Imagine being told, at a very young age, that you "probably" will never be able to do your dream by doctors. Well, that's exactly what happened to me. Little did I know that later in life, I'd be proving that doctor wrong.
I've been in pain for as long as I can remember, I've been going to the chiropractor ever since I was 15 years old. At 17, we finally decided to get an X-ray of my back. The X-ray shows that I have grade 1 spondylolisthesis, meaning that parts of my vertebrae is slipped (My l4 to be exact). I tried everything, from physical therapy, aquatic physical therapy, detox cleanses, yoga, acupuncture, medical massage, cupping, homeophathic remedies, even gin soaked raisins. To my avail, nothing was really working all that well. Eventually we saw a neurologist, who did even more medical tests, and we found out that on top of the spondylolisthesis, I have three compressed disks as well as arthritis in my spine. Surgery was a heavy topic at this time, I was told that surgery's have half lives, and that if I choose this path, I would have to have more surgeries later in life. I had picked up modeling at the age of 18, because I was miserable, I felt like I couldn't do anything, but modeling was sort of an escape. I felt useful, I have an expressive outlet, I could do something and feel good about it. I was young, still am young, and struggling because I couldn't go to college or work due to my health. A lot of pressure is put on you at that age, doctors and medical tests are something you shouldn't experience until you're much older. I saw one specialist, who I still think about daily, who was upfront and honest with me about the surgery, he told me it was my choice, and my choice alone. He said to me "If you where my daughter, I would advise her not to have this surgery, because you have a 50-50 chance of it making it better, or making it worse, and that's not a choice I'd want her to face." Those words meant more to me than he could have even imagined. I had one doctor when I was much younger tell me "It's all in your head", he was the same doctor who told me I "probably" won't be able to do my dream, thankfully, though, we switched doctors shortly after this was said to me. My dream. Dancing, or to be up on stage. I've been interested in dance ever since I was a child, but having horrible hand-eye coordination and pain, it was a struggle for me.
In 2012, I tried out Bellydancing. I realized that it did help my back pain quite a lot, but during the time I did that I got my first job, and ended up tearing scar tissue in my hip, which led to more pain and more medical tests, and in turn, pushed my dream farther away from my grasp. After my hip healed, and after I saw that specialist, I realized that I just needed to take matters into my own hands. I went from seeing doctors almost twice a week, to rarely. I switched chiropractors, I started doing medical massage and acupuncture regularly. I started doing the exercises I learned in physical therapy daily, then slowly going into low impact yoga and walking. My dream of dancing was forever on my mind, some nights I'd just shut my door and just dance before bed. Then, one day, during a photoshoot with the ever so lovely Tommy Propest, we where talking about my health and my dreams. He told me about this class, which I had heard about vaguely from someone before but never really looked into it. He told me about this women named Deb who ran Burlesque classes. Right after the shoot, I went straight to my computer and looked up the "Burlesque Academy of Asheville". I was so excited I could hardly stand it. I talked it over with my mom, she was equally excited for me. I had anticipated joining, I put it off for several months because I had fear that I wouldn't be able to do it, that something might go wrong, that I might hurt myself even more. I was worried about cost of the class, but my mom sat me down one night and said to me "I have no issues paying for this class. This is not different than it would be paying for college." So, I signed up for the November 2015 101 class. I messaged Deb via Facebook to let her know my interest for the class, and I also explained to her my health conditions and concerns, since I was worried that I may be pushed into doing something I couldn't. She told me that is was okay, and that if I couldn't do something not to push myself.
My first class was the day after Halloween, I had a raging hangover, and boy was I nervous. We did improv dancing, which felt awkward, and learned simple things, starter dance moves. I was sore after, but I felt great. I was excited, and hopeful. Something I hadn't felt in a really long time. She taught us how to put together a group routine, and our own routine, about picking music, costuming, and even how to make pasties; which is totally addictive by the way. She went over every question we had, and most importantly, she was supportive and understanding of everyone. I even learned things about myself, life lessons, that she didn't teach directly but I still learned because of her. I learned how to take care of my health better, to have patience with my body and condition, and to pace myself. During the six weeks of the 101 class, I was so stressed, so much happened during that time, a lot of changes in me happened. I had never choreographed something before, but I was determined. I wanted my act to be different, to stand out; just like me. I picked one of my favorite songs from Voltaire, and I decided to go a little creepy with it. I got a clown mask, and used clothing and lingerie that I had from modeling, and used that for costuming. Some days I stayed up all night, trying different dance moves, trying to smooth my routine out. I was sore daily, but I pushed through it. I was receiving support all over, Deb, the other ladies in my class, from my parents, boyfriend, friends, and even online. I really don't think I could have done this without all that support. At the end of the six week 101 class, we had a graduation show at a local club. We had to perform our group routine and the routine we created. All of my friends showed up to cheer me on, and they even brought me flowers, which I had to awkwardly explain to my brother the next morning as to why I brought flowers back from a "concert I attended". To my surprise, I wasn't really nervous that night. The group act went okay, I feel like I was way out of sync with the other dancers, but that's okay, I'm still learning. I performed last, so I got to watch the other ladies perform from the back. It was so exciting to see their final routine that we all worked so hard on during class up on stage. When it was my turn, the nerves finally decided to kick in, but once I was on stage, I didn't want to get off. Right before it was time to take my bra off, I thought "Oh man, this is almost over, shoot.. I don't wanna stop!" Right when I took my bra off, I heard someone in the audience grunt really loud and I had to keep myself from laughing (thankfully I was wearing a clown mask to cover my face). When it was over, my friend and I went to Ihop to get pancakes and celebrate. It was so exciting, to do something I've wanted to for so long, and to be around friends who love and support me unconditionally.
That night, my friend and I stayed up all night going through music we used to listen to back in middle school, trying to find fun songs that would make great routines. I found a song, "Wow I can get sexual too" that I joked about doing. She probably didn't think I was serious, but when I signed up for the 102 class in March, I put together a chair phone sex routine for that song. The 102 class was a little more challenging, we learned how to promote through social media and how important social media is to our jobs, we had to make our outfits a little more professional looking, we learned how to make our own things, make them match, and how to rhinestone. Which, by the way, I'm totally addicted to rhinestoning now and I will forever be sticking rhinestones to everything, and I won't stop until every thing I own is covered in sparklys. For 102, we don't get a graduation show, we go straight into professional shows. My first show was on April 26th, I don't think I'll ever forget that date. We had to perform both of our acts, the one we did for 101 and the one we worked on in 102. I had a total blast. I even had one girl come up to me after the show and say she came just to see me.
My parents have always been supportive, they've known I've done nude modeling off and on since I was 18, and have little to no issues with it. That being said, my dad was a little uncomfortable with his daughter doing burlesque at first. He didn't really want to believe that this might be what his daughter chooses for a career, he told my mom "It's a phase, it'll be like Neopets, here today, gone tomorrow" Well, little did he know, I still, at 21, play Neopets daily! Once I took the 102 class and saw how hopeful and determined I was about this, he supported it even more. I realize how grateful I am to have parents who let me make my own choices and still support me in doing so, even if my choices are a little more bizarre than others.
While my back does still give me some trouble every now and again, it's nowhere near as stressful or painful as it used to be. I still see my chiropractor, acupuncturist, and massage therapist regularly. It's kinda awkward to tell them, hey, I do burlesque now, but thankfully they where excited about it and even more willing to treat me and help me. I'm doing something I never thought I'd be able to, something I was told I would probably never be able to do. I'm happy, I'm HEALTHY... That's a word I've never been able to use in the 21 years of my life up until now. I'm full of hope, inspiration, positivity, and the will to create. I never thought I'd get here, but I am, and I am loving every step of the way. My life has changed so much since November, it's crazy to think about. Who knew that so much could change in just six months? But I will say this, I would have never made it without the support and care of my chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, photographers, parents, boyfriend, friends, my fans, and most of all, the beautiful Deb au Nare.
I just want people to know that anything is possible if you set your heart to it. Never ever lose sight of your dreams. "Don't dream it, be it." is a popular quote from Rocky Horror that means so much to me, I got it tattooed on my shoulder. It's something I live by, and I think others should too.