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