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.