“My Body is not a Cage” was written for “Burlesque and Why” a stage play produced by Dottie Lux, the founder of Red Hots Burlesque. Her goal was to give the audience an insight into what is beneath the glitter and glam. A chance to see that our performances are deeper than the foundation that goes on our faces. I was incredibly honored to be a part of this production which included: Burlesque Legend Ellion Ness, POC powerhouse The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins, Queer creatrix Lay si Luna, hilariously talented Alexa Von Kickinface and the amazing Dottie Lux herself.
We were supported by an amazing team of people including Kitty Von Quim, Ava Lanche and many others. I am so happy to have had my voice heard and lovingly received.
I think I was nine. We were parked outside of an old brick building. I was dressed in a black leotards with pink opaque stocking underneath. (Alexa enters… doing a bit of ballet) Crushing cotton candy colored ballet shoes in my hands as I strained against my seat belt ready to run in. My mother put a calming hand on my arm. She looked worried and she said.
“You don’t have to do this.”
“But I want to”
“There are a lot of girls in there and with your… you just don’t have to do this”
I walked into that building with my head held high and full of wonder. (Alexa moves puppets) All day I watched women and girls older than me move across polished wood floors with perfect form and flow. They were my dream. Twirling delicate clouds flying through the air and plucked from the sky. Caught in the arms of their partners. Precious. I wanted to be that.
When I walked out of that building five hours later I had been cast. I had a part in Ballet Hysells annual production of the Nutcracker. This was no after school special either. This was the real deal. This show had a fancy opening party at the Museum of Art. People would come dressed in their Sunday best and opera gloves. And I was going to be there on the Sangaer Theater Stage in Downtown New Orleans for one show a week, two on weekends for a full holiday season as one of the rat kings lackey’s.
The costumers were thrilled that they didn’t have to pad my costume with a belly because I already had one, I was thrilled that I made it in and my mom was thrilled that she didn’t have to have the you’re just as good as everyone else conversation.
I didn’t understand then. It was before I learned that I was too fat to dance. It was before my body had become a cage. Founded in fear. Forged in anger.Sealed in shame.
I was nine years old and it was my mother’s fear that encouraged her to tell me I was fat when I wasn’t.
She was so afraid that I would end up depressed, requited, undervalued, irrelevant and invisible. Her angst surrounding her own body image was poured into my veins like some dominant hereditary gene. I’d rather have her perfect teeth than this disease.
I was eleven and angry at my elementary school peers who raised white cotton blouses and heavily starched pleated skirts to compare bellies and thighs to pictures of airbrushed models in Cosmopolitan and 17 Magazine. It was a test none of us could pass teaching us to stick fingers down throats to achieve mass media regurgitation of what was pretty
and we were supposed to be oh so pretty.
I was twelve and ashamed because anorexia and bulimia were considered a vicious malady and its bearer’s victims to be loved and looked after while my obsessive compulsive over eating disorder was considered MY CHOICE a self-inflicted, disgustingly gross weakness of character.
I was pissed at every doctor who refused to believe that my period went away before the weight gain. They saw my fat first and not my affliction. It would be six years before they found the cysts lining my ovaries and tubes. Cysts…a string of bright wet pearls across my ovaries. It would be another four years before they would find the tumor in my brain.
I was 17 and so scared of rejection that I would not let her make love to me; I would not let him see me with the lights on. I went seven years without photographic evidence that I indeed exist. Pictures or it didn’t happen. I wanted to pretend I never happened.
I was 22 and shamed by every colleague and coworkers for their pettish pats on the back
when they saw me at the gym, when they congratulated me for “finally doing something good for myself”. I’m incensed by the audacity of complete strangers spewing their condescending concern for my health and well-being. They were never worried about me. They were afraid of being like me, of being trapped in this body, afraid of touch me as if I were contagious and in some cases…
in the worst cases afraid to love what society as deemed as unlovable. Fuck me all night but won’t hold my hand in the sunlight, abuse me, assault me.
I was 25 and I stayed because I believed I wasn’t precious. I measured my worth in weight and was found wanting.
I wasn’t skinny, or blonde, I didn’t have blue eyes or white skin. I am completely the opposite.
No one will love me. No one will catch me if I fall. I’m too heavy. My issues are too heavy.
So Burlesque? Why?
Because they were wrong.
I was wrong.
This body is made to dance,
to be seen,
to be beautiful
to be feminine.
I’m 32 and every time I take the stage it is a free fall comprised of blind trust. It is a leap that tests my faith of the sacred within the sensual and 100 hands (and lets be real… on some nights only 10) reach out and catch me every time.
I dance to exist, to break through glass ceilings, shatter concrete beliefs, reshape worlds and retake space.
I burlesque because there was a part of me that hated me and sadly still believes even to this day that I could never be what I am now.
Every time I shimmy I shake this loose… and I welcome those around me to do the same.
From head to toe this is my body. Within it lies boundless joy. Monumental motion. Voluminous love
Fathomless fierceness. I will not let anyone shame me away from it. I will not listen when anyone tells me to hate it. This is my body. It is not a cage. This is me. I am precious. And I am free