Cheryl “Salt” Wray: “I Felt Like The Least Pretty One”
Cheryl “Salt” Wray, one-third of the veteran hip-hop group, Salt ‘N Pepa, has had a career that has spanned over 30 years with hits such as “Shoop,” the HIV/AIDS informational song, “Let’s Talk About S-E-X,” and of course, the classic hit, “Push It.”
Her Battle With Bulimia
Even becoming a rap star in her 20s didn’t reverse the slide in her self-esteem. “I felt like the least pretty one. Dee Dee was called the beautiful one, Pepa the super sexy one. What am I?” One day, out for pancakes with a friend who seemed able to eat anything without gaining weight, Salt overate, then went into the restroom and made herself throw up for the first time. “I remember feeling euphoric, satisfied and relieved afterward,” she says.
From then on, she had three goals in life: keep the eating disorder hidden, win a Grammy Award and weigh only 115 lbs. She accomplished all of them, but by then the bulimia was out of her control. “It was at its worst when I was alone. My mind would go to, ‘What can I eat that is sinful?'” Usually pizza, fries, pasta and chocolate cake in “outrageous portions.” Then she would vomit. Because James, who is 5’2″, never became painfully thin, no one noticed she had a problem.
She finally confided in her then-boyfriend, music producer Gavin Wray, who took her to a therapist. After one session, says Wray, who married James in 2000, “she told me she wanted to deal with it on her own, and she did.”
James turned to her Christian faith. “I got on my knees and cried out, ‘God, I just want to be healed,'” she says. “‘I just want to be whole.'” She returned to going to church regularly and started talking openly with friends and family members about her pain. “For me, the bulimia was about stuffing my emotions,” says James. “So I stopped suppressing my feelings.” It helped, and eventually, she was able to stop bingeing and purging. “I don’t want to give the illusion that one day God came down and I was healed. It is a process, and something you have to stay on top of.” There were short relapses, she says, but “I don’t have the fear that it will come back.”
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