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Wendy C. Waddell, Senior Dancer
Interview Date: September 20, 2017
Why don’t you take a minute to tell us a little bit about your story?
Hello to all …. My name is Wendy C. Waddell and I am a 54-year-old woman who dances hip hop with a dance crew, in Atlanta, GA. This is my 4th year on the crew. We are not line dancers. We perform very difficult choreography. Our Director is a former Atlanta Hawk’s dancer/cheerleader so she pushes us to be better every year. We dance at NBA, Atlanta Hawk’s game, been featured in news articles and nightly news shows, CNN specials, video’s, dance competitions, etc.
Personally, I am 5’0 and full-figured. When some people see me, they are not sure what to expect. I am not a trained dancer, per see. However, I have been a gymnast, cheerleader and stepper through-out my career.
What is unique about me is that at my age, weight and height, the “norm” opinion is that I shouldn’t be a dancer, especially at this stage of my life.
In May 2016, I was featured in an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (newspaper). It was published before we traveled to Las Vegas to compete in the “Hip Hop International: dance competition.
When did you begin to embrace your own curves and can you share with me about your own personal journey to self-love and body acceptance?
It’s been a long/cyclical journey. I’ve gone through various stages.
~ Young-Adult Phase
I struggled with self-esteem issues during high school. Both of my best friends were very tall, long hair and very pretty. I always felt overlooked and underestimated. When you’re short, people sometimes perceive you as “less than.” Anyway, for various reasons, I did not meet the world’s definition of “pretty”. I was short, curvy and developed muscular thighs due to my earlier years as gymnast. In those days, my body-type was not embraced like it is today. I’m happy to see more full-figured girls, young women in ballet, gymnastics, tennis, etc.
I wasn’t glamourous. Back then, we didn’t have Instagram / YouTube so we learned our lessons from family members/friends. I grew up with 3 older brothers and 0 sisters so I was never mentored on the beauty secrets of teenage girls. So, let’s just say that I was a “late bloomer.”
However, GOOD NEWS ….I started to EMBRACE MY OWN CURVES when I went off to college (Howard University). As a Freshman, I tried-out for cheerleading and made it. My muscular thighs were perfect for tumbling/jumping so I became a “star.” (side note: I actually return to college each year for homecoming and cheer. It’s a tradition for the alumni). While in college, I noticed other “healthy” / full figured young woman. And I started to feel part of the “in-crowd.”
~ Middle-Age Phase
After college and early years in my career, I still had my shapely figure and was still getting attention. However, as I aged and dealt with life, I started to gain weight. That took a toll on my journey. I was now dealing with ageism, as well as body image issues. I was changing; no longer that “cute” / adored college girl with the “coke-bottle” figure.
GOOD NEWS (again) …I started re-connecting with other woman my age and was reminded about the power of positivity. I became active in sorority and cheerleading events again. Then, in 2014, I auditioned for the Silver Classix Crew dance team and met the other ladies and men. Our ages range from 50 – 76 yrs. of age and meeting this group of powerful dancers reinvigorated/inspired me. And I hope my energy, joie de vivre and enthusiasm inspires them also.
I hope you find my story inspirational, although it’s not only just about the physical. I thought it was important to share the other factors which impact a positive body image. In addition to shape/weight, it’s also about looking at your body and loving it; although you are now seeing the effects of child-bearing, surgeries, menopause, etc.
Why do you think it is so important to share our stories with others?
It’s important to share our stories so that we can encourage each other. There is a song and the lyrics say, “if I can help someone along the way, then my life will not be in vain.”
By sharing our stories, let’s us know that we are not alone. So many people go through life “silent” because they think they are weird, less-than, not enough, etc. because of a blemish, weight issue, family issue, educational issue, whatever. My parents taught me that we go through challenges/obstacles so that we learn and can be a help to someone else. (Example #1): My dad was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. 2 years later, the dad of a friend was diagnosed with the same disease. I was able to minister to her and let her know that there was hope and that not all illness is not unto death. In addition, I was able to share my dad’s journey, which acted as a guide that she could use while her dad was going through treatment. (Example #2): My dad was diagnosed with Dementia years later. Since then, so many of my family members and friends have encountered the same. My brothers and I have been able to assist others by sharing experiences, books, articles, medicine, treatments, doctors, etc. Unfortunately, my dad passed away 09.18.16; however, my work with the Alzheimer’s’ issues carries on. This disease, along with cancer, is affecting so many families and we need to fight to find a cure. It’s too late for my dad; however, I hope we can help other families who are dealing with this horrible disease.
With the online popularity that you have been receiving, I am sure there also comes with it a little bit of negative attention. How do you manage to stay so positive when there are quite a few critics out there commenting on the images that you post of your body?
Remember … “Hurt people, hurt people.” I’ve learned that it’s not always a personal attack; but could be a case where someone does not feel good about themselves. And, yes, they also could be jealous. The world is not only made up of size 4’s. We are now more accepting of the diversity in shape, size, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, etc. That’s what makes our world so great.
We must stay positive by remembering that for every negative comment, there are positive ones. In addition, I remember the “love” that we receive after we’ve performed. So many people come us to me and the dancers, to say how much they enjoyed us. In Aug 2016, we competed at Hip Hop International in Las Vegas, Nevada. After we performed, so many dancers came up to our dance crew to testify how we had encouraged them. As a dancer, you’re career typically ends around late 20’s – mid 30’s. People told us how seeing us dance, do tricks, etc. gave them life. For me, I’m short + full figured and I personally connected with dancers and audience members who looked at me and were rejuvenated.
What is the overall message you want our readers to gain from your story today?
- It’s never too late to follow your dreams.
- Do not give up.
- If you have an idea, go for it! With social media and the internet, you can find someone out there who will love your idea and be willing to join in. You’re not alone. Let your creativity flow. Look at all the Instagram pages of people who have started their own business, due to their idea / vision.
- Last, but certainly not least, beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, hairstyles and (especially) ages.
What are some tips you can give to women with curves who are just starting their body positive journey?
- Do not define yourself by the size of your dress.
- Forgive yourself / Do not body-shame yourself.
- Look in the mirror every day and encourage yourself.
- Surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable, as well as support your journey.
- And, if you are having a difficult time, please remember that these 2 scriptures (1) “This Too Shall Pass.” (2) “Weeping endureth for a night, but joy will come in the morning.”
If you could say one thing to my readers about body positivity, what would that be?
God made you this way and He (or she) doesn’t make mistakes.
What are your plans for the future, what else do you hope to take on?
- I plan to keep dancing and staying active. AARP had an ad which mentioned “Disrupting Aging.” That is what I would like to do.
- I would like to get involved with commercials.
- I would also like to consult with fashion designers. There is not a market for shorter women who are full figured woman. It’s either one or the other.
- In addition to dancing, I exercise but would like to get a personal trainer to help develop better body mass and tone. Purpose: stay healthy; not necessarily lose weight.
Thank you for reading my story!
Instagram: WendyC. Waddell
Facebook: Wendy C. Waddell