's more than up to the challenge. He said he intends to work to ensure that residents of the 149th House District have the same opportunities that he did. Boyd was born into poverty, though he worked his way through Southeast Missouri State University, where he earned a degree in speech communications. He also has a bachelor's in music from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master's in management from the University of Phoenix.
He also attended the New England Conservatory in Boston.
"If my life shows anything, it's that the American dream can still be achieved through hard work and perseverance," Boyd said.
And while he acknowledged that he lacks political experience, he said he knows what's important to the people he would represent -- jobs, education and bringing a voice of the people of Southeast Missouri to Jefferson City.
"I've worked hard to get my body into shape ... and I continue to progressively lose weight," Boyd said. "It's funny. Friends have told me there isn't any better way to continue losing weight than knocking on doors in the district."
East Prairie, MO