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TBA Online: News & Features: July 2018

The Business of Show Biz: Choreographer Says I'm Too Fat

Tuesday, July 3, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rotimi Agabiaka
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by Velina Brown

Q: After a recent audition—which I felt very good about—I later heard that the director and musical director both thought I was perfect, but that the choreographer nixed me because she thought I was “too fat.” I didn’t hear that I couldn’t dance, it was just that I didn’t fit her vision. I’m proud to not be a stick, but I don’t want to miss out on roles because of some unrealistic version of desirable. What should I do? Is this the wrong market? NY? LA?

Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.

 

 A: I’d have a lot more information if this were an in-person consultation. I don’t know what YOU mean by “not a stick” or what the choreographer means by “too fat”. Some folks think if you’re 5’ 9” and a slender 135 pounds you’re fat because fashion models that height might be an extremely thin 115 pounds.  It’s relative. I can say that if weight is an issue for you you will likely feel more pressure around weight in Los Angeles than in almost any other market to which you might chose to move.  Most of my friends who’ve moved to LA have had a better time if they are quite thin or truly fat. Just sort of chunky doesn’t work as well there. BTW just about every person I know who has moved to LA lost a significant amount of weight the first year from all the pressure to be skinny. Eventually, most of them ended up back at their regular weight. But it seems to be a phase each person goes through when they first move there. Remember to prioritize your health and wellbeing over measurements—or a number on a scale. 

You didn’t say where you currently live. I’ve found that people of all shapes and sizes get cast in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you are only aware of losing this one role due to one choreographer’s opinion of your weight, you might want to hold off on packing your bags. If your weight repeatedly comes up as a problem, moving is not likely to be the remedy anyway. The problem could be that you are simply between types. For example, imagine someone is holding auditions for two types: “cheerleader” and “jolly fat girl”. Cheerleader’s are typically cast slim and jolly fat girls are well…fat. If you don’t fit squarely into the slim box or the heavy box,  you’ll likely lose out to the actors who do. 

If you sing and dance really well, New York City may be a good place for you. Depending on your goals Chicago and Atlanta could be strong markets as well.

I’m curious about how you even heard the choreographer’s comments about your weight. It’s pretty unprofessional for them to make comments in a way that would get back to you. 

In any case, you have options: 

  1. Choose to lose weight because you a) heard through the grapevine the choreographer at your last audition thought you were fat or b) because you feel that it would be best for your health and appearance. 
  2. Choose not to lose weight and move to another market with the understanding that a casting person in the new market could also think you are too heavy. 
  3. Stay where you are and the weight you are and just keep on auditioning with the understanding “you win some, you lose some”. 

This takes bravery, but you could also survey more experienced actors, some directors, and casting directors to glean a better sense. You would have to assure the participants that their response would be anonymous and that you truly want their feedback. You could also speak directly to the choreographer. Let them know you heard they thought you were too fat for a role and ask them to elaborate. Only go this route if you really want to receive their feedback. Under no circumstances do you argue with them. It would be great for them to give professional and candid answers to your questions but remember they don’t have to. And you don’t have to agree with them. If however they speak to you in a way that is not appropriate then definitely feel free to stop them, thank them, and move on. I only offer this idea because I prefer directness over possibly changing your whole life over hearsay. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you how seriously you choose to take the choreographer’s comment. More important than their opinion is your own opinion about what you want to do in the biz, how you want to look and feel, what you are willing to do to put yourself in the path of your goals and where you want to build not only a great career but a great life.

Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at velina@businessofshowbiz.com.