Thursday night, I took a little drive up to Oakland for the launch party of Your Body Raks. It was important to me to support them because they are not only following a dream, but they are using that dream to create a better world. That is something that I would also love to do. I am very excited for them and I have to tell you, dear reader, about it.
Raks Africa is comprised of two ladies, Tammy Johnson and Etang Inyang. They are an award winning belly dance duo that are based out of Oakland, CA.
When I first became aware of them, I was blown away. I was just like everyone else who thought that belly dancers were wispy women who wore sheer genie pants and bras and veils all the while shaking themselves around the room attempting to entice the eyes of men. While every bit as beautiful as the stereotypical belly dancer, these stunning women have hearts and souls that match. In July of 2010, I was sitting in the audience of an event called Big Moves – Go Big or Go Home. The whole night was about shattering the stereotypes that dancers were all thin and the variety of styles in the show was fantastic to see. I think what drew me in to Raks Africa’s performance, which was my favorite, was their very visible joy and love of dance.
I became a fan instantly.
Being in the performing arts, I am well aware of the pressures put on everyone, but women especially, that one must be super thin or super beautiful in order to become something in this industry. We are led to believe the airbrushed pictures of models are what we are supposed to strive to be like. That if we are even the slightest bit fat, then we are automatically hideous or unlovable or unmarketable.
But before me, these two fabulous women were shaking and shimmying and having a ball, comfortable in their own skin and proud of their bodies. While I may not be trained in belly dance, I can tell when people have dance training and these ladies have it!
The goal of Your Body Raks is combat the constant body image bullying that is on display everywhere you look. The use of belly dance to build confidence in women and girls of every size, color, or background mixed with a safe environment to learn self acceptance and love will have an incredible positive impact on the individual.
I HIGHLY encourage you all to check out YourBodyRaks.com and look at the videos and learn about Tammy and Etang. And if you are lucky enough to be in the Oakland area, take a class!
These women are such an inspiration for what they are doing, and I take my hat off to them and wish them the absolute best I possibly can wish for anyone. I can’t even say aloud without choking up, how important I think their work is.
Yesterday I had the wonderful privilege of being the Master of Ceremonies for NotblueAtall.com‘s A Fatty Affair. I was nervous at first because we didn’t know how the night was going to progress with the program line-up we made, whether or not people were excited about it, if people would take some of the things I’d written into my mini-speeches to heart, and if they would get some of the jokes.
Yikes, so much to worry about! But first let me give you a little backstory…
According to all statistics, I am considered obese. For my height, I am supposed to weight something like 136-142. Neither of those, am I. However, I go to the gym and workout a couple of times a week. I don’t need to be there for hours on end. I have a home that I live in for that. I go so that I keep up my endurance. So that when I am on stage singing and dancing, I can do it. I go so that I can destress a little bit. I go so I can enjoy that endorphin kick that you get. And I go because I kind of enjoy people staring at the fat guy on an elliptical that is running at a pace of over 200 steps a minute for 45 minutes – 1 hour, as he’s mouthing the words to whatever is playing on his ipod, outpacing some of those other skinny bitches by 20 paces or so.
People are so conditioned, thanks to the diet industry, that you have to look a certain way or else you are not able to be happy. Hollywood and fashion only promote this theory. I am happy with myself. I have a strong heart, great blood pressure, and great eyesight. My hearing is so-so, but that’s because of my MUSIC!! I am not diabetic, have no breathing problems, and aside from joints that I’ve broken or injured doing stuff, those are fine too. But according to some ignorant chart, I am not “healthy” because of my weight.
A Fatty Affair was a body positive event for anyone and everyone who wanted to celebrate loving themselves exactly as they are. People of all shapes and sizes attended and it was SO good to see that. It’s bad enough that everywhere you turn people are saying that this is bad for you and that is bad, too. It’s a hard life to live if you accept all those rules and try and practice them all. What’s even harder is when most of them are wrong!
My girl, Sarah, and I coordinated our outfit color palate as any good duo would, black, white, and red. She accented the red and I the white. I don’t have any pictures of myself, but I know they will be popping up shortly. What pics I don’t put here, you will find HERE
I had to figure out the best way to approach talking to a whole crowd of people that I didn’t know. I know that some people are turned off by my flamboyant nature, and I really wanted everyone to have fun. So at first I reigned it in a bit. Kind of testing the waters. It was more important to me that I express that no one is alone. That no matter how many people think your not good enough or what have you, that this wonderful group of people that are sitting in the same room have been there and understand and are happy to be there for you. My fears were proved to be completely ludicrous when people got the joke when Sarah introduced me as Lisa Lisa to her Cult Jam. Anyone who knows the Lisa Lisa is my kind of peeps!
The first speakers were Nicole Pierce and Raven Eagan. Nicole Pierce (AWellRoundedVenture.com) and Raven Eagan (AlternativeFats.blogspot.com) are both bloggers and have a lot to say when it comes to fashion. They gave advise on tailoring, finding great things at flea markets, accessorizing, and other ideas. What it all boiled down to is don’t be afraid to rock something because you think it doesn’t fit or look good on you. Buy it bigger or smaller and tailor it. Accessorize to enhance whatever you want to enhance and strut like it ain’t no thang!
Sarah had two fabulous dance troupes lined up and the first one was the Phat Fly Girls (BigMoves.com)! They are such a fun group of ladies!! They performed a parody number from the musical “Chicago.”
Their number was titled “All That Flab.” Such a sassy number!! But then again, I wouldn’t expect anything else. ☺
They closed out “Act 1” and this opened up the clothing swap and mingle portion of the show. People got to get to know one another and make new friendships and cultivate ones that were formed online.
In addition to the swap and mingling, there was a wonderful Art company there called VoluptuArt as well as a local sculptor who’s name escapes me. I apologize immensely for that.
After 20 minutes or so, we begin “Act 2” with a magnificent performance by the lovely Raks Africa (YourBodyRaks.com)! I apologize, but I was so enthralled with cheering on these ladies that I didn’t even think to take pictures or video of their performance. But let me tell you, their finale of James Brown and getting people up and dancing, was a highlight fer sher!!
Closing up the night, Dr. Linda Bacon and Marilyn Wann were two authors that are advocates of Health At Every Size. Dr. Linda Bacon (LindaBacon.org) literally wrote the book: Health At Every Size. The wonderful, uplifting, and fabulous Marilyn Wann (FatSo.com) led us all in a song of “You Are My Sunshine” with some words substituted for others. Her words of encouragement did what they should do, uplift and inspire those of us in the audience.
Before we had the final words of the evening by Linda and Marilyn, a runway show was planned. I had no intention of participating on the catwalk, but when I saw that there were only two people who were signed up, I threw caution to the wind and tried to work the crowd up more by saying that “I bettah not be the only one that’s gonna werk it! So get on up!” I hear there is a picture somewhere. You’ll probably find it on Facebook sometime soon.
The reason that it was so important to me that everyone participate because I “hope you feel strong and mighty. When you leave here, know that you have a whole slew of people who will always cheer for you, just like that. Remember that feeling and hold it with you, always.”