Shikira was a beautiful young woman. Everyone said so and it gave her a great sense of confidence. Not only was she beautiful, but she had an amazing natural voice. Opera was what she wanted and she was determined to make a career out of it. Everyone back home, her teachers and coaches knew she was destined to become a star. She was very excited when she moved to “the big city” and was finally starting on her career path. She had found, through trial and error, the perfect voice teacher and coach for her. She had taken many really helpful workshops over the last couple of years on auditioning, business skills, staging, etc. She had worked with the best diction coach and everyone was most excited about her talent. Having performed in many local venues with great success, Shikira and her teacher felt it was time to try some of the more important auditions for competitions and apprentice programs. With her great resume, letters of recommendation and impressive PR Packet, she had managed to receive invitations to several really wonderful auditions. She was ready and expected to do well. She was on her way.
The first audition went well and those listening seemed impressed with her performance. However she didn’t make it into the second round and felt cheated. She had listened to the other performers and she knew she was better than most of them. She let it go and moved on the next audition. Again she felt she did well and expected to be invited into this apprentice program. Finally she received a letter from them. It wasn’t the news she expected. The letter was encouraging but also a letter of rejection and this really set her back. What was going on?
Shikira’s next audition went better than all the others. When she was done the artistic director of the program came out to speak to her. This is what she said. “Shikira, you truly are an amazing and complete artist. We would love to invite you into our program. However, we all feel we can’t offer you a place because your physical size just doesn’t fit the profile we are trying to present to our public. You just wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the apprentices. We are interested, but you will have to lose a substantial amount of weight. Has anyone every told you that before?” Shikera was shocked and taken back. She knew she was large, but no one, no one had ever said that to her before. She had seen so many opera “stars” that were really large and it seemed OK with the audience. She wasn’t after all, competing on American Idol. Where they judging her by some other standard? What difference did being large make? Wasn’t it supposed to be about the beautiful voice? She knew that once she was on stage she immediately became the character and no one seemed to notice that her being extra large was a problem. She had had the lead in every opera workshop production at school with no such criticism. What was going on? She didn’t know how to respond.
“Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem. Most things are judged by their jackets.”
~ Baltasar Gracian
How many of you struggle with this problem? It’s not a gender thing; it affects both males and females. It can be an ongoing problem for many performers. I want to talk about it openly and address some of what I believe could be the reasons for keeping oneself this way.
First – Being overweight as a singer can be used as an excuse for not making it in the professional world. Most artists know in their heart of hearts that being overweight or larger than they could be is an issue in getting hired, especially in today’s world. Doing nothing about it is one way to be defiant and show “them” just what they are missing by imposing these standards on you and not hiring you for the job just because you are larger than the person they did hire. They are getting only second best. When you think about it, this kind of thought process doesn’t get you anywhere. It only hurts you. This is however, is a very productive self sabotaging technique that will never let you down. It is a proven commodity and you have had lots of experience as to the results it gets. It is the perfect method of keeping yourself from the success you seek but in reality, are afraid of achieving. If you decide to bite the bullet and lose the weight, you will then have to be responsible for maintaining your success. The question is, “Do you want to be a singer or have a singing career?” Don’t let this be the excuse you use to get yourself stuck in your comfort zone. If you decide to create a plan of action that actually works for you instead of against you, you will start to notice that serendipitous things are happening in your life. Don’t question them, thank the Universe for them, use them and continue to move forward. You will probably hit a wall of doubt when the important auditions start coming your way. Just know that you have planned and worked in a steady manner for this to happen and it is just another step in your plan of action. You are ready for it just like you have been ready for every other step along the way.
Paulo Coelho, in his book “The Alchemist” says, “We don’t all have the courage to confront our own dreams. Why? There are four obstacles that keep us from it.”
Here are the four obstacles mentioned by Paulo:
“We are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible. We grow up with this idea and as the years accumulate so too do the layers of prejudice, fear, and guilt. There comes at time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it’s still there.”
“Love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream. We do not realize that love is just a further impetus, not something that will prevent us going forward. We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on the journey.”
“Fear. Once we have accepted that love is a stimulus, we come up against the third obstacle fear: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path. We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn’t work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: “Oh, well, I didn’t really want it anyway.” We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it and that the path of the personal calling is no easier than any other path, except that our whole heart is in this journey. Then, we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how. I ask myself: are defeats necessary? Well, necessary or not, they happen. When we first begin fighting for our dream, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
“The fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt. We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either. We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had to give up in order to get this far. I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal – when it was only a step away.”
Senor Coelho goes on to say, “This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest. But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.”
“If hunger is not the problem, then eating is not the solution.”
~ Author Unknown
Second – Food is often used as an emotional outlet. You use food to comfort, celebrate or pacify yourself. You do it when you feel sad, happy, bored, angry, frustrated, guilty and afraid. You do it to punish yourself for being such an awful person and/or to reward yourself because you deserve it. The list goes on and on.
We all have a mind-body connection. When we think a thought our bodies respond. When our bodies are hurt, we think a thought about it. It is our emotional connection, and our emotions run deep and are often attached to our belief systems. A good description of a belief system is: an idea backed by lots of experience. And our belief systems can hold us hostage in our comfort zones. They are usually powered by our emotions both good or not so good and cause us to react rather than to take action on purpose. Our cognition (the ability to acquire knowledge), our emotions and our behavior are all integrated so when we feel, we think and react; when we re-act, we feel and think; and when we think, we feel and re-act. It’s like a package deal. If you are interested in learning how to separate or take the emotion out of the equation so you can clearly understand and influence the situation, try this: Take the time and effort to feel yourself immersed in whatever emotion you are feeling within a situation. Then, literally take one giant step backward, away from it leaving the emotion and the situation over there so you can really take an objective, close and realistic look at what you are dealing with. This allows you to not just react, but to purposely take action if the situation requires it? It allows you to be objective without having to struggle with the emotional angst of what to do. If you feel the situation does not require action, you will recognize and acknowledge that you don’t have to do anything and that doing nothing is the perfect solution. Whatever you do, do not become attached to what might be the results of your action. This will only pull you back into the same ongoing confusion, frustration and emotion you just stepped back from so you could make an objective decision. Just deal with what is in front of you right now. Don’t borrow trouble, as they say.
“Those who flee temptation generally leave a forwarding address.”
~ Lane Olinghouse
Third – You have to be ready to receive the fruits of your labor. Often what we do is wish or want for an outcome, but we have not put the amount of dedication, time and commitment into the dream to feel ready to receive positive results. It’s your dream! Are you ready to live it? What’s holding you back? Start paying attention to how you think about this subject. Then pay attention to how you are thinking about what you think. It sounds easy, but it takes some effort to stop and analyze how and why you are thinking in a certain way. Sometimes you have to go several layers deep into the thinking about your thinking process to discover just what the source of your current thinking is. Is it your voice you hear or someone else’s when you start the journey into your thought process? Can you find the moment in time when all of this inner dialogue started for you? It’s worth spending some time discovering for yourself the incident or event that started you on this path and then bring the thought process forward to the present day, looking, feeling, and hearing all the events that brought you to where you are now. Remember this is an on going process. You can’t just do this once and you are done. It takes practice.
“Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only. ”
~ ~Samuel Butler, Erewhon
Fourth – Undergarments! This seems to be one of the best keep secrets in world today. This goes for men as well as women. You might have to do some digging to find outlets that sell this kind of thing.
Men- If you have a little or large role around your middle, try on a waist cincher. Make sure you try on several different styles so you can find the right fit and the right size for you. These undergarments are usually made of elastic so you can pull it as tight as is comfortable for you to look good and still be able to sing well. They often go just below your upper chest to just below your waist and can also be attached to a soft boxer type short.
Women – there are many kinds of help for you out there. Sometimes it’s not so much about your weight as it is about your shape. The important thing is to show those hiring that you have a figure. You don’t have to be extra thin to get a job, but do have to have a definition between bust, waist and hips. Find a corset, one that has some sort of heavy duty stays, has some elastic and some material so it really holds you in. It won’t constrict your singing. (I always found that wearing a corset type garment gave me great breath support as I could notice whether my breathing was working or not.) You will become more aware of your breathing. Fredrick’s of Hollywood might be a good place to look either online or find a store. You will need to try the garment on before you purchase it to make sure it does what is needed and you are comfortable in it. The best types whether with straps or strapless, are ones that continue from the bust down to mid hip length. It’s easier if they close in the front so you can put it on yourself. I always then wore a girdle over that; one that went from waist to mid thigh. I wore mine for auditions, rehearsals, performances and any parties or events where I needed to play the role of performer. It still allowed me to represent my brand well.
“About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you’re fighting temptation.”
~ Tom Wilson
Fifth – Good health is a concern for all performers. Being overweight can cause physical problems for some. It can also deplete your immune system if you don’t eat a well balanced, nutritional diet. You can cause yourself to have reflux by overeating. If you eat too many unhealthy carbs, (i.e. too much of anything made with white flour) you may feel tired and unmotivated. There can be food allergies. Because of what you eat you may have either diarrhea or often be constipated. Again, the list goes on and on. These can then turn into another way of creating habitual excuses not to succeed.
“It’s all right letting yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back. ”
~ Mick Jagger
Being healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually is a great way to keep balance in you life. Using excuses that keep you in your comfort zone by overeating can cost you your singing career. Having a career takes dedication, sacrifice, commitment, and building a deep, trusting relationship with you. Then, you are ready to receive the fruits of your labors which happens one small step at a time. You start feeling worthy of achieving your goals and dreams. But bewared of the mind-body connection, it can become a dangerous mine field that gets you off track by your reaction to what is going on around you. The emotional impact whether it is something to celebrate or punish you, will move your eyes away from the goal you have set for yourself. You stop taking action. It’s a challenge to be true to yourself and it takes effort. Taking care of you is essential. You are the instrument; you are the interpreter of the music and words you sing. It’s vital to remain healthy and be able to look the part. That’s our world today. You may not agree with it or understand it and you can try to buck the system and make “them” the bad guy for not understanding that it’s not about being overweight, it about your abilities talent as an artist, but in the end, “they” are the ones doing the hiring. Why not make yourself into the most attractive package you can? Maybe you have to spend some bucks on some well fitting undergarments that give you a more defined figure, whether you are male or female. Is reaching your dream worth it? That’s something only you can answer. Yes, it is work, but the rewards can be great!
And as Senor Coelho says, “you understand why you are here.””