With both an incredibly powerful voice and an absolutely inspiring weight loss story, Othalie Graham is a true operathlete. This Wagnerian soprano is taking her career to new heights through hard work, both vocally and physically. Through determination and dedication, Ms. Graham lost nearly 200 pounds, and works every day to continue to develop and maintain her strong body and strong instrument.
Ms. Graham is most well-known for her interpretation of the title role in Turandot, performing the role everywhere from Opera Carolina, to the Orquesta Filhamónica de la UNAM, Arizona Opera, Opera Delaware, Utah Festival Opera, Boston’s Chorus Pro Musica, and (most recently) Nashville Opera, among others. Emerging into the Wagnerian repertoire, Ms. Graham’s notable roles include Isolde in Tristan und Isolde, Senta in Der Fliegender Holländer, Brünnhilde and Sieglinde in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser. To learn more about Othalie Graham, visit her website at http://www.othaliegrahamsoprano.com/.
In her weight loss journey, Ms. Graham lost her weight naturally, without the help of surgery. Through clean eating and dedicated exercise, Othalie Graham proves that anything is possible through hard work and dedication! It is truly an honor to feature such an impressive Wagnerian soprano and athlete with the OPERATHLETIC community. Thank you, Othalie Graham, for sharing your story with OPERATHLETIC!
Q: When did you begin your fitness journey? What inspired you to start?
A: I started my fitness journey in earnest in 2005. The Deborah Voigt situation with the black dress really shocked me and I knew that I had to make a change not only for my career but for my health. Opera is an incredibly athletic career and my voice and body have to be healthy. I was close to 400 pounds and was not able to live comfortably. Always needing the airplane seat extension was embarrassing, not being able to cross my legs in a chair and not being able to be physically active on stage would have made the career that I have right now impossible.
Q: How would you describe your weekly exercise routine?
A: I make sure that I do some form of exercise every single day. I have a new rowing machine that I am absolutely addicted to. It really helps my core which is essential for my singing. I’m also working through the couch to 5K app on my phone which is proving to be very challenging! I also do quite a bit of lifting so that my muscles can continue burning calories throughout the day.
Q: What is your favorite mode of exercise (running, cycling, weightlifting, yoga, etc.)?
A: My favorite form of exercise has to be rowing. I am starting to enjoy running, and I’m just amazed that I can even do it. Running even on a treadmill would never have been an option before.
Q: Do you follow a specific diet or nutritional plan?
A: After I got married I had quite a bit of weight gain. I did a lot of yo-yo dieting and was not at my goal weight. I’m still not at my goal and am currently about 45 pounds away and determined to reach it this year. Since I know that I am truly a carb addict, I’m very careful to eat very little carbohydrates and focus on my protein and my green veggies. My mentor Christopher Schuman introduced me to the Quick Weight-Loss Program and it has made an incredible difference in my energy level and seeing results on the scale. It’s very easy to follow and I’m able to do it anywhere in the world which is always a challenge for a traveling singer.
Q: Do you believe that your health & fitness journey has had a positive influence on your operatic career? How so?
A: There is absolutely no way that I would have been hired at almost 400 pounds. I would not have been hired because I would not be able to physically do all of the things that I’m required to do on-stage. It’s that simple. Also I just have so much more energy than I ever did before. That helps when racing through airports trying to catch connecting flights or being in rehearsals on a raked stage as I am now kneeling and having to get up without clutching in grabbing the floor, a colleague and / or scenery.
Q: What advice would you give to a performer who is just beginning their health & fitness journey?
A: The biggest advice that I would give is to be completely honest with yourself. Get on the scale and face the reality of that number but know that you are not that number. When I first got on that scale and saw how close to 400 pounds I was, I was so shocked I felt almost paralyzed to do anything at all about it. When you are truly a food addict you have to make choices every single day. An alcoholic does not necessarily have to buy alcohol but you must always have food in your house. You have to be honest about what you’re eating. There are so many apps that you can put on your phone that will help show you what you really are eating every single day. It’s important for you to be accountable for what you put into your mouth and how much you move your body. If you can only focus on one thing, do that one thing for 30 days and it will make a difference and encourage you to stick with it. I have to constantly check in with my voice teacher Bill Schumann because as your body changes so does your support. I have a coach with great ears that I work with, Jeffrey Miller, who I have been with since the beginning as well.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: I’m still inspired daily by my father who we lost when I was 25 years old and he was 48. He was the great love of my life and his inner fortitude inspires me every single day.
Q: Do you have a favorite brand (or favorite brands) of exercise gear?
A: Since I’m still a plus size girl I love the LIVI Active line from Lane Bryant.
Q: How do you find the balance between leading a healthy lifestyle and keeping up with your performance career?
A: That’s always very difficult! I do allow myself to have a cheat meal every few weeks or so. But I’m still able to eat out with friends and cast members, I just try my best to make the healthiest choices possible. In other countries it’s not as easy. When that happens I just try to increase my exercise.
Q: What is your advice for those trying to pursue a career in opera?