There are those in our sparkle filled lives we don’t always publicly thank. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about all the wonderful burlesque partners that we have in this community, and to them I want to say an often overlooked thank you!
I have spent the last several months talking, thinking, and “wanting” to write. I have written down several goals, many of which included writing, but do you know the one thing I haven’t been doing? Writing. Seems a bit counter productive right? Well duh.
Writing is a skill. Burlesque is a skill. Costume making is a skill. And what all three of these things have in common, is that if you don’t practice, you will never excel at whatever skill you are setting out to achieve. I talk about this ALL THE TIME, but for the past few months, I found excuse after excuse to not do the things that I love so much.
But why? Well, its the reasons that all of us give ourselves: “I’m tired”, “I have other commitments”, “I am not feeling inspired”, “I don’t feel good at what I do”, “so and so does this way better than I do so why should I try?” For months I’ve been settling for these excuses as truths all the while finding time to scroll through social media for HOURS, only to compare myself to these idealized images of others that we create online.
This was counterproductive and ultimately landed me in a depression of woe is me, that one mindset that is comfortable and familiar, but absolutely SUCKS! So here I am now, still feeling many of the above sentiments, wondering why anyone would be interested in what I write and who really cares about the opinion of an outspoken performer, but knowing that if I don’t get in the habit of practicing writing, yes even bad writing, then I can never succeed at my goals.
Ultimately, that is a fact that we have to overcome, knowing that everything we do will no have the Midas touch. If you are an artist, you will at some point and time in your life create crappy art, no matter what the medium. You have to set your ego aside and allow for the process to work without a set destination. You have to love the act of creating so much, that you just stop caring if the end product ends up shyt, or at least know that if your first attempt didn’t succeed, you can always go back and adjust. That’s what art is, it’s evolutionary. We are (or can be) evolutionary.
So if there is a goal you want to reach, you have to just go out and make the time to practice. Even if it is only 10-20 minutes a day. Set up a schedule on your phone, and block out periods of time that is meant just for you. If we can spend an hour or more on social media mindlessly scrolling wondering why we even care in the first place, then we can afford to take a few moments out of your day to work towards a bigger picture. I promise you will feel better and more accomplished. And if you start feeling bad about your starting point, take time to track your progress. Take a picture or video each time your practice then look back at your work to see how far you’ve grown when you start to have moments of self doubt. You will be surprised with the results. So go out, fucking practice, and as I constantly tell myself, Do Better.
Dear woman on the street,
You are not my competition.
Dear talented sisters working behind the scenes,
You are not who I strive to be.
Dear gorgeous beauties who time and time again I have been
assured of your jealousy towards me to validate my ego,
You are not my end goal.
Hello familiar face,
Restless eyes who has seen what I’ve seen,
Hands who have touched what I’ve felt,
And heart who knows my deepest yearnings,
You are my only competition.
My daily task list consists of goals and aspirations that are set
day after day so that the only person I am better than,
The only person who I want to rise above,
Is the girl who stared back at me yesterday.
The girl shedding her skin,
To become a better woman tomorrow.
Photo by Manny Man Photography
I’ve been thinking a few feisty thoughts about feminine power and societies response to it. Throughout history there are examples of societies taking steps to lessen a woman’s power, both physically and through weakening her spirit. We see this in the battle for women’s rights to choose what happens to their bodies, we see this through laws that create women as second class citizens, and we see this through the social normative behaviors that constantly belittle women till they themselves believe their power is less than. Lately, I have been thinking about these behaviors in relationship to a woman’s ability to give birth and her relationship with that birthing experience.
Almost four years ago I gave birth to my daughter. It was an experience I would never forget and that I was fortunate enough to have. When I found out I was pregnant, I chose to go through a midwife and to have my baby naturally and out of a hospital. For living in the states, going through a midwife is incredibly taboo. Besides the point that we live in a healthcare based society, the idea of having a child naturally, especially to American women, is a nightmare. We are led to believe that the pain is so great we could not stand it. We are told that if there are drugs to numb the pain, why even endure the efforts? American women are so used to being told that we are weak that many no longer believe they are capable of giving birth, one of the most natural experiences there is.
Now before you start believing that I am so naive and in my own perfect world bubble, I get it. I understand why we would believe that. I battled with the same thought process every time someone questioned my logic and capabilities to go through with a natural birth. And the fact that I was planning on a having a baby outside of the hospital, LORD, I have never received so many concerned inquiries/prayers/wtf and I doings in my life. The fact of the matter was, I was tired of being told that I wasn’t as strong as I know I am. Ladies, we are fierce, amazing, fabulous life-giving beings, and even if you never decide to have children, just knowing AND believing that fact is empowering.
Child-bearing is a power that we should take strength in and know that we can do, and we can do without the assistance of what is considered normal American health care procedures. We are not fragile. If you have a low-risk healthy pregnancy and labor past 37 weeks, you are physically capable of surviving the pains of normal birth. That’s not to say that no women needs modern medicine. There are various reasons why a doctor would become necessary; high-risk birth, multiples, pre-term labor, extensive labor, or sometimes the baby is literally just too big. These are a few of the times when it makes sense to seek a doctor. But what I am referring to specifically is that we grow up believing that the normal procedure for giving birth is being drugged up with pain killing and labor inducing medications in a hospital bed before ever giving any indication of physically needing them. The first thought of going into labor should not be a reach for unnecessary medication.
It used to be that many women would deliver at home, and even now in many European countries it is normal practice to only go to a midwife unless something is going wrong in your pregnancy. This shift has happened for multiple reasons, commercialization of the health care industry, a shift from midwifery to the hospital system, and social practices of over medicating to name a few, but there is one more that we don’t talk about too often. The continually exaggeration of women as weak and incapable creatures who can’t bear pain, despite our bodies being designed to overcome.
So the next time you may or may not hear a friend, family member, or even some random Facebook friend (the one you aren’t quite sure where you met them, but you feel it may be too rude to delete them JUST in case), talk about natural childbirth, don’t let the first thing you think or say be, “Oh I could NEVER do that!” You can. You have that strength. You have that power. You have that capability, and your body is fucking magnificent! Now if you choose not to because you just don’t want to go through that pain, fine, to each their own. But you are much stronger than you ever thought.
I’ve taken a lot of time for reflection in the beginning of this year. December was a busy month, with social obligations every other day, so by the time the New Year came I was ready to disengage and just spend some time at home to get grounded. In my reclusive state, I spent a good amount of time thinking about what my goals were for this year, and although I have a bevy of surface level goals, I wanted to take this year to closely pay attention to how I take up space in this world.
As many women have experienced, there is a timidness of how we were raised. To this day I catch myself shutting down if I’m challenged by a male or a person in charge, even when I know I am in the right. There have been multiple times when I have consciously made myself physically as small as possible so that the person sitting next to me can continue to spread there body and take up as much space as they wish, just so I didn’t have to confront the situation. There are numerous times when walking down the sidewalk I’ve had to pull some Tetris maneuvers just so someone else could continue taking more space walking down the side walk. I have learned to ebb and flow in between others perceived self-assertive natures.
But there comes a time, when looking at photos and wondering why I didn’t stand up as straight as possible even if I would have been towering over others in my 6 foot stance in heels, that you start to question why shouldn’t I take up the natural space I have been given? Why should I make myself smaller so that others notice me less? Why shouldn’t I walk down the streets, claiming a reasonable amount of area for myself with pride and confidence? Why should I let others, who either have the courage or arrogance make me feel less than I should with just body language?
So I have decided that this is the year I stand tall and hold my ground. When I’m at the gym, in the perceived boys lifting area doing squats, I refuse to look down timidly almost asking forgiveness for being in that area. When I’m walking down the street, I refuse to pull some back bending motion just because a group of rude people decide to walk three across with no consideration for traffic moving in the opposite direction. And when I’m taking photos, I will stand tall, no matter what the height of those in the photo with me. Unless we’re all sitting down or doing some cute pose. Because who wants to be that asshole?
So here is my challenge to you. Take up your space. Even if you are in a demographic that society has continuously tried to deem lesser than. No, ESPECIALLY if you are in a demographic that society is trying to keep down. Hold your head high, and know that you are 1 in 4 billion. Occupy the space that you have been given.
*Photo by Vixen Photography*
Dear Little Rhinestone,
Our beginnings together started joyously, carefully opening your paper pouch to reveal your shining glory and luminous color. Meticulously I created a pattern bringing to life all my showgirl dreams so that you may forever live under the lights, transporting the audience to decadent dreams. This could have been your destiny. This could have been you, but instead your final days will be lived in lost crevasses and corners until one day you are picked up by my bare feet and placed in the mixed bag with the remaining lost stones. There you will sit until you get to live out your new hopeful destiny as a replacement rhinestone for a mended costume. I’m sorry you fell off my tool while trying to place you. I’m sorry that you were tossed on the carpet when my cat decided to jump onto my lap consequently spilling the entire plate of all of your shining siblings. Until you reach your true destination my costume won’t be complete. Rest easy lost rhinestone, for I will find you. Unless you end up in the vacuum, and in that case, sorry about it.
A Sad Showgirl
Some of you may already know this, but beyond being a performer, a producer, and a traveling showgirl, I am also a mother to a very feisty little girl who will be three this April. From the moment that I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, literally the next day, I was onstage and determined to not let this pregnancy trample my dreams of being a traveling burlesque performer. I worked diligently throughout my pregnancy, altering costumes and acts, to better support my growing belly and growing ambition. I performed up until a month before she was born. When she was only two months old, I traveled with her across the country for my first burlesque competition in Charleston, South Carolina.
As she got older, I continued to travel and perform whenever I was given the opportunity. She came with me to Charlotte when she was young and still breast-feeding. Later I went to Seattle, Texas, Toronto, New York, London, and so many other places on my own. Sometimes I would opt for a quick trip, landing the day of the show and leaving directly after the conclusion of the event, which could be either a night or a weekend. Sometimes my husband would care for her like when I took off for nine days to go to New Orleans and Albuquerque. But one thing was for sure, the older she became, the more difficult it was to leave her.
Every trip I cry. Not just a few tears streaming down my face, I mean ugly cry. I text my girlfriend, Sassy Stiletto, to remind myself why I do what I do, and if I am making the right decision as a parent. Each time I read her response through my tears telling me that if I don’t take care of myself, of my own dreams and aspirations, then I will have nothing to give my daughter. And although that makes me feel better, as I tuck her into bed, or kiss her goodbye at the airport repeating the one phrase that I have told her since she was an infant in my arms, “Mommy always comes back to you,” it doesn’t make it any easier. But still, I get on that plane, and I give the audience every ounce of me that I possibly have to give.
Once I get to my destination it’s usually easier. I see my friends who I don’t always see and performances that inspire me to continue bettering my craft, but every now and then you just have to have a moment to yourself. I remember when I was competing in London, about an hour before I was supposed to hit the stage with my stage make-up in tact and nervous energy flowing rampantly, I heard this family from the other table call to their little girl, about three years older than my daughter, “Brody”. Now Brody is not a very common name for little girls, and I had yet to meet another one until this moment, but I looked to the family and clarified whether or not their daughter’s name was Brody. Of course when they responded yes, I sat there, attempting to continue a polite conversation while fighting back tears. Finally, as my voice started to crack and I could no longer hid the tears running down my face as I was forcing myself to smile, I excused myself directly to the bathroom where I broke down in a crying hysteria all the while trying to save most of my stage make-up.
At the moment, I have cut back my travel significantly. This decision wasn’t made directly because of my daughter, other goals and aspirations definitely weighed in, but at this very, very, very, VERY difficult stage (yes moms to older children, I know it only gets worse – I mean new “challenges” later on present themselves) I thought it would be best to spend more time with her until we get past this phase. But if you do find yourself traveling with little ones, I have a few tips to help you survive.
- Remember the reasons why you do this. Being a mother means giving so much of yourself to someone else. It’s easy to lose your own identity in this mix and will continue to be a juggling act as they get older. Remember to take care of yourself and remember your dreams pre-baby.
- Facetime/Skype often. Technology is remarkable, and calling and seeing my baby girl, even before she talked, really helped to alleviate the guilt and longing… a bit.
- Have a support system back home you can trust. Having people who know your child, and who you trust with your baby’s life is imperative. Whether it’s mom/dad, grandparents, relatives, or just a very good family friend to take care of your little ones, make the decision that you will be most relieved with.
- Give all the information you can before you leave. Make all the lists you need to feel like if something happens to your child, they know where to call. It’s okay to have plans A through Z mapped out if it’s going to make you feel better. Whether or not they will follow it to a T is another story, but if it will help you sleep at night, then do what you have to do.
- Have a special phrase for you and your little one. I was terrified that Brody was going to think I left her for good, so I always reiterate to her that no matter what, I will come back. Every time I get off Facetime or when I leave, I repeat this to her, and after a while, she just knows. It’s almost like a mantra for just you two, even if they can’t repeat it yet.
- Allow yourself moments to disconnect. Don’t forget to make friends. Have fun. Do all the things that non-parents do when you are gone. Don’t feel guilty about having fun. If you spent all your time doing that, then what’s the point of leaving in the first place.
Being a mama and a traveling showgirl is a difficult challenge. But I promise you, you can do it. <3
A few days ago I wrote a blog post with the intention of sharing it today on my birthday. It is incredibly personal, to the point that I talk about things that even my husband and family aren’t aware of. It reflects on a very dark time in my life and how I feel about it today.
I hid that post and did not have the courage to share it until now. But all the reasons why I’ve hidden it are all the reasons why I believe that we as a society need to talk about these matters. Every excuse that I had given myself, which really comes down to personal scrutiny, are reasons that may give someone else who has lost their voice hope. So without further delay, my birthday post.
Today is my birthday, and although it’s a rather insignificant birthday by society’s standards, it’s impactful to me. You see, a long time ago, when I was consumed with terror and self-loathing, I made a promise to myself. A promise that will not be upheld. It was a promise to take my own life by the time I was twenty-seven.
Now I know that to many of you that comes as a shock, but a little over a decade ago, those words would not have been as unpredictable as it is right now. I was a young girl, scared, alone, and worst of all unnoticed. I screamed out for help, using all methods except my voice. I was afraid of my voice. I didn’t understand the power that it held and as many young women unfortunately experience, I was the victim of sexual assault.
I took that pain, that shame, and that utter betrayal and hid it deep inside. But it wouldn’t go away. It was always there, killing me from the inside out. By the time I was seventeen I was addicted to cocaine and basically any pills I could get my hands on. By the time I was nineteen I was addicted to heroin and blowing off family functions like Christmas to continue to live in a fantasy. By the time I was twenty, after countless ruined relationships, a brief stint in rehab, and continued disappointment from those who loved me most, I decided I had to leave home in Charleston to make a new life in San Diego. At that time, I did not make a conscious decision to heal, but I knew that I had to leave home where I had created this safety web to continue to enable all my addictions.
When I moved to San Diego, I had no plan. I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to make money. I just knew that I was suppose to be there at that moment in time. About a year into my move, I saw a post about burlesque auditions with a then local troupe. I had no experience in dance and had never seen an actual burlesque show, but I knew that I loved the videos I saw online of Dita, and the old Teaserama films. I decided to give it a shot. My first audition was horrible and terribly cliche, but they were nice enough to give me pointers and give me an opportunity to re-audition. I took their pointers, and auditioned again. It was better, still awful, but they saw something in me that I didn’t even know I had, and they gave me a spot within the troupe.
My first performance with them was five years ago at their Valentine’s Day show. It’s crazy to think that five years has gone by. The longer I performed and the more I learned from so many prolific teachers and performers, the more I understood that to be a better performer, I had to really take a look at what was going on within me. I had to set out to heal so many old wounds that I had continued to cover up. I had to let go of so much of that anger and pain before I could be the performer onstage that embodied confidence, love, and power. That’s it, if I wanted to be a dynamic force onstage, I had to take back my power.
I credit finding burlesque as the tool that gave me back my life. Performing with so many talented, strong, and inspirational performers has opened the doors to journeys I never thought I would experience. From flying across the world, to performing on Vegas stages, to witnessing many legends, and legends in the making, showcase sexuality, femininity, and masculinity, in the way THEY most adore while audiences responded with pure bliss. This journey continues to feed my soul.
I now find myself in the position that not only have I reclaimed my voice with purpose, but I can now be a voice for so many who have had similar experiences. So this birthday, what I would love more than anything, is for anyone who has ever felt like their power has been taken from them, to go out and reclaim it. Find that something that makes your soul sing. Remember that these journeys take time, and don’t get discouraged. Everyday is a chance to continue to move forward, and as long as you are going forward, no matter what the speed, that progress to be proud of. Thank you for continuing this journey with me. It means the world. <3
My Burlesque Journey
My first Photoshoot as a Performer
My first show in that horrible wig! (Gahhhh!)
My first festival in San Francisco.
Performing 7 months pregnant.
Promotional material shot by Miss Missy Photography.
That time when I performed and placed at Viva Las Vegas!
Performing in London for the World Burlesque Games.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the things that I easily take for granted. In the wake of many world events and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, my mind has been plagued with some really heavy thoughts and emotions. In fact, in the midst of trying to keep things light-hearted and acceptable, I have started six other blog posts, only to feel that all of them were entirely too shallow to even post. So instead, I’m going to write down what I am grateful for and focus on the things that we often take for granted.
1- A loving family
I have been blessed with a husband who adores me and pushes me to chase my dreams. I wake up every day to a rambunctious little girl who has a way of bringing joy to everyone she encounters. I have extended family who are my biggest cheerleaders, no matter what the distance. And all of them accept me for who I am and what I love to do.
Family is not to be taken for granted. Sometimes others can’t fully be themselves around their family, or don’t have family to turn to. Sometimes partners aren’t always the most supportive people, and will do what they can to hold back others from reaching their full potential because of their own fears and insecurities. Sometimes, couples aren’t able to have that child that they dreamed of. But the lovely thing about family, is you can create your own. The formula for a loving and supportive family is not set in stone. Whoever your network is for support, love, and care, hold them tight and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life.
2- My health
As a performer, I have to move, a lot. Often times I don’t think about how lucky I am just to be able to bend my knees, or easily get up and down from the floor. Simple everyday movements can be forgotten until you don’t have the capability to do them. I’ve started adopting a new philosophy at the gym. Instead of dreading the upcoming workout and groaning about it, I think how lucky I am that I can even do this. Think of how fortunate you are to have the energy to even get out of the bed to go for a walk. Treat your bodies with love and watch how it repays you.
3- To be able to perform burlesque without fear.
I think to myself constantly, how different my life would be if I lived in an area that has been overtaken by people who feel that women are objects and their lives are subject to laws that are based off extremism. I get to walk on that stage without fear of imprisonment, punishment, or even worse, death. I get to completely be who I am without having to worry about ruining or taking my life. Everyone who is able to walk their truth should be completely grateful.
4- I get to have petty worries.
Some of my everyday anxieties involve bills, what to make for dinner, getting costumes and acts completed in time, and reaching my full potential. There are people in the world worrying about clean water, war ravaged lands, and surviving. If you are privileged, please remember this.
I know this post is a bit more somber than you are used to, but sometimes we need that in the world. I recently saw something that said, “Instead of asking our children what they want to be when they grow up, we are asking them what problems do they want to solve.” There is something so simple and prolific about that statement. In the midst of all your gratitude tomorrow, why don’t we ask ourselves what problems do we want to solve. What can we do with our privilege to help make this world better for everyone. Life is more worth living when everyone is included in the bounty.
Happy Holidays loves!
When I first started burlesque, I thought each act debut had to be perfect. It had to be the pinnacle of burlesque and the most BHoF worthy act ever created. Obviously, when first starting you don’t have the skill set to present the act you envision, but in my perfectionist mind, this was the only way to debut an act.
The longer I perform though, the more I realize that a debut is like a working rough draft. You get your basic ideas on the stage, tailor them to the best of your time and ability, and expect to redo, scratch, and recreate the more you perform it. No mater what you do, there will be mistakes and parts that don’t work, and sometimes, the only way to discover that, is by getting it onstage. Just like proof reading, sometimes you need multiple eyes, and multiple drafts before you get it right. Many of my favorite acts have been workshopped with top performers and I constantly send videos out for feedback. Something to keep in mind is that many top performers’ acts have been performed for years and years, with many iterations.
So the next time you create an act, leave some room to play. Leave a few eight counts of improv to see what your audience likes. Remember it takes years of refinement to get it right.