I’ve struggled with eating disorders and body dysmorphia for several years, and so when I discovered burlesque and the power that lingerie and pinup attire could have for my self confidence and body positivity I threw myself into it. It’s a really, freeing, empowering way to take control over beauty standards. Even a year into my burlesque performances, it’s a constant struggle to convince myself that audiences will like what I’m doing and, that ultimately, it only matters that I like what I’m doing. But it gets easier every time.

I spent a long time hiding in an androgynous space where no one could really see what I looked like because I was scared of my body and the reactions it would get, and over the past year I’ve steadily moved more and more into a femme space as I’ve become more comfortable with my body and my sexuality as a bisexual woman. The queer spaces I grew up around were staunchly butch, for better or worse, and while I found safe spaces there I never fully felt like myself. The amazing queer community in the burlesque world has helped me reconcile femininity and sexuality without sacrificing either.

My favorite physical part of me has always been my eyes, and over time, they’ve come to be my favorite metaphorical part of me as well. My eyes are the medium by which I see and judge myself, the immediate receptor for the body dysmorphia and self hate, but they are also where the first signs of change and self acceptance can happen. I was genuinely surprised at how many of the proofs from this photoshoot I loved - not because Braden doesn’t take incredible photos- but because I assumed I’d hate the way I looked in them no matter what he did. Acceptance and self love take a long time and a lot of work, but they’re worth it.

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