opinion

'My dream of becoming a West End dancer left me struggling with my body image'

Martin shares his story National Student Pride's #QueerAF podcast.

2019-01-31

It’s hard for me to think of a time when I have felt happy with my body.

I trained at a ballet school for many years, skin-tight leggings and leotards were my daily clothing staple. Days on end surrounded by mirrors, looking at my body under a microscope certainly left its mark on the way I view my weight.

The questions over my shape and size really took a turn when I moved to London. I would stand in audition rooms with hoards of other boys and watch as they booked the jobs and I didn’t.

Large muscles, flat stomachs and golden tans seemed to be the desired look and I simply didn’t have any of these attributes.

Things took a turn when I was asked to remove my shirt during an audition for a major musical. I would go on to book this job, however looking back I wish it had never happened.

During rehearsals we were given gym memberships and advised on what to eat. My intended shirtless costume was soon changed to a t-shirt, and body contouring was to be applied for the moments this wasn’t possible.

I wasn’t good enough, even if I could sing or dance to the level they wanted, I wasn’t aesthetically right.

I took some time out after this job, as I was starting to feel the negative effects that came with the audition process. In this time I gained a little weight. My mental health began to deteriorate, I had removed something from my life that had made me so happy and now I was left with a body that felt alien to me.

Image: Paul Nicholas Dyke

I returned to performing a year later, my body had changed. I was encouraged by the director to get back in shape. A valid request I felt, given the nature of my job, I thought. I had so much shame surrounding my looks that I decided to take drastic action to achieve my goals.

I would wake up every morning and run for five miles in -23 degrees. I would spend hours researching online the best ways to lose body fat. I would look longingly at the boys in the pages of my favourite magazines. I would train long hours in the gym and eventually, when I wasn’t achieving my goals fast enough, began to binge and purge my food.

This behavior is so alarming to me when I look back, but the problem is, everyone said I looked amazing. Everyone was so impressed. I posted my '#bodytransformation' on Instagram and was inundated with likes.

I was getting praise for damaging myself.

Image: Paul Nicholas Dyke

As time has gone on I have managed to find a little balance. It’s been a long few years but I am starting to accept my body for what it is. From a career that was all about being anything but normal, I have had to find solace in the fact that maybe I am just ‘average’ in this department.

I don’t attend auditions anymore and I try not to seek validation from others over my body.

I am now only auditioning for myself, and the casting brief is to simply to be happy.

If you or somone you know is struggling with an eating disorder visit beateatingdisorders.org.uk or call the Beat helpline on 08 08 801 06 77.

Martin tells his story on the National Student Pride podcast #QueerAF. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or where ever you listen to podcasts.

Attitude is a media sponsor of National Student Pride, which takes place in Londno 22-24 February 2019.