(Featured Photo above by @leegumbsphotography)
I remember the first day I walked onto the Disney Lot for ABC’s “The Little Mermaid Live.” I drove up and showed my ID, and it was just like what you’d see in a movie. They waved me in.
There I stood, in a sea of other performers. As time went on, I realized that everyone except for Queen Latifah and one male ensemble performer was basically thin. That’s the story of my life. I’m often the token plus-size person, and that’s if there is one.
When I go to auditions, when they stare at me like “what do you think you’re doing here?” I just ignore them and dance even harder.
During the Halloween season, it reminded me once again that my body does not define me. I can be anything I want to be, just like I did that day on the Disney set. So to break the stereotype yet again, I decided to be a Barbie® doll … and publicized it. Why? Barbie has been an icon for little girls for 60 years since Mattel first put Barbie on the market. It has become a fantasy for little girls everywhere … a fantasy of what they could be. I wanted to show that Barbie doesn’t have to have a specific body type. She’s every girl with a dream.
In recent years, “Barbie” has become a trailblazer, representing many different professions that had never been open to women in the past: astronauts, marine biologists, judges, engineers and even builders. However, “Barbie” still insists on presenting an unrealistic body type. This gives the message that little girls must be disproportionately skinny to be successful.
Honestly, in my research for Halloween, I could only find a couple of Barbies that have ever been sold that were considered plus-size. One of them was fashioned after Ashley Graham, who, in case you don’t know, was the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model in 2016. While I’m used to it, I’m determined to change it.
Amanda LaCount as Barbie – #breakingthestereotype
So I chose this Halloween to be “Plus-Size Barbie.” However, when I uploaded these pictures on my Instagram, someone reminded me that I didn’t need the plus-size Barbie box, I should just be “Barbie.” “Barbie” should be representative of all little girls, and should be available in all shapes and sizes. Don’t you agree?
And while Halloween is a time of the year that we can be anything we want to be, we shouldn’t feel this way only on Halloween. That goes for both kids and adults. You’re never too old to dream. We are strong women, and we should be able to be anything we want to be any time of the year, and at any time in our lives.
Many people told me I couldn’t be a dancer, much less a professional dancer. They told my mother we shouldn’t think about moving to Los Angeles. They said a plus-size size woman would never be accepted and should not try to be a professional dancer.
Luckily, we did not listen to what they said. In 2015, we moved to Los Angeles. I trained hard, taking two to three professional-level dance classes every single day. These are the classes that choreographers and professional dancers take when they’re not on set or on tour. I found a dance agent and started auditioning for jobs. It wasn’t easy. Many times I was excused from the audition before they gave me a chance to even dance!
This didn’t stop me.
After a while, people started to take notice. I started booking dance jobs; choreographers started referring me to casting people. Yes, I still run into stereotypes, and it is still frustrating sometimes. But I am slowly breaking and tearing down walls.
I have had the opportunity to dance with Meghan Trainor, Lizzo, Katy Perry, on The Ellen Show, on Dancing With the Stars, in Rihanna’s “Savage X Fenty” Show at New York Fashion Week, on E! “People’s Choice Awards,” and recently, as I told you, I was Alana (one of Triton’s daughters) and a Sous Chef on ABC’s “The Little Mermaid Live.”
I received so much support in this role, as little girls and even older women were excited to see a plus-size mermaid. They messaged me saying they were inspired to see that they “could be anything they wanted to be.” It even went viral on Twitter.
The message I’m trying to drive in is this: Never allow yourself to be held back by what society tells you. And that’s true whether you’re 14 or 94. Girls and women should not be held back by what society tells us. Like Halloween, every day we should know that we can be anything we want.
In closing, I want to share one of my favorite sayings: “Proving people wrong is my favorite hobby.” So go out in the world and know that you are beautiful just the way you are. Go out and be your best self and follow your dreams. You can be anything you want to be, no matter what age you are.
Happy holidays everyone! I’ll see you again right here in January.
About the Author: Curvicality columnist Amanda LaCount is a professional dancer, actress, singer, model and body activist. She’s the youngest of seven, and relocated from Colorado to Los Angeles to pursue her dream. When she’s not auditioning, rehearsing or performing, she loves to ride horses and go to the beach. You can find her on IG @amandalacount