A junk food addict who was terrified to leave his home as his weight ballooned to 26 stone is set to appear on The Voice.
Hartlepool singer-songwriter Rick Snowdon was one of 120,000 hopefuls to apply for this season’s series of the hit BBC1 talent show tonight.
He will perform his version of Nina Simone’s I Put a Spell on You for coaches Boy George, Paloma Faith, will.i.am and Ricky Wilson.
Millions of viewers will see if any of the stars hit the red button and turn their chairs and bid to add the 29-year-old to their teams.
Rick, who lives in the Foggy Furze area, fought with his food addiction for years and was eating £25 worth of sweets and pastries every day.
At his lowest times, he was afraid to glance in the mirror, and showered with his eyes closed so he did not have to look at himself.
A rigorous regime of exercise and diet helped him lose more than half of his body weight - and crash down from his 56-inch waist.
He learned to play guitar while he locked himself away in his home for more than four solitary years listening to his father’s records of Led Zeppelin, Queen and David Bowie.
“Simply loving the sound”, he now has 16 guitars in his home, along with a drum kit, keyboard, violin, bongos, harmonica and countless amplifiers.
“Without music, I’d have eaten myself to death,” said Rick. “I just surrounded myself with it, and it has saved me from what would’ve been a certain death.”
Rick was bullied throughout his school days - branded Fat Snowy by cruel children - and would rarely turn up for classes beyond the age of nine.
He weighed 19 stone at the age of 15 and has told how he was “very, very shy” and fought back when he was attacked “because I was bigger than them”.
But it got to the point where he began to believe what was being said, and treated himself the way the bullies did.
“I thought they were right,” said Rick. “I was telling myself that I wasn’t worth anything, and I was a waste of time. Then I got involved in music, picked up a guitar, started playing, and decided I wanted to be in a band and be a rock star.”
On one of his rare nights out with his brother William, Rick felt so uncomfortable he vowed to stay indoors for four months to lose enough weight to face the world again.
“That four months turned into four-and-a-half years,” he said. “And because I had little contact with people, I became depressed and ate more.
“I would eat £25 worth of sweet stuff every day, things like cookies, eclairs, bars of chocolate, crepes and other pastries.
“I have just surrounded myself with music. It was a solution, a way to save myself, and something to aspire to.”
l Rick’s single, Bring You Home, was written as a reminder of the challenge he went through and hopes it will help others in the same situation. Bring You Home is available on itunes.