Brian Bowen Smith/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty; @thedustinyoureye
When the world was suddenly put on pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 26-year-old began focusing on her health and wellness. She has since lost around 150 lbs. over the course of two years, which she says is "more than half" of what she once weighed.
"Life is good," she tells PEOPLE from L.A. "I'm in a lovely, healthy relationship with myself and my body and my family and my partner, [boyfriend Solomon Reynolds]. … I'm in a much more centered, grounded place."
Things were a bit off-balance, however, when she was shooting Cinderella in early 2020. Though she has, for the most part, "been comfortable" in her body, she was finding it difficult to keep up with her fellow triple-threat performers in the fairytale musical film.
"There was a scene that didn't make it in the movie, where me and the other stepsister [Charlotte Spencer] led a group of like 300 girls — fantastic dancers, slender, they had it going on — down this 50-yard pathway to the castle singing 'Single Ladies' and dancing," she explains. "I couldn't keep up with the choreography. I kept losing my breath. We'd have to start reshooting the scene over and over for me."
That's when she decided it was time to "build stamina," she says.
Simultaneously, the world began shutting down as COVID cast its dark cloud above the entertainment industry, and Baillio left the set in London to head home to Texas.
"Everything's bigger in Texas," she says — but she had other goals that were much bigger.
"I had so much free time, so I thought I'm just going to start walking," she says, beginning at 30 minutes a day. "The sun was so good for my mental health and my physical health. I could walk for 30 minutes to an hour, and then the next week, it was a good two hours. So that's how it began for me."
"I stepped on the scale, and that was inspiring to see that I had control over something — that I had control over my body," Baillio says, adding that she also started removing red meat from her diet, eventually becoming vegan, and tried new things like hot yoga and workouts that were enjoyable.
Over the course of her journey, Baillio says that her "whole world opened up," not because of the number on the scale but because she was able to "keep up."
She adds, "I'd go to West Hollywood, and I could dance forever throughout the night. Life became so much more fun when I had that physical stamina."
Though she's never felt truly limited in the theater and film industries, she says she was also afforded new opportunities, like voicing Marilyn Monroe in the Smash industry reading of the Broadway-aimed musical. She's hopeful that the entertainment world remains open and inclusive for people of all shapes and sizes.
"I'm inspired by the changing mentality," Baillio says. "I wanna play my dream roles on Broadway that have nothing to do with my weight. And I definitely see it going that direction."
While Baillio feels she's getting "noticed more," she encourages everyone — especially her fans — to feel comfortable and confident in the skin they're in.
"We have to feel good about ourselves. It can't come from outside sources," she says. "So it is a compliment when people tell me that I look good, but I refrain from commenting on people's physical appearance because I know that when I was struggling — when I was so hyper fixated on the number on the scale, and people were telling me that I was doing good and [to] keep going — that wasn't good for me. Because you never know who's struggling with what, how they got to that point."
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For now, she's enjoying life in Los Angeles and looking towards a trip to New York for her solo cabaret show at Birdland later this month on Nov. 21, her N.Y.C. concert debut. She's also busy spending time with Reynolds, whom she's known for years.
"I had a big crush on my partner in high school 10 years ago," Baillio says, explaining that she and the fellow actor and singer reconnected in Palm Springs after a decade apart.
"I was a plus-size girl in high school as well, and he was like one of the few boys who was just so kind to me," she says, calling him "the most talented person I've ever met."
She adds, "I'm so happy; we're so happy. Yeah, it's a really love-filled time in my life."