I, like many people, have struggled with body image. In grade school I was teased relentlessly for my big teeth and the high water pants I was embarrassingly too tall for. In high school when all my friends were at the mall bra shopping, I was furtively cursing their growing chests and wondering if I would ever have a reason to cross the threshold of Victoria's Secret. My weight has yo yo'd for much of my life and I've learned that you can be both too fat and too skinny according to some... Thankfully I'm a lot more comfortable in my skin now than I was in my younger days and I owe it all to Community theater.
It was 2006, and I had been called to audition for the lead role in an upcoming adaptation of "Gypsy-" a risque little burlesque revue based on the life of Gypsy Rose Lee. I was given the role and then it was explained to me that every night when the curtains opened, I was to deliver my lines, sing my songs, and strip for the townspeople in the audience. This was rural Wisconsin. My old high school teachers, the parents of kids I had babysat, and my parents were all likely to be in attendance, and would witness me disrobing on stage. I hated the idea of this- but I loved the idea of local celebrity, so I embraced the role and I did what was necessary to capture the essence of the character as well as entertain the crowd.
For those unaware of the story of Gypsy Rose Lee, she was a depression era child performer who was constantly upstaged by her younger sister and ended up broke, unemployed, and out on the streets. One evening she was approached by a desperate stranger who asked her to fill in for one of his burlesque dancers who had ended up in prison. While performing, one of her dress straps accidentally gave way, causing her gown to fall to the floor. This fashion faux-pas wound up being her signature move for years to come as she took the world by storm with her tasteful strip-tease. She was a classy dame though. She always wore lingerie or choreographed the use of a large-brimmed hat to quickly shield her lady bits as her dress was falling.
So during the entire run of "Gypsy," I sang my songs, I shed my clothes, and I learned that it's just a body. I'm not advocating for stripping- nor am I criticizing it. I'm simply sharing the fact that for me, It took getting nearly naked in front of 200 people night after night to achieve body acceptance. No one told me I was too fat- or too skinny. They didn't comment on my poor posture or my small chest. Rather, they complimented my singing voice. They commended the way I courageously got into character. I haven't done any burlesque since then, but whenever I'm having a bad body image day, I consider submitting an application to one of the local troops so I can put myself back in check. No body is perfect, but yours can be perfect to you- if you believe it.