Today marks 15 years since Patti LaBelle’s hit song, Lady Marmalade, was remade by Christina Aguilera, Mya, Lil’ Kim, & Pink. I watched the video this morning, reminiscing about those days long ago when it first came out, how much I absolutely loved the remake, and that four of my favorite artists had come together to bring new life to this classic song. Shortly after the video started, I was lifted off and carried away in the flood of body anguish that used to rule my entire life. An anguish that I allowed the power to become the dignitary of my dreams.
Yeah, I was that annoying girl in High School who was constantly calling herself fat, always fishing for compliments, begging someone to tell me my body was OK. The only validation came from my maternal Grandma, and Black and Latino guys and girls, which was great, I relished the attention and acquired a taste for a good, dark-skinned man. What I yearned for, was to be acceptable to the media, to my peers and the rest of the dancing community, and my family. I wanted my parents to tell me my pear-shaped body was wonderfully, perfectly shaped, and that even though the media preferred petite girls, I was good, beautiful even. But that didn’t happen. One of my parents even went so far as to tell me my pants were to tight, my boobs too big, and that I constantly needed to lose weight.
It damaged me deeply, but I don’t think I realized exactly how deeply until recently.
When I was younger, I wanted to act and dance. Broadway would have probably been a great place for me, but I wanted to give LA a shot too. I felt I had the vibrant, charismatic personality of someone who would not just wait tables in LA and call herself an actress, but someone who would thrive. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been an A-list celeb, but I believe that perhaps someone would have taken notice, that I could have made a comfortable living. I have the type of personality that commands attention. It’s not something I work to be, it is just who I am. I wanted to perform, I yearned to be adored, I wanted people to notice me.
My size 12 butt and thighs, paired with my size 6 upper body, all bound together by years of being told I wasn’t small enough, and not having support of even the closest people in my life, those things kept me from pursuing my real dreams.
I hid behind a facade of wanting to help people when what I really wanted was to entertain them. I shoved my dreams into a dark corner of myself and refused to acknowledge them until recently during a trip to Paramount Studios where I felt like I was looking into a window of what my life should have been. I haven’t been the same since.
I was terrified of suffering more rejection at the hands of people I didn’t know – it was painful enough coming from people I did know. I’ve always had a habit of minimizing my talents, my symptoms, my problems, and my successes. I don’t “go full out” when singing or acting in front of people because I am fearful of going full out and having them laugh at me. I’d rather be bad at half speed than risk being good at full speed.
This trip down the rabbit hole of music in the 90s and early 2000s made me realize that I allowed my own insecurities, the #BodyGoals of the time, and people’s thoughts of me, color my future. I allowed their words to infuse my spirit and tarnish my path. I didn’t have the courage to stand on my own two feet and pursue my dreams. I’ll never know if I would have made it or not, because I refused to be vulnerable and I wouldn’t even try.
This is a pattern in my life that, I feel, all goes back to the size and shape of my thighs and my allowing people to form my own opinions of myself. It shows up in the agony of being unable to write the stories I’ve had inside for literally decades because I don’t feel I would survive the editing process, or that people even care to read what I would write. It keeps me from attempting to join the local theatre. It keeps me from taking a step into discomfort to lead the life I always wanted to live. I preach authenticity, but I can’t live it because I haven’t even been honest with myself about my own path and what I want to do.
I’m only 34, but I feel like it’s too late for me, and all I can hope is that in my next life I’ll have the courage to follow my dreams. On the other hand, I’m only 34 and I have so much life left to live. Maybe my day is yet to come, I don’t know. I don’t even know if I’ll ever have the courage to try.
All I know is that I can’t keep living in fear. I can’t keep walking the comfortable road. I’ve got to become comfortable with people laughing at me, with knowing that rejection isn’t a reflection of who I am as a person, and realize that until I start taking chances, I am going to forever be ramming myself up against a titanium wall of unhappiness and discontentment veiled in lies.
I don’t know how to take the first step. I don’t know where to start, and I don’t yet see the fork in the road that allows me to choose a different path. I’d love to say I promise to create my own road, but I don’t have the tenacity.
For now, all I have is this dusty dream I’ve pulled out of the depths of my lies. If I don’t believe in myself, who else will believe in me?