Choir director of the London Community Gospel Choir Becky Thomas has appeared on stage alongside the likes of Elton John. But the mum of one has faced constant criticism through a glittering career.
People tell me I’m really good at my job. And yet, I have constantly faced a battle to secure the gigs I know I am able to do. If the rejection was because someone was better than me, had impressed more at the audition, I’d be absolutely fine with it. But often when I get feedback from an unsucessful application, that’s not what they say. What I’m told is far more personal. And hurtful.
I have a brilliant job as choir director of the London Community Gospel Choir, and throughout my career I have done a lot of session work. I love singing and sharing my talent with other people is a real passion. I turn up for auditions, give it my absolute all and then wait for the decision. And I’ve heard it all…
"You’re not pretty enough." "You don’t look right." "You’re not slim enough." "You’re too dark." "You’re too tall." "You don’t fit the aesthetic." "You’re too friendly and kind."
"You’re good, your vocals are good, blah, blah, blah, but you’re just not good looking enough."
Seriously? I am being told "no" because I’m too kind? I’ve heard people call it "toxic positivity". But the reality is, is drains more energy to be miserable, so I choose not to be. Apparently some people find that weird.
I have lost count of the number of times my audition has ended with: "You’re good, your vocals are good, blah, blah, blah, but you’re just not good looking enough." Do you want the job done well or are you looking for a model?
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It is heartbreaking. I have had to develop a thicker skin and be a bit harder and meaner. But that’s not me. It has been horrible. Growing up I struggled with my self esteem and whole body image. I finally found something I was good at, really good at, something I knew I could make a success of… to then be told, "But, you’re too fat or you’re ugly." It felt incredibly cruel.
I have had days of deep depression, crying myself to sleep at night, staying in bed all day with my head under the covers. How do you fight back against these attitudes? It has been a constant struggle, but I never wanted to give up. I believed in my God-given talent and I didn’t want to get to 60 or 70 and not have achieved my goals. I had to tell myself, OK, maybe that job wasn’t for me. My friends would tell me something better was coming my way. And I had to have faith that it would happen.
I had to pray to God and ask him to help take my insecurities away.
I know it sounds cliched, but I had to pray to God and ask him to help take my insecurities away. Even if I really wanted that gig, if it wasn’t for me, I had to be OK with it. I knew if it was meant for me, the chance would come round again. And eventually I started getting spectacular opportunities and was offered the role as director of the London Community Gospel Choir.
That doesn't mean that I'm now alright with the attitude towards women in the music industry. The body-shaming needs to stop right now. Young girls coming along need to be judged purely on their talents. And my message for them is to be exclusively yourself and stick to your dreams. Just because one person says "no" doesn’t mean they speak for everybody in the industry. Somebody else will see your spark. Somebody will see your gift and make room for you. It took me a while to believe that, but if we start changing to suit the narrative, we will never move forward. And it’s time we made a stand.