Burlesque and Body Fat – Who Really Cares?

Valentine’s Day came and went — thank goodness, because most of what I saw on social media were shots fired at single women and side chicks, a lot of bragging from women who received gifts, and a few explanations from women on why their man couldn’t spend the day with them. In all cases, he was working.

If you’re truly happy in your relationship, you don’t need that one day to profess how loved and adored you are, and how your man spoils you, but I do get it. I’ll leave the side chick topic alone for now, because I know that’s a touchy subject.

Just to clarify, even during my last relationship (11 years), I gave my man a free pass on Valentine’s Day due to my lack of interest, but he enjoyed participating. The “holiday” is overrated and over commercialized.


But wait. What I’m really writing about is my 2014 Valentine’s Day experience!

I went to see Shades of BurlesqueNYC’s Only All Black Burlesque Revue, at the Helen Mills theater in Manhattan.

In case you’ve never been, Burlesqueย (in a very limited sense)ย is kind of like striptease – from elaborate costumes down to nipple pasties and g-strings. I’d been planning to go support co-producer, Essence Revealed’s performance for over a year.

I finally made it.

The experience was worthwhile, mainly because I walked away with a question worth exploring. “Why aren’t burlesque dancers body conscious?”

Beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes. And yes, appreciation for a woman’s physique is always in the eye of the beholder.

As I watched the show, I couldn’t help but pay attention to each woman’s jiggle and cellulite, projecting my own body consciousness on them while trying to wrap my brain around their liberation.

My ideal body type (the picture I have in my mind about how “Eye” want to look) is tight, toned, and voluptuous. Without dimples or too much jiggle. That’s part of why I train. “Eye” like being svelte.

So when this heavyset performer came down the aisle and pounced on a male audience member and began to gyrate her crotch on his face, I made some mental notes. She had big fabulous kinky hair, large full breasts, chocolate-brown skin, a protruding belly that hung a little, 30 inch thighs (at least), a ton of sex appeal – and cellulite. Her makeup was nicely done – and she owned her performance. And that was very attractive!


Is body consciousness a trap? After all, most women have cellulite. Celebrities’ imperfections are airbrushed away for magazine covers; perfection is the only thing suitable for mass consumption.

Oh yeah. None of the dancers had visible stretch marks.

I still haven’t answered my question though. Why aren’t burlesque dancers body conscious? I’ve only been to one show, so my perspective is limited. What do you think?

Not for nothing, but since I’ve been dating, several men have tried to discourage me from working out – to no avail because I’m an overrall happier person when I’m training consistently. It’s a natural pick-me-upper. I’ve heard, “I like my women squishy. Muscle definition is bad.” And, “you got a nice black girl booty. Don’t lose that.” And “You’re not gonna lose any butt, are you?” Just today, I got a text: “When can we have lunch? I need to squeeze that booty.”

Sounds like an obsession, but I get it. They love what they love.

There are health risks associated with high body fat percentage (see CDC statistics) that we should not ignore, but to each her own.

While I like being on the smaller side, I do recognize the beauty in different shapes, sizes and types of women. And of course as a writer and analyst, I pay attention. Being well-proportioned and well-maintained trumps a lot of other things and it’s mostly a matter of how well a woman puts herself together, and how comfortable she is in her skin.

And again, sexiness is in the eye of the beholder. Hell, I’m kind of thick myself and I get no complaints.


What are your thoughts on body consciousness?ย  Are you comfortable enough in your skin to consider performing in the bare minimum? Why do you think this is a non-factor for some women? Do men really care about physical imperfections like cellulite? What’s driving our obsession with body consciousness? Comments about Valentine’s Day also welcome!


If you haven’t already, go see a burlesque show! It’s a worthwhile experience.


Shades of Burlesque is NYC’s Only All Black Burlesque Revue. Created by Sweet Lorraine (left). Co- produced by Essence Revealed (right) & Sweet Lorraine.

Categories: Erotica, Inspiration, Random Thoughts

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34 replies

  1. Interesting topic. I am only comfortable with my body to a certain extent. I could not see my self dancing half naked at all, but if I was drunk I would be too ready! Some women are comfortable being heavier or thicker because maybe that is all they have been their whole lives and they have loved it and had no complaints. Basically they might not have any other weight to compare it to. I dont think men care about cellulite. If you carry yourself like a dime piece they will see you as that no matter how you look. If you act ashamed or look sloppy they notice right off the bat.
    Valentines day was ok. I can’t complain. I wasn’t extremely excited like some women (whom never recieved a gift from a man a day in their life).


  2. I’ve always wanted to go to a show like that too (and a drag performance), sounds fun.
    As far as being body conscious I think there are things we may all be aware of about ourselves, some people push past it and like “f- what that I’m sexy regardless”. For instance in a moment of passion most of us are going to push past that and be in the moment. Even if you don’t feel like the sexiest person ever you will try to exude that confidence (unless you’re really insecure about something or into playing more coy).

    Some people are more confident than others, yes. But having had friends that were strippers some of them said you just have to think sexy. That might be in your attitude or even getting a little “high” before a show. Like fake it to you make it…no matter your size. We never know what’s going on in the next persons head (i.e. the woman with slacks and a turtleneck may feel just as confident and sensual than the women half naked gyrating on a man’s lap.). Basically in some cases it’s just perception (or performance)


    • Great points. I think we all step in and out of character at certain times. Reminds me of when I did my first erotic poetry show. I was awkward in rehearsal, but came showtime, no one could tell. I strutted out on that stage in the sexiest way! I love the point you made about living in moment and pushing past body consciousness. That’s a great message. I’m very confident, but also analytical which can be offsetting. Thanks Candace!


  3. I take my hat off to the big girls that will take the challenge with the flab and huge hips. I say grind and dip your hips. The motion of the ocean will put a man in trace for sure..lol.. For to long big girls have been made to feel anything other than worthy. If you are comfortable in your own skin the perception of self is positive. When you have a positive perception of yourself then you are able to present sexy in all the ways you’ve every dreamed. Sexy is…what sexy does…. I think for them it is attitude as they learn to love and be comfortable with themselves in all aspects including being sexy. I think that is really good that they can represent reality as we are unique and come in all shapes and sizes. Society does not want us to see all the unique versions of what sexy can be and look like. The media makes women feel as though they all must look and be fake. Healthy is good but fake is something other. I don’t have a problem at 49 yrs old getting sexy with stretch marks and boobs that gravity holds down and dimples in my thighs …and did I mention no booty…yes I’m your rare black girl with a flat booty. However, the men love what I do in all my no booty sexy moves so……To be honest I’ve never had complaints and I do dance for my men…yes strip with guarders and heels/boas, eyelashes, glitter and all honey…. I am who I am and I love me. I think there is nothing better than feeling good about yourself and with that you should not be ashamed of sexy, naked or any other intimate action. My Valentines Day was one of the best I’ve had for a while. I don’t have a boyfriend, but I date. The guy I’m dating took me to dinner and gave me a lottery ticket (not a winner).ok different. However 3 of my ex’s made sure that they sent me something. I was floored because I was not expecting anything from anybody especially not men I had been done with and had not spoken with or seen any of them for at least a year or more not even in passing. So go figure on that………I got bath and body basket which was given to my sister because one ex did not know how to contact me. I got a gift card for Victory Secrets sent to my job by another ex. I also got a box of candy and flowers and a gift card to Outback sent to my job by another ex. Girl, I racked up….not bragging but damn they still be loving my sexy….LOL I was happy to get the shout outs truly surprised.


    • Thanks for such a thoughtful response! “When you have a positive perception of yourself then you are able to present sexy in all the ways you’ve ever dreamed.” Priceless statement! Yes.

      I’m glad you mentioned the point about the dancers representing for the real woman. Because we are ALL flawed. Our significant others often enjoy those flaws and quirks we’ve taken issue with.

      Great point about big women being made to feel unworthy and media bias too.

      Also, you really did rack up on gifts! I ain’t mad at you. Single life is great at times. Lol


  4. Confidence is always big. A man can roll with you if you’re not the best looking chick but you carry yourself well and dress for your size.

    Personally, I’m a face guy. I would judge women on the face first and body second. I would take a 10 face and 5 body over a 10 body and 5 face. The body can always be upgraded. The face can’t (naturally).


  5. I believe that body consciousness is learned behavior. Sometimes learned from society, sometimes learned from culture. African American women have always, for some reason, not been as body consciousness as other cultures. I’ve always naturally been on the small side and I remember wanting to be bigger as a teen cause black men liked thick women and most still do. As an adult, ive learned to accept and appreciate my smaller frame. Although being smaller does not mean healthy. I would be willing to gain 30 pounds if I could rid myself of the stress of having diabetes. I would without a doubt consider performing in the bare minimum because I know that my insecurities are only seen by me. After a certain age we all suffer from cellulite and sadly, most times other women are our worst critics. Most men dont get caught up in that and understand that we are imperfect. We should follow their lead and worry more about being healthy on the inside than “acceptable” on the outside.


    • You’re right. Body consciousness is a learned behaviour, and I’ve heard that it’s more of an issue in America, and less so in other parts of the world. (It’s just a body, but also a representative of ‘self’ to the world).

      I wanted to be thick when I was younger too. I was still 125lbs at 20 years old! I still wouldn’t want to be that small now.

      And yes, there are some men with very specific preferences, but most are forgiving when it comes to physical imperfections. Especially if they love the WOMAN.


  6. Valentine’s day is overrated. But, I do acknowledge it. I try to do those things for my wife every other day. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Some women are just comfortable in the skin that they are in. I admire that. Some are just sexy. As for me being a man, I’m not comfortable in the skin I’m in now. Going from being fit to out of shape, is a no, no. So I am reshaping it. (A work in progress.)


  7. Understood. And thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. I went to a burlesque last September and I remember puzzling over the same thing. It was an illuminating experience and not in the way I’d originally thought it would be, ha.


  9. I’ve been a fan of burlesque since the 1960’s, when i was nearly of age to enter a tent show. I met Blaze Fury, famous for her twirling, flaming tassels at Royal American Shows, Club Lido. I’ve painted portraits of burlesque dancers at http://cardiffpaintings.wordpress.com These portraits are biographical, showing various stages of the dancer’s careers. We have discussed their lives over coffee, through correspondence, telephone calls and at burlesque shows. Some have performed into their 60’s. These dancers got out of the business when lap dancing came in. They were stage performers and they controlled their audience. They were treated like royalty. Long live burlesque! ~ Dennis


    • Wow. I’ve only been to that one show, and caught part of another show from backstage. I may take that next step of talking to dancers too, especially since I know one. I’m interested in their motivation for choosing Burlesque as a career. I like the traveling to other countries aspect of it. I’m checking out your paintings. Thanks for chiming in.


  10. Hi Lovely! First of all thanks for coming out to Shades of Burlesque Valentine’s day show:) I’m glad the show compelled you to write about some of the things that stood out for you. As creator of Shades I created the show because I wanted to see more Black women on stage in the medium of burlesque. I chose to create a space where Black burlesque performers could tell their stories, express their sexy in ways that resonated with who they are as Black women, which is very different for each & every performer.

    Burlesque felt like a “safe space” for me to continue embracing my sexuality without ridicule. I could go on & on about the stereotypes that are associated with Black women & how they are used to shame us into not embracing our sexuality, but y’all can look that up yourselves:)

    I will say that burlesque has been very healing & freeing for me especially in the body image department. I used to be really concerned about the stretch marks that start from the top of my hips to the middle of my thighs! I laughed so loud when I read your statement, “none of the performers have stretch marks.” #thankyou I think if you’re alive & a woman in America you have been made to feel bad about your body in some way. I think the difference in burlesque performers is that we are making the conscious decision to embrace our bodies through this art form. If we didn’t, we would look like a mess on stage! If I were worried about the stretch marks & gravity pulling my boobs down I wouldn’t be present in the moment giving it all I’ve got & you would be writing a very different blog post on why burlesque performers so insecure about their bodies! lol

    I’m comfortable with myself & my body because I & every woman on that stage understands that they are MORE than their bodies! And as a performer first & foremost I am looking at the energy that a performer brings to their craft. Akynos, the woman & AMAZING performer you based this piece on, has Confidence out the wazoo! She’s brilliant, Creative & will set any stage she graces on FIRE! She has the “IT” factor that makes you watch in awe of her, regardless of her physique, her race or anything else that society likes us to measure one another by. We watch & will continue to watch because she is Gifted!


    • Thank you again for commenting! I was worried I had lost your valuable insight for a second, but it’s been recovered! Definitely some words of wisdom here. I’m sure I and other women can learn something from you ladies. Pleasure to watch the show. I’ll be back again!



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