My Body’s not a Cage

“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 insisted.

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

image

Werkin It Out

I want to say that it started as a massive screw you to every magazine, every movie, every bully on the school yard, every very concerned stranger and condescending asshole.

I want to say that my decision to dance burlesque was an exquisitely executed physical “bite me” to that girl that giggled when I walked into the gym.I want to say that I started stripping in defiance of every single music video and popular retail clothing store in existence.

But that wouldn’t be true.

The truth is that I had fucking issues.

I believed all those lies society told me.  I believed that fat was the worst thing that I could be. I believed that because of my body I was less than, unworthy, ugly, repulsive. Maintaining this belief was absolutely exhausting.  I was so worn out from holding my breath in anticipation of someone making fun of me, judging me, and rejecting me that I actively sought it out.It wasn’t bravery.  It wasn’t fierceness.  It was a satin covered swan dive.

I figured that if I stood on that stage in nothing but pasties and panties, I could finally get it all out there: a massive public humiliation that was the equivalent of quitting the job before I got fired.  I’d be free to crawl back in my cage and die.

But that didn’t happen.

It is difficult to explain what did happen.

In verbalizing this I am attempting to express the ineffable feeling of clarity in spirit, mind, and body.  Standing there on that metal chair next to Kitty Von Quim with my arms upraised, my hips twisted, my fat body exposed to the whole wide world, I became sinfully sacred.  I gained defiant acceptance of self.

I was set free and all my excuses of not living a thoroughly well used life were stripped from me.  I was set free to appreciate the complex beauty of those around me without the degradation of comparison because I was fast rooted in the belief of my own beauty, worth, and value.

I was reborn.

I dance because being part of something larger than yourself that challenges you and forces you to grow is a singular soul shaking experience.

I dance burlesque because this community is comprised of artists.  Twisted, creative, compassionate geniuses and it is a pure fucking honor to be among their ranks.

I strip because years ago someone told me that I was ugly, that I couldn’t dance, that no one would love me, that no one would listen to me that I wasn’t special… and every time I step on that stage I’m sending them the bestest, biggest fuck you ever.

And most importantly I dance for the person I was, the person that disappears in the crowd, the person that despises their body and lives a life painfully devoid of the truth of their own worth and value.  With every shake and shimmy I sing a siren song in hopes that they find their way home, too.

My Body

Burlycon 2011

Alright I’m totally writing this all late but BurlyCon was amaaaaaaaaaaazing.

Before we got there I was 75% body conscious with a  high chance of freaking the fuck out since our fearless troupe leader Juicy D. Light signed us up for peer reviews.  Now let me make is completely clear: Peer Reviews are not about competition against other performers.  It is about putting yourself out there and finding out how you can grow, what works and what doesn’t.

I wanted to be perfect because I love these women so much.  This love was conveyed in the most conventional means.

By conventional I mean completely spazing out.

Kitty Von Quim had a peer review solo the night before and Juicy had a peer review right before the troupe’s (Which the fucking rocked by the way).  I wanted to be supportive so I had to put my freak out on hold.

On the surface this looks like a good thing but in all reality… well my reality it meant that I only had 10 minutes to squeeze in 2 days worth of angst and cray crayness that  this sort of  incredible opportunity deserved.   Luckily all this got cut short when I stabbed my finger trying to stow away a particularly sharp knife I’d used to slice up a watermelon for Juicy’s Mammy number.  Instead of being worried about my snap panties not staying up for the first half or almost worse: getting stuck between my thighs during the quick rip off removal; which normally results in me ripping said panties off completely and possibly the thong underneath (yes it’s happened before), I had to concentrate on staunching a rather substantial blood so the front row wouldn’t look like an episode of Dexter….mmm Dexter.

Anyway, stars aligned and magic happened.

I stopped bleeding.

I stopped bleeding and suddenly slipped into surreality.

By the end of it I was down to my shoes, fishnets, one thong(fuck yah), two glittery Punisher styled pasties(double fuck yah) and  utterly spent.  It was truly epic.  We were epic.  They stood on their feet, yelled, roared and they applauded us.

Us.

And not “some sympathy for fat girls doing their thing” applause but a true and honest OMG you rawked my face and melted it off with your awesomeness applause.  It was not just from our peers but form people who look up to and respect in the burlesque community.  It’s a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.  And as I sat there swinging my feet while pulling on my top I thought it could not get any better than this.

But then it did get better.

My focus when I arrived at burlycon was the peer reviews.  Getting myself and my sisters through them but once that was out of the way I had the time to really appreciate what Miss Indigo Blue had done for the burlesque community. I learned alot of tips for costume and choreography but I expected too.  What I didn’t expect and was totally not prepared for were the other classes.

In WorldFamous Bob’s class I accepted the fact that my life had changed, that I have over the past three year recreated myself.  I am not a quitter for letting go of things I held on to in the past.  Changing within and without is a beautiful thing to be embraced ridden hard and put away wet and heaving.

In Ginger Snapz class I learned how I as a black woman have just a rich and deep burlesque history as my white sisters.  I have history and a legacy to upkeep and honor!  I listened as others talked about how they had been stereotyped by producers or peers and even used as tokens in performances.  I felt awakened to these things for the first time.  I come from a place where racism is more than words and miss opportunities.  These snubs did not equate for me and so I did not see them but now I do and now I am prepared to call people on it and work towards equality in the scene.

The next time I saw Ginger she was leading a roundtable with fabulous Cherry Tart voicing what we plus sized performers go through and how we can work together to get ourselves out there more.  What we can do to alert the burlesque community to the fact that while the performers are all for body love and being inclusive the producers are more often not. There is a true need for us to produce our own shows and support communities.  Our discussion prompted Nipsy Tussle  to create 3b Burlesque a webspace for plus sized burlesquers.

Then came a class with the magnificent Legs Malone.

Okay first let me say that this woman is… she’s…. jeazuz just look at the picture while I collect my thoughts.

Legs Malone: Photo by Halston Bruce

 

Anyway she started her class by handing out boxes of tissues. Which I promptly passed on because I’m not much of a crier unless someone is dead or I’m insanely happy.  By the end of her class I almost needed those tissues.  Through her series of questions I have found that I still have a ton of body issues.  From my mother I learned that fat people don’t deserve to be happy, or have relationships of the life they desired.  From my father I learned that I was invisible.  Society has taught me to explain away and be ashamed.  Deep inside a part of me still believed they were all right.  We ended the class with affirmations and a song.  I expected  some Enya type business since we totally went all within but no how about “Try a Little Tenderness”.  My own joy got mixed up with Kitty’s who loves the freak out of that song and has a ridiculously cute routine to it.

Later that day it was Kitty who took the time to stop me and to care for me.  She noticed that I had not allowed myself to let go in Legs’s class.  She in her own casual way tipped the scales and allowed all those emotions to come out and it was good.

It was good.

I also got to hang out with Lowa DeBoomboom who is just spectacular and beautiful.  I wanted to take her home with us.

clockwise Lucia N. Habitions, Me(Magnoliah Black), Juicy D. Light, Kitty Von Quim, Lowa DeBoomboom

It was a life changing weekend. I’m so glad that I went. Beneath the glitter, the rhinestones and the feathers are real people.  They are artists and mothers, fathers and teachers, corporate cogs and pencil pushers, classically trained to  beginner all with a uniting fierceness.  The ability to stand upon the stage naked before strangers and friends and manage to be completely clothed in starshine, covered in creativity and dressed in a delicious mind-blowing self acceptance and freedom which beckons everyone else to find it within themselves.

I am so proud and so deeply honored to be a part of that.

Also spending three nights cuddled up to Lucia N. Habitions and her boobs was pretty darn spectacular.

This is why I do it :)

Because being part of something larger than yourself, that challenges you and forces you to grow is a powerful experience

Because the burlesque community is comprised of artist twisted creative compassionate genius and it is a pure fucking honor to be among their ranks.

Because years from now when I am old and grey I can look back and say I had the ovaries to do it

Because years, weeks, days from now when things go all pear shaped I can call on any one of these powerful women and they would have my back

Because who needs prozac, zoloft or a stiff drink when you can go to sleep with the remnants of a roaring, screaming, cheering crowd still ringing in your ears.

Because years ago someone told me that I was ugly, that I couldn’t dance, that no one would love me, that no one would listen to me that I wasn’t special….
and every time I step on that stage
I’m sending them the
bestest
biggest
fuck you

ever.

Fat on Phat Violence

Disclaimers: the following post contains multiple, continuous and flagrantly shameless use of the words: fuck, bitch, and FAT If any of these words offend you or if you’re one of my former English teachers please navigate away from this page now

Dear Ungrateful Fat Bitches,

WTF
nobody put’s baby in a corner

I expected hate from the “mainstream” but from you. You’re breaking my god damn heart. I knew when I started doing burlesque that I would have an uphill battle to fight but I can’t believe you are trying to drag my ass down too. Oh you are flag waving for equality, bitching about how people treat you differently, crying about all that bullshit you went though in grade school but when it comes down to it sometimes you are just as much part of the problem.

Lets start with the thing that pisses me off the most. More than the fuck-me-never frumpy grey clothes you wear, the constant newest fad diets you go on, or the enabling support groups where you get together and cry. Lets start with this: The whole. utter and complete dismissal of yourself as a sexually potent human being…

I keep getting these response from other big women:
#1 We are about celebrating our curves not sexualizing them
#2What you are doing is perpetuating a harmful fetishism
#3 We deserve to be loved not put on embarrassing display

1
Ummmm… you lost me sweetness what better celebration of your curves, then covering it with glitter and dancing the night away.

2
The idea that my particular thunda thighs are floating her boat or rockin his cock doesn’t break my flow sugah. It’s not like I have to stand there and watch them do it to it. I’ll pose for a picture for private use…and if they want panties that costs extra (you freaks know how to reach me 😉 ) . Besides like someone pointed out to me the other day skinny women don’t get pissed off that people find them attractive just because they are skinny. Or do ya’ll?

3
I really wished you believed that… because if you did then you would not fall for prey to being what Kathryn calls the “grateful fat chick”. I am not a grateful fat chick but I used to be. I was that fat girl that would be oh so happpy that someone was checking her out, asking her out, or calling her pretty. I was that fat girl that was content to let him touch her in private even if he didn’t hold her hand in public. I was that fat girl that was starving for his compliments and hungrily eating all the bullshit he spit out. I am no longer a grateful fat chick… now I’m a phat bitch

I’m out there shaking my wide ass and jiggling my tits not just to appease my behemoth sized ego but to liberate you, reeducate the masses and fuck with the heads of fat-o-phobs. I’m fighting to be free in mind and expression. Yeah I’m taking my clothes off but if you look past that you’ll see that I have the ovaries and intestinal fortitude to live my dream at my present size in my present body unapologetically and that is something that extends beyond the stage.

That’s the real reason you fat bitches hate on me. I am shoving in your face what you want to run from most,what you cover up with girdles and cinch in with control top panties. Because you have not let go of your shame, and self loathing. Because someone beat you down so hard you are trying to beat me down too.

But I don’t want to beat you down,
I don’t want to embarrass you.
I want you to really see, to really accept how fabulous you are, how deserving you are how damn pretty you are.

And don’t give me that it’s so easy for you bullshit either. I went though it too, from sneak eating to starving, from depression so deep that I could not step outside… I’d binge and purge on self hate with side orders of hot steamy shame. I may not always be fat.. you may one day be skinny but we are ALWAYS human beings. And as human beings we have basics needs that are physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, sexual.

Because I believe fat bitches need love too
Because I believe that this phat bitch needs love too I refuse to let your fear, past rejections and negative reflections suppress my sexuality, my sensuality, my personality .

Nobody puts baby in the corner!!
Besides there is too much of me to even fuck around at pretending at being invisible.
All 5’6 279 pounds of me demands to be respected to be loved, to be touched, to be sexualized and fetish-ized and glamorized and seen for the powerful beautiful woman that I am.

so do me a favor
cut a bitch a break
and stop weighing me down with all your misplaced hate.

oh and Dr Phil… BITE ME!!