So it’s been a strange afternoon for me and I just needed to get some things off my chest. I was supposed to write on Raven Simone and how she no longer wants to be labelled and considered African- American; blah, blah, blah. But, Raven is not payin’ my bills and I could care less. I just can’t wait for the day that I get to sit on Oprah’s chair, and get so stressed out to the point where I say crazy stuff too.
So today-I went to go visit my nephew and had a beautiful time with one of my good friends here in Chi-Town. I went to work, it wasn’t the best day, but I was dressed to the NINES in my new All Black Bloomingdale’s Fall Wool Coat– so I was feelin’ myself a bit. My no chip manicure is still intact from the vacation, my natural hair was out in all its glory and I felt beautiful.
Then I got an e-mail from a member of my family that shifted my whole spirit. It changed my space and I am still quite dumbfounded. So rather than flipping out and lighting everything on fire…which is what I did in my mind…
I decided to have a glass of water and listen to Nina Simone…and Nas.
Let me preface this by saying, a lot of people have wondered what my story is in regards to Body Image. Why is BODY/COURAGE so important to me?
I have worked on this show for two years to change how people view body image in the theatre. I, as a plus size woman, have had to work viciously hard to change perceptions on how people view me as an actor. I have to commit my entire career in working a trillion times harder to prove to people I can HANG! I may be bigger, but I have energy and can last in a show for 2 hours and put in the work.
So anyway, I got this e-mail today…and I had to make the decision on how to react. Now, in my teenage year old self, I would have thrown a tantrum and screamed up the place. But, now, married and at 26 I chose to call the source directly.
I talked to them over the phone and they said they were worried about what I was eating, because I ate “chocolate” amongst other things on my vacation and they were concerned that I would be susceptible to heart disease and/or high blood pressure and that they will continue to “pray for me” that God reveals that I am ruining my body. They also said that all of this was out of love and that they would go to any lengths to help me lose the weight…
BABBBYYYY WHEN I TELL YOU I READ THAT E-MAIL AND GOT OFF THE PHONE SPEECHLESS LIKE:
DO YOU ALL WANT TO KNOW WHY I HAVE SPENT MY LIFE FOR 2 AND HALF YEARS WORKING ON THIS PLAY?
I spent my entire childhood living with a family who absolutely HATED their bodies. My grandmother, who I love to death, was so addicted to natural remedies/exercise. She had terrible arthritis and she had high blood pressure and was so stubborn. She REFUSED to take her medication. She caused herself to have a stroke.
My mother, who I love to death, is constantly on a diet and as a child I would do every diet with her. It was like our way of bonding. Some kids cook with their parents or play board games- my mom and I went on diets. We would go to Sizzler on Sunday nights, GORGE ourselves, and then start on a diet on Monday.
Honey I am talking about: Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Fresh Direct, Weigh Down aka a Bible Diet where you only eat when God tells you; Dr. Ian Fat Smash, Fat Blast; Fat to Fit; Fit to Fat; Detox after Detox and every Biblical “Fast” known to man. If I do one more diet I will rip my eyelashes out and blink DRY!
I understand why my mom has to stay fit, she is a high powered and very successful attorney and has to look the part. She is the original Olivia Pope!
She is gorgeous, stunning, goes into court, saves lives and she has to feel confident. Being thin and controlling her weight through a myriad of diets is her way, it is not necessarily mine.
The thing that hurts me the most is when I was growing up…I was always told I was beautiful…but I was also always told I would be even more beautiful if I lost weight. What kinda Jumbo Shrimp Oxymoron is that?!? I survived off these back handed compliments, which is part of the reason I still second guess my beauty to this day. I look in the mirror and finagle with my face/waist and try to see what I would look like with less weight and if that would make more beautiful. Growing up in a West Indian family was tough because they do not mince words.
I remember my grandmother would order me clothes from her Sears and Newport News catalog (do y’all remember Newport News) in a smaller size almost to encourage me to lose weight. I have these memories of my mother and grandmother squeezing me into tights/church dresses that would make me look like a stuffed sausage. I was a heavy kid. As I child I was diagnosed with Juvenile Dermatomyositis and spent most of my childhood in Boston’s Children’s Hospital.
In a nutshell- it is an auto immune disease. 2 to 3 out of a million children are affected per year. I wasn’t able to walk and was wheelchair bound for most of my childhood. The cure included lots of intense physical therapy and steroids that made me gain trillions of pounds at a very young age. I have always been heavy and it has been a life mission with certain members of my family to get me small again- maybe so that I can look “normal” again.
Why am I a direct representation of BODY/COURAGE? No matter what hardship I have been through in my life my body has withstood it all. I refuse to be a victim of my past. After having abusive relationships; being molested; dealing with constant body shaming; frequent diets; disappointment within the industry; eating disorders and all of the rest I have come out alive through God’s grace and thankful for how resilient my body has been.
I need people to understand this:
JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE HEAVIER DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE UNHEALTHY. DO YOU HEAR ME?!?
I started working out 4-5 days a week back in August because I know I need to get fit to withstand an hour of transformation.
I KNOW THIS. DO NOT FEEL THE NEED TO REPEAT THIS TO ME.
I swim, I am on the treadmill and elliptical. I am in dance class. I weight train. I have surrounded myself with people that have literally changed my life. The BLACTRESSES OF CHICAGO. These new friendships have inspired me to want better for my body, but on my terms. MY TERMS!
My Body is My Business. I have made a career based on my body and the body image of others. Doing a one woman show is no joke. You have to command a space with an audience of 20-60 people watching you for an hour or longer. I know this. Do you think I would have been able to even do 10 minutes of the show if I was unhealthy and completely out of shape!
I feel like when you are bigger people have this image in their mind that all you doing all day is eating 24/7 like this:
When in all actuality I am in the Gym sweating my life away like:
I spent my life trying to lose weight for people. Trying to lose weight: for my grandmother; for my mother; for my father; for previous boyfriends; for boys who have cheated on me and I tried to lose weight to get them back; for my career; so I can fit in.
None of these reasons have been for me. None of them. I am in a marriage where my husband adores me for me. All parts of me: the good, the bad and the ugly. I have finally found swimming and have been able to stick with it, because it relieves so much stress in my life. I have friends who will literally show up at my house to get me moving. Please do not take these small victories away for me. Gone are the days when I put my body through hell just to fit into a size smaller for a few weeks.
My body is my body. No one has control over it except for the Lord above. Please put your concerns on something else and possibly use it to donate to Ferguson; or maybe to helping a really cool organization. Here is one you can donate to today on GoFund Me Right Now: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-us-stop-hiv-aids-in-philadelphia
BUT DO NOT TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH MY BODY. I REPEAT DO NOT TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH MY BODY.
Do not tell me what I need to do for my career and what my body needs to look like in order to become successful. I pray every morning for wisdom and if I need help I will ask for it. I promise I will. If you think you are being “helpful”; you are actually making me feel like crap on a lifelong journey that I have FINALLY begun to get a handle on. When I am on vacation I will splurge of course! It’s vacation!!! But please believe when I came home, I had my green Kale smoothie this morning and eggs.
I just want to say to this family member in particular, that I love you so much and just know that I am working on it. Please allow me to get fit on my own terms. I will never do another diet again, but I will workout. I am extremely sensitive about my weight and I will not allow anyone to make me feel like I am less than because of it. I know you are speaking from a place of love and support, but I am healthy. I have no traces of any disease in my body and I work out. Please stop worrying about my weight. I will never be a size zero. I will never be a size 10 to be fair- I don’t want to be. I like the way I am and will workout and eat a balanced diet to ensure I do not end up with the health problems our family has been plagued with. Thank you for your concerns and for all of your support in my journey. Without you I would be nothing and I love you. But, please stop worrying about my weight.
Actor | Playwright
This blog entry is dedicated to LaNisa Frederick and Candice Jeanine. My first friends in Chicago who continue to inspire me each day on my BODY/COURAGE journey