By Alyce Collins
A DANCER who was fat shamed for not looking like a REAL ballerina is hitting back at the bullies who laughed at her after she was continually cast as the horse in The Nutcracker because it was the only costume it was thought she would fit into.
Dancer and model Amy Marie (32) from California, USA, has been a ballet dancer since she was three years old, and it soon became her passion as she loved the feeling she got while dancing. However, by the age of 10, Amy’s love of ballet soon disappeared after receiving hurtful comments that she was ‘too big’ to be a ballerina.
Amy hated perpetually being cast as the bigger characters in productions, such as the horse in The Nutcracker, and having specially made costumes which were slightly different to all the other dancers’ costumes.
After being told by her dance instructor that she needed to shed two stone, Amy tried to starve herself and make herself sick, so she would no longer be the bigger dancer in the production.
Amy has always been larger, but after giving up on dancing because of the bullying, her weight rose to 19st 2lbs and she was a UK size 22. Now, as Amy relishes being able to dance three times a week, Amy is now a much happier 15st 3lbs and a UK size 18.
“I have been big my whole life, growing up I was taller than all the boys and wider than all the girls,” said Amy.
“In school when they asked what everyone wanted to be when they grow up, I would always say a ballerina.
“Ironically, I didn’t realise I was fat until I was in my ballet class when I was about 10 and a classmate pointed out my thighs. We were all kneeling on the ground and one girl pointed to me and said, ‘why does your leg look like that?’
“I remember thinking is there something wrong with me and my legs? I began looking in the mirror and obsessively trying to make my thighs and stomach smaller.
“I loved ballet and I loved dancing. I remember how amazing it made me feel and still does. But I stopped doing ballet for a few years after that.
“I was tired of the whispers and giggles that other dancers directed towards me when I undressed in our dressing room.
“Three years in a row, I had to be a horse in our annual show of The Nutcracker because that’s the only costume that would fit me. I gave up wanting to be a ballerina because I was told I was never going to look like one.
“I got to a level in ballet and in sports where I had to choose, and I chose sports because I didn’t want to deal with the bullying. I played football and basketball for a few years, but I felt like something was missing.”
After four years of dabbling in other sports, Amy went back to dancing when she got to university where she tried different styles of dance, but she still couldn’t completely shake the fat shaming.
“I ended up majoring in dance in university and exploring every style that was available,” said Amy.
“I was so excited to be learning about something I was so passionate about. I was doing over 20 hours a week of classes, rehearsals and shows, but I was still having issues with being fat shamed.
“In productions, nothing ever fit me. I always had to have special orders or custom pieces, and I felt guilty about it. I often stood out because my costume would be a different shade or different fabric so that it could fit me. I continued to get other girls whispering and rolling their eyes at me.
“But when I’d start dancing they’d be in total shock. I guess they all think that big girls can’t dance fast or with a perfect technique. I felt like I had to work twice as hard to prove I was worthy to be in a dance class or on stage.
“Then in university I met a boy and we fell in love. I was at the height of my career: winning awards, getting scholarships, receiving recognition for my dancing, and having a man.
“My boyfriend hated that I was so involved with my career and my passion and that I didn’t show him enough attention. I loved him so much that I eventually stopped dancing again to be with him.
“It caused me to gain loads of weight, so at my heaviest I was 19st 2lbs. I was obese, and I felt it in my bones.”
In March 2017, after seven years together, Amy discovered that her boyfriend had been cheating on her after finding pictures and videos of him and another woman on his phone.
After a turbulent few months, Amy wanted to take back her life and go back to who she was before, so she went back to dancing. However, after being fat shamed her whole life Amy still only feels comfortable going to the gym in the middle of the night, to avoid people’s glares.
“To get myself through it all I just danced. I would write in my journal and then turn that journal entry into dance choreography,” added Amy.
“In every performance I would break down and sob and yell and work through my emotions for a whole year. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
“I also went to the gym at about midnight every day for a year because I didn’t want people whispering or laughing at me.
“I’ve learnt that I can’t control how other people view me. There are plenty of reasons for people to fat shame but that doesn’t matter to me anymore.
“I used to ask myself why me? Why do they hate me? But ultimately that isn’t my problem nor my fault. My energy and focus are better when it’s directed towards myself.
“If there is something that brings you joy, pursue it. People might try to stop you or shame you, but if you are passionate about something it shows. People will notice and eventually you will find your community of support that will encourage you to pursue it.”
You can follow Amy’s dancing journey at @amy_marie_la.