US & Canada

Toronto orchestra closed after fat-shaming singers

Victoria Leone performing with the Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras in Toronto Image copyright Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras / Vimeo
Image caption Victoria Leone performing with the Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras in Toronto

A Toronto orchestra has shut down after "fat-shaming" volunteer singers who wore body-hugging dresses.

The Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras asked women who were not "fit & slim" to use loose dresses that hide their "dietary indulgences".

Many singers who had performed with the symphony expressed disgust at the email.

The management has since apologised and resigned, telling singers the orchestra would no longer be funded.

The controversy began on Monday when singer Victoria Leone, 23, received an email from Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras that left her astonished.

Image copyright Sydney Dunitz /Facebook
Image caption Email from Sheraton Cadwell 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," the email 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 went on at length to detail that they were only concerned with vocalists, not instrumentalists, because instrumentalists were "background".

Ms Leone had performed with the orchestra once two weeks beforehand as a volunteer at a local street festival.

She told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that as someone who was bullied as a child for being a bit "curvy", she felt personally attacked.

The email, which was signed by "the management", also said that in the future, only "fit and slim" women would be hired.

Image copyright Victoria Leone/ Facebook
Image caption Victoria Leone is a jazz singer who says she felt targeted by an orchestra's body-shaming email

"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."

Ms Leone says she sent an email back to the orchestra, expressing her frustration and quitting the organisation.

Instead of apologising, she said they simply thanked her for her time and asked her to reread certain parts about dressing less revealingly, which it highlighted in red.

After news of this message went public, and many other singers complained, the management sent her a follow-up email notifying her that the orchestra would be shutting down.

"We sincerely apologize for any embarrassment/harassment that you may experience from media representatives or other individuals/parties as a result of misconstrued/malicious allegations and extremely negative/destructive/evil intent," the email read.

Speaking to the CBC, Ms Leone said she did not feel like that was the apology she was looking for.

"It does suck for all the young women, all the young girls who are trying to aspire to anything," she said.

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