Feel Fat? Try Burlesque to Feel Beautiful

Photo by Powerful Goddess Photography

By Kitty Cavalier

Recently a friend told me she wants to love her body but she always feels fat. I dedicate this article to her.

No woman is immune from “feeling fat.” But notice we don’t say, “I have fat on my body all the time.” What we are describing is the FEELING of being fat. For every woman, the feeling of being fat represents something different. Try completing this sentence: “I feel fat, and that means I am _______.” Some examples would be: unattractive, too much, not enough, gross, unlovable, a mess… just to name a few.

Now, continue the sentence with: “if I am _____, that means__________, and that makes me feel__________.”

For example:

“If I am unattractive, that means I will never live my dream of having a partner who truly loves me, and that makes me sad.”

“If I am not enough, that means I will never get anything I want in this life no matter how hard I try, and that makes me mad!”

” If I am too much, that means I am different than everyone else, that no one will ever understand me, and that makes me feel sad and alone.”

What is fat? Fat is a tissue. An assemblage of molecules and acids. But for a woman who is feeling sad, lonely or angry in a world that takes drastic measures to prevent her from feeling the fullness of her truth, it is easy to trick ourselves into believing that if we did not feel fat, we wouldn’t have to encounter these intense feelings so often. That’s what it looks like on TV anyway. So we put all our attention on how we can reshape, reform and reinvent our sweet, precious bodies. But as many of us have discovered, you can still be lonely in a differently shaped body.

So, what is the antidote? Well, it sure as hell doesn’t begin an X or end with a drine. Have you ever met a girl who looks really pretty, but because she so clearly doesn’t love herself, she is really un-beautiful? Her beauty is there, but it leaves you with a feeling of emptiness? And then, have you also met a girl who is incredibly “imperfect,” yet completely enchanting because of how much she enjoys being exactly who she is? Her self-love is infectious, and you cannot help but fall under her spell. With this kind of woman, it’s not in what she has, it’s in what she believes. She refuses to buy into the idea that her scrumptious self could be anything less than lovable.

Burlesque is the living practice of being this kind of woman. There are some who think that burlesque is a step back for feminism, and that stripping is an objectification of women, period. To me, it is the exact opposite. When I went to my first burlesque show five years ago, what changed my life forever was seeing women who looked exactly like me, with real bodies, making the rules about what it means to be beautiful.

They were not trying to fit into someone else’s definition of sexiness, or waiting for something to change in order to feel the fullest expression of their beauty and power. And if you couldn’t groove to their beat, well, you could just move on over. The same bodies I would see being squeezed, cursed and quickly covered up in the gym locker room were being flaunted and adored. I saw teeny-weeny AA cup breasts, G size breasts that came down to the belly button, and each woman walked around in mere pasties and a g-string with an ease and confidence that was impenetrable. These were not mere objects of male desire. These were objects of pure feminine power. The kind that is gorgeously unapologetic, perfectly imperfect, simultaneously embodying the beauty that dwells in the darkness and the light.

Today, act as if you are a woman who has the world in the palm of her hand. A woman whose beauty is eternal, and leaves a legacy in her wake. Act as if you are a woman who turns every head as she walks into a room. A woman that is flown across the world because her beauty is legend, and someone is prepared to pay millions of dollars for the inspiration that comes from watching her take one sip of coffee. When you live your life from this spot, you evaporate the chains that tie us down to the belief that we will only experience our fullest power when we don’t feel fat. That is bullshit. You are this woman. Feel your power now.

Kitty Cavalier is known for bringing mischief to the masses at The School of Charm and Cheek in NYC, of which she is the founder. After a lifetime of hating her body, she took a wild risk by performing a burlesque striptease in front of 100 people, and has never been the same. Since then she has been on a mission to help women adore and appreciate their feminine form through burlesque dancing and other sensual arts. For more information, visit her website, join her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Cross-posted with permission.

10 thoughts on “Feel Fat? Try Burlesque to Feel Beautiful

  1. Burlesque IS beautiful!!! Here’s a music video we made with The Posey Peep Show, our very own home-grown, homemade burlesque show in Huntsville, Alabama. The song is by me, Mrs. Beth Norwood of Huntsville, Alabama. The film is by videographer Dustin Timbrook. The song is called “The Cellulite Tango” and it’s about women who love being in their own skin, even with cellulite! If you love yourself AND your cellulite, or even if you are still working on loving these things, then please watch this video. Thank you for your time. Enjoy! 🙂


  2. I’ve seen plenty of burlesque shows and the majority of the performers had the same kinds of bodies society dictates as the beauty standard — slim, big breasted, not much fat. So, our experiences differ. There was also a burlesque club at my college and my friend who was in it said it was just like every other body-conscious venture where the girls would choreograph dances in their carnival-esque or pinup costumes, all the while still staring at each others’ bodies in the mirror and comparing, complaining, feeling bad.

    And it kind of did seem like glorified stripping — like stripping with classier costumes and scenarios. I have a suspicion that true female empowerment doesn’t come from flaunting your body, no matter what you look like.

  3. This is a fantastic article!

    I was the first born in my family. My mother adored me and I was her doll. I was dressed like one, and always had perfect hair, and never allowed to be messy! I was always told how beautiful I was, I should be in movies, blah blah blah! I can remember as a child fighting my way into my favorite thing, Oshkosh overalls and a white t shirt, trying to be me! Even working my butt off to my lowest weight, it didn’t stop! That nagging voice was still in there.

    At 35 I have decided to try and hush the voice! It still tries to come back, but seeing woman finally celebrate their bodies in a beautiful way, not harming themselves is so refreshing amen!!!!

  4. Burlesque is NOT stripping. It’s more like performance art. Why do we have to hide our bodies because men might get off on them? Isn’t it more empowering to be able to be sexy and free and open and be doing it for your own pleasure? To perform? It’s like nudity in theatre, it’s a performance piece. I think calling this new resurgence of burlesque “stripping” an attempt to manipulate men is very anti-feminist. While we’re battling the mainstream to accept that women can dress how they want, that a short skirt doesn’t mean a woman is “asking” for sexual harassment, we’re then going to judge women who want to dance and perform because they show some skin? Seems odd to me.

    Fantastic post, Kitty. Keep exuding your delight for the world to see!

  5. From a young girl who can definately relate, thank you so much. I deal with this feeling nearly everyday of my life and it just feels nice to have someone finally say it out loud and explain it.

  6. I can’t really get behind the idea of stripping as a tool for empowerment; I’m pretty sure I see the reasoning behind it, and I don’t think it’s inherently doomed to failure but in practice it seems like a bad idea. From what I’ve seen of females flaunting their sexuality with the belief that it empowers them, it’s really only coming from an idea that male attention is the standard of beauty. Or at best, females try to use sexuality to manipulate males; I guess that is a form of power, but there’s a difference between being comfortable with your own body and taking advantage of other people with it.

    Still, I definitely agree that confidence is almost always important to beauty, and in the context described here it sounds like burlesque is an expression of that. Unfortunately, that’s incredibly rare.

  7. Good article with a great message. I think all women should feel beautiful, and if they seek that in a subculture like burlesque then I think that is fine.

    Like the article you linked, I too have issues with stripping and feminism. I can’t decide if it’s feminist or anti-feminist. I can see how the idea of stripping is debatable.

    I also can’t get around the stereotype of strippers because I see many girls who fall into it. I personally know a few of them and I have observed many more in my hometown. They aren’t what I would call respectable women. They admit that they strip for the purpose of easy money, that they have learned the tricks of the trade of hustling money from men, both their clients and their boyfriends. And each and every one of them that have boyfriends cheat on them with clients or other friends, and a few of them have been known to be what we call home wreckers. I just can’t help but judge when I see women who behave the way the ones I have previous befriended. Although, I hope that in other communities it’s different.

    Sorry I didn’t mean to hijack the purpose of the article here.

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