Here's What Happened When An Audience Member Said I Looked Fat
In the past, no doubt I would have cried.
While touring with my show The Divine Miss Bette recently I had a girls night with one of the other female performers on the bill. After cocktails, dinner and dancing, we ended up at a piano bar for a much-needed night out that neither of us mums had enjoyed for a while.
At the end of the evening, an audience member pulled me aside and said: “Can I tell you something?”
I said yes.
She said: “Don’t wear your gold dress anymore. My friend and I saw you tonight and you look 20 pounds lighter than in your show the other evening.”
This is me in the dress at five months pregnant. I rocked it then and I rock it now.
In the past, no doubt I would have cried. But I’ve worked hard with my kinesiologist to break this belief cycle.
You see, I’ve been teased about being ‘fat’ since I was four years old. It’s nothing new. I never knew what 'fat' was until some girls in primary school decided to label me so. Since then, there hasn't been a day I've not thought about my weight.
Instead, I listened to the audience member and explained that I don't care about what I look like. It's about the person I am. I also listened as she explained she had just become divorced after 40 years and we chatted some more. It was clear she had her own stuff going on and this was a lesson in projection.
She went on to apologise and said: "I shouldn't have said anything.” It ended okay and I did what I could to make her feel comfortable.
She meant well. She wasn’t nasty. In fact she was lovely and premised the chat with “sister to sister, honey…” which I always appreciate. We Sisters have to look after each other.
It was the subject that made me sad. Instead of seeing me and thinking ‘Hey! There’s that artist from the other night whose show we enjoyed, let’s go tell her,” those ladies chose to focus on my appearance.
Thing is, in my 36th year I actually feel more confident and beautiful than ever. The way I look has become less of a priority because my body is miraculous and has given birth to a beautiful baby. It’s also my instrument. I worship it. I'm not saying I don't take pride in my appearance or care about my health, it's just that the negative noises in my mind are dissipating, AT LAST. I feel relieved.
I feel FREE!
It was obviously hard for her to fathom that I could be happy in this body despite not being a size 8, however. And even then, is every size 8 woman happy?
Until now, I have always blamed my lack of achievements on my size 12-14 body, on my fear of not ‘fitting the mould’. But there is no mould! We were all born different and our uniqueness should be celebrated.
Showbiz is as unforgiving as it gets, folks. The constant rejection. The judgement. The pressure. The rollercoaster. I've battled with it for years. Society has created this unrealistic idea of what we should be. Our obsession of it is destroying our joy. Maybe it’s Maybelline? Maybe it’s bullshit.
Teddy Roosevelt said it best: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. BOOM! After reading that quote I had a massive lightbulb moment and have felt lighter ever since.
Agents, boyfriends, even my own colleagues have contributed to this insidious cycle. “How much weight can you lose between now and your audition next week?” Or “if you lose 5kgs you could be really hot”. Or “Tracey in hairspray would be a really good role for you". And then, most recently, being referred to as an elephant behind my back by a long-time colleague. Devastating and deeply damaging.
If I'm not the right physical fit for a role, don't submit me. Save me the anguish! Don't send me in to be cast as a 16-year-old girl. I didn't look 16 even when I was 16. I've always had hips and boobs. That's just how I'm built and THAT'S OK.
What's more devastating is that when I look back at myself in photos I was never big. Sure, I was bigger than some of my friends, but we're all different. I was never fat, yet that somehow became my story because people judged me. To think I've wasted so much of my life scrutinising myself and worrying about how I look. Feeling that I wasn't an equal because I wasn't the same size as the other girls.
Sure, after childbirth I need to regain my fitness, mostly for my work and to set a good example for my son. And that will come in time, but my shape has always been curvy and voluptuous, and for the first time in my life, I LOVE IT. I don’t feel pressure to look like those girls in the magazines. Or to be thinner because I’ll fail if I'm not.
My brother told me something that changed my life: 'It doesn't matter what you look like." He's right.
Many cultures celebrate fuller figured women. I wish ours did. It could have saved me 32 years of bullying, nasty comments and feeling insecure.
All of this just makes me think about our babies, and for mine the cycle of judgement stops here. Health, love, empathy and positivity is what we are invested in.
The pressure is ridiculous and I call #timesup on it too. Because life is too short to not love yourself.
Watch The Sunday Project tonight for a full interview with Catherine Alcorn.