Hello my fabulous fat fluffy femmes (and everyone else)! I’ve been a burlesque dancer for 6 years, a pole artist for almost 2, and life-long fluffy kitty! I’ve been putting literally ALL of myself out there for the public to see, and it’s been, well, interesting. During these past 6 years, I’ve been on a struggle-bus of a journey. Figuring out how to exist as a fat person in industries dominated by bodies that look nothing like my own. Spoiler alert: I still have no idea. However, I have figured out a few things along the way that I’d like to share.
Take what feels good, leave the rest.
Can You Be Fat AND Active? Yes!
I’ve always loved dancing and being active, but I’ve always been plus sized. I’ve never been physically strong, but I could slay the “sit and reach” in gym class. I spent most of my teen and young adult years with very little confidence in my appearance, but still smart and funny. If you’re shaking your head and thinking “me too”, keep reading…
So here we are…thinking about or currently moving through the burlesque and/or pole world. YES! We’re doing the thing! Go us! Y’all know how HARD it is to even get through the damn studio door some days.
We’ve found amazing role models (Roz Mays) and supportive communities on social media (Celebrating Plus Size Pole Dancers). Despite this, there are still the trolls, haters, twatwaffles and dickbiscuits out there, they start running their mouths and we’re back to square one…feeling less than, discouraged and defeated, ready to give up. BUT WE DON’T. (Yes, that means don’t give up, ok? OK!).
Anyone who has dabbled, or gone whole hog, into either arena knows how TOUGH it is to be plus sized, execute beautiful movement, and be perceived as sexy. With this in mind, I’d like to share with you the following. This is my manifesto of sorts for plus-sized or plus-shaped artists and performers, looking for a much-needed laugh and a whole lotta self love:
Things I love about being a Fat Girl Burlesque and Pole Dancer:
- I don’t really care if I “messed up my diet” the week before a show. The cellulite isn’t going anywhere and neither are the stretch marks anydamnway. Plus, the D word can die in a fire. 🔥🔥🔥
- Fat does not equal without grace/without rhythm/clumsy. I can dance circles around people smaller than me and then some.
- I am honored to inspire people to be comfy in the bodies they have NOW, naked or clothed, public or private.
- When I get to wear LOTS of shiny/sparkly/glittery/feathery things that make me feel pretty, oh so pretty.
- Discovering muscles growing in places I swore none lived.
- Laughing about chub rub and getting choked out by our boobs when we’re upside down
Things I do not love about being a Fat Girl Burlesque and Pole Dancer:
- Hearing time and time again; “Good for you for being a big girl and getting up there!” As if Fatness is a preordained death sentence if you have aspirations to ever be strong and sexy. I missed that memo. Whoops.
- I take up more space, therefore I need more space to move in. No, I cannot properly perform on this 10’ x 10’ stage with 5 other girls even if those girls are the size of Cheetos.
- Big bodies require big costumes/clothing which require more fabric/sequins/feathers/jewels/etc which requires more money. Until you’ve attained Dita Von Teese notoriety, burlesque and pole will chew holes in your wallet.
- Finding thigh highs that fit without gratuitous thigh muffin top is hard. Thank you Kix’ies.
- Teachers and Choreographers that have no idea how to work with fat bodies and either ignore us or expect us to do the thing even though we can’t. News flash! We’re not going anywhere so you better pay attention and give us something we CAN do.
- Chub rub and getting choked out by our boobs when we’re upside down
“More than just Fat and Funny”?
On a more serious note… I, like many of you, struggle with how to feel empowered by my body when “society” is grossed out by a skin fold or two… or twelve. I truly want to always rise above the haters and say I’m being bold, and working for change. That I am preaching to the masses from the top of my pole, and doing what I love. But, when smaller dancers are told how sexy/hot/seductive they are, and I’m told that I’m just sooooo entertaining, I can’t help but feel crushed, invisible, ugly. I adore making people laugh, but damn y’all, it feels so unfair.
Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the extra wide Fat Girl tunnel. Each performance I learn a little bit more about me, my boundaries (self-imposed and societal) and what really matters to me. I become more comfortable with my body each time I share it with an audience. I have learned to take more risks in performance: choosing songs, choreography, and costuming that highlights the sexy, more than the comedic. Even if it takes me out of my comfort zone. We happen upon peers, studios, students and teachers that lift us up, literally and metaphorically. We try really hard to leave the bullshit outside and have FUN.
Don’t worry, body love is a work in progress
Eventually, I hope to ascend to some glorified state of utopia where all my body issues fall away, and the audience magically finds every single crevice and crack on my body delicious and worthy of their drooling attention. Until then, I will save my pennies for those 3xl pole shorts, and wear red lipstick and fake eyelashes like I was born in them. I will command the attention of the audience until they can’t help but watch me and my Fat Fabulousness. And I sure as hell will continue to love myself and my chubby pole and burlesque sisters.
Dearest Fluffies, I invite you to continue this journey with me; I’ll bring the snacks.
Jamie, better known as Bettie Leigh, is a Co-Director and Dancer with Carnivale Debauche and an Instructor at Defy Gravity. She has been burlesque dancing for 6 years and co-directing Carnivale Debauche for 3. Her specialties include character and theme development, stage presence, costuming and use of comedy. Dancing and directing continue to be truly transformative experiences for her.
Jamie’s pole journey began almost 2 years ago and since then pole dance has become a best friend, soulmate (and frenemy). Jamie teaches Burlesque Basics, Fluffy Kitty Pole, a class for plus sized and plus shaped individuals, Pole Fundamentals and Bend and Flex. She loves watching her Fluffy Kitties become ferocious cats, is ecstatic about helping people achieve #FLOORTACO, and dancing with her slay squad.
Outside of her artistic endeavors, Jamie works in social justice and education. She is a fierce feminist, body positive artist, sex educator, and lover of cats, meow.
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