Looking the Part

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Ragen Chastain 5’4 284 pounds, wearing a dress that a judge once said she “couldn’t stand to look at me” in.  photo by Richard Sabel

I’ve taken some time off of competitive dance and recently I’ve been considering getting back into it.  I’ve had a number of conversations about it and in each of them the concept of “looking the part” has come up. Some people being very clear that, in their estimation, if I want to compete at the top levels there will be issues if I don’t “look the part” by being thin.

This is a pervasive idea – that only thin bodies “look right” for various activities.  Dance is an area where fat people are often told that the idea that our bodies are “wrong” is not opinion, culture, or discrimination – but absolute fact.  I am certain that is fiction.

Just as I am certain that it is fat bigotry that leads our culture to choose our singers, actors, and dancers not predominantly on their ability to sing, act, or dance, but on their ability to meet a culture stereotype of beauty.  Models for plus size clothing often  don’t “look the part” unless they are too small to fit into the clothes they are modeling.  Studies have found that, in general hiring practices, “strong obesity discrimination was displayed across all job selection criteria, such as starting salary, leadership potential, and likelihood of selecting an obese candidate for the job.”

In our society “looking the part” is almost always about being thin – whether “the part” is a professional actress or an administrative assistant.  This is size discrimination, plain and simple. Fat people are often advised to solve this discrimination by changing our bodies.  I certainly don’t hold it against anybody who chooses this path, though I feel for them since the actual likelihood of permanent long term weight loss is so small and I imagine that the stigma people experience does not go down if they lose a bunch of weight and then gain it back.  This illustrates one of the problems with trying to solve discrimination or social stigma with weight loss.  We can try to stop the bullies by giving them our lunch money but that doesn’t guarantee the bully will leave us alone, especially if we have more lunch money next week.

We have the option to challenge what “Looking the Part” means.  We have the option to become the best dancer, singer, actress, administrative assistant, plumber, HR specialist etc. that we can be in the body that we have now, and to relentlessly pursue our dreams and goals while refusing to change our bodies, even though the deck is stacked against us.  Fat discrimination is real and these things do not change overnight so there’s no denying that this is a risk.  As I said before, I harbor no ill will toward those who try to get thin in order to escape social stigma.  It’s just not for me.  I believe that risk is the currency of revolution.  For things to change a lot of people are going to have to risk – I choose to be one of them.  So I plan to return to competitive dance this year and see if I can expand what “the part” looks like.

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62 thoughts on “Looking the Part

  1. I look at that photo of you and see a beautiful woman expressing herself through dance. You look joyous and stunning, imho. To me, you very much look the part of a dancer, but as a fat dancer myself, I think that it’s in the way you express yourself and interpret the music, not the size of your body that makes you a stunning dancer. Please do expand what looking “the part” is! 🙂

  2. A judge said she couldn’t stand to look at you in that dress?? What kind of knuckle-dragging remark is that??

  3. Haiku for Ragen on “looking the part”

    Wings of startled blackbirds rise
    Rustle…pink roses!
    I bend for a closer look

    Ragen..thank you for the inspiration of your glorious photo. Here’s to your poetry in motion, here’s to the closer look that changes everything. Dance away!
    Blessings all…

  4. Rant Warning:

    Even in the opera world, I’m VERY sad to say, I have seen the standard change. Jessye Norman, one of the greatest voices ever, would not be chosen today. I have worked with a number of singers who have mediocre voices, but are physically attractive people. They get the roles while others of us are on the sidelines. It’s one of the reasons I left the full-time opera world. I was sick of women with half the voice being picked over me constantly. No, I’m not tooting my own horn, but I do know what my voice was like when I was still singing regularly.

    There are some thin folks with huge voices (Kristin Chenoweth, for one), but they tend to be rare jewels. There’s a reason that the stereotypical opera singer is an enormous woman. Body size is often related to instrument size. More resonating cavity bang for the buck, as it were. Even the great Maria Callas’s hauntingly glorious voice was a casualty of the weight loss wars. (TRIGGER WARNING) She tape-wormed and restricted herself into depression and vocal failure at the height of the era of the Golden Voice because she wanted so desperately to be thin and beautiful. She never recognized that she was gloriously beautiful just as she was. She could never be good enough to meet the standards she felt imposed on her, God rest her soul. How tragic is that?

    Another fat friend and I would talk about the fact that we were never cast in the same shows because the house had a “one fat chick” rule, at least for the women. Men were held to different standards because there are generally fewer of them.

    Anyway, it’s saddened me more than I can say to witness the “prettification” of opera, because Honey, it don’t matter how pretty your voice is if the folks in the back row can’t hear you. They paid for their tickets too.

    1. I never knew that (I don’t follow opera very often unless a good one comes to town, and is far and very few between). That is very sad that she did that to herself.

      Maybe this is just me, but I thought opera had more to do with the talent if your voice and nothing to do with body shape because fat, thin, inbetween people all can have that amazing voice… :s it seems I am very wrong on that part.

      1. Once upon a time that is exactly what it was, and it was truly the glory days of opera, but we’re in a very visual era as evidenced by all the movie-making and image-enhancing technology out there. Today the opera world operates according to that standard.

        1. Bah! That is incredibly stupid. That is probably why I very much dislike music videos (granted there are a few I do like) for most pop music now and days, too photoshopped.

    2. You know, Helena, one of the best nights of opera I ever experienced featured two fat, old women: Joan Southerland and Marilyn Horne in Norma.

      I know there was a tenor in there somewhere, but who cared?

      I was mighty lucky to see that production, because Dame Joan announced her retirement about six months later and never sang in San Francisco again. I was, however, lucky enough to hear Marilyn Horne sing again several times.

      Oh, and I remember what happened to Renato Scotto’s voice after she lost a large amount of weight in a short time. It was never the same, more’s the pity. And why did she do it? Because she saw the TV broadcast of the production of La Boheme she was in with Pavarotti and decided they looked like ‘two overstuffed armchairs hurling themselves at one another’ instead of starving young artists.

      I’m just glad Pavarotti didn’t make the same decision to make himself ‘look the part.’ So are millions of opera fans the world over.

      1. You saw Joan and Marilyn together????? Oh, GIRL.

        Sadly, in later years Pavarotti did just that – he lost over 100# in less than a year and his voice suffered greatly. Most of it he gained back, but it was never quite the same again.

    3. I sang in high school and am still part of a local choir, I’m a first soprano and in my high school choir there was only one other girl with a range like mine and she was thin and blonde so she got ALL of the first soprano roles in ALL of our shows, i was given solos on stage but they never matched my vocal ability. it infuriated and aggravated me to the point of giving myself an eating disorder to try to get my teacher to notice i was just as talented.

        1. I had that happen to me too. One time, the other girl had a sore throat and she begged the (male) choir director to let me take her spot. He was very hesitant because he never liked me, despite the fact that he thought I was talented, but gave in.

          I did a solid job and I remember being so proud after until I walked into the lobby and heard some kid’s father say to the director, ” What happened to that pretty, little gal who usually sings the solo? She is just stunning.” Aside from the fact that we were 16 and he was creepily commuting on a young girl’s appearance, I just felt horrible because it was like he didn’t even listen to me. He was more worried that he didn’t get to lay eyes on the “pretty little gal.”

    4. Helena I am an opera singer, too. I experienced all the same problems. I eventually had a child and was at a crossroads anyway, but the way I was being treated made the decision to quit easy. I saw the discrimination not only in casting but even in the vocal competitions – like McCammon. I will never forget the year a slender, attractive girl won top prize. I had performed with her numerous times, and of course, understudied her roles, even though I have twice the voice. Even her own coach was surprised she had won. Now I study voice for fun and I write songs to express myself musically. I have no desire to take on the professional music world anymore. It is just downright political, bigoted, and hurtful!

  5. I brought this issue up with one of my friend’s so called friends (whom we will Jerk), when he joined us at the gym one night. I was doing yoga with my friend and shortly after Jerk arrived and said to my friend “For a fat woman, how can she be so good at yoga, all fat people are lazy.” My friend looked at Jerk shocked and said “Hey! I’m fat as well.” and Jerk said “But you are a man, she how ever is a woman, and she should know better then to let herself go like that.”

    At this point I had stopped what I was doing and said “I haven’t ‘let myself go’ as you so kindly put it. I am a fat woman in a fat woman’s body. There are people out there who are naturally fat and I would suggest you keep your narrow minded views to yourself.”

    Jerk though that was funny and between laughing said I was in denial so I walked up to him and said to him “So as a thin man does that mean it will hurt more if I smack you? Or will it hurt him more as fat man?” he looked at me and laughed again so I smacked him and he said “Holy hell that hurt!” I cocked an eyebrow and said “Theory confirmed, it hurts more if an angry fat person hits and idiotic thin person.”

    Not looking the part has nothing to do with your ability to dance, do yoga, swim or any other type of activity that the person wants to do.

    Good luck and wishing you all the best!

      1. Helena, that is why I smacked him. I wasn’t gonna stand there and take it that day. I took the polite route already and when he kept going I gave him fair warning I was gonna smack him, then did.

        1. I have to say I find it a bit questionable that this comment was approved and praised, whilst when Diane (of ‘Diane wants to slap me’ fame) used the perfectly normal expression ‘I want to slap her’ which many, many people use and which I’ve never heard in a context which suggested any real threat of violence, people got incredibly angry about how ‘threats of violence’ (which it obviously wasn’t, rude as it may have been) were ‘never acceptable’. I don’t think it’s ok to threaten violence or to do it, whether I agree with the cause or not. That man may be a bigot, but I don’t think people should combat bigotry by smacking people, especially in a forum which previously decried even the simple expression ‘I want to slap her’.

          1. I was well with in my rights. I gave fair warning and only hit him once. He canned it which is what I had asked him to do before, and my friend (whom invited the jerk) never bothered to speak up other then “Hey I’m fat as well.” then dropped the issue when he was told he was fine. So I stood up for myself.

        2. See, that part I have an issue with. I don’t know where you live, but in the States that would be considered assault and you would be lucky if he didn’t press charges. Violence is not an acceptable response to someone’s comments.

          In America, he has the protected right to speak his mind, regardless of who else likes it, so long as he’s not inciting violence. You, on the other hand, do not have the right to be violent to someone who expresses views with which you disagree, regardless of whether they are directed at you or not.

          You have the power and the right to tell him that you don’t wish to hear his ugly comments, walk away from him, or report him to the gym manager, but you don’t have the right to harm him because you don’t like what he said.

          1. In my province as long as there is fair warning, and it is one hit, they have no legal ground to press charges. I did both so I was well with in my rights.

            The gym managers are a joke, they never handle things in a timely manner. I know this because a female friend reported two guys harassing her, she has yet to hear back on if it has been handled, that was close to a year ago.

              1. Alberta, it is a bylaw people completely forget about, plus we have a lot rednecks. They pretty much explain the law, if you have ever seen rednecks fight…, not at all pretty. My high school law class actually came in handy besides always looking over lease agreements when renting.

  6. This post reminds me of a story I’ve heard Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame tell several times. During the second season, she was seriously considering leaving the show because she was frustrated at how she felt her part had been curtailed. She was at an NAACP dinner one night sitting next to Martin Luther King, Jr. and mentioned her thoughts on the matter.

    Dr. King begged her to stay on the show because the mere fact she was there – even if all she ever said was ‘hailing frequencies open, Captain’ – gave black children and little girls an image they could point to of a strong woman, and a strong person of color doing something important.

    And he was right. Even as a little white girl, Lt. Uhura gave me an image I could point to of a woman with authority and strength of her own to emulate. A decade after original Star Trek went off the air, the influx of women and people of color to NASA and into the sciences in general reflected the fact that children who weren’t white and children who didn’t have penises could see themselves on a star ship exploring the galaxy, fighting disease, inventing amazing devices, and building bridges between cultures. Now an astronaut can be seen in any color of the rainbow, and little girls dream just as hard as little boys of exploring space.

    If someone doesn’t stand up and do it in spite of ‘looking wrong’ then nobody ever sees how narrow the part has looked up to that point.

  7. I totally agree with you (as always) and what you write is also very true for ballet. I danced ballet (not professionally) for more than fifteen years and actually inspired kids to join our school. Kids who were bigger than the other ones in their class and felt like they could never be a ballerina, but by seeing me on stage, they knew it was possible. Again, this was not a professional school.

    In a professional company I also think people have to expand their view of how dancers ‘should’ look. I would love to see dancers of all size on stage in a professional play. However, in classical pieces there is usually also a male dancer in the leading part and I have to admit that I understand that not all of them can pick up a female dancer of 220 pounds.

    I’m still not sure about how I would ‘fix’ that or what a good solution would be… I’d love to hear your thoughts on it…

    But anyway, I wish you all the best with your dancing career!

    1. actually I saw a dance with dancers of all body sizes that included a woman who weighed maybe 130 lbs supporting a dancer who was a foot taller than her and close to 400lbs….the dance movements involved distribution across the full back.
      Also much of dance that is beautiful doesn’t include lifts – and not all dance styles incorporate lifts anyhow…

    2. I and another girl at my ballet class in my teens – us being the two fattest ones there (she was bigger than me, and a pretty good dancer – she’d been going longer than I had) – got ‘demoted’ to the grade below just as exam time was coming up. Up till then we’d been practising the exam routines and our teachers hadn’t said anything negative about our dancing – all they said now was that we ‘weren’t ready’. But come the exams for that grade, we got demoted again to the one below that. At that stage, I left – I was having to dance with kids three or four years younger than me, and one of the girls in the older class (who was herself younger than me) was reporting it all back to the girls at my school, who were all having a good laugh about it at my expense because ‘Madame didn’t want the fatties spoiling her lineup’ – I don’t know if it was true, but I really could never find another explanation.

      I would go back to ballet in a heartbeat if I could find an adult class where I could guarantee I wouldn’t suffer that kind of thing again. People like you. and Ragen, who encourage dancers no matter what their size, are heroes in a generally very body-hating field.

      1. Although you’ll probably never know for sure, it does seem strange that it is just the two of you who got demoted every time. Was it also just a recreational school? That would make it even worse, because who cares what size you are if you’re only doing it for fun. As a kid! Good way to make your joy for movement disappear…

        But people can be annoying. My mom once heard someone say about me (during a show) that I was actually pretty good, but that it was too bad that I was fat.

        I should hope that adult classes are more mature about it all and that they won’t ‘deny’ anybody because of their size. I was also thinking about finding a school again and my plan was to just go there to ask for information and watch their reaction. You can probably tell a lot from that first contact…

        It’s sad though that we ‘have to’ do that when all we want is practice something we love. I really hope you will try to find a school to pick it up again and that you will enjoy every second of it! Good luck!

  8. This just reminded me of Martha Wash who was the incredible voice on a lot of 90s dance hits and most memorably the song “Gonna Make you Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)”. Except C+C Music Factory didn’t credit her on the song and the video showed a thin woman, Zelma Davis, lip synching the vocals. I remember hearing about it and being very angry that she had been treated as the song’s dirty little secret because she was too fat to be shown in the video. She sued to get song credit and it lead to legislation that made making vocal credits mandatory on CDs and in music videos. I remember the band re-recorded the song later with the thin woman and her vocals just did not hold up to Martha Wash’s, not because she was thin but just because she didn’t have the voice.

    Not-looking-the-part discrimination has been going on far too long. It’s bullshit because nobody has never not bought an album or song or gone to a show because the performers were too fat. There have been and are currently many beloved performers of all kinds sizes and they are most definitely not unicorns!

    1. I remember that vividly. C&C Music Factory had Zelma Davis sing at an awards show after that debacle to prove that she could sing herself, and she did have a decent voice, so there was no reason for them not to use her vocals on their songs, which they did on their second album, but it wasn’t a big seller.

      I believe another music group, Black Box, did the same thing to Martha with their song “Strike It Up.” She had a lot of people come to her defense back then…I wonder if it would be the same today with all the anti-fat hysteria that’s around. I can see comment after comment saying “Well, if she wasn’t so fat then she wouldn’t have had to sue, “I’m glad they didn’t show her, she’s fat and ugly” and “She’s fat, she shouldn’t be a singer anyway because nobody wants to look at that.”

    2. i remember that pretty vividly. If they were going to do something like that (ugh), Clivilles & Cole should have started with Zelma because even though her voice was okay, it paled in comparison to Martha Wash’s, and anybody who was really listening could hear the difference.


      Didn’t something lookist like this happen at the 2008 Olympics, too? Where they had the little girl who could really sing hidden away, and the little conventionally pretty girl lip-sync out front? And so at the end of the day both little girls were punished because one thereby internalized that she was “unattractive” and the other that she was “untalented”?


    3. I remember that! It’s also sad that when we do have women of size break through, they cave to pressure and lose weight – Like Jennifer Hudson and Madisa. Even comedienne and actress Rebel Wilson is doing Jenny Craig. BOO! We need those role models!!!!!

  9. Well you know if you can’t dance to it it’s not your revolution!
    Yay for your return to professionally doing something that regardless of if the judges acknowledge your amazing talent now will open doors for future fat dancers to have their talents celebrated (and in the interim we’ll celebrate yours!).

    on a ‘nother note you said ” I imagine that the stigma people experience does not go down if they lose a bunch of weight and then gain it back.” I’ll need to look for the study but there is a study I saw that used some quantifiable methods and determined fat people who were trying to lose weight (or stated as much to sales clerks) received significantly better customer service than those who weren’t (things like time spent on them etc). So it seems some of the stigma does go down a ltitle bit (although not enough) if one is doing weight loss…. I’ll try to find the source although no luck yet.

  10. Before a couple of the big organized bicycle rides we’ve done, my wife commented that she expected to be the largest person there. I told her, no, she wasn’t going to be. I’ve been on numerous such rides, and one of the things I’ve noticed is, there are a LOT of people riding beyond the casual rider level that AREN’T “pro-cyclist” thin. There are a lot of rather ample derrieres on those bike seats doing a century ride, and guess what? They’re not huffing and puffing or barely making progress. They’re moving right along and having a great time, even if they don’t “look the part.”

    “Looking the part” should only matter for a performer filling a role where the character is described a certain way. I would not “look the part” to play John Henry of the old railroading ballad. I’m pasty white and don’t look like a man that’s been swinging a heavy hammer for a living. In such a case, were I to try out for some play or movie about John Henry, I could expect to not get the title part because I don’t look the part.

    Real life, however, is not a movie or play. I’m not “playing a part” in my life – I’m being ME, and I already look like me. I don’t need to look like a young Lloyd Bridges or Jacques Cousteau when I go scuba diving, because I’m not trying to play them as a diver. I’m still being me as a diver. I don’t need to look like Miguel Indurain when I ride a bike, because I’m not pretending to be Big Mig when I ride. I’m being me.

    I wonder, Ragen, how many of the nay-sayers have missed the point that one of the reasons you’re excellent at dance, is that you’re not worried about “looking like a dancer.” You’re out there BEING a dancer. If they stopped and thought about it, maybe they’d understand that what looks like a dancer, is someone who is dancing.

    1. I am so all over this last portion – I in fact to REMEMBER that this is not TV/Movies/Plays – this is Me living MY life. I am a vocalist currently taking Pilates at Alvin Ailey (childhood dream company) and I am happier than I have ever been in my life. I see people sneaking looks over at me during class (are they amazed?). The key in my environment is the instructor who made me feel so wonderfully welcome, I teared up at the end of class! These posts are inspiring beyond words and fill me with joy and excitement at all the wonderful opportunities ahead.

      They also affirm that I do NOT have to tolerate anyone who feels that size is an issue in a movement class and I can connect to those who have a more holistic view of life. You all are wonderful!

      1. I am sending you a virtual hug and kiss. This post is what I really needed to see right now. Congrats to you and I am very happy for you! Keep up the amazing work knowing that you are doing something that you love and dreamed of!

  11. Another excellent read and I think your picture is outstanding! At my job, in the equestrian world, there is always this “read between the lines” horrible fat bias not only against fat women riders but also the horses too!!! If the horses are “fat chubs” as well they are dismissed as not good enough like a lean, slightly malnourished (my opinion) horse athlete. Funny how innocent animals are subjected to the same fat bigotry as we are…..Gawd I could go on about what I’ve heard about fat women riders and fat horses for the past 30 years I’ve been in the business, like back handed comments I was once told “for a large lady you are a good rider, you don’t seem to bounce around on your horse a lot” and and then once when I was riding competitively on an endurance ride and my horse over exerted herself (which I take the blame for though) I had stopped riding and got off to let her recover and a man told me “well, you’re a lot of load for her to carry”. Like I didn’t feel guilty enough for my horse at that time, when he said that I almost burst into tears from guilt and anger!

    Thanks again Ragen for providing this platform for us and I say you go “give em hell!” and dance!

  12. As a plump woman who makes art for computer games, I kind of do fit the stereotype. 🙂

    I have no clue how to do this, but I’ve been thinking for awhile it would be nice to have show that promotes the truth about fat and then features fat people doing the stuff they love.

    The title I came up with is “Fat Chat”. I can already see the mountains of hate mail.

  13. As a woman in general, I do not “look the part”. Regardless of my size, I will never “look the part” because “the part” is an ever-changing and unrealistic way to oppress women further into a socially constructed box that we are not to challenge.
    Ragen I’m so pleased to hear that you are going back to dancing, I love that photo and think that your have a lovely turnout from the hips and great lines, but most importantly a contagious look of joy on your face from doing what you love.

  14. Hey there, I just felt I’d share something with you that has been my new struggle after some progress in HAES. Honestly….when there’s days that I’ve been pretty active but not felt extra hungry, I’ve (unhealthy I know..) been a little happy. “Maybe I WILL be naturally skinny when I respect my hunger!!” But…two days later I’m sitting here with a hunger that I can’t satisfy. My body is telling me that it needs more energy and nutrition to support my current level of activity. So, now…I struggle with quieting those thoughts. The ones that congratulate me when I eat less.

    That is all 🙂 Lara

  15. Rarely do I cry anymore bc of what someone has said to me, but today I’ve hit a breaking point. I am (now, WAS) a member of a fitness forum elsewhere and the things these people say about those of us with girth. I was a “good Fatty” as you would say because I was “trying hard” to lose the weight, doing everything I could. Except after seeing how the scale refused to move downward and even to my horror, gaining about a few pounds, I decided to just be. But that wasn’t good enough. I had “given up, I was defeated” I was told how “sad” I made others bc I wasn’t committed to making myself the best it could be, I wasn’t committed to giving myself adnd my new baby the best life and nutrition possible. That simply bc my vessel had changed with pregnancy- skin stretching for one and new “problem areas” I never anticipated that I gave up on myself and my dreams to live a healthy life. When I fought back, quoted stats, gave the “I’m the owner of my underpants motto”, and did my best to describe why I was going to stop using judgemental terms regarding food, fitness, and body image, I was slaughtered.

    I was told how negative I was. I dare I not repsect others opinions. They were allowed to have those opinions of me and if I didn’t like it, then don’t be apart of the forum. That I was indeed giving up on myself and that others had lost 20-90 pounds and if they could do it, then I could to. If I couldn’t muster the motivation and will power, then I needed to stop whining bc it was quote “annoying”. That I somehow was no longer on an equal playing field, if I ever was. I deserved to be treated with disrepect and regardless of their comments I was the “rude” one for letting it be known that “no one has the right to shame others into change”. That I caould try to take a stand but it was made clear that there are more of them than me and I was the odd man out. That even though there were others there that felt how I did, they remained silent to avoid being cast out. I took a stand against the judgement, I spoke up, and I was the bad guy.

    While I technically didn’t cry, I came close. I have battled most of my life with EDs. I have been everything from a Size 3 to a 22 and back up to my highest size after pregnancy. It’s hard fighting against your body all your life to finally come to peace with it just to have others circle-jerk around you trying to knock your chair out from under you. That I am at a very sensitive time in my life trying to rebuild that solid, happy foundation with self love and peace and to be critized for what I am not and for what I not willing to do. I am a “fatty” and therefore, obviously to others I am not allowed to draw a line in the sand. I am not allowed to have limits. That because they fear fat and shame, I must too. I am not willing to “look my best” so either get with the program or get out. It doesn’t matter what I can do, all that matters it seems, is what I can’t. And because I have limits in life now, I am a “quitter”. I even had the statistical information used against me. Someone said “you can find any stat online to back up your opinion”. True enough, I suppose.

    I am no longer one of them. I no longer want to be a single-digit size anymore. And I am trying to pratice self-love without destroying my person with madatory exercise of any kind, most specifically the kind that hurts. That my Fibromyalgia is an excuse and see… I wouldn’t have health problems like that if I ate right and exercised.

    Ok. Rant over. This blog just spoke to me both today and yesterday. I have vented and now, I think I can go about my day without wanting to be back-biting to a certain group of caddy, vein, insecure women.

    1. I truly and absolutely applaud you for your efforts to be the best you can be, both for yourself and your baby. Loving yourself IS your best effort. 🙂 Kudos to you for both acknowledging that and then actually LIVING it. You deserve a standing ovation for standing up to the bullies on your playground. You are right to let them wallow in their self-hate and not to take it into your heart. I think that is the most wonderful, healthiest decision you could make.

      Your comment about your eating disorder inspired me today to write a blog post of my own. Ragen, I hope you don’t mind if I post it here.


    2. I’m late reading this but I’m right there with you. Pregnancy caused fibro & weight gain & an ED. I’m so sorry! Keep reading this blog if you can. It has changed my life. I’m back to running & walking. Yes if I run from one mailbox to another an go back home that’s running IMO! Good luck & big fat hugs!

  16. Not as deep as the other posts, but I’m excited for you for the opportunity to have lots of lovely new outfits for competition. Ditch the black. If you’re as ‘peely waly’ as you look in the photo to which my family are all such, go for either some nice pastels- greys, violets, pinks or strong blues, reds and greens.

    I love the movement in the skirt portion but I wonder if its just a wee bit heavy looking?

    How long until you’d compete? What physical prep do you have to do?

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. While I’m sure you are well intentioned, I’m not looking for unsolicited advice about what to wear, especially not advice that is worded as a command. I don’t know what “peely waly” means but if you mean fair skinned then yes, I am, and I love the look of fair skin in black formal wear and I will continue to wear it. I love the entire dress including the bottom which is why I chose it. It’s totally cool if your opinion is not the same as mine.

      I will be competing likely starting in April and my regimen includes strength, stamina, flexibility and technique.


      1. Ragen, I’m sorry that I may have come across as telling you what to wear. It was meant as a jockular and light hearted but enthusiastic reaction to your return to competition and the girly thought of pretty dresses. It fell flat and I apologise.

        I’m also very interested in the physical side of your journey as I have no background in dance and am curious to learn about what it takes. I do very much like your black dress- I should just know when to shut up…

        What exactly is the position of body shape in your form of competitive dance? Are judges allowed to consider it or is it irrelevant to scoring? I understand the current issues in terms of ballet/contemporary dance and the aesthetic preferences of directors being the main factor of what is seen as desirable but I was wondering if other forms have their own preferences and where they emerged from? Are some more or less accepting for larger women (or men)? What about younger girls who are larger in the dance world? What’s it like for them?

        1. Apology accepted (and sorry to be so far behind on approving comments). As far as body size goes, it depends on the individual judge. Some judged have told me that they won’t give me better scores until I lose weight, some judges don’t take it into consideration at all. I have found some (but not all) belly dance to be much more size friendly. It’s typically pretty bad for younger girls who are fat – especially if they are very talented – because they get constant dieting messages.


    2. Peely Wally is a very uncomplimentary term. If you want to say fair skinned, maybe you should just say fair skinned, as peely wally is usually used to describe someone looking unhealthy or unwell. Just a suggestion, but you may find people respond to you better if they don’t feel you are insulting them.

      1. I hope my comment doesn’t sound angry. I in no way meant it to be. I am sure that you had good intentions in regards to your comment, I was just trying to point out why someone may be offended by your choice of words.

        1. I’m Scottish and peely wally is an everyday term to describe someone who’s pale- but we use it to describe ourselves and others and there’s no mean connotation. I’m peely wally. Its a lighter way of saying naturally pale, without a tan or indeed transclucent as my nephew is (!) as well as looking ill. Another cultural thingy that hasn’t crossed the atlantic well in my original post.

          Sorry again if I unintentionally offended anyone 😦 . I was just trying to keep my post light.

          A’ll skilt af hame an’ wheesht. [I’ll take my leave and learn to be more culturally sensitive].

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