Prejudice against people of size tries to dictate the things that we’ll never be – dancers, actresses, athletes, pop stars, proud of our bodies, married, not on a diet etc. Remember Jennifer Hudson’s Weight Watchers commercial where she said “Before Weight Watchers my Whole World was can’t” when before WW she had been a finalist on American Idol, starred in a film and won an Oscar and a Grammy?
As a fat person, the message that I hear loud and clear is that the only thing society is interested in me achieving is weight loss. This fat hating culture steals dreams, sometimes even before they can be dreamt. Little fat kids like me who sing and dance for crowds of millions in our bedrooms are not encouraged to pack up our dreams and move to LA, we’re encouraged to pack a Lean Cuisine and hit the gym until we are thin and that then, and only then, can we start dreaming of anything else.
That’s why I love to see fat actors, actresses, athletes, dancers, and fat people who love their bodies – because they are stealing their dreams back, wresting them from strangle hold of prejudice, bigotry and oppression. Every time somebody refuses to base their self-esteem on whether or not they meet a cultural stereotype of beauty, every time a fat person wakes up and doesn’t hate themselves, every time someone refuses to acquiesce to the tremendous pressure to shut up and conform or at least acknowledge their “failure”, they start stealing their dreams back, and they become role models for others. Some of my favorite reader feedback is when someone sends me an e-mail to say that they took a dance or karate class, or tried something that they weren’t doing because they were fat. This is one of the main reasons that I wanted to create the Fit Fatties Forum
If you had asked me three weeks ago I would have said that I’ve stolen all my dreams back, but it turns out that was a lie – I was playing it safe. Two weeks ago I took a trip to LA. I traveled there to speak at CalTech which went really well, (I even convinced a Masters in Public Health group to change their focus from obesity prevention to health promotion). While I was there I got to see Jennifer Jonassen perform and she was fantastic. I got to see the amazing Jeanette DePatie give a great talk at her book signing. I also got to meet Julianne and the awesome women from NAAFA‘s LA chapter who were inspiring in their support of each other, their work in the community, and their activism. After I got home and started thinking about my trip, I realized that I was cutting myself short on what I truly want in my life because I wasn’t sure if it was possible.
I’m extremely lucky in a number of ways. I’m lucky that the things I love most (speaking, performing, and writing) are things that I’m good at, and fit well with the thing that I most want to accomplish with my life (fighting for civil rights and against weight bullying and oppression to make the world better for people of size). So I made a decision. I’m going to pack up my dreams and move to Los Angeles where I can continue my World Tour as well as looking for more opportunities to get on stage as a performer (where I love being more than anywhere else) and give people the chance to question their stereotypes about fat performers, and really steal back all of my dreams.
I’m looking forward to working with Jeanette, Jennifer, and NAAFA-LA and using the platform of LA to make a difference. (Thanks to every movie ever made about moving to LA and chasing your dreams, I know that you shouldn’t hide your money in a baggie in the toilet because it’s the first place thieves look – I’ve always wondered why those girls didn’t just get bank accounts). Of course this means that I’m not moving to San Francisco and I’m sad about that because there are so many fantastic people there who I would love to work with. But if I’m being honest, the truth is that I really want to roll the dice and see what kind of hell I can raise in LA. Wish me luck!
I’m doing a slideshow for iVillage called “Pictures of Health – Diet Quitters”. It will involve a picture of you and answers to some questions about your experience going HAES. If you are interested please E-MAIL ME at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!
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