Maybe you saw her on America’s Got Talent. Maybe you’ve seen one of her viral videos. Maybe you’ve seen her on Dragon’s Den, or on your favorite morning show, or performing with her a cappella group, Eh440. Or maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ve had Stacey Kay come and speak to your school about body positivity.
Now, I know Stacey Kay from our days in theatre school, where we performed together in the musical version of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, and competed in a Showtune Showdown. But when I found out Stacey had a song on her new album about body positivity, I asked her to sit down and chat. (TW: some discussion of weight loss)
We met in Toronto’s Kensington Market for tea and smoothies at Rick’s Cafe. Stacey had just finished a tour with Eh440 (Stacey wanted me to make sure I explained the joke – the note “A” on a scale vibrates 440 times per second, and most tuning forks are “A440”, but they wanted a little nod to Canada in there, so they made it Eh440), promoting their new album Boss Level.
KB: So, Stacey Kay, tell me about your new single, The Real Thing
SK: Well, when I first started out in the music industry, I met with some people who were ‘professionals’. And I remember they said, “We’re SUPER excited about you. We think you have a great voice and a great personality, but there’s just one problem.” They slid a magazine across the table and they said, “We just need you to look a little bit more like the girl on the front of this magazine.”
SK: Exactly. But at that time, when they said that, I was like, frick. [Yes, Stacey said “frick”] I don’t look like that girl. She probably doesn’t even look like that girl, but I was freaking out. Maybe I picked the wrong career.
So I went to sleep, and I woke up the next morning, and I looked in the mirror and said, “Okay . . . ummm . . . I look GOOD today. [Stacey says in a very sassy voice] You know what? I like my body.” Just because these two ‘professionals’ told me something does not mean that that’s the right answer. And it was in that moment where I decided, no. I’m not going to let somebody tell me what I’m supposed to look like, or what I’m supposed to act like, or sing like, or whatever. So I wrote the song Real Thing about that.
As a recording artist, you have to be yourself. You don’t have a part to play. The costume that you wear is your clothing. In the music industry there’s usually a certain look that is expected – you have to look crazy, or you have to have what the world has decided is the ‘perfect body’. There were some people they say are exceptions (like Adele or Meghan Trainor), but it bothers me that they are even considered ‘exceptions’. Why is it so special? I look in an audience, I look at every single girl or boy, and 90% of them have the same body as me. So what is normal? Is it what we expect a performer to look like, or is it me? I’m not ‘the exception’. And I want to make sure nobody has to feel excluded the way I have in the past.
KB: What was the turning point for you in accepting your body?
SK: So, I’ve always been a curvier girl. All the women in my family have HUGE boobs, broad shoulders, we’re SUPER strong, we have big calves and legs, and that’s how I grew up. When I started doing film and TV, my agent called me. And I could tell she was nervous for this phone call. She asked me, “Do you want to audition for this weight loss commercial?” The ones where they show the before and after, and do the interview, to advertise for the product you took.
For the audition, I had to walk in shorts and a bra so they could see my “before”, and I got the part. So they gave me all these pills and a diet plan. And I decided to try it, because in the end, if you lose weight, you get $5000, and you get sent to Florida, and you get to be in this commercial.
So I started taking these pills, and I lost a lot of weight. I was very, very small. I didn’t have my boobs anymore, I could feel my ribs in a way I couldn’t before. I was a different person, but not the kind of different I wanted to be. I have never in my life been so insecure. I didn’t know who this new person was. I was concerned every day that people were looking at me wondering, “How much weight has she lost?” “Is she going to gain it back?” “Stacey’s a singer, now she looks like one.” The one thing that surprised me most about my new self was that I started dating douchebags, because if they liked me, it meant I was one of the ‘skinny girls’.
I was not Stacey anymore.
I didn’t end up getting the $5000, because they said ‘the space between my thighs wasn’t big enough.’ I will never have that space, because that’s just the shape of my legs. And they fired every girl that was over 5’5, because if you’re shorter [the weight loss] looks more dramatic. So all of that was for nothing. And I went to my doctor, who told me the pills had messed up my liver.
Now I’m back to what I was before, and I’m okay with that now. I’m talking like I’m so confident, but there’s many days when I’m insecure. I always thought the solution was to get skinny, and if I lost the weight I wouldn’t be insecure anymore. But it was the exact opposite. It wasn’t the answer at all.
This is what I look like. I realized someone can eat the exact same diet as me, and I will always be heavier, curvier, whatever. That’s just how I was born. I didn’t have to accept myself as “not stereotypically attractive.” I needed to realize that who I am is already attractive – it was the media who was messing up my mind sometimes.
I wanted all the people who felt like me to know that it’s okay, so I got into motivational speaking. I went to schools spoke about positive body image while singing with my band. And it’s crazy how many people, boys and girls, are affected by these thoughts daily. Even I am still affected by these thoughts.
KB: Tell me about that. What are bad body image days like for you, and how do you deal with them?
SK: There are days when I wake up and go, “I look HIDEOUS today.” That’s always going to happen, because I’m human. But one thing I’ve learned to do is turn it around – I give myself 10 seconds. I give myself a little speech in my head. I tell myself it’s not true what the world has [decided is perfect]. This is what I look like, and this doesn’t look bad just because this isn’t what the world told me to be. I want to be a girl with PRESENCE.
I think if everyone figures out that we’re each our own character and nobody else can play your part, then that’s the coolest thing ever.
I want to thank Stacey Kay so much for sitting down and talking to me. After the interview, we went shopping for some new sunglasses because Stacey was heading off on a tour of the Caribbean with her Stacey Kay Band.
In addition to her words of wisdom, Stacey is giving away a copy of Eh440’s album Boss Level, featuring her song Real Thing to one of YOU!
All you have to do is comment below and tell me how YOU turn it around when you’re having a bad body image day. Winner will be chosen at the end of February.
All photos provided by Stacey Kay.