My name is Lilyana L’amour. I’m a burlesque dancer and I hate my body.
Woah, you might be thinking. Burlesque is all about body confidence and self-acceptance… how can you do this and dislike yourself? Trust me, it’s hard.
This is my deepest, darkest confession. Some people will know of my struggles with self-acceptance let alone confidence or even love towards myself but I’m someone who keeps to themselves more often than not and I’m not great at asking for support or help.
I guess it started when I was a kid. I was always tall.. to some, I was a freak. I’d be told through my years that I was tall.. almost as though it was a bad thing. ‘Wow, you’re taller than the boys!’. But wasn’t being taller than boys a bad thing? No princesses or beautiful actresses were TALLER than boys. Everyone always wanted a man taller than them.. but I felt I was going to be unloved because of my height.
As I went through puberty, I developed wide hips and a big bum and thighs… our lumpy school uniform unfortunately emphasised the growth of my new found ‘assets’ and I was instantly fat to the kids at secondary school. Fat and tall. I’d never be attractive to anyone because those were the worst things a woman could be (or so I thought in my young teenage mind).
It continued, relentlessly, through my secondary school years. I was the goth kid which didn’t help with the bullying, but I had chosen to change my appearance so people. So, if they had something to say about me, they could tease me on that instead of my body which I could change.
I developed an eating disorder. I starved myself at school and would eat at dinner so my family wouldn’t know. I’d walk just about everywhere at this time, so if I felt weak I’d drink an energy drink or have sweets for sugar. It was bad, but I didn’t realise until later in life that I was doing something harmful to my body. I wasn’t making myself throw up, so I didn’t have a disorder… right?
Skip forward to 6 years ago, I am out of one ‘not so good’ relationship. I find my local burlesque classes and join. A week or so later, I’m performing my first ever routine. I felt somewhat comfortable in my skin by this point but it was due to change.
Over the next 3 ish years, I gained a lot of weight due to depression. I ate to comfort my ever-spiralling emotions. I felt useless, ugly and I hated everything about myself. I’d try an exercise routine, become so low and fall back into comfortable habits. I’d been in a relationship since just after I’d started burlesque and as it crumbled so did I. My depression took over and I would sit in the shower and cry, angry at myself for ever having let myself get to that point but I would still perform regularly. Burlesque was a respite. For 5 minutes I could have a positive experience in the body I hated so much and be cheered. However, the compliments always felt backhanded; ‘I could never have the confidence to do that, you’re body is so against the social standards’ someone said to me once. It hurt me. I felt I was being applauded for being fat and performing in a sexual way.
I’d try to fight my inner saboteur. I’d push this belief of body confidence and loving yourself and being happy in your skin ALL THE TIME.
It was exhausting. I was mentally exhausted and beating myself up constantly for not following my own teachings to the audience and workshop members. I was a fraud in my own eyes and that made me hate myself more. WHY CAN’T I LOVE MYSELF ALL THE TIME?
I got so desperate I would imagine cutting off parts of my fat with a knife. Then it continued on to suicidal thoughts. It was a very dark time.
When my relationship ended things turned around for me. I started thinking about what I wanted. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to dance and sing with friends. I wanted to not think about how I looked.
My weight dropped because I was going out and walking and dancing every weekend. I was happy because for the first time, I didn’t care about it. I allowed myself to have my low days but they didn’t outweigh the happy times for the first time in many years.
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2017 which explained my many years of pain, chronic fatigue and mental health issues. It brought me down to a dimly lit place, but I could still see there was a light. I had been in much worse situations and I had dug myself out of them before. I just needed to work.
That leads me in to now, 2 years later. I’m in a healthy relationship. My work is busy. I have prospects and a future. I still struggle with my body since putting weight back on but I’m now doing exercise classes (pole and recently aerial hoop) to help put me in a better place with my body. It’s hard but I am determined to push myself. I want to do the things that make me happy again and I feel so much achievement through going every week, no matter how bad I feel.
Some days I hate my body, every inch. Some days I don’t care. But I have finally reached a place where I know I can change and I am strong. My body shape or size or weight will not define me.
My name is Lilyana L’amour. I am a burlesque dancer, a daughter, a sister, a partner, a friend…
And I hate and love my body.
The Scarlet Vixens would love to hear from you if you’ve experienced similar issues around body confidence as Lilyana has. Please leave your comments in the box provided below.