It seems strange to some people, but getting naked in public does wonders for your self confidence. A lot of people, regardless of their size, try and cover up their beautiful bodies, out of a fear that someone will judge them. I find this is especially true for women of a certain size; I hear a lot of excuses as to why they could never wear a bathing suit, or shorts, or whatever clothing item it is that highlights the part of their body they see as undesirable. While I’ve certainly had my moments of low self esteem and body image issues, I always figured that what I wore (or didn’t wear) wouldn’t really trick anyone into thinking I was skinny. Whether I’m naked, or wearing modest clothes, I’m not fooling anyone into thinking I’m a size 2. But despite this attitude, I admit I had some reservations about stripping down to next to nothing in my first burlesque performance.
My fear came from the idea that even though I loved my body, it wasn’t the type of body that people wanted to see in public. I was sure that my jiggly belly and chunky thighs were not going to drive the audience wild. I suppose if I am being honest with myself, I was afraid that the audience would confirm that which I was already afraid of in my low moments: that my body wasn’t worthy of praise and that it should be kept under wraps. We get this message from all sides; even the most confident woman is going to have moments of doubt, thanks to the endless barrage of body shaming the world hands us. Media, fashion, even my forays into online dating (although that’s a subject for another post), all reaffirm that only certain bodies should be shared.
I decided to go for it, even though I was afraid. I figured that even if the audience didn’t love me, I was going to get up there and shake my ass. And boy am I ever glad that I did. As it turns out, my jiggly belly and chunky thighs were exactly what the audience wanted to see. Or rather, they wanted to see my confidence and pride in myself and my body. If you are having fun, and bringing the sex and the sass to the stage, the audience is going to eat it up. If you’re loving it, they will too.
I was also nervous about joining a group of performers that I assumed would all be delightfully slender with perfect, perky boobies. Before I joined a beginner burlesque class, I hadn’t actually ever even been to a burlesque show. I imagined the dancers would all be svelte, hairless, and have bodies that fit the narrow mold of what society has dictated as being acceptable to show off in public. But, I was wrong. This is not to say that the performers I know and have seen aren’t beautiful, because they are. Each and every one is beautiful and inspiring. But each one is also different. I had never imagined there would be such diversity in burlesque performers. Old, young, tall, short, slender, thick, busty, petite: there are a plethora of body types represented, and each one is celebrated for the way it can move and titillate. This isn’t only the case with the local performers, but also among the pros, and even the Burlesque greats (look up Big Fannie Annie if you don’t believe me). Burlesque is a place where everyone is welcomed and accepted. It has less to do with how you look, and more to do with the persona you project: as Judith Stein puts it “It’s not necessarily the perfect body or the fabulous costume, it’s about the personality.”
Once I came to understand this, I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to find this community of empowering, accepting, and body positive performers. Seeing them own their bodies, and happily share them with the world, reminded me that my body is also worthy of praise and admiration. I learned that that I don’t have to look like a SI Swimsuit model to excite and entertain. When I finally did get up on that stage, that community of performers, and not to mention the appreciative audience, gave me confidence and positive feedback. I suppose I can’t speak for everyone, but I like to think that it’s the way I shake my jiggly belly and chunky thighs, and all my other bits, with confidence and sass that makes the audience go crazy. Because in the end, we all have those parts of ourselves that we perhaps wish we could change. Every performer, every audience member, and every person in the world. And to see someone embrace those perceived flaws, and even highlight them, is incredibly empowering, for both the audience and the performer.
So yes, I realize that parts of me are not in the realm of traditional beauty. I understand that many people would be horrified to get nearly naked in front of strangers. I know that lots of people are shocked that I do this, especially considering its a hobby, not a paying job. And yet here I am, a woman of a certain size, stripping down to nothing more than pasties and panties, and actually enjoying it. There really is nothing like getting naked for people, and having them go crazy. It turns out that my jiggly, chunky, curvy, sexy, beautiful body is appreciated by people other than myself. And without having been welcomed into the Burlesque community, and been given a stage on which to perform, I’m not sure I ever would have come to that conclusion on my own.
So thank you to the sexy, sassy, and diverse individuals in the world of Burlesque. Your confidence and inclusivity is so encouraging and empowering. I hope that I can follow in that tradition and inspire others to love and embrace their bodies.
And to anyone that is looking for a creative outlet, or a way to gain self confidence, I highly recommend you start getting naked in public 🙂