Let me begin by sharing my reasons for opening up about one of the riskiest decisions of my life. It’s not something I’m proud of and I feel quite a bit of shame admitting my truth. The lesson behind the story is what’s most important and I hope it will inspire others to not put themselves at risk as I did.
A few years ago, I realized my weight was preventing me from achieving my greatest artistic goals. This was what I heard from people in the business — movers and shakers who were honest enough with me to tell me why I wasn’t chosen to sing certain roles. But I didn’t need to hear this from them — I saw it happening.
I adopted a healthier diet and lifestyle and lost a good amount of pounds as a result. Despite these changes, I still wasn’t happy when I’d watch videos of my performances.
While I’m highly critical of my voice, I do enjoy my own sound, so that’s not the issue here at all. Something about my physical appearance prevented me from enjoying videos of myself singing, regardless of how good I sounded.
I know I shouldn’t believe the voice in my head — the critical one that judges harshly and puts me down. But the pressures opera singers face these days are immense and seemingly insurmountable. It’s unrealistic to expect us to be unaffected by comments from casting directors, colleagues, or negative social media comments.
In response to these pressures, I resorted to altering my body through plastic surgery.
I underwent chin liposuction. This procedure removed excess fat from my neck area and was guaranteed to not interfere with my vocal tract.
After months of doing my research, I still felt strongly about the procedure. I told no one besides my wife, who was with me at the hospital and during recovery.
Immediately after the surgery, my neck was burning in pain. I applied cool pads to my sutures and wore a brace. I could barely speak. The horror that I possibly harmed my voice for such a superficial reason overtook my thoughts.
Only then did I realize how flippant and foolish my decision was. I undertook a risky surgery that could have taken away the most precious thing in my life.
Lying there in the hospital bed with my neck burning in pain I asked myself, “What have I done?”. This was the wake-up call I needed.
Thankfully, I fully recovered. The procedure made little difference to my physical appearance (even over time). But the thought that I could have lost something so dear to me (my voice) has remained with me since.
I underwent surgery to benefit my career. Why? I believed my physical appearance wasn’t good enough, so I tried to change myself to get more opportunities for baritone roles. I let the industry get under my skin, literally.
My story is just one of many. A casting choice can have a significant psychological impact on an opera singer. And I’d like to see more positive tools in the community for addressing and overcoming the hardships we face.
I’m embracing my truth and hope my story will inspire other singers to recognize that WE ARE ENOUGH. Our unique voices are to be celebrated and we don’t need to alter ourselves for the sake of subjective appearances.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.