A Toronto orchestra group is facing criticism and accusations of body shaming after an email went out to members saying performers who are “physically fit and slim” will only be showcased with its boutique orchestras.
“Although almost all of our vocalists are fit and slim – the way our boutique orchestra would like our front line performing artists to be … two of our featured singers were not,” a Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras management email shared with Global News read.
“We hope that they would, as such, refrain from using tight-fitting dresses and use loose (less physically-revealing, less physically-accentuating) dresses instead.”
The email goes on to set out expectations for musicians and asks “all key personnel” to “take note.”
“While our orchestra do not require our instrumental musicians to look physically fit and slim since they are essentially background wallpaper, kindly be reminded that we have a different expectation from the singers that we selectively choose to feature in our live shows, for our own purposes and at our discretion,” it said.
“As per our highly selective casting requirements for vocal artists taking on a prominent leading role on stage, only singers who are physically fit and slim (or at the very least, those who know how to dress strategically/suitably in order to not bring attention to their temporary physical/dietary indulgences) would be showcased with our boutique orchestras.”
Victoria Leone, who did one performance under the orchestra, is one of the vocalists Global News spoke with who received the email on Monday.
“I just thought it was ridiculous and the first thing that comes to mind is, ‘Are you addressing me specifically?'” she said.
“I actually reached out to another girl and said, ‘Did you get this email? Because I can’t believe these are words that I’m reading from this organization.”
Leone said she believes in having a positive body image and said the email crossed the line.
“This is highly inappropriate and I don’t want to be a part of this,” Leone said.
“Regardless of what we look like, if someone is going to donate because of how you make them feel and if they’re making me feel self-conscious about something that shouldn’t even concern them, then I don’t want to be a part of that.”
She said she raised her concerns with the orchestra and quit the organization, adding they thanked her for being part of the group.
“They continue to tell me to re-read certain parts that they highlighted in their e-mail, which was that if you’re unfit you should be dressing according to your body type that can hide certain aspects of those ‘dietary indulgences’ that they had mentioned,” Leone said.
“I thought that was at least an opportunity for them to apologize or at least say, ‘Oh you know this was not something we meant to come across’ … They’re a charitable organization, they’re trying to do good and be a part of the community, it’s the last thing you thing something like that would be a part of.”
According to its website, Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras has more than 100 vocalists and instrumentalists and provides entertainment at weddings, corporate events and other functions.
Global News received a brief statement Wednesday night from an unnamed representative in response to written questions asking about the email sent to members and accusations of body shaming.
“This is to acknowledge that your email has been with much regret. We hope that you will accept our sincere apologies,” the statement said.
With files from Alana Macleod