Before dipping my toe into the seductive pool of burlesque, I had no clue how real the intersection of burlesque and body positivity actually was. I'd seen the film Burlesque, featuring Christina Aquilera and Cher's wonderful performances, and I thought, like many industries, that burlesque celebrated a certain type of person. Mainly, a straight size, fair-skinned, cis, able woman. Little did I know that I had been underestimating what is actually an incredibly inclusive industry, which is slaying in the quest toward body positivity.
A good friend of mine opened my eyes to the realities of burlesque by dabbling in the art herself. She'd always been a confident, creative type, but I was still a little surprised to hear about her new hobby. At first, I was apprehensive to watch her performances (because once you've seen your friend almost naked, it's not something you can un-see). It wasn't about judging the nudity, of course. Rather, having overtly British sensibilities, I was just a little bit shy about watching my mate jiggling her lady parts around to a choreographed routine.
So I watched the videos, and I was astounded — not because of the cheeky striptease, but rather because my friend was shining. That's when I began to understand that burlesque is one of the most badass body positive industries out there right now. Here are just some reasons why.
1. It Celebrates All Types Of Bodies
Don't get me wrong: Dita Von Teese is an incredible woman who we can all learn something from, but she does represent traditional standards of beauty. I had no idea that burlesque celebrated all types of female beauty. It's an industry paving the way for all others to follow in terms of diverse representation. After all, every woman's body is different and that is what makes us all individually beautiful in our own right. Just check out Foxy Tann in her all-denim ensemble, dancing to an epic rock anthem. She's phenomenal. Or how about Lola L'Amore, who was repping plus size visibility before that was a thing people did? Let's not forget the plus size babes of burlesque group Fat Bottom Cabaret, either.
2. In Fact, It's An All-Inclusive Industry
Did you know that burlesque is not just for women? Take a peek at the divine Mr. Gorgeous in his delicious ice cream act and you'll see he can definitely hold his own in this world. The art form is literally for everyone, no matter their ethnicity, size, abilities, or gender.
3. It Encourages Performers & Their Audiences To Love Their Bodies
Like all humans, I'm willing to bet that burlesque performers face body image struggles. But when plus size performer Lillian Bustle gave a TEDx Talk to raise awareness of negative body image, she also informed people about how burlesque has helped change the way she sees her own body.
Ms. Bustle isn't the only one shining the body positive beacon, either. According to her website, aerial burlesque performer Midnite Martini suffered from body dysmorphia, but after discovering the aerial and burlesque communities, she recovered and learned to cultivate self love. As noted on her page, she "is happy to use her position in the community now to talk openly about body image, eating disorders awareness, and the empowerment of burlesque that helped her finally find love for her body."
4. It Allows Everyone To Feel Sexy & Confident
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, burlesque performer Creatrix Tiara explained how burlesque has influenced her body image. "Burlesque was the start of me really getting in touch with my body and my sexuality in ways that I hadn't done before," she told the publication. "I did get a lot of backlash from other performers and trolls in general about how I was too ugly/hairy/knock-kneed/fat/brown/etc. to do burlesque. That just spurred me on to be more radically body positive, to fight back against notions of there being One Good Burlesque Body, that people have to look a certain way to be qualified to go onstage." Take note from Ms. Tiara and don't let anyone put barriers on your existence.
5. It Allows Performers To Celebrate What Makes Them Unique
Mat Fraser is a creative force to be reckoned with. He has thalidomide-induced phocomelia, but he sure doesn't let his disability interfere with his burlesque routines. In fact, he uses it to add a unique edge to his acts while playing his persona "Seal Boy." Clearly, burlesque can be an accepting and loving industry in which people's differences are celebrated.
6. It Opens The General Public’s Eyes To All Different Kinds Of Beauty
Any industry that helps the general public actually see all kinds of beauty in its media consumption can only be a great one. ElegyEllem is an ethereal beauty who has tons of tattoos, a split tongue, and stretched earlobes. Ink, piercings, and body mods are a sign of one's personality and individuality; and celebrating as much in a visible way is radical.
7. It Allows Performers To Have Fun With The Skin They’re In
A ravishing woman wearing a dramatic headpiece and riding a decadent rocking horse, a plus size performer dressed as a turkey to celebrate the holiday season, and a couple of gals taking lessons on "How to be a lady." What do they have in common? They adore themselves. The comedic side of burlesque allows performers to have a laugh with their routines and poke fun at themselves and societal "norms," which highlights their incredible strength of character and proves they must love every inch of themselves.
Hopefully, this list will help you see the burlesque industry with a fresh set of eyes. Experiencing another badass outlet of body positivity can only be a good thing.
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