How dance helped a ‘fat bloke’ fight body shaming

by LAUREN CODLING

A NEW dance show aiming to rebel against “fat people being shamed and abused” will be touring across the country this month.

Asad Ullah, 31, is one of the performers in artist Scottee’s Fat Blokes.

Described as a “fat rebellion”, the show includes several plus-size dancers who strut their stuff on stage.

It also explores why larger men are never portrayed as sexy, only funny.

“Society constantly tells us that fat is not sexy,” Ullah told Eastern Eye. He believes beauty standards are made clear in the media, questioning how often was a larger man portrayed
as being desirable on the big screen.

“I’m not saying you have to desire us,” Ullah emphasised. “But it’s clear that we are actively made to feel bad about the way we look.”

Even in traditional theatre such as Shakespeare, the comic character was usually portrayed by a larger person, he said.

Ullah admits he knew he had to be funny to avoid being picked on for his weight.

“Seriously, don’t try and outfunny a fat guy – we’ve spent years training in comedy,” he said.

“Humour is our self-defence, and we’re black belts in ripping you, and ourselves, to shreds.”

He did acknowledge, however, that self-deprecating humour could be a double-edged sword.

“It can also be a powerful weapon against yourself,” he said.

Revealing that he has previously struggled with his mental health, Ullah credits the show for changing his mindset. Being creative made him happy, he explained, and Fat Blokes felt
like an opportunity he couldn’t miss.

“I was also really struggling with my weight and body image,” the Manchester-born performer said. “This felt like a project that would help me find a way out from all of that.”

Having had no prior experience in dance, Ullah says the notion of learning a choreographed routine was initially overwhelming. After the support and leadership of professional choreographer Lea Anderson MBE though, he began to enjoy the process.

STEPPING UP: Asad (middle) performing in Fat Blokes

“Dancing feels great, and when I’m strutting in a line, in time with my other Fat Blokes, that feels really powerful and amazing, and so worth the hard work,” he said.

Ullah, who is new to the creative arts industry, describes the experience as “life-changing”.

His confidence has come back, and he has a renewed energy in life.

Performing at the Southbank Centre, one of London’s most iconic artistic spaces, is extra special for Ullah.

“The voice of a gay British Pakistani has been given a platform to perform [at] a cultural icon for London,” he said.

“That is incredible, and it’s something I would have loved to have seen growing up – to see that people like me, who look like me, who are able to be part of the cultural landscape, would have had such a massive impact.”

Looking to the future, Ullah hopes to continue his journey in the arts. He is currently working on a play about his relationship with his father.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself,” he said of his experiences. “I doubted that I had the capability to perform in this show but I’ve proven to myself that I am capable of conquering personal doubts and demons.”

Fat Blokes is touring in the UK this November. For more information: https://www.scottee.co.uk/single-post/FatBlokes