‘Tis the season, as you know. No, not that season, it’s the school audition season.
As I talked about yesterday, I have an 8th grader looking at high schools and it did involve one audition for a performing arts high school. But, as many of you know, I also teach the seniors at a performing arts high school and my job is to prep them for their college auditions. They are applying for a wide range of schools, and many of them will get in and go on to performing careers, or careers in show business in some capacity.
Here’s what’s bugging me. One of my kids, (who shall remain nameless but he’s very talented), came up to me and said he’d decided not to audition at one of the best schools (which shall remain nameless) because they have a “do’s and don’t’s” list, and one of the things they talk about is weight.
“I mean, do you think, Miss Wheatley, that I should just skip it? Am I too fat to go there?” As he said this, he looked at the floor and pulled on his clothes and looked miserable, like he knew what I’d say before I even said it. Like all his fears about being ugly were already confirmed and talking to me was a mere technicality.
I went and found the paragraph he was talking about on the school’s website, and although the paragraph is longer, I will single out the part he was talking about:
“It may be hard, but take a long, objective look at yourself in a mirror and assess what you see. Decide on your best physical presentation. If you need to lose weight or gain muscle, begin as soon as possible — but please do it safely……..Eat well and pass on the double whoppers with cheese.”
Here’s my two cents worth. This kid is not big. This kid is also of an ethnic group that this institution is happy to have auditioning for them, in fact, there has been a bit of recruiting going on, and specifically with me and my class.
I made a point of telling this kid he should absolutely audition if he wanted to, but I didn’t go on to say how I really feel. I saved that for you guys.
I’m ticked that this school, who is actively recruiting kids of color, is losing candidates because of their narrow homogeneous vision. The paragraph is wrong, on many, many levels and is not only patronizing but is also not in keeping with the current trends in the business. I know this, not only because I have been a successful actress in this business for a long time, but also because I have eyes and can see who is getting cast right now. The emphasis is on individuality, and the thing I always say is, if you are heavy you’d better be able to dance because current choreography trends are for “real” looking people who can move. I can’t tell you how many times I have kicked my self that I skipped so many dance classes.
More. This summer I met a girl who is currently in a program (not this same program) and she sobbed while telling me that she is bulimic, and that the majority of the girls in her program are as well. I begged her to tell her parents or to get some kind of help, but she totally cut me off and would not respond to my e-mails. This beautiful girl thinks she is so ugly that she throws up every day in hopes that she can play an ingenue. Just imagine this girl as a senior in high school, reading a paragraph about “taking a long, objective look in the mirror and assess what you see” can you imagine her reaction? Do you know a single 18-year-old who would look at them self in the mirror and like what they see? I understand that the school says to “do it safely”, but the kids don’t see that. They just see, “If you’re fat–get skinny or don’t apply.”
I have another message for the “big kids”: learn your ingenue songs. I sing them all the time. I play leading ladies. I am very rarely the “balls to the walls broad” on stage that you would expect of someone my size. I know what I do best onstage: I fall in love. That’s my forte, no matter what my jean size says, and I have the pay stubs to prove it.
So here we have a bunch of kids, who all want to apply to this top notch school, and on their website is this irresponsible, patronizing and wrong statement about looks. I can’t stand it. Good health is a good thing–weight loss is great–I do not deny that at all. Yes, pretty people have a higher chance of getting cast, but we aren’t all Mary Poppins (or want to be), so chill out about it and quit scaring kids who are already scared to death.
And yes, this is talking about show business, but the numbers and studies are there to prove that this rampant fattism is a problem across the board. People don’t get promoted. People don’t get jobs. People get made fun of. And through all of it, that beautiful girl is throwing up.
I am sick to death of it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, BREAKING NEWS. I just received word that the offensive language has been removed as of noon est today. I will leave the post intact as proof that one little blog post can make a difference, and change is possible. The student I talked to yesterday has been informed of the change and the school has been thanked.
(For the next post in this series, go here)