The battle countering the ‘fairy tale’ image of a performer

Jane Leonard was 13-years-old when she first started comparing her body weight to girls her own age.

Trained in ballet from a young age, she was startled to notice her body maturing earlier than the other dancers in her class.

“Ballet, as you know, you want to be slim and tiny . . . I was always struggling with the fact I was a lot bigger than the other girls. I think that may have triggered something in my mind,” she said.

The Riccarton resident, now 24, would often find herself looking in the mirror only to see a magnified, large version staring back.

Before long, Leonard’s body dysmorphia escalated and she found herself diagnosed with bulimia – a serious eating disorder characterised by binge eating followed by purging.

A long journey of intuitive eating saw Leonard clinically overcome her battle by the age of 16.

RESPECT AND SELF-LOVE: Jane Leonard said it has only been in the last year she had come to terms with her self-worth.

But now Leonard, an emerging performer in the city’s theatre scene, is sharing her story in a bid to make others aware they are not alone in their struggle with eating disorders.

Leonard’s blog, Haere Mai Apple Pie, details her journey and how she overcame her eating disorder.

In a metaphoric style, Leonard describes her own mind as a busy household filled with characters including depression – Dee-Dee for short – Happy Happiness, and Evelyn Eating Disorder. In Leonard’s story, Evelyn appears as a beautiful and perfect individual looking to rent.

But following her move into the metaphoric household, she negatively changes its character before Leonard kicks her out.

Leonard said there needs to be a platform where it was okay to talk about mental health, particularly for performing artists.

“All mental disorders are really common among performing artists, but especially in musical theatre . . . that kind of cookie-cutter, fairy tale image, that is often what an audience member wants to see,” she said.

Leonard feels strongly about letting young girls know it is okay to be a performer and have curves and muscles. Since posting her blog, Leonard said she’s had a positive response and has inspired others to share their own mental health journeys.

While her career in the arts has been emotionally and financially stressful, Leonard said she has been blessed with the opportunities she’s had. “I am grateful for all the stuff I have been through because I wouldn’t be the same if it hadn’t been for my…

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