December 22, 2013

That Time I Fell in Love with a Black Burlesque Dancer

Stereotypes are awful because they generalize a group of people and often lead to really awkward inter-cultural interactions. For example, asking the "Asian" kid for help with your homework and then receiving a "D" on said homework. *Insert Nelson laugh here from "Asian" kid.

With Black women there are a few popular depictions based on ridiculous stereotypes- the top 2 being the "Angry Black Woman" and the "Hyper-sexual Jezebel." Neither are really helpful professionally. I have often been called "intimidating" in the work place at 5'3" and 125lbs. Um. Ok. I've also been called "Sexy," not as a compliment, but like it's my first name. Um. No. In either case no one goes, "You scare me, so here's a raise." Or "Hey Sexy, here's a promotion or wedding ring where you now have access to half my wealth." (I'll save this discussion and my problem w/ Sheryl Sandberg for another post.)

Yep! I'm scary as shit. Like I shrunk this bottle of syrup.

Thus, today's 20-something Black woman vehemently fights both stereotypes professionally and in public. This includes trying consciously to smile more at co-workers and rejecting all low-class displays of sexuality- see: strip clubs, twerking, too-short dresses after 25, (because grown women opt for sheer), etc. As you can imagine, it gets pretty exhausting.

However, when we suspend these cares, we feel free. We open ourselves to connect with other people and be in a moment deeper than "I represent my race." I try to live in these moments as much as possible because life it too short to say I've never seen Insert Ethnicity here penis before. See them all, and see all the titties too. Embrace sexuality as the natural beast it is. So when the opportunity to go to a burlesque show comes up, I go.
 
Old Hollywood glamor and allure is everything. There is a reason Betty Boop is an American icon, and every girl knows Marilyn Monroe, but to me there was no lady like Lena Horne. Then you have Katherine Dunham, Josephine Baker, Pearl Bailey... The point is, we were there, and just as more glamorous because we have to shine, it's genetic.

I'd rock these. ;)
Fast forward to present day, and I am in Hill and Dale in the Lower East Side of New York. I see a voluptuous dark-skinned woman with full curls (a la Diana Ross) down to her neck, in the most beautiful floor length Black sequined gown. She had on an elaborate crystal necklace and the most ornate jeweled bracelet I have ever seen. She catches me staring at her and says, "Hello Beautiful," with all the charm of million winks. I told her she was gorgeous and that I was here to see her.

Little did I know, Perle Noir was the recipient of several Burlesque awards, and has traveled the world. Her act was nothing short of powerful and intoxicating. She performed twice on stage and worked the room. Each time I was the Ms. Celie to her Sug, and she knew it.

I soaked up every bit of her confidence and left Hill & Dale high.

Three things that were hammered into me from that night: 

1) Black Women are DAMN BEAUTIFUL and full of love no matter what the people say. 
2) Owning who you are and doing it to no end is everything.  
3) Nothing is ever holding you back, but your own fool self.  

Now, have I gone out and bought a boa to start practicing for the Burlesque leagues? No. Will I start wearing pasties under all my clothes? Maybe. Will I refuse to let people restrict my behavior based on what I think they're thinking? To an extent I always have, and now more and more, YES.

So let me tell you somethin' Sistah...

 
 

*ALSO in case you were wondering, "Asian" is in parenthesis because there are so many identities that it irks me to no end when people lump them all together. Also, to say that Africa is a country, all Spanish speaking people are from Mexico... Ok. I just despise stupid people in general, but don't tell anyone. :)

 



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