I hid my flab by doing drag!

I hated my size- until an answer came to me from the stars...

Published by: Claire Dunwell and Jean Jollands
Published on: 6 September 2012

Wobbling across the stage in a tight, shimmery dress, all eyes were on me. But as I went to do a theatrical high-kick, I couldn't even lift my foot an inch off the ground! Ignoring the giggles in the audience, I continued belting out Big Spender, huffing and puffing for breath. Okay, I must have looked ridiculous. I weighed 26st and was 6ft tall, yet here I was tottering along in sparkly stilettos. ‘I wouldn't bend over, sweetheart!' shouted a bloke in the crowd. ‘You might rip your dress!' The audience erupted. But they were laughing with me, not at me!
I was performing at a packed social club in Honley, West Yorkshire, as part of a cabaret night. Dressed up as Shirley Bassey, I was sporting a black wig, shocking pink feather boa, and elbow-length gloves. But, instead of being ashamed of my bulk, which in everyday life saw me in XXXXL trousers with a whopping 56in waist, I'd simply made it part of my act!
Spend a little time with me, I winked saucily now, pretending to be out of breath as I plodded across the stage.
The audience lapped it up, and as I finally waddled off stage, I felt like a million dollars.
But away from the spotlight, as plain old Scott the student, I felt anything but fabulous.
Growing up, I never seemed to stop eating, wolfing down any chocolate or current buns my mum Susan had left in the cupboard. By the time I was nine, I was wearing clothes
for 13 year olds.
When I was ready to start secondary school, Mum couldn't find a uniform big enough. ‘We're going to have to get you a blazer from a man's shop,' she explained gently. She tried desperately to get me to cut back, but I got sneaky instead. After eating my Sunday lunch at home, I popped into my nan and granddad's, who lived next door. ‘Mum's not finished cooking yet and I'm hungry,' I fibbed. ‘C'mon you,' Nan smiled, unaware, piling up a plate for me with extra Yorkshire pud and potatoes.
I shivered with embarrassment at the memory now as I came off stage as Shirley, and wiped off my make-up.
But just a few months after my Shirley Bassey triumph, the social club did another cabaret night and I jumped at the chance to do a turn as a drag Amy Winehouse!
Valerie... Valerie... I sang in a wig I'd fluffed up into a makeshift beehive. Just like before, I made fun of my weight, and the audience loved it. ‘At least I'm in on the joke,' I chuckled to myself, using my alter egos to shield my insecurities about my huge size. But even as I poked fun at myself, I couldn't help thinking back to when the kids had called me fatty or piggy as a lad. Luckily, I found a way to stop it - by making jokes about myself before anyone else did. ‘You get in the queue first,' I'd giggle to my mates in the school canteen. ‘There'll be no food left after I've finished!'
But the truth was I hated the endless rolls of white flesh on my tummy, and hid my body under baggy t-shirts and elasticated jogging pants.
And though I was always singing and dancing around the house, and even studied musical theatre at college, I'd given up my dream of being a professional performer. ‘Who'd pay to watch a fat mess like me?' I scolded myself.
Instead, I studied English at university. Then, my dad Brian had suggested I take part in the cabaret night at the club. I knew I couldn't perform as fat old Scott. But what about another persona? In drag?
‘Go for it!' Mum chuckled. ‘You're such a drama queen anyway!'
True. I hadn't been able to find a dress big enough
to fit
me and had to sew two of Mum's skirts together. But hiding behind that fatty image on stage, my body worked for me instead of against me for once.
Three years after my star turns as Shirley and Amy, I graduated and plucked up the courage to do a proper drag act!
‘I'll be a tough-talking northern bird called Dragalicious,' I told Mum. ‘But I'll do famous folk as well.'
I performed at the social club whenever there was a slot, as well as at charity events across the country. I did everyone from Marilyn Munroe to Geri Haliwell in her Union Jack get-up.
Only the huffing and puffing on stage wasn't an act by now. ‘Just... let me catch my breath,'
I panted up on stage. ‘It isn't easy shifting this booty around!'
But, though the audience burst with laughter, these days I was always breathless and had constant chest infections. My weight had ballooned to 34st 8lb and I was in XXXXXXXL trousers with a 64-inch waist!
‘I'll be dead by the time I'm 30 at this rate!' I fretted. But I was trapped in a vicious cycle. The more upset and worried I became, I did the only thing I knew that comforted me. After wolfing down a shepherd's pie for dinner, I nipped out for a chicken Jalfrezi from the
local takeaway.
But a couple of days later, I bumped into my mate Sarah, 29, at the club.
‘Wow, you look amazing!' I gasped. ‘I've lost 4st,' she grinned, giving me a twirl. ‘I went to a slimming club.'
‘I wouldn't have the guts to go to one of those,' I sighed. ‘You wouldn't have to...' she insisted, ‘Just cut back a bit and eat more healthily!'
Seeing Sarah's success was the kick up the bum I needed. ‘I'm going to lose weight,' I vowed to myself. Scraping up every last ounce of discipline, I opted for a low-fat yoghurt for breakfast, vegetable soup for lunch and steamed fish, rice and veg for dinner. Snacks were fruit instead of chocolate. In just a week, I lost 12lb! After a month, I'd lost 2st 7lb, and was able to squeeze into a size 28 dress for another turn as Amy Winehouse. ‘Well done, love!' Mum congratulated me.
Three years on, I've lost 21st and dropped 10 women's dress sizes to a 14.
I fizzed with nerves at my first performance as a skinny Lady Gaga. ‘What will I do now I can't poke fun at myself about my weight?' I fretted backstage. I was sweating so much my fake lashes almost came off!
The show must go on! I thought.
So, taking a deep breath, I hit the stage. The audience loved it. ‘You looked amazing!' Mum beamed afterwards.
It's still harder to perform now I can't rely on my flab for laughs, but this drag queen has gone from flab to fab!
Scott Hallas, 26, Honley, West Yorkshire