One thing I learned about myself on “Dancing with the Stars” is how startlingly insecure I am about my body. I am thin enough, I suppose, but I know I am not as healthy as I can be. I felt clumsy and awkward among the svelte, swanlike figures of Jennifer and Brandi and Audrina – I am not ‘in’ my body as they seem to be, and my dancing was heavily influenced by that.
When you are dancing, you have to constantly look at yourself in the mirror, which I had great problems with. I don’t look in the mirror much. I never have. I never watch myself perform, with the exception of when I am playing music, but then I am usually looking for mistakes I have made on guitar so I can correct them, or I am watching the other musicians. Having to watch myself and preparing for other people to watch me dance was nerve racking, not because I expected myself to be such a good dancer, but because I am so unaware and out of touch with my physical body, it was like I was having to power myself with a remote control with fading batteries. There was a tabloid story about how I was the obnoxious one backstage at DWTS, but I don’t know who could have said this because frankly I never said a word backstage. I didn’t speak at all because I was so terrified of having to be compared to the beautiful dancers next to me. One contestant and corresponding partner would say almost every taping, “Stop being so nervous!” which just made me feel worse.
What sucks is I danced beautifully in rehearsals whenever my wonderful partner Louis and I were alone, but this was completely frustrating because when we would get out on the ballroom floor I couldn’t replicate it because I felt so weird about the way I looked. This hit me as so strange because I thought I had left all these physical insecurities and self doubt behind, but what truly happened was I was just in denial about how much self hatred I had left in me. Now I really need to let this go, not just for myself, but for everyone in my life, everyone who comes to see me perform, everyone who hears my voice and gets it and loves it. We need to feel good about ourselves, not just for competition shows or dance contests, but so we can truly live.
I started to regress into bad habits while DWTS training. I would put on my eating dress and panic-eat entire pizzas and boxes of chocolates. I have no problem eating this way to satisfy hunger, but I wasn’t eating two whole pizzas and entire boxes of sees candy (large from Dominos with extra pepperoni, sausage – seriously along with one bite each of every chocolate in a big boxed assortment because of pickiness) because I was hungry. I wasn’t hungry – because I was already eating these balanced meals we got for free so we wouldn’t pass out from all the training – there was no starvation going on, that’s for sure. I was eating because I was so scared all the time (golden oreos became my life). I could tell that this obsessive behavior wasn’t about eating, it was about escape. My mouth would be all torn up from biting the insides of my cheeks, because I was so desperate to get the food down so fast I wasn’t chewing properly. I was trying to run away into the cheese, into the caramel filling, into the creamy lard middle of the golden oreo. This was super scary.
I don’t want to do this to myself anymore. I have been trying to eat healthier to get some sanity around food. I know that I am an addictive personality, especially when it comes to food, but you can’t give up food like you can give up drugs and alcohol. We have to eat, so we have to face food and face it several times a day. I am making a commitment to myself to eat better and get into my body. I am trying to work out more, not to lose weight or get fit, but to get inside my skin. I did this briefly with bellydance and burlesque, but now DWTS has shown me I really need to get more committed to really living my life. I know it’s just reality TV, but interestingly enough, it made my reality more real and I am changing my life for the better.
I will be back in the audience next week to cheer on the stars and their pro dancers, feeling radiant and confident and happy, knowing I will dance again another day. And though it was hard, I have fond memories of dancing on that floor. Although it unearthed a world of pain I didn’t even know existed, there were moments where I have never felt so beautiful (especially in the gay pride rainbow flag dress).
I’d love to hear your stories about body issues like this. I need some help and guidance and support. Also I am getting physical trainers in every city on my tour, so if you do this for a living, I’d love to meet you!