FORMER X Factor contestant Scott Hallas used to make fun of his size. As the drag artiste Dragalicious! and weighing in at 30 stones or more he knew he could give audiences a laugh.
“It was a comedy act about my size,” he said. “I drew attention to it.”
But today 26-year-old Scott cuts quite a different figure on stage. After losing a staggering 21 stones in 18 months Dragalicious! has become considerably more glamorous.
What’s more, he can buy off-the-peg clothes – size 16 – for his act.
“I used to have to buy size 36 from specialist catalogues and I’ve even sewn two skirts together to make a dress,” he explained. “It’s much cheaper now.”
Scott, who has a degree in English literature from Huddersfield University, says his weight problem began in childhood.
“Everyone in my family is big but I was the biggest,” he said. “I went into a sphere all of my own.
“I’d eat when I was bored, watching TV. I’d raid the fridge but all the time I was thinking that I could lose the weight if I wanted to.”
He admits that his calorie intake was out of hand.
“I used to drink 10 bottles of Lucozade a day because I was constantly tired and thought it would give me energy,’’ he said. “In fact, all that glucose left me feeling sluggish.
“I’d have several sandwiches a day as well as meals. And I’d be having duplicate meals – once at home and then another one at my grandparents’ house.
“I was a chocoholic and could eat four of the big family bars of Dairy Milk in one go.”
By the time he was 22 and competed in the X Factor Scott had reached 30 stones.
One of 12,000 people who auditioned in Manchester, he made it through to the boot camp stage but only after Cheryl Cole demanded that he be allowed to sing as himself and not in his drag persona as Simon Cowell had wanted.
Scott didn’t reach the finals but says it was an amazing experience.
“I had heard all the horror stories of what it was like behind the scenes but they were the most lovely, lovely people, all of them,” he said.
Today Scott wonders if his size could have been the reason why he was rejected at the boot camp stage.
“I used to sweat buckets and it affected my nerves,’’ he said. “We could all sing but you saw people who looked like pop stars and then there was me waddling in at the end. I felt like I wouldn’t fit in.”
After the X Factor Scott’s weight continued to balloon until he reached 34½ stones at the age of 23.
He knew that he risked serious health problems. “My grandma was a diabetic and I used to test myself with her testing sticks,” he said. “I found that my blood sugar was right at the top end of normal.
“One day my mum was in the kitchen and started to cry. I asked her what was the matter and she said she didn’t want me to eat myself into an early grave, but even then I didn’t do anything. I thought ‘just leave me alone’.”
However, it was while helping out at the annual old folks’ Christmas dinner at Honley Socialist Club, where his dad Brian is the secretary, that Scott made the decision to finally tackle his weight.
“My best friend, Sarah Redmond, had gone to a slimming club and suggested that I should try a diet,” said Scott. “She offered to help and support me.”
In the first week he lost 12 lbs.
“It was Christmas week as well so I was really pleased,” he said.
Scott says he knew what he should be eating and what he shouldn’t.
“I cut out the carbonated drinks, fried food, sweets and chocolate,” he said. “I also began to walk everywhere. I’d never done any exercise before but now I walk all over the place.”
He has also developed a liking for fresh fruit, lean meat such as chicken and low fat pasta.
“I don’t think of myself being on a diet, I have just changed the way I live,” he said.
Today Scott weighs 13½ stones and wants to shed another seven pounds. He’s started going to the gym to build muscle where there was once fat. His blood sugar levels are now normal and he has masses of energy without drinking Lucozade.
Unfortunately, gaining and losing such a lot of weight has left Scott with a cosmetic problem.
“I have loads of loose skin,” he admits, quite candidly. “I’ve been told that I don’t qualify for cosmetic surgery on the NHS and it will cost me £6,000 to go privately. I’m going to have to save up.”
Scott began his drag act when he was 19 and appeared in a show at Honley Socialist Club where he is now the organiser of the annual Huddersfield’s Got Talent competition.
He hopes that one day he can make a full-time living from showbusiness and is currently developing his act, appearing in charity shows in the London area.
“When I was 19 I hid behind the stage persona because I was terrified of singing as myself,” he said. He jokes that he is the ‘black sheep’ of the family, adding: “Everyone was surprised when I came on and did Shirley Bassey. My dad is a sheet metal worker and to start with I think my parents were really surprised but now they’re very supportive.
“When I was at university I wanted to be an English teacher but now I know that I want to be a drag artiste.”
As Dragalicious! Scott performs songs by Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse but says: “I’m my own creation, I’m a rough northern bird.”
And, of course, he no longer needs to make jokes about his size.