Task 1: Listen to Esme’s Story
Listen to Esme’s story, a fictional account* of the body image issues experienced by a female musician.
When you have finished click ‘Mark Complete’ at the bottom of the page to move to the next section.
Duration: 3m 26s
Esme is a 23-year-old singer-songwriter who gigs regularly around the North of England. Here she describes her feelings about some recent gigs she has performed at…
At first no-one really took much notice of me, that’s pretty common to be honest. But a couple of tracks in I saw one of the men point me out to his mate and they both stared at my chest, then laughed. I suddenly felt self-conscious about the top I was wearing. It was quite low -cut and I felt really, really embarrassed. I was sure that everyone was now looking at me, not because of my singing but because I was showing some cleavage. That’s when my anxiety really kicked in. I could feel myself going red and the shame was so overwhelming that I cut my set short and left early. I told the fella who booked me that I wasn’t feeling well but I don’t think he believed me. To be honest, I didn’t care by then. I just had to get out of there.
There’s another gig that comes to mind as well, but for a different reason. This was a corporate event – you know the type? It pays well but you have to do covers – profitable but not particularly rewarding. Anyway, I was employed to sing with this covers band, I’d done stuff with them before and it had been fine, a good laugh actually. Anyway, I wore what I always wore for these type of events –a black dress, simple hair and make -up – and I thought the gig was going really well…until we had a break and I went to the toilet. I was in one of the cubicles when I heard these 2 women talking. It took me a while to realise they were speaking about me…one of them said to the other, something along the lines of ‘that singer fancies herself, doesn’t she? Jesus, I don’t know why – I wouldn’t be wearing a dress like that if I had an arse like hers…’ It was just a flippant comment – but it completely winded me. I suddenly felt really insecure and anxious about what I looked like – I actually thought I might throw up. The hardest thing was having to get back onstage to finish the gig and paste a smile on my face whilst knowing that people were saying things about me.
I can honestly say that I never had any issues with the way I looked until I became a performer. Apart from the odd bad hair day I was fairly happy with myself – I’m not the thinnest or the prettiest woman in the world but I was okay with that because I had my music and that was – IS – the most important thing to me. So – why is it that now, when I watch back videos of myself, I don’t critique the way I play or sound and am more worried about the way I look? It’s actually got to the point where I hate seeing myself on screen – or even having my picture taken – because I feel so uncomfortable with my appearance. Maybe if that’s how I feel then I’m just not cut out for this job after all…
I always get nervous before a gig – that’s to be expected, right? But recently I’ve found myself feeling particularly anxious about choosing what to wear and how I look on stage– something that never really bothered me when I first started singing. I think part of this is down to the way others respond to me when I’m performing. Take this gig I did last month….It was only a Tuesday night so I wasn’t expecting it to be busy – but when I arrived to set up, there was a large group of men there who’d obviously had a fair bit to drink and immediately I started to feel insecure. Would they want to listen to me? Maybe I should play covers instead of my own stuff?
By the time I’d finished setting up, a few more people had come in – including a couple of women- so I relaxed a little bit and decided to start with one of my favourite songs.