Mirrors are an obsession of mine. When I was a teenager, I took dance classes in one, two, and then three different studios. I could do ballet, tap, jazz, and modern, as well as acrobatics.
It was enjoyable at first. It was a hobby that I enjoyed and the friendships I made.
At the age of 14, I started to consider it a career and saw it as something I could do. I could combine my passion for performing arts with my love of writing. At 18 I knew I wanted to major and study English and dance so that I could choreograph and write musicals.
But I had a secret. I wasn’t well. I was attempting to slim down before every audition or major performance.
It is no secret that the beauty and fitness standards that the dance industry has set are unattainable for many people, especially for Black girls.
To pursue a career in professional dance, I had to fulfill an expectation that was not set for me.
It was the first time that I felt the same emotions as many Black women when trying to navigate the world of fitness. The message is that the ideal body isn’t a Black one.
Allowing go of impossible ideals
My dance career was stressful enough without the added pressure of being rejected. After auditioning for many university dance programs the best rejected me. The programs they accepted me to were not for me. As an adult, I am now questioning my decision to reject Howard.
Combining rejection and unattainable standards can be a powerful combination.
I binged on sweets and junk food. Or anytime really. Because I loved to eat. I love food, no matter how large or small. Mealtime is an occasion that makes me happy and my stomach happy.
Afterward, I purged when I felt I could control the outcome.
When I first started college, I had to audition twice for the dance program at my university. I was rejected twice. At 19 I knew I couldn’t make a living dancing, no matter how much my love for it.
I danced with an extracurricular dance company on campus and then switched to creative writing and journalism as my academic focus.
I was able, by releasing the pressure I had placed on myself to be a good dancer, to also let go of some of my unhealthy behaviors. I quit binging and purging shortly after I began undergraduate school.
The “freshman fifteen” was my friend. I went to the gym only when I felt like doing so, and I had cycles of feeling a bit bloated to wanting to stop working out altogether. These are still my routines, better or worse, ten years later.