What It Feels Like To Be A Plus-Sized Member Of The Cast Of Chicago

Christina Wells in Chicago

Your Worth Isn’t In Your Weight
Photo by Jeremy Daniels

National Tour! Me? Yes. Absolutely yes. If you’ve followed my journey since America’s Got Talent, you know that I’ve fallen in love with musical theater. When I learned I got cast as Matron “Mama” Morton in Chicago for the Broadway National Tour, my heart nearly exploded. And with all of my excitement, I didn’t think of the potential struggles that awaited me when I joined the very sexy cast of Chicago. 

Shedding Fat Phobia. Learning To Love My Beautiful Body.

Like many of us, I have a long history of body insecurities. Mine stretch all the way back to when someone felt the need to comment on my 5-year-old baby self wearing a swimsuit. I know I was rocking the look, but back then, their words cut deep enough to follow me into adulthood.

Years of middle school teasing and high school bullying continued to deepen those original wounds leaving me feeling intensely self-conscious and incredibly unattractive. I fought back the only way I felt I could, with “humor.”  My weight became fodder for my own self-deprecating jokes. Like Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect said, if I call myself fat, it’s so that “Twig bitches like you can’t do it behind my back.” They couldn’t hurt me if I did it first.

Fast forward to my 40s, when I learned to love myself, appreciate my beauty and see the true value in my bigger body. I began to understand that I’m not beautiful despite my body but because of it too. Who I am is all of me; my love, talents, and body are all parts of the beauty I can offer the world. It was after I learned more self-acceptance and love that I started truly pursuing my dreams of singing and performing. But then came an opportunity and a challenge…

I found myself on national television (thank you, America’s Got Talent), but the fat-shaming trolls were ready. They came out in full force. It felt like I was back in school all over again. I was confronted with a wave of bullies and hateful people just out to hurt me. One person wrote that they needed to reinforce the stage because I was such a whale I was gonna break it. That one stung. Shoutout to my sister for letting me cry (a lot) that first year after AGT. 

Then one day, something snapped in me; I threw my girdle in the trash and decided I would never give those fat-phobic trolls what they wanted. I would not feel shame for who I was or how I looked.  So I started talking about my self-worth journey to show others that they could be confident in their bodies too. 

And BAM! I am now a motivational speaker, reminding people to see value in themselves and connecting with people worldwide who see themselves in me. The trolls didn’t  dull my spirit; they gave me another reason to shine. These last few years, my self-confidence and self-esteem have truly improved, that is, until I walked into the Chicago rehearsal room. 

Self Love

Your Weight Does Not Define Your Worth Photo by Tasha Gorel

My Body Isn’t Like Their Bodies.

When I first arrived at rehearsals for The 25th Anniversary National Tour of Chicago, I was a little shell-shocked. I didn’t know the long history of sexy sleek bodies that traditionally grace this show’s stages. As I looked around, my first day of school jitters became full-blown anxiety as every long-legged, six-pack-sculpted, perfect body stretched and posed before me. Did I belong here? Had there been a mistake?

I traveled back an emotional timeline; years of body acceptance progress felt like it was disappearing. During my first fitting, they put me in the traditional suit jacket and slacks that all the previous Matron “Mama” Mortons had worn, and my heart shattered. It was not flattering at all. They put a corset on me, and let’s just say the hours in my hourglass were not cooperating. 

But the Costume Supervisor, Erin was incredibly kind; she listened to me and made me feel heard. She even went to the New York design team and asked if we could change the slacks to a more flattering skirt, but that was a no. The suit is iconic, and it means so much to the character. They told us that Mama is a businesswoman who wears the suit as a reflection of such. 

Erin was determined to help me, though. She became my costume savior by making the pants into gauchos, which were waaaaaay more flattering. She gave me a (very sexy) lacy bralette, expanded the jacket, and then voila! The suit looked pretty good on me. I could do this, I thought.

Then came the first dress rehearsal, and the entire cast was in their UNDERWEAR! I am not even kidding. Panties, bras, and fishnets; the armor of the Chicago ensemble. The cast oozed sensuality as they performed the controlled Fosse choreography. Then entered stage left, my self-doubt. It was intimidating! Compared to these lythe bodies, I felt frumpy and fat in my suit. 

Photo by Jeremy Daniels

Chicago Feels Like a Skinny Show But I’m not.
Photo by Jeremy Daniels

How Can I Maintain A Positive Body Image Next To These Literal Models?

I had to reach down inside to grab hold of the self-love I learned, and remind myself that my sexiness isn’t based on competition or comparison. My sexiness is based on how I feel about myself. 

So every night, I started sitting backstage during the Cell Block Tango, the song right before my first stage appearance, to focus myself and my energy.  I sit backstage and listen to these beautiful badass performers belt and coo, and I think, “I am in charge,” “ These are my chickies (as my song says).

I pull my inner BDE (urban dictionary, if you don’t know) out, stand up straighter, roll my shoulders back and let my eyes gleam with the knowledge that I am more than sexy. I am strong, smart, fierce, determined, and unbeatable. Nothing has ever taken me down, and nothing ever will. And it just so happens that I can sing the paint off the walls.  Then I step on stage. 

Your Sexy Is Yours To Define

And now, months into the tour, I will be honest with you, it’s not always easy to stay confident. I have my ups and downs, of course. But every night, I speak to myself with the kindness and love I deserve, and when I need a pick me up, my tour besties help me get back on my feet. 

So after the show, when I walk out the stage door, and all these people repeatedly say it is so exciting and encouraging to see someone who looks like them, someone in a bigger body on stage, specifically on CHICAGO’s stage, I can be proud. That makes me feel accomplished, and it’s why I’m here.

My dressing roommate Logan Floyd (The Velma Kelly) told me I am a trailblazer because plus-sized fat people have never been welcomed in this show historically. That has helped my chin lift incrementally. Because they’re right.

If you feel like the fat person in the room, just know that we are all going through it at some point. You deserve to be where you are at. All bodies have value and deserve love. And sexy doesn’t have a single definition; it’s a feeling, it’s subjective, and it’s yours.

Soooooo what’s the one conclusion I can bring this number to….. Your worth isn’t in your weight, and your weight isn’t what you’re worth.  Be good to yourself; you’re doing the best you can.