The newspaper was talking about me. I was a grand finalist on The Voice this year. That story on the cover is mine, but it seems to have rung true in the last 24 hours with countless other women.
I am a singer who music industry insiders, professional sportsmen, “friends” and strangers decided wasn’t what the world needed. This is how my story played out.
It’s incredibly embarrassing to share this. I have hated my body for as long as I can remember. Because, deep down when I hear those words, part of me has been conditioned over the years to agree with them.
I was always naturally different. I was taller than the other kids. I had untamed curly hair, wore glasses, was chubby and loved choir. If that doesn’t scream BULLY ME, what does?! I thought it would stop when I left school, but then came the bullies at uni.
I became so used to the negative comments and body shaming insults, from both well-meaning and malicious people, I’m no longer surprised when I hear something shitty. A friend told me he really liked how caring and funny I was and wanted to date me. But he was too embarrassed to introduce me to his friends- because I was bigger than their girlfriends. A group of strangers, young guys on a night out in Fortitude Valley, told me I should kill myself because I was a disgusting pig. My Instagram account has been blocked twice, once for nudity and once for inappropriate content. I’d posted photos showing maybe two inches of my midriff. Because Instagram and Facebook are connected, they also disabled my artist Facebook page for 24 hours.
Then came the keyboard warriors. Trolls who jumped on every comments thread when my story was splashed on national TV. Most recently of all, I heard those comments from fellow adults I respected and looked up to- those in the music industry.
Speaking out about this is hard for me. It stresses me out and I am a super emotional human. After the article yesterday, I have been applauded by many. But the haters are still there.
But this isn’t just about me. It’s about every average sized or bigger Australian woman who can’t buy seasonal fashion off the rack.
It’s about Leslie Jones, the star of Ghostbusters, having to call out on Twitter for a dress to wear to the WORLD PREMIERE of her movie, because she couldn’t find a designer sample dress to fit her.
It’s about getting told you won’t be offered a recording contract because you “don’t have the right look”. Its about me helping to empower women in owning their story, and returning ownership of poor behaviour to the person it belongs to. If they had an issue with the songs that I wrote, I’d say, ‘Great! let’s have a conversation about that!’ But my music and voice received nothing but praise.
It’s about respect.
It’s about teaching your daughter to love herself and to be kind always.
It’s about not giving up on your dreams- even when the haters hate.
Two years ago, I completely changed my lifestyle. I go to the gym and have a balanced diet. I lost just over 20kgs in a safe and healthy way. I am also a celiac and lactose intolerant. But it doesn’t matter what I am doing, or what I eat. I am healthy, and I worked on myself for ME. We are all works in progress.
My mum heard a lot of what would go on. I’d enter singing competitions as a kid and the judges would tell her, “That was really great! Your daughter’s voice is incredible, she has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard… but she won’t win. She’s not the product we’re after, we could never market her.”
My mum has been such a huge part of my story. She’s had to hear so much about me from others and it hurts her as well. She always tells me the same thing.
“Come on, kid. We’ll do it anyway.”
I applied for The Voice on a whim at 11:30pm when the applications closed at midnight. When I told her the next morning, she asked, ‘Are you sure that’s a good idea?’ I’d had such a hard time before trying out for other shows, and she is so protective. But she was always there for me in the audience and she didn’t miss a single show. She got on a plane for the first time in her life, just to see me perform.
After my Blind Audition aired, I was stopped in the corridor at an Eisteddfod by a 14 year old girl. She thanked me for being open about my struggles in the industry, and the bullying. See, this girl loves ballet. But the girls at her school constantly tore her down for being chubby.
She asked me for advice. I remember saying, “Work hard. Forget the haters. Be kind to everyone, and never, ever give up on your dreams.”
I’m a professional singer. I chase and create my own work. I am always writing new material. I make a living from my art and that is success. I am also a fighter. Yes, the words sting. But over the years I have developed a thick skin, so I let their words motivate me to be the best I can be. There’s currently a wall in my way. So I’m building a door, staying true to me, and I will keep marching on.
All that little girl wanted to do is dance.
And all I want to do is sing.
So, to the mother of that little girl I met in the corridor, the mother who worries for what might be coming in her daughter’s future? I’ve got another message for you to give her as well.
Come on, kid. We’ll do it anyway.
Ellen Reed, singer/songwriter.