By: Emily Lvyer
Confession time: when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a ballerina.
I would twirl and hop around my living room, pretending I was on a grand stage, and bowing to an imaginary audience, balanced on the tips of my toes.
And the thing is, no one ever told me that I couldn’t pursue ballet. My mother even asked, several times, if I’d like to sign up for lessons. But, I always said no.
Why? Because of my weight.
Meant to be Thin
See, I used to be an incredibly active kid. I played in a wide range of sports like basketball, baseball, swimming, figure skating, and more. But, I also had this notion in my brain that ballerinas were supposed to be thin. At the time, I wasn’t really torn up about it; it was just something I accepted. I was built chubby, and ballerinas were willowy. If I took ballet, I thought that I would look, well, wrong. All clunky and lumbering instead of graceful and tall like the other girls. People would stare, I’d be pushed to the back, and I just couldn’t stomach the thought of that. So, I remained a ballerina in my own imagination, and never pursued that secret dream of mine.
Fast forward to now, and you’ll find a slew of ballerinas who are plus size, inspiring a whole generation of little girls with chubby cheeks. I’d like to say that, had such stories and videos been within my reach as a kid, I would have felt more confident to dance. But the thing is, I was never exactly ashamed of my body.
I simply let myself believe it wasn’t suited to do certain things; that it couldn’t look beautiful in certain styles or by moving a certain way, which is a very toxic and restricting way to view yourself, and I even still struggle with that today.
To me, “plus size ballerina” implies an exception, rather than status quo. I think what we really need is to normalize bigger women (and men!) pursuing ballet to the point where it’s so common that it could never even occur to a young girl she isn’t suited for it because of her weight.
Over the years, I’ve grown more comfortable in my own skin. There are still some things about myself I’d like to change, but there are others I know that I cannot, and I am trying to embrace them as perfectly imperfect parts of me.
Since those days of sloppy pirouettes in front of the T.V., I’ve come to regret allowing those old ideologies to stand in the way of exploring something I loved. And it’s because of that that I ask you, on International Women’s Day (or really any day for that matter) to tell your daughter, your mother, every cherished woman in your life, that she is beautiful.
Because all of us – women who are plus size or thin, women who dress conservatively or provocatively, women of colour, women with disabilities, women who feel they were born in the wrong body – deserve to know that we can do anything we set our minds to, regardless of how we look while doing it.