top of page

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Many actors will tell stories of their personal struggles as actors - through failed auditions to injuries to overbearing directors. There is also a group of actors, that is quickly becoming the majority, that finds difficulty gaining success for attributes they cannot control - their race, gender, and weight. Yes, weight. Society will spout that your weight is a choice and if you were making better life choices you could be living a "healthier", thinner lifestyle. It's not that easy. And quite honestly, besides the point.

I know that every person is different and their story is different, but I have spoken to SO MANY actors and people in general who are dealing with the same hardships as I am. I have been overweight since puberty, with a short span where I lost about 40 pounds, but I'll get to that later. I can only tell my story and how I continue to work past the unconscious biases that I have to face as a plus sized actor.

I had fallen in love with acting well before puberty took me and turned my metabolism to mush, but hadn't truly thought it was something I could do until I went with my grandma to the local theater and saw shows there. I would dream of being onstage, pretending to be characters like Annie or Dorothy when I get home. I would watch musicals on VHS and act out movies with my friends. Most of my presents were dress up clothes that I would parade around in. It was around the same time - puberty - that I started to feel shame for doing this. Those clothes no longer fit and it was childish to play dress up as I started developing.

I was lucky enough to live in a town where everyone got cast in every musical at the local theater as well as the high school productions. At that time, I wasn't big, but I wasn't skinny. I wore "large" sized clothes. There were off-hand comments when dressing me, because our costumes were always pulled and it was difficult to find a period costume for "someone like me." I rationalised those comments the best I could. It didn't affect me until I was cast as a "Copa Girl" in Copacabana. I was the largest Copa Girl and boy, three of the other girls made me WELL aware of it. They made multiple snide comments, picking up my leotard by accident or saying that there are only large ones left and this would fall right off them. This was the first time I ever felt self-conscious about my weight on stage.

I had been in a battle with my self-esteem and my body all my adolescence, but when I was on stage, I wasn't me. It was freeing. I lost that freedom when I had to think about how I looked in my costume - how I was suddenly this fat thing pretending to be attractive, but I wasn't fooling anyone. It sounds dramatic - but I am an actor.

Madame Pernelle in Tartuffe

This continued when my mentor, who was the costume designer at the college I was attending, outright told me that she "hated costuming fat people". I felt like a failure each time I was onstage because it felt like that she put in less effort in my costume or at least disliked it more than the others. It was hard to fully embody my characters. I hit a wall I could not get past. I couldn't get over how my size and the size of my friends mattered so much. I had also fallen into the hole most plus-sized females do where I was only getting cast as older women (thus justifying the weight). My first role in college was my third role in a row where I played a character over 60 years old.

This inspired my first drastic step to change my body to be more appealing. Between my first two semesters freshman year, I had Abdominal Liposuction. Only a handful of people knew at the time. But, man, my confidence shot up...for a while at least. I got my first lead the following semester, and played the seductive love interest after that. I still wasn't "socially acceptable skinny", but I felt like I fit in my body better. I could sigh in relief knowing that if I wasn't getting cast, it was because of something I could work on - like my singing voice or emotional range - and not my body.

Still, my body (and my mind) had another idea. Now, I do not recommend getting liposuction, unless you plan on changing your lifestyle and truly spend time thinking it through. I was 19 and did it purely for vanity reasons. I didn't focus on the aftercare and continued to gain the weight back. The only benefit, was that since the fat cells weren't in my abdomen anymore, I was not gaining like I used to. I didn't ever look fat, at least not in the mirror - I looked my whole body was suffering from an allergic reaction.

Provaloney in Psycho Beach Party

I realized that my weight would be a lifetime battle and not an overnight fix. After, I transferred for my Bachelor's (and not getting cast at all my first year), I really looked into healthier options for weight loss. In my mind, it was the only way I could get cast, and thus accepting myself. Even at this new school, plus-sized women were stuck playing men or mothers. I was involved in a show over the summer where I played a man, and was notably the largest woman in the cast. Not to diminish the other actors. They are INCREDIBLY talented and, of course, deserve the roles they were given. I just have always wanted that security of knowing that I was cast because of my talent, and not my size.

In 2011, though a friend, I found a weight loss center that used home cooked meals and protein supplements that tasted like juice and not death. I thought, "I've tried everything else, why not this?" I signed up and in the first week I lost almost 10 pounds. Yes, most of it was water weight, but good lord! Over the next four months, I lost over 30 pounds. I looked my best, but was losing steam. I still wasn't getting cast, and I really missed mozzarella sticks. But I stuck to the program. Initially, I gained almost all of the weight back, but after I graduated college, I started working there. I really dove into the program. I made modifications so that it would work in my life. I lost most of the weight again, but this time, I felt better - healthier, and happier in my body. It took about a year for me to get in that headspace. During that time, I was cast in a couple shows - no major roles, but that was fine. I was on stage again. That was all that mattered to me.

For the next three years, things were going great. I loved my job, I was in multiple shows (sometime as the lead), and I felt amazing. Nothing could go wrong. Or so I thought. During these shows, those vampires kept coming back into my brain. When I was cast as Midge in Picnic (my first lead as a love interest), my brain kept saying - "Why? I don't look like a leading lady. No one's going to believe this." I was the healthiest I'd ever been, but still suffering from body dysmorphia from years of personal and societal pressure. My male lead had to pick me up during one scene, and I had flashbacks to high school where a boy had to lift me during show choir and would groan causing others to laugh. During this time, I had started going to therapy - 10/10 highly recommend; everyone should do it. I wanted to overcome these intrusive thoughts. I also was starting to deal with stress from work.

My work went through an overhaul, and the new manager and I didn't see eye to eye. I began stress eating again. Despite loving what I was doing, I felt very taken advantage of. So I left. My next job wasn't much better. I was very stationary at that job. I kept getting in trouble with my boss and because of this, I couldn't sleep and started having anxiety attacks. All this to say that I gained a lot of weight during this time. I did not have the mental capacity to take care of myself and so I didn't. I was also involved in a theater company that was extremely stressful and demanded a lot from their company. I thought that the stress and borderline abuse was okay as long as I was doing what I loved.

Catherine in Proof

My only solace was getting cast as "Catherine" in Proof at the theater in my hometown. This was a bucket list role for me. It was also during this show that I learned I had Borderline Personality Disorder. This explained so much as to why I would react or feel the way I would. I adored this show and finally got to show that I was talented and truly felt like I deserved to be on stage. It relit my fire to perform, weight be damned.

Unfortunately, I had switched jobs again and this one was a bit more time intensive. It took my whole attention and I didn't have time to think about auditioning for months. Because of this, my anxiety was rising, and my doctor put me on Abilify which caused me to gain 20 pounds in two weeks. I had told him about my body dysmorphia and how I shouldn't be on meds that cause weight gain, so to remedy this, he added one that was supposed to curb my appetite. It didn't. I switched doctors and got off the Abilify and appetite suppressant, but none of the weight came off. I was at the heaviest I'd ever been, and felt it. I tried copying the program from when I lost the weight the first time, but my hormones and metabolism had changed and my body wasn't reacting like it did last time.

After noticing a pattern in how one theater in town casts, I reached out to their (now former) DEIA Director and shared my thoughts about the lack of plus sized casting, specifically with female identifying actors. She was more than welcome to talk more with me about it. Unfortunately, our schedules never aligned to allow that to happen prior to her exit.

So this is where I'm at today. I have auditioned for 12 shows and one festival in the past year and got cast in two productions. I am aware that half of those shows were musicals and my singing audition isn't the strongest, but when I saw the cast lists, some of them were still disappointing at how there were zero plus sized females. I'm still waiting to hear back from the 13th show so fingers crossed. But I'm also still struggling with body dysmorphia. There are days I don't eat. There are days where I binge. There are days where I think I'm fine just as I am. The show I just finished, I thought I looked great and felt good (despite ordering a 3XL dress for my costume), until I saw pictures of how much bigger I was than the rest of the cast. I'm very grateful for the director for casting me and giving me the opportunity to grow and shine.

I wish I could say that I love myself every day. I wish I could say that I'm cured of all my issues, but the truth is having a passion where you're constantly judged will always create those thoughts. I just will work everyday to prove that I'm worthy and talented and deserve everything I work for, no matter what my pant size is at the time.

54 views0 comments

The past seven months have been hard on everyone. I won't deny that. But as a creative, I can say that the strain put on my mind, body, and soul has exceeded any other trying time.

I always will defend that acting is my first love. However, even before Coronavirus, I was not getting the release and experience that I truly desired that helped to keep my demons at bay.

I will admit, with Borderline Personality Disorder, having a healthy outlet to express oneself is dire in order to keep from becoming impulsive and inevitably doing something self-harming. Now, I didn't try to hurt myself physically, no, but my actions inadvertently hurt those closest to me. My emotions were extremely heightened and I can honestly say that I believed what I did was for the best. I have since learned my error.

This is why it's so vital to have healthy outlets to turn to. Being stuck in a mundane routine can drive even 'normal' people mad.

During my work's semi-annual Value Awards Ceremony, I donated my time to create individual centerpieces for the tables. I know we could have easily pulled something from our stock, but I knew this was a great way for me to find an outlet.

This week I attempted something I had never done. I made a six-tier rainbow cake with homemade fondant. It's for my co-worker's Going Away Party her last week. This co-worker has been such a friend of mine that I wanted to make something exceptional for her and I know how much she loves rainbows and unicorns. It was definitely a trial and error situation. I had never made a multi-tier cake nor had I ever made fondant. I've definitely learned for next time. I adore baking so much and I'm so happy that it has been my backup to express myself when theatre is absent.

I do hope that soon things will begin to return to some semblance of normal, but until then, I will continue to work through my struggles and use art as a healthy outlet for my needs.

**Surprise Addition: We had "Character Day" last Sunday and I made myself a Cat in the Hat costume the night before. I'm really enjoying these little sprinkles of art that I have to get me by.

In 2019, I spent the year focusing on healing and bettering myself. I also very much delved into my job and getting as good at that as possible so I could get a promotion and thus a raise. Thus moving my very heavy boulder a little further up the hill to my life goals. In order to do this, I had to step back from theatre.

It hurt. It was hard, and it really took a toll on me, but it was what I had to do. It helped me realize how much I do need theatre in my life to keep me grounded. I am extremely proud of myself and what I was able to accomplish and clear off my plate so that I could begin again on the path of self fulfillment.

Then in 2020, Coronavirus struck. Little did I know that I could be completely ready to jump back in to theatre with both feet, but the entire world was going to shut down.

Thanks to this glorious pause, I have had to really dissect my goals, wishes, and process where I am and where I want to be. I love my job, I really do, but I also feel so stuck. I don't feel like I'm able to be my entire self. Also, I'm still stuck living with my parents which is definitely not the goal for any sane 31-year old. What do I want out of my life? What is going to make me happy?

I've always thought about doing one of those 300-mile treks like in "Wild" but I know I do not have the constitution to pull that off. Plus I always find myself happiest around people - making others happy. That's what's always drawn me to theatre. Feeling the energy of the audience as I perform is the greatest feeling in the world. Stepping out on that stage, I just completely lose myself - as most performers with tell you. I can be petrified what everyone is going to think of me, of my performance up until the second I break the curtain's leg and then suddenly I have all the confidence in the world.

Even with whatever precautions that need to be taken in order for the arts industry to continue, I will gladly make that sacrifice in hopes that one day soon, I'll be able to grace a stage again.

bottom of page