Hello world! It’s Stripper Talk time! This is a series where I field questions and answer them to the best of my ability, hopefully giving anyone who’s interested in burlesque some insight.
This week’s question comes from ‘BB’ who wishes to remain anonymous.
My problem I am coming to you with is this:
I am having trouble letting myself be sexy. I feel awful in my skin and presence when attempting to do anything sexy.
I am fairly new to burlesque with just over a year under my belt, but over ten years experience with performing in general. I love being on stage and neo-burlesque style comes to me with ease. I feel totally comfortable and sexy when I am doing a silly, raunchy, playful and even dark humoured routine, but as soon as I attempt a serious sexy strut or slow and sultry classic strip I feel so uncomfortable; I immediately do a silly face or air hump to break the serious tension.
I don’t allow myself to be sexy. I don’t believe I am sexy enough to do a routine where I am acknowledging myself as a sexy woman. I am an average figured woman (not small enough to be considered skinny and not large enough to be considered a big beautiful woman). Too average to be sexy. This problem became apparent when I attended a Lola Frost beginner chair dance workshop. I entered the class and looked around at all the beautiful sexy women – I know I should not compare myself to others, but I did. I felt not sexy and that I didn’t belong there or that I didn’t belong in the burlesque world at all.
I love that anything is possible with burlesque and I want to go as far as I possibly can with it. This hang up is holding me back and I have no idea of how to get over it. Any tips, advice or stories will help, or even assurance that I am normal, for that matter.
Thank you so much Sydni, you are so inspirational and I am grateful for your time and blog. Your words and wisdom are life changing.
Thanks for the compliment and for sending in such a great question! I’m sorry to hear that you’re having a hard time with this, so hopefully my thoughts on this matter can help you; I feel like a lot of women (in every walk of life, not just burlesque) struggle with this.
**I should add a disclaimer to my answer to you: It is quite possible that I will dive into some nerdy, perhaps metaphysical stuff that I’m into in order to give you an answer that I’m content to give you. Take what you want, leave what you don’t, okay? Let’s go!
I think this idea that women have about ‘being’ sexy is such a strange one. The idea that you have to subscribe to a certain set of ‘sexy’ facial expressions (ex: that ‘O’ face, or looking slightly bored) and movements, etc., is extremely limiting to the idea of sexy, don’t you think? I suggest that you set aside some time to really explore what ‘sexy’ really means to you. Look at the performers, women and men that you admire for being what you find sexy and try to discover what other adjectives also apply to them. What are the ingredients (think qualities) in this sexy person soup that you want to enjoy for yourself?
I have to tell you, I especially love this question and that it came to me because only a few years ago I had a lot of the same feelings as you did about wanting to goof off in moments of seriousness due to personal discomfort. At the time, I was primarily identifying as a neo-burlesque performance artist and was known for my acts that injected humour and campy theatricality. I kept being pulled to try more classic styles, but I was also uncomfortable with it. (Tip: You need to sit with this discomfort, BB – find out where it ultimately comes from. Then do something about it; own it, change it or discard whatever belief you have in there.)
My personal journey as a woman led me to classic burlesque; it chose me and not the other way around. My ongoing evolution of ‘woman’ is mirroring my evolution as an ‘artist’ or ‘performer’. I don’t think that classic burlesque is necessarily more ‘sexy’ than other styles of burlesque, and I certainly don’t think that every performer has to have a classic act or engage in being ‘serious’ on stage or what mainstream culture deems ‘sexy’. It works if you work it – neo, classic or otherwise!
I think it would be wise to try to shrug off any perceived notions of what ‘sexy’ acts like, and then try to discover what makes you happy. Maybe play with the idea that ‘confident’ or ‘happy’ is ‘sexy’! My journey to ‘sexy’ on stage is when I look ‘happy’ and having a good time, nothing more, nothing less. That way, my humour (which is filthy) can shine through at the right time without going to a place of being a character – I’m just being myself.
Things to consider:
1. There’s nothing in this world that says that ‘sexy’ can’t be ‘funny’. A well placed air-hump can be glorious; after all, we are in the business of bump-and-grind, my darling!
2. Your physical appearance has nothing to do with whether you are ‘sexy’. Sexy isn’t an eye colour, a waist measurement or a breast size.
3. Sexy = confidence. Sexy on stage = being confident or playing confident.
4. Other people’s sexy isn’t going to be yours. I am not sexy when I try that ‘cute girl’ thing that many performers much smaller than me can do. You are wise to try not to compare yourself to others; I suggest you do more work around it!
OK! So here’s some simple exercises you can do to bring sexy back!
1. Smile at yourself when you are in a mirror, especially when you are rehearsing. Try rehearsing your whole act with a smile or a variance of your smile. I think smiling is great because it’s a moment of confidence shining on your face. Audiences love smiling ladies (and men) in burlesque; this exercise can help you get more confidence in your body. You might not choose to smile when you’re on an actual stage performing, but it will help infuse confidence into your core. (Major feather-tip to Catherine D’Lish, who makes me do this in all rehearsals with her!)
2. Tell yourself: ‘I love myself’. No, seriously. If you don’t love yourself or like yourself, where is that ‘sexy’ gonna spill out of? If you don’t believe it at first, that’s okay – just keep telling yourself. The brain is pretty cool – you can reprogram it! If you don’t believe me, there’s this awesome thing called Google – start learning!
3. Write a list of all of the qualities you have that you think are sexy. (Just a hint: humour goes on this list.)
4. Know that a veritable well of your own essence of ‘eau de sex’ is inside of you. If you tell yourself that you’re ‘not sexy’, your ‘sexy’ (that’s deep down inside of you) isn’t going to show up to prove you wrong. (It’s that brain thing again.)
5. Stand up straight. ALL OF THE TIME. Body language can send cues to our brain and vice versa. If I’m having a ‘not-confident’ day, I check in with my body and fix it really quick! Pull in your core; support yourself as you walk through this world!
6. Make eye contact with people. People you talk to all the time. Strangers that don’t look crazy on the street. (But don’t stare – that’s when it gets weird!)
7. Smile more. At first it might feel fake, but think of something happy – and then smile! The more you smile the more you’ll have things to smile about.
8. Learn to take a compliment. NO excuses or unwarranted explanations! Just say thank you!
9. Play up your attributes, day in and day out. Over time, your attributes will grow if you acknowledge and allow for it.
10. Be grateful for the body you have. Be grateful for your life and for the wonderful feminine energy that graces you. Please know that you can be grateful for your body while choosing to improve it (this should be entirely personal preference), if you see fit. If you’re not choosing to change then you had better be in the helpful habit of loving yourself, otherwise you’re just making yourself miserable. I personally believe that the only way your body ultimately chooses to make those changes for you is because you’re appreciating it. Your brain is a powerful thing – it’s running the whole show!
“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change” – Dr. Dyer
To sum it up, sweet BB – find and cultivate your confidence in all areas of your life in order to access it on stage. From there, I personally think the ‘sexy’ will have no other reason but to spill out! And no matter what, try to do things that you’re pleased with and that make you happy – you needn’t do anything on stage just because you think someone expects it of you.
I wish you all the success that you crave!