The Fight for Beauty- Chapter 5 – The Hollywood Dream

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 5 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


When I arrived back home to Arizona, my head was spinning with possibilities of my dreams coming into fruition.  I was about to record my first demo at Paramount Studios and my promotional photo shoot was scheduled to be done at the same time.  My manager and I went back and forth as far as what my “look” should be.  Every big artist had a look and image that they had to stick to market themselves. Starting out, I stood firm that, unlike other artists, I wanted to actually wear clothes when I performed.  However, he convinced me that sex sells and before I knew it I was 100% willing to use my sexuality as a way to promote my career.

However, I still needed to lose 10 pounds off my 130 pound 5’7 frame.

My mom had read that juice diets were all the craze in Hollywood and were becoming more and more well-known for helping celebrities drop weight quickly.  I was game.

We started our three-day juice cleanse and I remember the first sip of juice I had.  I wanted to immediately vomit.  There was no way I was going to be able to force myself to drink this for three days.  I instead lived off decaf coffee and fat-free creamer.  The first two days were a complete blur.  I was starving, tired, and achy.  I forced myself to walk on my treadmill for at least an hour each day.  I put up photos on my mirror of Britney Spears in case I was tempted to break my fast and eat.

I woke up on day three and before I could even make it out of my room, I blacked out.  I woke up to my mom standing over me.  I had passed out from lack of calories.

I still refused to eat and insisted on completing day three.  In my mind, passing out was a win.  A sign of victory.  In a sick way, it motivated me even more to complete my fast because it said to me that it was working. Also, I was over ten pounds down in just three days.  I was on cloud 9.

I soon arrived back in LA, proud to show off my new figure to my manager.  He was impressed that I was able to drop weight so quickly but mentioned how I needed to focus on toning up. I was shattered.  All I wanted was affirmation from him.

I remember driving up to Paramount Studios with  my mom.  I felt like a celebrity when I had to give my name to the security team and they saw me listed on the schedule for a recording session.  The next few days consisted of writing and laying down tracks for my demo.  I arrived for my photo shoot and it was just like the ones I had watched on MTV and VH1.  My favorite music playing in the background while I changed outfits and had a hair and makeup team fixing my hair and appearance.

Eventually, things between my manager and I began to become strange.   Tensions began to arise as he was obviously not fulfilling his part of our agreement.  He seemed upset that I would never travel or go to his offices alone.  I was always with my mom or my best friend, Kainos. I later found out that a few years after I stopped working with him, he was convicted to jail time for raping his female clients.

Through a series of networking events, he introduced me to a man named Jeff.  He had obvious connections in the music industry and had agreed to meet with me.  We met at a mall in LA along with my best friend, Kainos.  He asked me what my goals were and said that he was impressed with my demos that he had heard.  He said that he wanted to arrange to have me record with Manual Seal, a Grammy award-winning producer out of Atlanta who was the most well-known for producing hits for Mariah Carey.  It came with one condition, of course.

“Listen, you have the talent but you don’t have the body.  Where you come from, guys might think you are cute if you’re wearing something skanky and you’re in a dark club and he has a few drinks in him. But in Hollywood, you’re nothing.  You’re competing with the Britney’s and the Christina’s now.  If you’re not working out at least three hours a day for the next  month, don’t even bother contacting me again.”

Kainos’ mouth dropped open (thank God she was there to witness it because otherwise people would assume I was exaggerating what he said to me).  Looking back, I can see how broken I was because I never even questioned what he said.  He spoke truth to me.  He was right.

I would do whatever it took for my dreams to come true. If it took dying to get there, so be it.


Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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The Fight for Beauty- Chapter 4- From High School to Hollywood

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 4 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


 

I remember waking up the day after I first binged.  My head was pounding and my entire body felt lethargic, however no feeling was greater than the shame I felt.  I laid in bed as I looked at the magazines besides my bed that were filled with photos of pop stars and celebrities with tiny waists and a thigh gap.  All the messages I had received since childhood told me that my worth was little to none if I didn’t have a perfect body, and I felt the closest I had ever felt to worthlessness in that moment.

I made a promise to myself that I would never let it happen again.

I made a lot of broken promises.

I spent the entire next day eating nothing except for decaffeinated coffee (I had read an article that said caffeine prevented weight loss) and fat-free creamer. I tried going for a run in my neighborhood but quickly lost my stride due to lack of food and energy.

The next day I allowed myself one bowl of Special K cereal with skim milk.  I was beginning to feel more in control of myself and I went about my day as though I was walking on air.  The feeling of hunger made me feel hopeful about my future.  It gave me a strange sense of euphoria where I felt as though I could accomplish anything.  Saying no to food meant saying yes to happiness.

I could only go a few days eating little to nothing before I would eventually break.

Binge. After Binge. After Binge.

Starve for two days. Binge for one. Starve for three days. Binge for two.

I felt out of control.

As the days turned to months, I slowly began putting on weight from all the binging.  I became depressed and being anywhere in public gave me anxiety. One day as I sat in the girl’s locker room at school, I overheard two girls gossiping about one of their friends.

Have you seen how skinny Christina is now? I heard she started taking exlax, water pills, and taught herself how to throw up. She needs help.

Maybe this was my answer.  To be honest, the thought of taking laxatives was nauseating but I was desperate at this point.  I’d do anything to lose weight.

Within two weeks, I could tell I was losing weight.  Others would make comments which only gave me more determination to continue losing weight.  I convinced my parents to buy me a treadmill for Christmas and I would spend hours in our basement running mile after mile.

I finally was able to stop bingeing so often and limited my calories to 500 per day.  As I continued to lose weight, people would approach my parents to ask if I was ok.  Hearing their concerns didn’t scare me, but instead made me feel on top of the world.  Peers would ask me for weight loss advice and praise me for my obvious triumph.

I was a girl obsessed.  If I ever felt tempted to eat a “bad” food, I would write with a sharpie on my hand “You are fat! Do not eat!” I kept photos of popular celebrities like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera taped to my mirror to help motivate me and discourage me from eating if tempted. For the first time, I felt in control of my own life.


Two weeks after my high school graduation, I packed my bags and moved to Denver, Colorado to work with my vocal coaches and pursue my dream of music.  Arriving in Denver was exciting and helped fulfill my need for adventure.  After my parents helped get me settled in, they drove away and reality hit.

I didn’t know a soul there.  I kept myself busy working and practicing at the music academy I was studying at and while I made a few friends, I found myself spending much of my time isolating.  My obsession with my body grew even more as I entered into a music competition that would take place in LA.  The mix of my own self-induced pressure and the loneliness I had from being away from home threw me into another cycle of binging and purging by spending hours at the gym.

When I finally arrived in LA, I was met by my mother at the hotel.  She was always supportive of my dreams and so she thought that helping me stay thin would only help me.  Her intentions were good, however damaging.  Every time we would eat, she would comment on my food selection if she felt it was too fattening.

Rihanna, you’re going to regret eating that and you’ll feel sad when you have to perform tomorrow. 

She was right.

While in Los Angeles, I was approached by a talent manager who wanted to represent me.  I remember driving to his private office and meeting at a long conference table as he looked at my head shots and listened to a few of my demo recordings.  He continued to name drop a few of his clients and friends in the industry.  During our meeting, he mentioned that he had just missed a call from Kevin Federline, who in 2005 was widely known for his ill-intentioned marriage to Britney Spears. He kept saying that I had a marketable look and good talent and then asked if I could drop ten pounds in the next two weeks and be back in LA for a photo shoot and a recording session at Paramount studios.

My mom and I looked at each other in amazement as I shouted, “YES. I won’t eat for two weeks if that’s what I have to do!”

He laughed and joked about how I just needed to do whatever it takes because I was headed for the big time.

As we drove home, my head was spinning.  My dreams were actually going to come true.  The only thing that stood between me and my dreams was ten pounds; and I wasn’t going to let that happen.


Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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The Fight for Beauty – Chapter 3 – Hello Bulimia

Being a teenager is a no easy feat.  The transition from child to adult is forced upon us during a time when everything from our bodies, minds, friends, relationships, and hormones are changing on a daily basis.  We go from being a carefree middle-schooler whose greatest concern is who she’s going to sit next to at lunch that day to suddenly being forced to make life-altering decisions about everything from our career paths, colleges, and which member of N’Sync we would give our hand in marriage to. (JT, obviously).

I still remember my first day in high school. All my life I had been attending a private, Christian school where my class size was 15 students and the most controversial event was an 8th grader bringing a Playboy magazine to school.  He was immediately expelled and no one dared talk about it except for whispers in the hallway where rumor had it that once he was expelled he tried pot.  If it wasn’t in the Bible, it wasn’t to be discussed.  I remember being openly chastised in front of the class because a teacher overheard me telling a story where I said the word “bra.”  She claimed that I had no class and was disappointed that I would use such a word in front of my male peers; as if a bra is something every young girl should feel ashamed of.

Now, here I stood amount 1,500 peers who openly discussed sex, drugs, and their wild weekends spent passed out after drinking wine coolers in their parents basements.  I couldn’t tell you about my classes or my teachers even if I wanted to because all I remember is being consumed with the fact that I didn’t fit in.  I knew nothing about what the world was like outside of my Reformed-Presbyterian school background where even uttering the word “damn” would get you sent to the principal’s office.

Walking the halls felt paralyzing to me.  The girls at my new school were different from my friends before.  They were beautiful, confident, and they all wore Abercrombie which was the epitome of cool in 2001. I would watch in awe as they easily drew attention from guys as they flirted and laughed at their terrible jokes. The message was loud and clear that in order to get attention from a guy, you needed to show just the right amount of cleavage while being easy and flirty.  Which was unfortunate for me because the most intimate thing to happen between me and a guy was receiving a candy gram on Valentine’s Day and I was only a size A cup.

If I couldn’t be like the other girls, maybe I could at least try to look like them.

 

A few months into high school, I was finally becoming adjusted to my new social circle and I didn’t openly flinch every time I heard someone swear. You could say that being in a public school had its own effect on me because I was even becoming more rebellious as I secretly purchased my first non-Christian cd.  It was Avril Lavigne’s debut album Let Go and I’d sing Complicated at the top of my lungs as I drove to and from school.  Man, did I feel like a badass.

However with the new-found rebellion and freedom I found, I also found myself more entrapped in my eating disorder. I became even more obsessed with dieting and attempting to lose weight.  I would eat as little as I could while the feeling of hunger made me fantasize about all the things I could be or do if I was skinny.  The hunger pangs would motivate me to resist more food even more as I imagined my new, skinny self just ahead.  Skinny Rihanna wasn’t intimidated by the other girls in high school  Skinny Rihanna had a boyfriend and was the envy of all the other girls. Skinny Rihanna was smart, funny, and popular. Skinny Rihanna’s dreams were just in reach and she had the support and encouragement of her friends and family. Skinny Rihanna didn’t spend hours in the front of the mirror pinching and squeezing her love handles wishing she could just do away with them altogether. Skinny Rihanna was happy.

Eventually, I broke.

It was a Friday afternoon and I was driving home from school.  I was exhausted, starving, and had just majorly failed an acting audition.  I remember fantasizing about everything I wanted to eat.  Cookies, cereal, peanut butter, icecream, you name it.  When I got home, I was alone and I found myself standing in the kitchen.  I paced around the kitchen island as I fought with myself as to whether I should eat or not.  One little snack couldn’t hurt.  I’ll stop after just one granola bar.  I went into the pantry and quickly one granola bar turned to two, which turned to the entire box. The shame I felt was overwhelming and the only way to avoid having to feel it was to keep eating.  Entire boxes of cereal, half a gallon of icecream, pasta leftovers from the night before.  I ate until I felt sick and I could no longer even look at the sight of food.

I binged.

I was so naive to the world of eating disorders that I had no idea that there was even a word for it.  I stood in the bathroom, hovering over the toilet trying to make myself throw up everything I had just eaten.  I had heard of girls who could eat whatever they wanted and they were able to stay skinny by making themselves vomit immediately afterwords. But I couldn’t.

I remember crawling into my bed that night, overwhelmed with shame, guilt, and disgust over what I had just done.  Just as the feeling of hunger made me feel powerful, the feeling of indulging made me feel worthless.

As I drifted off into sleep, I swore that it would never happen again.  Little did I know that my journey had just begun.


Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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