Appreciate the Body Beautiful at Thick! 3

“Burlesque is about feminism. Burlesque is about power. Burlesque is about women doing what they want and loving themselves.”

What society thinks is sexy–who gets depicted as sexy, what sort of bodies are given that designation, is a thing that changes through time and place. For the last five or six decades, in the United States, it has been hard to find representation of sexy women of size, for example. Large women can be funny or sassy, but are rarely shown to be desirable. Fat people in general can feel shut out of human sexuality as if feeling attractive is a part of the human experience that does not include them.

Change is coming, but events like Thick! 3, a showcase of big, beautiful, burlesque performers, remain a bit transgressive.  Burlesque as a medium is leading the way towards honoring a diversity of bodies. As performer Noella DeVille puts it, “Burlesque not only gives visibility to all body types, but highlights them as beautiful, talented, and sexy. Being an audience member, you see that all different bodies are celebrated and it fosters a feeling of inclusion.”

“The burlesque scene is stereotypically about ‘looks’,” says Viva Valezz, organizer of the event, who has been performing burlesque for a decade. “In this day and age, performers don’t conform to standards anymore. Burlesque is about feminism. Burlesque is about power. Burlesque is about women doing what they want and loving themselves. No matter what size or color or presen
tation…and fuck conformity.”

Because we can’t simply have nice things, big, beautiful burlesque performers have suffered a backlash in the form of online harassment over the last few years. “It happens online quite often, usually from strangers trolling body positive hashtags,” says DeVille. “My response to those  who attempt to bully me is usually to post MORE pictures of myself, as a middle finger to their opinion of me.” Luckily, this has not extended the Thick show itself. As Valezz says, “It’s a no-brainer really. People who fat-shame don’t usually pay the ticket price to see a few hours of luscious, beautiful bodies… and who the hell needs those people?”

Performing can be transformative. “Soon to be 40, it’s taken me most of my life to become comfortable in my skin. For the young people out there struggling with self esteem and body image issues, my advice is to not let the words break you. Find your voice. Embrace the parts of yourself that other people may see as flaws and accentuate your assets,” advises Luscious D, who will be accenting her assets at the show.

Thick!  3 will feature local performers as well as special international guests, with a large variety of performance styles. March 18th at the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy. Tickets are $15 in advance, and $20 at the door.

This article originally appeared on QueerPgh.com. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.