Hi. My name is Kristin. Like many of you, I am a hot fried basket of fears, insecurities, and anxieties, particularly when it comes to my body.
But one of the things I have been told I DEFINITELY can't be is sexy -- especially in a plus-size body.
So -- because I love making rule-makers unhappy -- I decided to try the sexiest body-related thing that I could think of: BURLESQUE DANCING.
Burlesque dancing, in case you don't know, is a big sexy creative celebration of the body.
It involves artfully and teasingly performing sensual (and sometimes humorous!) dance routines, often while removing your clothes in a slow and enticing way. But there are lots of way to ~remove your clothes~, and performing burlesque does not necessarily mean getting naked, if that's not your jam!
HERE WAS MY CHALLENGE: I would enlist burlesque performer and teacher Natasha Vee of Hells Belles BurIesque for four lessons over the course of a month, and then I would do a performance. Live. In front of actual, real humans.
Could I do it? Or would I embarrass myself so badly that I would need to change my name and grow a witness protection mustache? BUCKLE UP AND LET'S FIND OUT.
Look, burlesque is a beautifully sensual dance form, and I'm about as graceful as a paper doll that a witch cursed into being alive.
But to my surprise, my teacher Natasha told me right off the bat that she had never, ever seen a burlesque performance go wrong. EVER!
Before we started planning my routine, Natasha taught me some sweet and sensual burlesque moves, which I of course executed flawlessly:*
At the end, Natasha told me (believe it or not) that I had a natural ability to pick up choreography, which is a fact I listened to and then immediately flushed down the toilet of my brain, because there was just no way that was true.
For my performance, we decided that I was going to take on the identity of a ~sexy housewife~.
For my costume, I would strip off some gloves and an apron, and I would end the show in a corset, underwear, and fishnets, much like I do in most nightmares.
We also wanted to make the corset really special-looking, and that meant sticking rhinestones on it until it could be seen from space.
I asked the entire BuzzFeed L.A. office for suggestions on what my ~burlesque~ name should be, and they had simply incredible suggestions:
I ended up going with "Cherry Ontop" because it's a pun on my name and it can double as my Bond girl name if my life ever takes a really drastic left turn.
Next, we choreographed the first half of my performance, which would be a ~sexy baking routine~ -- complete with a wooden spoon and bowl -- to go with my housewife persona.
We also included many hair flips, which, uh:
The other thing about flipping your hair is that it basically turns your glasses into little projectile weapons.
The second half of my choreography was all about learning to ~take them clothes off~.
In burlesque, you can't just remove your clothes — that's for normals. You go slow. You make the audience work for it. You use your teeth! And once an article of clothing comes off, it becomes a sexy prop that you can run all over your body.
I tried sensually removing my apron, but as it turns out, real aprons are not designed to be easily removed from your body, and I got tangled in the ties no fewer than 3 billion times.
To keep me from getting rusty while I was on vacay, Natasha recorded herself doing my routine and told me to watch the video every day. "I WILL DEFINITELY PRACTICE!" I said, lyingly.
When I got back, I did my first full practice of my performance on a stage without Natasha's help.
Here's a pretty good summary of how it went:
As it turns out, you can't go on vacation for a week without practicing and then just roll back in like you're the lord of the dance or even something more reasonable like assistant regional manager of the dance.
But here's the funny thing: You totally can't tell how much of a mess this was from the photos!
Like this photo, which was taken while I was desperately trying to escape from my apron prison.
Or this photo, from my second run-through (with PROPS this time!), when I suddenly realized that I had no idea how to bend over in a corset.
Or these photos, from when I am internally screaming because I forgot my choreography and I'm thinking about maybe just walking off the stage and changing my name and leaving my life behind.
So even though I was messing up left and right, the photos provided a different perspective and were a gentle reminder that maybe I should lay off myself.
And that being ~*~*bad~*~* while practicing is never as bad as I think it is.
After the disaster that was my technical rehearsal, I was determined to not suck during my last lesson with Natasha, and I practiced my bejeweled butt off beforehand.
And even though I was still struggling with getting my apron off and falling all over the place...
...I started to feel good. And I started to discover (and be impressed by) all the fun things my body could do.
Natasha saw that I was getting more confident and said to me, "Are you sure you've never had any performing experience? Because I don't buy that."
And then I suddenly realized, oh, right! I was a theater major, but I stopped performing a long time ago. And in that moment, I felt more than a little bit of regret that I did.
Natasha told me -- aside from telling to me please for the love of god cut my apron ties shorter -- that I was ready. I tried very, very hard to believe her.
So, you're probably wondering how it all went.
The night didn't start out great. I lost my gloves twice, and I nearly died of anticipation beforehand.
But I accepted that like it or not this is happening, so when they announced me and I walked up onstage, I just decided, right then and there: I am welcome here because I have decided that I am welcome here.
And once I started dancing, it was just purely distilled fun. Nothing mattered and everything was sparkly!
And the biggest surprise: The crowd was SO LOUD AND INTO IT. Like, disproportionately into it for how skilled I actually was, tbqh.
And I managed to flip my hair without my glasses rocketing into someone's beer AND I escaped from my apron!
And while I don't know if I ever managed to feel sexy while performing, I did feel powerful, which is good enough to be starting with.