Amber Riley is the only reason why I'm watching "Dancing with the Stars" this season. I fell in love with her on "Glee."
I see myself in her... the girl in the high school drama club who wanted to perform. The chubby girl who simply didn't fit the image of the leading lady. I could dance well enough to make the chorus line, but it was girls like Mary Lynne (pictured in the center of the high school pic) who were destined for Broadway. I'd taken tap and jazz lessons since the age of 5. My body just never LOOKED like it could move. I'll always remember myself as the dancer so heavy that poor Ray could only fling me like a discus thrower while trying to perform a lift in our high school musical. It was and remains one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
When I saw Amber light up the ballroom on DWTS, my inner big girl rejoiced. I was moved to tears. I may not LOOK like a obese woman since my gastric bypass surgery at Catawba Valley Medical Center, but that's who I've always been. I'd learned to ignore the snickers and hit the dance floor anyway. I'd learned to be the first to make the joke so it'd feel like you were laughing WITH me, not AT me. Yep, I'm the grown woman who put on a Shirley Temple costume and tap danced for Taste of Charlotte crowds a few years ago. I still remember hearing the crowd gasp when my 230+ pounds ended the routine with a cartweel and split. I still remember the pain afterward too.
No one is laughing at Amber. Electrifying talent oozes from every pore.
My big girl joy was hit hard by reality last week when Amber revealed that she was dancing with pain. She'd been to the doctor to have fluid drained from her knees. This week you could see the knee braces peeking from beneath her costume. She's exciting to watch, but excess weight eventually takes its toll... on knees and backs and feet. Size doesn't diminish drive or talent. Obesity is NOT a sign of laziness. Its a sign that life changes are necessary, not just to look good, but to FEEL good when you're dancing, walking up the stairs or simply getting up off the floor or getting out of a low chair. At the moment your body reminds you that its carrying more weight than it should... its important to imagine what your life COULD be like, if you weren't punishing your bones and joints.... what your life COULD be like if you could DANCE and FEEL HEALTHY at the same time.