How comfortable are you with your body from 1-10?
Maybe like a five. I try to have conversations with my body like “This is my body and this is where I’m at and I should be grateful”
What made you want to participate?
I’ve really been looking for ways to feel positive about myself generally, not just my body. I’ve been thinking about burlesque for along time. I’ve been looking at people who reclaim their body for them self. Like Beyonce, she totally owns her stuff. The burlesque crowd totally owns their stuff. I’m pushing for forty and I have never felt comfortable in my body.
Are you nervous?
Not yet, I don’t think I was a few days ago. It was right after I dyed my hair. I was only worried about it for a minute.
How are you feeling?
I feel fine. When I was fifteen my mom sent me to modeling school and that always felt uncomfortable and strange but this doesn’t feel strange.
What level of comfort are you at with your body now?
I guess seven.
How has the session helped you feel comfortable in your skin?
It’s that idea that I’m not alone. I wake up every morning and it’s just me and you know, I’m in the news doing my work all the time and there are all the these images of whats supposedly sexy and what’s beautiful but none of those bodies are mine.
And you’re in great shape!
What was your favorite part of the shoot?
Searching for the light, the light was really fun. I actually like that you’re in the frame at some point with us too. It’s the idea, again, that I’m not alone. You know, I’m not just a subject.
It’s hard being naked in front of anyone, especially with their clothes on and yours off.
Sometimes even with our significant others too.
Yes! I can’t recall the last time I’ve felt comfortable being nude in front of any of my partners thus far. It is definitely a beautiful thing to find. I was in a situation a while ago where someone set me up for a fall I guess. Made me feel I was really beautiful but when he was done with me he would pick all the things that would make me fall. Even now, when I spend time with someone who cares about me very much it’s really hard. It’s hard to believe him when he says anything positive. It’s just something I usually push out of my mind and say “I’m working on it”.
Once someone criticizes our body to that extent, one can’t help but feel the shock and betrayal of trust you once had in that person. That they loved you for you, except for those things.
Even when they passively suggest you change yourself it hurts a lot. For them to make the assumption that you even want to change.
And I’m torn about it because I want to do those things because it’s pleasing but at the same time it doesn’t even fit into my life to wear a dress right now. Because I walk five miles to work. But I think about those things. The passive suggestions.
Let’s talk about the f word. Are you a feminist?
I believe in the value of everyone. I’d love to see what it looks for everyone, no matter their age, race, gender, sex, socio economic background…what would people look like, if they were all coming from a truly empowered place. A lot of feminists are very angry and male bashing…I see that and I’m torn because I feel like it’s nessecary but at the same time it’s a little detrimental. Non-inclusive. Because for the healing to happen we can’t do the same thing to them that’s been done to women. We can’t reflect the mirror of hatred back at them. Teaching people, having conversations, you know…healing is a collaborative effort.
Why do you think some women don’t identify as feminists?
The ones that are the loudest are the ones that are seen. The age old saying, “squeaky wheel gets the grease”. People who are very angry, are very loud and in their face about these things. And they’re right! They’re screaming about there baby girl being raped, or other injustices. They’re right to be screaming…it’s a certain kind of violence that isn’t healing, though, either. I struggle because the screaming needs to happen but how do we get to a point where we teach people to go beyond their upbringing or whatever it is that is holding them back.
People think…THAT’S what feminism is…they’re crazy! When, really, feminism is “We are equals.” It’s give and take both ways.
I mean, look at egalitarian tribes. They barely have gender roles, very peaceful, survive through group cooperation and support and love.
That’s the dream right there.
How was your middle experience?
I started hating school in middle school and high school. Because that’s when it started happening. Back then I was thin, but still my body image perception was that I was too big. Because of my biological makeup. Those things started being noticed and pointed out. I was really uncomfortable.
So it had a lot to do with your race and it’s impact on your body image?
Yes. In grade school it was like, let me play with your hair but as it got older it was just weird.
Can you recall an instance where people used your race to make you feel bad about your body?
The first specific one was in college when I was seeing someone. He kept calling me fat in spanish. That was his nickname for me. I was still pretty thin. I think for the most part, maybe it was not seeing people like me. Until I went to high school in Oakland. I had never seen anyone else like that until I left Boise. But in Oakland it was okay to tell everyone they were beautiful. But in Boise it was just girls sizing you up to bring you down. Like some weird competition.
I would run through the halls to the choir room. Once someone asked me why, I said I didn’t want to interact with people who were judging me.
Tell me about a time you’ve experienced racism?
It’s been mostly subtle things. I was in class and we had a sub that day, he was also a choral director, we were singing this song from South Africa. I’ve never been to South Africa. He looked straight at me and goes, “How would they sing it in Africa?”
Was this in Boise?!
Yes! So, I told him I’ve seen the Power of One but like..I could never look at that teacher every again.
What are some things that tear you down as a person?
Some guy called me a pretty pink privileged princess. I grew up in a trailer park, I worked for everything I have, no one ever really helped me. I just didn’t respond. There is a certain degree of privilege I have to take into account. Like, what is my privilege?
My brothers received the brunt for being more brown that I am. They were the ones who were told they were too brown for this neighborhood. They were the ones stopped on the street. They were sexualized too. They were sexualized by some of my eighth grade teachers saying how sexy my brothers were. That’s where that racism came in, that sexualization and eroticism.
So I started becoming kind nondescript, I cut my hair and wore baggy clothes. I played with ambiguities a bit. I would wear mens slacks and mens shoes but I was still feminine because I didn’t want to be thought of that way.
Like the only thing someone wanted from me was sex.
Do men and women still sexualize you today?
For me, it happens a lot in the art and music community. I’ll want to collaborate with them earnestly and honestly and it’s all some ploy to get into my pants. It makes me so angry! Because then I can’t work with that person, I don’t know how that affects my place in the community. If I was just a guy, we’re just collaborate. It’s like I’m the icing on the cake or the band fluffer.
Have you dealt with colorism?
Yes. Especially in spring time, summer time. “Oh you like them light brothas don’t you?!” Like you don’t know what I like. Maybe I do like darker men? And this is what I’m saying about empowerment. Truly empowered people don’t oppress other people.I feel like I was super lucky to have the right friends and teachers at the right time.
Is there anything you want to leave with the readers?
We’re taught in our society to look backwards and forwards but we’re here right now. And these aren’t my ideas, those have been around a long time.