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Bullied but not beaten

Selena's standing up for herself by becoming the first disabled contestant on The Biggest Loser

Selena Brown
Selena Brown, 22, Darwin, NT

Munching through a family-sized packet of salty chips, I was mesmerised by what was on TV. It was a romantic comedy and, as usual, the guy and girl had realised they were in love and finally, they kissed. Watching them embrace sent butterflies to my stomach, but as the credits rolled I was sent back to my harsh reality. That scenario would never happen to me in real life. From the very beginning my life hasn't been easy. I was born profoundly deaf in my right ear, with mild to severe hearing loss in my left. It meant I could still hear with the use of a hearing aid but the sound was muffled.

Even in preschool, I remember being teased. Other kids would whisper in my ear and laugh when I couldn't hear them. It hurt that they saw me as different.But that wasn't the only thing that made me a target for bullies. I was also teased about my indigenous Australian heritage. Kids at school called me horrible names and again, I was isolated. At eight, my parents, Sharon and Graeme, split up. Hurt and confused, I turned to food for comfort. Munching on whatever was in the fridge, each mouthful made me feel a little better.

But as my waistline got bigger, the bullying got worse. At high school, I was nicknamed Fatty Brown and the kids would flick my hearing aid, sending a loud smack reverberating through my eardrum. At lunch, the bullies locked me in the toilet and afterwards, when I got home, I'd sob, scoffing mouthfuls of junk food until I felt better. I came to rely on it. If I wasn't raiding my piggy bank to buy food for binge sessions, I was stealing money from Mum's wallet. I wasn't proud, but my craving for comfort was out of control.

My family is cheering for me
Eventually my 170cm frame ballooned to 90 kilos - and it kept growing after that! But the happy feeling food gave me was only temporary. The next day the bullies would be at it again and each time it was worse. Once I was riding my bike home when four girls pushed me to the ground. Someone had me by the throat while others punched and kicked me. Too weak to fight back, all I could do was take it. After they ran away, I lay there wondering what I'd done to deserve it. Was I too fat for people to like me? Even strangers driving past my battered body didn't think I was worth stopping for.

At home, I was too ashamed to tell Mum the truth. I said I'd been knocked over by a car. Sadly, my injuries were bad enough that she believed me. After that, to beat the bullies to it, I locked myself in the toilets at lunch and gorged on junk food. That tiny, dirty space was my safe haven. In 2004, we moved to Cairns and I met two boys, Fernando and Jed, who didn't judge me for my disability, race or size. They befriended me and stuck up for me if I got picked on. When school finished, I'd always dreamt of helping people so I went to study nursing at uni. Being deaf meant using a stethoscope was tricky, but I was determined.But the mental and emotional scars from the bullies' torment were still raw. Was what they'd said all those years ago true? Would anyone ever fall in love with me or was I too disabled and fat for anyone to want?

I'd see couples holding hands in the street and imagined that for myself. But at my size, would it ever happen?In August last year, when I saw The Biggest Loser was calling for applicants, something inside me clicked. I was sick of my weight and the emotional baggage. I needed to lose it all. So I applied. I'd never seen a disabled person on the show, but weeks later at uni, a blonde lady bounced into the room. It was Tiffany Hall, a trainer from The Biggest Loser. She'd come to help me find my inner warrior.

I was scared, confused and excited, but I had to do it. When I found out the other contestants were also single, it made me feel more comfortable. We were all here to love ourselves and, one day, let others love us too.Today, I'm proud to be the first disabled person to ever compete at Camp Biggest Loser and I'm giving it my all. I've let people put me down for far too long. It's time I finally come out on top. With Tiffany's help, I know I will.

Check out Today Tonight's exclusive on fat discrimination.

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