Fresh out of high school, I recall deciding I'd pursue being a professional singer. Although I had good times thus far, I'd also been secretly depressed. It was a side of me I never showed, or rather never came out until I was in my mid-twenties. And it was this depression that actually gave me the drive and hunger to sing, because I noticed early on that when I sang, that black cloud was absent. I felt like I could do anything when I sang. I felt happy, I felt loved and although I was an obese adolescent, I felt for the first time in my life - unjudged.
When I first met my manager and other "instrumental" people in the business, I was told, "Judy, if you want to be a singer, you can't be fat....no one will want to sign you. No one will want to take pictures of you, nor will anyone do a video of you." It was the first time I was told I was limited. My mother always told me that if I want to be a singer, I should just go out there and get myself heard. And that's exactly what I did. Fat and depressed and suffering from acne, I STILL went after it. A year after graduating from high school, I met my first manager. And a year after that, I had my first single, No Reason to Cry. I would go on stage and I could hear the whispers, the giggles. And within a year, the audience got louder in their opinion and would chant, "Go, golda, go golda!" which is a not so kind way of saying, "Go, fatso, go fatso!" People would tell me it was in jest, "de carino", but having to lock myself in a bathroom and cry was not funny at all.
One day, after a show at Flushing Meadow Park, I was on a park bench crying because the chanting had followed me to almost every show. A man passed by and said to me, "Yea, baby! That's how I like 'em: nice and thick! I like 'em chunky but funky." I was furious! Did he not see me crying there? I was so freaking pissed off, I almost considered quitting my dream of singing. I wanted to be a singer..I wasn't trying to be a supermodel. If you have a voice and you can entertain, do you have to be perfect in looks? Isn't what comes out of my mouth more important than what I put in it? LOL. A few weeks later, I was booked to sing at the Palladium in New York City. It was a HOT 103 concert (before it became HOT 97) and it was an award night. I had been nominated for best female performer. I was performing Come Into My Arms that night for the first time. There I was on that big and famous stage, so many people...and my mother and father were in the audience. I was so scared. I almost cried before I went on, and thanks to Nayobe, a fellow diva who can sing like nobody's business, she gave me the courage to go on. "Somebody, get her some water, " she demanded. She looked at me, with her hands on my shoulders, "You listen to me, mama! You go up there! This is YOUR night...go do your thing!" To this day, I still love her always for that gift of courage she gave me. The lights went down, the song began, I threw my hands out to the side, and before I sang one note, the crowd chanted, "Go Golda, Go, Go Golda!" I was mortified! It was bad enough that I had to tolerate it; I didn't want my parents to hear it, God, how embarrassing!!! I thought of that man, that stranger, who spoke to me in the park. I asked them to stop the music.
"I wake up every morning, and I look in the mirror and see exactly what you see. I don't try to lie to myself. I know I'm fat. No one has to tell me. I deal with it every day. But I'll tell you this: I MAY BE CHUNKY...(pause)...BUT I'M FUNKY!!!" The crowd literally went wild! I won the award, but I won something else: the ability to talk to the crowd and take my power back. The truth was becaue I didn't accept myself, the crowd sensed that weakness and just put it in my face. I had to become my own #1 fan! The next day the deejays were talking about it all day on the air, and to this day it's become my most famous quote, helping me represent plus-size women everywhere! And from time to time, I will say it and it still gets a great response!
So, I'd like to address this blog to Hollywood and the critics on Gabourey Sidibe's back - claiming she will never make it if she doesn't lose weight: Everyone has a monkey on their back they have to deal with. For some it is alcohol, for some it is drugs, for some it is sex, and for some it is food...I think these "critics" are people who feel so lousy about themselves, they cannot wait to find fault with people and purposely try to steal their spotlight. Give Sidibe a break! Get off her back!....if you don't want to support her, DON'T...don't hire her, don't go to her movies, but SHAME ON YOU, for judging her...she's so young for God's sake!! Are you trying to break her spirit?? Did you not see her performance in Precious!!! She deserved to be nominated, and she deserves to pursue more acting...all my life I was hoping to see a plus size woman be THE star in a movie, and not only has it happened, she was brilliant!
Gabourey, I pray my blog gets to you...know how many of us are praying for you, are routing for you and your success. I pray that you don't allow these ugly people to take you down, don't let them get you, girl! You do you! You want to lose weight, go for it...but do it for you. And if you don't want to, don't. Never, never lose weight for anyone! No matter what, I see your beauty...I see your beauty the way I hoped someone saw mine when I was 16! I love you, and I SEE YOU! Go prove them all wrong...and if you don't make it, you are now and always be a hero to me.
PS: I'm still a plus sized woman. And although I have never won a grammy, I have had two albums, countless singles, I've had MANY pictures and videos taken of me, I was a plus size model, and I still am a recording artist of TWENTY-THREE gorgeous years, and a radio personality in NYC for THIRTEEN years! I am still here.....Que Viva Chunky but Funky women everywhere! We are all deserving of love. Okay, I'll shut up now.