In an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO! magazine, Strictly Come Dancing star Amy Dowden has told how the medication she takes to control a debilitating medical condition has led to her becoming a victim of body shaming.
The 30-year-old dancer, who suffers from the painful inflammatory condition Crohn's disease, has recently experienced a flare-up and the high dose of intravenous steroids she was given in hospital made her gain weight.
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"Although it made me feel better, it creates water retention, making my hips, thighs and bottom bloat and my face puffy," the former Latin American champion tells HELLO! "I want to look my best on the dance floor, but when you get photographed in an unflattering light and people make spiteful comments about your size, it can be very hurtful."
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The situation is one that Amy has dealt with throughout her career after her condition and steroids led to a dramatic fluctuation in her weight. "I was either too skinny and people assumed I was anorexic, or I'd bloat from my medication," she says.
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One comment in particular caused immense distress. "I'd just come off the dance floor when a dressmaker in the changing room looked at me and said: 'She has a fat bottom and a thick middle.' I felt so humiliated and embarrassed. I was only 21 and still trying to deal with my condition. As a dancer struggling to fit into tiny costumes, I became very self-conscious."
However, she says the Strictly team are totally supportive of her condition. "Everyone has been so kind," she adds. "If I'm not feeling well, the boys are so thoughtful and say: 'Nobody's lifting Amy today.'"
Amy Dowden opened up to HELLO!
And her fellow dancers Oti Mabuse, Dianne Buswell and Katya Jones have also been towers of strength. "Dianne is always checking on me and when I had to go to hospital, Oti got into a car the moment she finished filming and turned up at 11pm to see me," she says. "Another time when I was ill, Katya took me to hospital and sat with me until 5am."
Amy, who won the HELLO! Star Women Raising Awareness award in 2019 after she opened up about her condition exclusively to us, now wants to combat online trolls. "I'm urging people to stop and think before they speak or write an unkind message," she says. "Some people are too quick to comment about the way someone looks. They have no idea what the target of their remark is going through."
To read the full article, pick up the latest issue of HELLO! on sale now. Subscribe to HELLO! to get the magazine delivered free to your door every week or purchase the digital edition online via our Apple or Google apps.