Guys, at this point we all know the burlesque world has a pretty spectacular issue with inclusivity (and if you weren’t, well now you are!).
Producers, festivals, and audience members seem to be stuck on “classic 1950s” as the only true aesthetic, and we know what that means: white, thin, and able-bodied. It’s like “Make America Great Again”, but with more sequins.
Unfortunately, this level of segregation has become all too prevalent within the pole community as well. We see it time and time again when a new showcase comes rolling through and that talent list is announced. Nine times out of ten, the headliners are the same – thin, white, and able-bodied. It’s the long-legged, hair-whipping, bendy gals. Gorgeous? Totally! Homogenous? Good LORD, yes.
Guys, we don’t have to go down that road. Inclusivity isn’t a dirty word, having performers of different backgrounds and races is a good thing, I promise.
So, how do we fix it? How do we keep this glorious, glitter-covered community of ours from falling prey to the pitfalls of the burlesque world? It’s going to take work, that’s for sure, but for the most part, it’s a matter of being aware of ourselves and the messages we’re sending.
POC aren’t just a niche
POC (People of Colour) polers shouldn’t HAVE to be a niche market. Black Girls Pole is SLAYING the pole world on the regular. It’s amazing to see these strong, determined Black women carving out their space in the community. But honestly? They shouldn’t HAVE TO. How can we claim to be a fitness community for every body when only certain “looks” have been deemed desirable? If your showcase or production regularly excludes Black women or other POC because, “Well, they have Black Girls Pole”… maybe you need to rethink your line-up.
Twerk it… Ethically
If your #TwerkSquad does not have a single Black girl present, just… don’t. Please remember that when Black women twerk or show off our bodies, we are consistently called raunchy or inappropriate. You saw what happened with Kim K’s naked pictures vs. Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” album cover. For some reason, Kim K ‘breaks the internet’, but Nicki gets flack for showing off the booty. Personally, I want to live in a world where we can all twerk in harmony! And remember… Miley Cyrus was not the first chick to throw dat ass in a circle.
Be a vocal ally
Call people out – or in. Change only comes from rocking the boat. If you see something inappropriate or offensive, say something. This doesn’t mean that you need to read someone for absolute filth at every turn, but if you see someone using a Native headdress as a prop or – good lord – donning Blackface for a performance (seriously, y’all, I shouldn’t even have to type that), PLEASE TELL THEM TO STOP. It is possible to politely explain why they are being harmful. We need to be willing to hold one another accountable for our crap.
I have met some of the most amazing people in this big, sexy community. Fearless humans who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there, stigma be damned. I get that people have their “aesthetic”, but we can’t claim to be accepting and inclusive when time and time again, POC are kept from the spotlight. We have such a huge variety of talent in every possible size, shape, and color imaginable. Why don’t we use it?
What is your advice for improving inclusivity in the pole world? Are you a Black pole dancer, and has it impacted your opportunities to perform? Let us know in the comments below.
Laura Tutu AKA Drusilla Delacroix is a burlesque and aerial artist from East Central Illinois, USA. She began performing with Carnivale Debauche – based out of Champaign, Illinois – in 2016 as a principal dancer. Her dance background includes ballet, jazz, hip-hop and tap. She discovered pole dance in early 2015 and has also delved into aerial hammock in recent months. Find Drusilla on Facebook, and don’t forget to check out her home base – Defy Gravity Pole Fitness and Aerial Arts Studio.