When Deb asked me to write about myself for “Student of the Month” I was both flattered and flabbergasted. I’m currently enrolled in Burlesque 102, and in the opening class I described myself as a “bigger” girl when talking about act ideas. Deb raised her eyebrow in a quizzical expression and in return, I shrugged.
This interaction made me think of why I wanted to explore Burlesque in the first place. Burlesque to me is something sparkly and stunning. In a world that is oversaturated with depressing media, it is an incredibly raw and sensual art form. Burlesque is about owning your body, and your sexuality.
Burlesque highlights our flaws, slaps some glitter on them, shines the stage lights and displays them for the world to see. I have a long list of “flaws” just as anyone else does. At the age of 5, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which shows itself in the form of non-stop anxiety. I was bombarded with remarks of “You’ll never be smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough” by the people that surrounded me. I learned quickly to keep to myself and not to trust anyone. In high school I dated a guy who constantly told me “I was too fat for anyone else to love”. It was only after my parents forbid me from seeing him that I realized normal relationships didn’t leave bruised egos and bruised bodies. I struggled through high school, only barely made it to college. Once there, I finally found the courage to explore my sexuality… and then I was subjected to an episode of non-consensual, sexual violence.
That is something I’ve only said out loud to a few people. Rape not only invades your body, but it intrudes on every thought: how you sleep, how you eat, and how you interact with the world around you. I’ve dated people who were terrible to me and just accepted it as normal. I’ve struggled with body dysmorphia, eating disorders and self-mutilation. It has taken me 27 years to learn to love myself.
After a lot of time, therapy, tears and late night calls to good friends, I finally came to realize, no one gets to determine how you see yourself -except the person looking back at you in the mirror. One of the hardest lessons I ever learned was how to determine my own value. I’m nerdy, quirky, loud, obnoxious, unapologetic and more often than not, incredibly awkward. I laugh too loud, work too hard, and rest too little. I have finally taken time to be selfish -and that’s okay, you are allowed to take time to recover. In the process of learning self-acceptance, I decided that taking a Burlesque class would be an interesting experience. I begged one of my closest friends to take the class with me. When we got there, I was almost too nervous to step through the door. I nearly turned around and went home.
Needless to say, I did not.
One of the things Deb talked about in the first class was how your see yourself. I’ve always had a hard time viewing myself as sexy. “Maybe” I thought, “it’s about damn time”. My adventure into the world of Burlesque is just starting, but I have already experienced so much. I am grateful to have stumbled into this extravagant group of women who support and push each other to be better. They have literally taught me to put on my big girl panties and deal with it.
If you have taken the time to read this far, thank you. I’ll end my story with one of my favorite quotes, by the Queen herself, RuPaul: “Remember to love yourself, because if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen in here?”