Latest posts by David Swinburn (see all)
- Taboo Treatments: My First Colonic - 4 February, 2015
- Diary of a popstar-in-waiting: ‘No one wants a fat pop star!’ - 8 September, 2014
‘No one wants a fat pop star, David – especially a gay one!’ These words invade my brain and threaten to pour unwelcome water on my bonfire each time I catch my rotund reflection in the bedroom mirror (which ironically carries the slogan ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’).
I’d never been too bothered about my weight until recently. I was a chubby teenager and despite a minor detour into skinny minnie country when puberty hit (and another more recent stint as a Slimming World Man of the Year), I’d resigned myself to a lifetime of being the fat friend – the Bridget Jones of the group if you will.
But all that changed late last year when I suddenly went from marking maths books to recording Frankmusik-produced pop stompers.
Like any self-respecting gay man, I have always dreamt of becoming a pop star. Some of my earliest memories are of me listening to my dad’s Bucks Fizz collection on repeat ‘til I knew every word, or performing the full Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat soundtrack to my poor nans on a weekly basis.
But until recently, that’s all it was – a dream. Now, as reality sets in and I sit plotting the release of my debut EP, I begin to question whether anyone is going to be interested in a pop star whose waistline is bigger than his voice.
You’d think that by 2014 we’d all have got the memo: talent comes in all shapes and sizes and ‘We are beautiful, no matter what they say’. Yet singers like Adele, who don’t conform to the stick-thin popstar stereotype, can’t go a column inch without their weight being mentioned. Toe-curling phrases like ‘bubbly’ or ‘larger than life’, are banded about and the only time these artists’ appearance is complimented is when they inevitably lose weight due to the constant focus on their size – which was almost always perfectly fine in the first place!
We can all fire off the line that ‘big is beautiful’ and that weight doesn’t matter ‘as long as they’re happy and healthy’ – but if that’s really the case, why are overweight popstars so few and far between?
Perhaps the answer is in my hand already. On my iPhone, to be exact. I only have to scroll through my Instagram feed to see how obsessed society has become with ‘healthy eating’ and weight loss.
Friends and acquaintances take great delight in sharing a filtered photograph of their latest protein shake or juice drink – and usually follow it with a shameless selfie in which their clothes have magically disappeared to reveal their bulging muscles or super toned tummy.
That’s all well and good, and such hard work is commendable – but what really gets my goat is the way us mere mortals are made to feel like second class citizens for daring to reach for that tub of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough. Give a boy a break!
In a world so seemingly obsessed with weight, it’s no wonder that pop stars feel the urge to slim down. The vitriol is no longer reserved for the ladies, either. These days, even the male pop stars – whose waistlines had previously gone unnoticed – find themselves having to explain why they aren’t as thin as a rake.
Chart toppers such as Sam Smith and MNEK – whose bodies reflect those of your average Joe Public – are repeatedly interrogated about their weight as if they’ve stepped into Judge Rinder’s court.
As a young gay man with ‘more to love’ and a couple more chins than I’d care to mention, I do worry how I will be greeted on my impending arrival on planet pop.
Frankmusik, the British pop pioneer who’s produced my debut EP, has given me plenty of advice to prepare me for what lies ahead. He’s never once told me to slim down or to fill my video with beautiful people like so many of my peers have done. But I am not naïve. I know that a popstar has to be fanciable. Would I honestly have swooned over my Smash Hits posters of Ben Adams and Duncan James if they’d been built like brick outhouses?
The only way larger-than-average singers seem able to enjoy pop success is when their talent is also extra large. Slim Jims can often get by on minimal talent but larger stars must really prove their worth.
Unfortunately for me, I am not blessed with the syrupy smooth vocal tones of the new boys on the pop block. Whilst Frankmusik describes my vocal talents as ‘the sweetest’ and compares them to the likes of Pet Shop Boys and Fine Young Cannibals (ask your mum) – I know that I won’t even be able to rely on my voice like many of the larger sized stars of today do.
Part of me is frustrated by this, but part of me is made up. I do love a challenge. I know that I probably wouldn’t get past the first round of The X-Factor or The Voice, and I know that my vocal talents are somewhat unique. I also know that I won’t be winning first prize in any beauty contests anytime soon.
But you know what? I don’t care. So what if I’m unable to out warble Mariah Carey, or out run Usain Bolt – I do a bloody good job of being me, and that is all that any of us can hope to achieve in life.
I started this piece by musing over the question of whether the general public wants a larger-than-average sized pop star in their life. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. I have a wonderful EP bursting with big, fat pop hooks and I have squeezed every inch of me into the record. My face doesn’t fit the typical pop star mould and my vocal talents won’t be to everybody’s taste – but am I going to give up on my dreams of becoming a pop star? Fat chance!
Follow me on Twitter @davidswinburn.