While I was in college in Melbourne, Australia, my university created a brand-new degree called a bachelor of circus arts. I'd been roller-skating since age 2, and I'd always loved dancing and doing gymnastics, so I was totally on board. For three years, I studied trapeze, circus history and culture, acrobatics, anatomy and physiology, business, you name it. From there, I started performing as a hula-hooper. Now I hold the Guinness World Record for the most hoops spun at once: 200.

For the traditional forms of dance, whether it's ballet or the Rockettes, there's one standard style of performance and one acceptable body type. While trying to make a name for myself, I can't count how many times I heard, "Well, you and your act are great, but you're too heavy." It brought back bad memories from puberty— me in my room, miserable and hating my body, eating cookies and listening to the Sister Act soundtrack on repeat. But instead of letting rejection pummel me, I kept telling myself, My routine is genius and hilarious. Of course I'll make it.

I've now spent ten years crisscrossing the globe as a performer, and though I consider myself a pro, I did get weepy onstage once. At the 2008 Sydney Mardi Gras, I roller-skated in a blonde Afro wig and a gold kimono while Olivia Newton-John sang a ten-minute version of the theme from Xanadu. Thousands of people were going wild and screaming. I've watched Xanadu a million times, but I'd never thought about how powerful that song is. At that moment, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I understood it differently: It's an anthem about a magical, idyllic place where everyone's free to be exactly what they want.


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