performance

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Guest Post: Aimee of Va Va Boombah

Published May 21, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

It is my honour to host this guest post from Aimee Nichols tonight.  I met Aimee at a conference when she complimented me on my tights, and I complimented her on her dress.  I mentioned that I was a fledgling fat activist… and we had one of those OMGSQUEE! moments that one has when one finds someone else who thinks outside the mainstream cultural paradigm.

Aimee told me about Va Va Boombah a while back and I’ve watched it growing with some envy – I wish I was in Melbourne so I could go along to the debut show that Aimee tells us about below.  I hope that Va Va Boombah are so successful that they are able to tour the production sometime in the future, so I can go along.

Without any further ado, here is Aimee telling us about Va Va Boombah!

I’m thrilled to be writing a guest post for one of my favourite blogs, which is authored by one of my favourite people – thanks for having me, Kath!

My name is Aimee, and I’m proud to be one of the co-producers of Melbourne’s first fat burlesque night – one of the first such events in Australia. I’ve long been inspired by fat burlesque troupes in the United States, so having the opportunity to make such an event happen in my hometown has been a dream come true.

Va Va Boombah, like so many things these days, was conceived via Twitter, and has been gestated by a love of performance and fat positivity. I’ve been amazed and humbled by the amazing performers we’ve been able to bring together, and by the support from the fat acceptance and burlesque communities alike.

My own background is that of a lifelong struggle with body positivity and size acceptance. From an early age, I was taught that physical endeavors were not for me; my body was a separate being from my brain, and not really part of my ‘self’. I was discouraged from taking part in things like dance and gymnastics by well-meaning adults who thought my size would make me stand out and be a target for ridicule by smaller people. In reality, this had the effect of instilling a sense of self-consciousness that was not there previously; I learned that I was not supposed to be visible, and that I shouldn’t draw attention to myself by engaging with my love of performing.
Burlesque was a specific turning point for me. I’d long had an interest in it, and in pin-up culture, and as I slowly started to see more diverse bodies being represented, I slowly started to feel a little more acceptance of myself. Taking burlesque classes has been one of the major things I have done for myself in terms of developing my self-esteem and acceptance of my body. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

So, what are we hoping to achieve with Va Va Boombah? One of our primary goals is to create a space for awesomeness to happen. We don’t put restrictions or specific guidelines on what our performers can do, which has lead to developing a very diverse show. I’m hoping that in future shows, we’ll see an even greater range of acts from an even greater range of performers. We’re not just about proving that fat people can be sexy, although that’s certainly a worthwhile goal. We want to show that fat performers have a lot to contribute, and that we are active subjects in how we perform, not passive objects in a society where we are either reviled or fetishized, depending on who is doing the looking. Our performers look back, inviting the audience to take part in the act they are creating with a smile and a wink.

Performer: Cupcake Kitten.
Photograph by LogicBunny Photography.

Visual representation of fat bodies helps to normalise us; in a world that others us, being a deliberately visible presence, demanding space and refusing to accept invisibility, is a political act. Artistic endeavors like the amazing Adipositivity Project help normalise us, and they also help normalise the idea that fat bodies are sensual and sexual bodies, in the same way that thinner bodies are accepted to be so.

Audiences at our debut show can expect a range of performances, from the sublime to the decidedly ridiculous, that are smart, funny, beautiful, challenging, political and, above all, entertaining. I hope to see you there, if you can make it.

Va Va Boombah’s debut show is on Friday 1st June at Revolt Melbourne Artspace, 12 Elizabeth St, Kensington. Tickets are available through http://www.revoltproductions.com, or at the door. $25 full, $20 concession, $17 group (5 or more). Doors from 7pm, show at 8pm.

http://www.vavaboombah.com
http://www.facebook.com/VaVaBoombah
http://fatburlesque.tumblr.com
Twitter: @fatburlesque

Aimee Nichols is a writer and burlesque performer, and one of the co-producers of Va Va Boombah. She can be found on Twitter at @wordsandsequins.

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Not Quite Superwoman

Published January 30, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So I was watching Glee yesterday.  Yeah yeah, I know, lots of you hate Glee.  I’ve heard it, I’ve watched the show, and made my own choices.  If you hate Glee, and can’t bear someone else talking about something that was spurred by an episode, you can skip this post.

But I want to use a moment I saw in the show to illustrate something.

So, I was watching Glee yesterday.  It was the episode where the boys are using mental images of Coach Beiste (played by the wonderful Dot Jones) to, ahem… cool their mood, when things are getting heated while making out.  Mr Schuester finds out about it, and tells the guys off for being jerks, because it’s a really hateful thing to do.  He actually says something to the boys about “How do you think Coach Beiste would feel if she found out.”  Shortly after she actually confronts Mr Schue and asks what is going on, and rather stupidly I thought, he tells her.  He tries to be sensitive about it, but he tells her this horrible thing the boys have been doing.

When she is visibly upset, he tells her to “Not take it personally, they’re just being kids.” to which she responds quietly and tearfully “I do take it personally Will.  I take it very, very personally.” and leaves.  It soon transpires that she is quitting her job at the school because of this.

Will confronts her as she is packing and she tells him “I know I can be a little intimidating at times, but deep down inside, where no-one can see, I’m just a girl.  Am I nuts that I just want to be reminded of that sometimes?”

I can tell you, I was in floods of tears at that moment.  Absolute floods.  Because I can totally identify with it.

As a proud fat activist, it’s often assumed that being ballsy enough to call out fat hatred, to speak up when others aren’t able to, and to live one’s life large despite the fat hatred that is just rampant in our culture, means that we’re strong and confident and impervious to the bullshit that gets flung our way.  As an extroverted woman, who has made a conscious decision not to buy into the cultural ideal that women should confirm to a certain look, that we should be meek and dainty and not do anything to make ourselves look different to the “norm”, it’s assumed that I am able to just ignore the hatred that comes my way for being different (and I know I’m not the only woman who feels this way).

Those of us who step out of the stream, who rock the boat, who accept ourselves for who we are in the face of vitriol, bullying and shaming, are assumed to be these confident warrior women, who can just shrug off all the negativity that is hurled our way.  And boy do we get it hurled our way.  Usually because people just assume we can “handle it”

Friends, family, online followers and all kinds of people in our lives say “But you’re so confident!  You’re so ballsy!  You take no shit!”  This may be absolutely true, but that doesn’t mean that we are made of steel.  It doesn’t mean that nothing hurts us, that we are unfeeling to pain, hurt, shame, sorrow or any other negative emotion.

I can tell you that pretty much every time I have ever tried to express hurt, or shame, or sorrow and so on, the person I’ve been trying to express it to says something like “But you’re so confident!  You don’t listen to that shit!” or “You’re a strong woman Kath, why would you let that get to you?”

The answer is, for the same reasons that anyone else does.  Because sometimes, the things people say and do are hurtful.  Because we are human beings.  And because like every other human being, we just want love, and kindness, and care, and respect.

To have that negated by the “But you’re so confident!” response can actually make the hurt cut twice as deep.  It’s almost like we’re not allowed to express pain, that we have to keep “being strong”.

The truth is, like anyone else, even the most confident, extroverted, outgoing person has feelings.

I’ve really experienced it this past week.  Yeah, I shaved all my hair off and got a big fat positive tattoo.  Pretty out there things to do.  But that has needed some processing on my part.  I look in the mirror and I look different.  People react to me differently.  Yes, I chose to do this because, well firstly to raise some money, but secondly to challenge people’s attitudes about a woman’s appearance.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t need to carefully process the changes myself, and that I don’t feel when people are hurtful about it.  However, when I did need a little bit of processing time, and then fell over a bit emotionally, triggered by another event, it was  a great shock to people in my life, and several of them were quite incredulous that I should need my self esteem boosted a bit to give me a push, or that I should need a bit of tenderness when I am hurt.

No matter who the person is;  be it your extroverted, confident friend, a rad fatty that you admire on the interwebs, or anyone else who you think is strong, confident, extroverted, awesome… remember that they are still a person.  That sometimes that extroversion and confidence is the face they give to the world to protect the soft stuff underneath.  That they sometimes need some tenderness shown to them, a moment of acknowledgement of their feelings, or some time to process what they’ve just done when it comes to an act of defiance.  Unlike Superwoman, they’re not made of steel.

Just like Coach Beiste said in Glee…

“I know I can be a little intimidating at times, but deep down inside, where no-one can see, I’m just a girl.  Am I nuts that I just want to be reminded of that sometimes?”

 

Documentary: fat body (in)visible

Published December 14, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Ok my lovelies, I have something REALLY special for you.

Margitte of Riots Not Diets over on Tumblr has made this amazing documentary called fat body (in)visible, which is the most amazing piece of fat activism.

Featuring Jessica of Tangled Up In Lace (blog here, tumblr here) and Keena of Buttahlove (tumblr here), the film documents their fat activism, fatshion, and stories of both visibility and invisibility as fat women.

Do not miss this film.  I’m both deeply moved and absolutely delighted by the piece, and it’s a wonderful thing to see fat women putting their voice out there, as we’re always judged on our appearance and rarely given the opportunity to speak for ourselves.

So without further ado, here is fat body (in)visible:

Switching Off

Published October 31, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I need a little vent or something is going to fester and really become a problem for me.  Ok, regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a performer.  Not on a stage, like you would immediately think of a performer plying their art, but in life.  Life is my stage, and the world is my audience.  I’ve not always been like this, in fact it’s only really grown to be who I am over the past few years.

My performance of course is being a visible, nay, outlandish fat woman.  It’s being colourful, wearing over the top clothes and accessories, my bright pink hair, my visible tattoos, my outgoing personality.  I love that part of my personality and a lot of the time, that’s who I am and it’s where I am usually most comfortable.

But I am finding the pressure to perform that is coming from others is actually detracting from my love of performance for myself.  While the world is my audience, it’s not for them that I do it.  I am finding that people are coming to expect me to be “on” all the time, which is simply not possible, and it leaves me feeling a sense of obligation to be something, which is not what I believe anyone should have to carry.

On Friday, I wore an outfit to work (pic here) that was a brown top, camel coloured skirt with a few leopard print accessories.  I loved it, but got very tired of people saying to me that I looked “Boring today.” or “This isn’t how you dress.”  It IS how I dress, when I feel like dressing that way, and I dress how I choose for me, not to amuse others, so if someone finds it boring, they need to go amuse themselves elsewhere.

It’s the same as my personality.  Most of the time I’m loud, raucous, full of laughter and goofiness.  But occasionally, I need to come back into myself and spend some quiet time just existing, without having to be in performance mode.  However when I do, I’m plagued with people asking me if I’m ok, if something is wrong, or suggesting I’m in a bad mood.

I know it’s because people love the performance side of me, and I’m so blessed to have people in my life who accept me as I am, and allow me to be the performer that I am.  But it becomes a vicious circle that the more others expect me to be “on”, the more I feel the need to retreat, and then the more they pressure me to come back to “on”.

The tutu is becoming a bit of a problem.  I love it.  My friends love it.  So they want me to rock it all the time, every time I mention I’m considering what to wear, the response is “The tutu!!  Wear the tutu!!”  Which makes me feel my dressing is not for me, but to entertain others.  It can’t be like that, it has to be 100% for me, or it doesn’t work.  I am not a performing monkey, dancing for applause.  I perform because it is who I am, not because it makes other people happy.  If it does make other people happy, then that’s an awesome bonus, but ultimately it has to be for me.

So here’s what I, and probably a lot of other natural performers, need from the people in their lives.  When we say “What will I wear today?” the answer isn’t every outlandish item they own.  The answer is “What do you feel like wearing today?”  9 times out of 10, we will answer with what we’re feeling like wearing, and then feel free to suggest the item from our wardrobe that you know and love that fits that feeling.  But don’t fall into the whole “Dance, monkey!  Dance!” thing that is the default response most people have when they are talking to a loved one who is a performer.

I love you friends, just as you are, whether that’s the outlandish, loud, extroverted ones, or the ones who are contained and introverted, or any of you that sit somewhere in between.  I love that you accept the part of me that many people reject or ridicule.  Even those of you that I make nervous with my extroversion accept that side of me.   But I need you to love me as I am, whether that be the performer or the contained.