A SIZE eight dancer who overcame an eating disorder earlier this year says she was pushed back to the brink when she was sacked for being "too fat".
Elena Smith, from Epsom, Surrey, was delighted to be offered her dream job performing at a five-star hotel in Marrakech, Morocco.
But the 23-year-old, who weighs just nine stone, was horrified when she was fired just a week after being urged to lose weight by her manager.
The dancer, who exercises daily and eats healthily, says the comments almost derailed her from an eating disorder she overcame earlier this year.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous Digital, Elena said: "My manager told me bosses at the hotel had complained I was too fat and said they were thinking of firing me because of it.
"I was totally shocked. I'd lost weight since I'd arrived in Marrakech because of training, so to hear they thought I was too fat was really surprising.
"I explained that I was going to the gym every day and eating healthy food and I knew my own body, so there wasn't anything more I could really do.
"But they just told me I had to find a way to lose weight. A week later, I was handed my final pay and told that the bosses no longer wanted me.
"This is a very looks-based industry and people have to become thick skinned.
I was totally shocked. I'd lost weight since I'd arrived in Marrakech, so to hear they thought I was too fat was really surprisingElena Smith23
"But a lot of people, especially young girls, are vulnerable and suffer from eating disorders, anxiety and depression.
"Focusing on weight and body size can have such a long lasting damaging effect on people, both physically and mentally."
Elena applied for the job back in April, sending photos, videos and doing a FaceTime interview as part of the application.
She was hired to work from June this year to January next year, performing 15-minute sets of commercial, contemporary and jazz dancing at the hotel's restaurant and club.
But she was suddenly fired in August, five months early.
Elena said: "I was made to feel really self-conscious about my weight and how my body looked.
"They put me under extreme amounts of pressure, they told me to lose weight as soon as possible.
I managed to lose 2kg in a week but, when I went in the following Saturday, I was told I didn't have a job any moreElena Smith23
"My manager said she was going to fight for me so I didn't have to leave.
"I managed to lose 2kg in a week but, when I went in the following Saturday, I was told I didn't have a job any more.
"They wouldn't even pay for my flight home, even though my contract said they would, so I had to get my dad to book them for me."
Elena, who trained at the prestigious Brit School and studied dance and musical theatre at The Centre PAC, first faced body shaming in the industry as a teen.
She was diagnosed with an unspecified eating disorder in November, when her weight dropped to eight stone.
She said: "When I was in training, I got weighed a lot and was constantly made to feel worried about my body size and weight.
I was very underweight and would always make sure I ate less than 1,000 calories a dayElena Smith, 23
"Teachers would focus more on how much you weighed over how fit you were, and would essentially tell you off if you gained weight.
"I felt under a lot of pressure during training to lose weight, so I became obsessed with dropping the pounds.
"By the end of my first year at The Centre PAC, I was very underweight and would always make sure I ate less than 1,000 calories a day.
EATING DISORDERS AND DANCE: THE FACTS
Around 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder.
Girls as young as six are affected, while others are battling eating disorders in their 70s. A quarter of those affected are men.
But the prevalence in dancers, particularly ballet dancers, is thought to be 10 times higher than the national average.
At ballet’s first-ever international conference on eating disorders, hosted by Dance UK in London in 2012, former Royal Ballet artistic director Monica Mason said: “Any director of a company who said they have never had an anorexic dancer would have to have been lying.”
Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of ay psychiatric disorder, from both medical complications and the risk of suicide.
"By third year, I couldn't eat 'normally' any more. I would starve myself for as long as I could and then I'd end up bingeing, so it was a vicious cycle of losing and gaining weight.
"Ever since, I've tried to fight it on my own. But I was suffering from terrible anxiety at the end of last year, so I finally decided to get help."
Elena completed an eight-week group cognitive behavioural therapy course for eating disorders and anxiety in March, and thought it was all behind her.
She dropped to 8st 10lb during her brief hotel stint, but she's now back to a healthy 9st.
Now she wants to raise awareness of body shaming in the industry.
Elena said: "I never had any problems with food, exercise or how my body looked until I started training to become a dancer and was weighed constantly.
"It's definitely a pressure that comes with being in the performing industry.
"I remember being in one audition, where a panel told a group of us we were being cut because of our bodies.
"Adverts for auditions sometimes express heights and clothes size - to be able to fit their current costumes.
"I'm quite a strong person with a lot of love from family and friends, so I've managed to stay strong and focused after being fired for my weight.
"But for many girls, this could easily have sent them back into an eating disorder."
The general manager of the hotel, which we are not naming, said the dancers were recruited independently by an artistic director.
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He insisted Elena had left of her own accord and claimed the value of her air fare was paid.
Elena denied the claims, telling us: "I definitely did not choose to leave. I have not received any money for my flights.
"My dad and I have tried to contact the hotel many times and have had no response."