I used to tell myself I’d be in a ‘proper’ band when I lost enough weight because I simply couldn’t fathom being the frontwoman of a rock band feeling the way I did. I’ve fed myself that line since I was a teenager, I’m now 32. I’ve been varying degrees of weight since being a teenager, but even at my lightest, I still didn’t bite the bullet.
I’ve consciously tried to push those destructive thought patterns to the back of my mind over the past year, and it’s done me the world of good.
You see, the ‘when I’m skinny’ narrative is a big stinking pile of dog shit. It’s a lie, a comfort blanket to hide behind, an excuse to save us from possible public humiliation.
It’s got nothing to do with physical size, its straight up mental self-abuse. It’s a way of giving in to the self-doubt monster because we feel inadequate existing inside a world of skinny celebration.
This is one of the reasons, and there are many, that we don’t see many women in bands on a mainstream level. If we do, they tend to fit a stereotypical role or slot into the ‘hot girl in a band’ category. Apart from Alabama Shakes, do you see many plus size leading ladies being celebrated in this Billboard list of 26 female-fronted bands?
When Beth Ditto hit the scene, she wasn’t just the frontwoman of an alternative band, she also had to fly the flag for fatness. I’m sure she was passionate and proud of all she accomplished, as she should, but why does it even have to be a point of interest?
I’ve always wanted to be in an energetic rock band. I watch Phil Anselmo live at Moscow, jumping in the air while using his body as a weapon and it pumps me up.
Kirk Hammett running end to end of an arena brings out the green-eyed monster in me. I just want to feel that connection.
I’ve been going to gigs since I was 15 years old. I’ve watched hundreds of male singers and musicians give their body and soul to the music and feed off the atmosphere. I doubt many of them gave a second thought to their double chin, size of their thighs or the kind of bra they should wear for minimum titty bounce.
Even though I love some extremely heavy music, I’m also a sucker for a Paramore hook. Hayley Williams is a ball of fire when she’s on stage. Why do girls love Paramore? because it gives us some semblance of hope that we can do it too. It’s not just a boys club, but it’s so difficult for women to be taken seriously. There are enough ceilings to punch through as a smaller female in rock, nevermind a larger one.
I’m not blaming men. I’m blaming the overall stigma surrounding people of a certain size. I’m blaming the bullies who thoughtlessly set the tone for young girls from a young age. The jabs and countless fat jokes that make their way into everyday social commentary are to blame. It’s not just as simple as plus girls not being taken seriously, they’re not taking themselves seriously because they’ve been told they’re not good enough from the get-go.
Do you think No Doubt would have been as popular in the 90’s if Gwen was a midriff-baring size 20? Would Hayley of been given a record contract at 15 if she was a 6ft giant in an XXL rather than a 5ft 2 petite waif of Christian sweetness?
I’m not blaming Hayley or Gwen. I’m blaming the culture and the system who dictate what size is acceptable for a woman to be in a successful, mainstream band. I’m sure Gwen and Hayley feel the pressure too. What if one day they decided to ‘let themselves go’? do you think their management would let that slide? Would they still occupy the front cover of Cosmo or have their appearance consistently praised by empty gossip rags who feed women’s insecurities?
The confidence in my body was knocked down the minute a family member made a snide comment about how big I was as a negative at an age when I shouldn’t of been thinking about weight or diets. I used to hold my gut in the mirror and breathe in, telling myself if I chopped that bit of fat off I’d be OK before I even went to high school. What chance did I have?
When my confidence was low enough as a teenager, a grown man cruelly said to me “you’re too fat to wear that skirt” in the middle of the street on a night out, which helped solidify my fears. I shouldn’t have let it get to me, but when you’re 17 and have extremely low confidence it doesn’t enter your head to be #BodyPositive, you just tend to recoil and want the ground to swallow you up. Plus, hashtags weren’t a thing in the naughties.
When I was growing up there was no such thing as body positivity, plus size movements or a celebration of all sizes. Popular shops didn’t sell plus size ranges unless it was some fuddy-duddy old people shop or a specialised offering. You’d never be able to go into H&M or log on to Asos.com and get something cool that fit just like the ad’s suggested it would.
It was just a race to be skinny so I could start my life. It was a race I was never going to win, nor will I ever. That’s not me being self-defeatist, and I would like to lose some weight and become more active, but I’m never going to be a skinny girl because I’ve genetically got wide hips, a big ass, and ample thighs. Plus, I no longer have the desire to be.
Negative body image has ultimately determined my path in life thus far and it angers me more than I can say.
Being a singer on stage is hard enough if you’re introverted, shy and insecure, but the thought of jumping up down and feeling my excess weight jump up and down with me has always been too much to bear.
Well now, frankly, I’m fucking sick of wasting my life. I’m not going to join Pantera anytime soon, but I’ll be damned if I let societies problems with weight and my subsequent insecurity dictate the kind of frontwoman I want to be. Music is my life and my home, it should be a place for complete freedom and creative energy.
I don’t want to be Hayley Williams, I want to be Leanne Brookes. I have my own style which comes from a place of authenticity; a primal oneness with music and a titty bounce here and there if necessary.