Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
Born and bred New Yorker, Legs Malone, aka the Girl With The Thirty-Four and a Half Inch Inseam talks to CoochieCrunch how to Love your body and Love yourself.
Author’s Note: Although I use the feminine pronouns and appear to aim this towards women, this is for everyone who has a body. Whether you are a woman, a man or otherly gendered, I want to know that I am speaking to you in love, support and a prayer of healing for you to find peace within your perception of your body.
Lily Tomlin once said; “We’re all in this together, by ourselves.” I saw this on a page-a-day calendar I received from my mom for Christmas many years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. How can you be on your own when surrounded by others? It may sound paradoxical but there is truth in there – allow me to explain.
As a burlesque dancer, I am often close to naked in public. This frequent state of unclothedness creates all sorts of reactions in people; excitement, attraction, titillation and celebration to name a few. But there is one reaction that happens every now and again that causes me both upset and sadness. Call it hatred, jealousy, extreme dislike – the appearance of the perceiver is always the same. Often always a woman, she has her arms crossed, head or at least eyes turned away from me with a look on her face that ranges from ignoring to outright disgust. I always wonder if these women have paid admission to the show because if they have, why are they there if they are so visibly uncomfortable with the naked female body? The first time it happened, I was at first shocked and hurt. Couldn’t they see that I was coming from a place of love and celebration? And then I got angry. Who were they to treat me with such disgust? If only they knew how far I had come, from a sick, self-hating girl to an upstanding woman who reveled in her beauty? It took several more disgusted-looking women turning away from me yet again for it to dawn on me that the reason they couldn’t look at me was because they cannot bear to look at themselves. My anger softened and turned to sadness for these women. Instead of reacting to their glares at or away from me, I started to reach out to them, to offer them a kind smile or a simple hello, just letting them know that I’m a person too, just as they are. Some of them stubbornly refuse to engage, but some of them soften in turn, if not smiling back, relaxing their grimace into a softer expression. If I can connect with them later, I’m always happy to do so, but often I don’t. But that discreet shift, for me, is worth its weight in gold.
I find that the beauty of burlesque lies in celebration; of the self, of the body and of the spirit. In dancing one’s heart out, I find the magic of burlesque lies in when the body becomes almost secondary to the vivid beauty of the spirit. I see the effect that these performances have upon the audience, men and women alike. There is great medicine in witnessing the stunning diversity of the performers as they embrace their bodies and their selves and create something transcendent, a performance that blows people’s minds. This is, however, not to say that these amazing artists are immune from the criticism and judgements of others. In exposing their bodies and their art, they open themselves up to the opinions of others and let me tell you, some people say some nasty things. On several occasions, I have seen some of the most beautiful women I know backstage in a state of anger, upset, sadness, hurt or confusion after hearing criticism or some terrible comment while they’ve been onstage. In the sisterhood backstage, we are all there to support and cancel out any rude judgements that may have been hurled at them, but it drives home the point that no one is immune from these hurtful thoughts. You can be at your best, surrounded by those who love you when someone lobs an unwelcome critique or mere glance that shakes us off our confidence and into a space of self-doubt, uneasiness and emotional frailty. In those moments, it’s very easy to feel totally and utterly alone.
There is a sickness in our society, in our culture and it starts with judgment. Have you ever heard the phrase “to compare is to despair”? When we compare ourselves to someone who we think is either more or less beautiful than we are, feeling or making ourselves either small or large in the presence of this person is doing no one any good, no matter the transitory sense of satisfaction it may give us. In the same vein, to bond with each other over a common jealousy, putting down someone else to make ourselves feel better – this is an aspect of the sickness that hides itself as an emotional band-aid.
Thankfully, this sickness can be healed and it starts with all of us together but firstly, by ourselves.
We live in a society that superficially judges people’s value on their appearance and many of us live at the effect of this judgment. Look at the advertising that surrounds us and fills every moment of our days. On television commercials, in fashion/gossip/lifestyle magazines, on the sides of buses, plastered on billboards, programmed into the pithy dialogues of sitcoms and tv shows and into the great human drama – this baseless judgement is everywhere. And this illness is penetrating everyone, even young children who call themselves fat and ugly and want to go on a diet. And we wonder why. Because it’s everywhere and in everyone’s minds. And it’s up to us whether we choose to accept it or not.
Thought is creative. What we think creates our life experience. And all belief is based on a single thought, thought repeatedly. Once you change your thoughts, you change your life. So what happens when we change the thought that we are ugly, unworthy of love and turn it into a thought of self-empowerment, love and the knowledge that each of us are unlimited potential? Our lives begin to change for the better, almost immediately. It may sound simplistic and often, the shift of these thoughts can take some time, but getting ready to change takes time – the change itself is immediate.
If we want to affect what we perceive outside of us, it’s up to each of us to shift the direction of our thoughts. If each of us makes the choice to honor our own beauty and thusly the beauty we see in those around us, we begin to change our world. And when we feel judgement rising, we have a choice whether or not to listen to that thought. It may feel really difficult, as if the devil of temptation is cajoling us into wallowing in the same shallow judgements that bring us nothing but emptiness and sorrow. It boils down to those pivotal moments, when we begin to look past appearances and into our own hearts. It’s up to each and every one of us to take our own hand and walk forward in compassion for our own individuality and the uniqueness of those around us.
If you want to change these thoughts in your own mind, start a new diet, one of forgiveness for yourself and abstinence from anything that peddles body criticism. Start being a beacon of love in your community and in your family through your words and actions. Be an example for those around you. Know that your vulnerability is your strength and honor your feelings. Once you have nothing to hide, you cannot be hurt. It is safe for you to stand in the light of the truth. Yes, it’s an incredibly scary step to take, but as you begin to set yourself free, you will affect not only the course of your life but the lives of those around you. You may find that the more you begin to change these thoughts, you will begin to attract like-minded people who will reflect back your burgeoning sense of intrinsic beauty and reinforce it.
No matter the shape, size, texture or color(s) of our bodies, our appearances ultimately have no bearing on the truth of our being. Sure, it’s nice to have a good hair day or a new outfit to wear out but at the end of the day, our appearances mean absolutely nothing and have no bearing on our worth.
In this light, I want you to love your body. Stop putting yourself down and start holding yourself up. Your body allows you to feel and experience everything that life has to offer. I want you to see its inherent beauty and acknowledge the gift of having a body no matter its appearance. And I want you to stop believing that you are only lovable if you are pretty, because you’re worthy of love exactly as you are.
In closing, I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
~ Marianne Williamson
, A Return to Love
With love and a prayer for you to recognize your body’s total worthiness of love and celebration,
Legs Malone x
You can learn more about this by joining Legs Malone at her “Healing your Relationship with Your Body” workshop. CoochieCrunch is delighted to present her next workshop at The Hatchet in Bristol, September 4, 2012, 7-9pm. £20. You can find details here.