The reason for this two-part episode series is because I had originally published the full audio-file in it’s own episode, however I didn’t realize that I had exceeded the data limit with the software I was using, hence splitting the original audio file into two episodes. Enjoy!
Original Post Date: 7/20/17
I’ve always wanted to be on stage. I’ve always had stage fright too. The two don’t often mix well, but are commonly seen together, and I would know (and many of you would too)! I’ve had some small opportunities to be on stage, and most of it felt pretty random. For instance, my freshman year of high school I was in a Shakespeare play and I had one line but all I remember was getting distracted by my jacked up nails and then getting slapped on the arm by a cast mate for missing my line (I had one job and I done fucked it up). So I figured being in a play wasn’t my strong suite because obviously I could barely pay attention or really even remember my line
s very well. All I knew was that I still loved to perform, just so long as I felt comfortable with myself. I didn’t know how to dress or express myself as a female, and I sure as shit didn’t know about my queerness or that that word even existed. I was also hiding my chubbiness because it was not seen as “beautiful,” it was seen as “invisible” or “disgusting.”
I’ve had more exposure and experience on stage as a dancer though. I used to get hired for dancing Bollywood songs, commonly from any of Aishwarya Rai‘s work (my childhood idol). I tried emulating her as best I could, I even wore blue contacts! (I wish I had pictures available but everything is back at my folks house across the country and they’re in the process of moving right now, so more to be revealed on some photos of this past.) I was at my prime, physically, when I used to dance on two competitive dance teams in college (see me dance Bhangra style), and when I belly danced for a hookah bar.
All of these experiences so far boosted my confidence and sweetened my relationship with my body and my femininity. Except there were a couple instances where the relationship with my body hair was turning into the “dark ages.” I got made fun of in school for being hairy before this, so I took my mother’s advice and started getting lazer hair removal for my face. When I was a teen, I had a horrific incident where I got my face waxed by this random ass Indian lady in her basement (sketch af, thanks mom), and having to perform a beautiful dance in front of a massive audience with huge hives on my face! I felt hideous and wanted to hide. I don’t recall dancing at gigs like that since then, and it makes me sad for the loss. Dancing pretty much stopped all together after getting back surgery in August 2007, pretty much when I started to feel dead inside. The depression made me feel less motivated or encouraged to “dress up” or even “show up,” I really had no love for myself whatsoever and I was too scared to put myself out there again. I let go of myself and relationships.
Then, in college and my doctorate program, I performed in Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” where I played characters with monologue titles called “The Flood,” “My Angry Vagina,” and “The Woman Who Liked To Make Vaginas Happy.” (I have videos somewhere on my hard drive from the performances during my doctorate program, so more to be revealed on those too.) These experiences were incredibly growth promoting, because first of all, I’m talking about VAGINAS. Also, my parents were in the audience, and that’s a big fucking deal. This was, in a way, my “coming out” as a woman, embracing and owning my femininity and sexuality in a major global way. It felt really good to be part of something so big, especially because I was contributing to the cause! Plus it was fun and I felt sexy af. I was still pretty femme in college = wearing makeup, doing my hair and eyebrows, getting fake nails, shaving my legs/armpits, dressing trendy, etc. It’s how I thought to identify based on what I knew, all the while my idea of queerness was starting to emerge.
Later in my doctorate program, I had the very unique opportunity to play a supporting character in Earth Pearl Collective‘s adaptation of Tennessee William’s play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” to promote and enhance art and theater among queer women of color. My fabulous cast mates were absolutely amazing to work with and I am so so blessed to have been part of such a wonderful production.
I learned a lot about myself during this time (I was growing immensely and I had already been through some shit in my life), so this play was exactly what I needed to feel alive on stage, even if I was not playing myself. I stopped shaving my legs/armpits at this point, but I was still wearing some makeup and doing my eyebrows while having an off-and-on relationship with fake nails. My idea of queerness started developing before I really even knew what was going on or how to define/describe it. And my idea of “fat acceptance” or body positivity (bo-po as it’s called) started emerging as well. It was a foreign concept and kinda freaked me out, so I ignored it. I also haven’t had sex or been kissed since 2007, so we’re going on 5 years at this point.
Even though the Streetcar opportunity was more like a god-send to me (lots of shit was happening in my life at this time), I had experienced a major body betrayal during this performance, very similar to – if not the exact fucking same thing that happened to me during the Shakespeare performance where I done fucked up. Let’s just say that I felt betrayed by my body because for both of those plays I had an incredibly heavy flow that basically caused me to run to the restroom every hour or less to change, which still didn’t even fucking matter because both times the overflow of blood actually ruined my costumes. I was mortified. Completely embarrassed and ashamed that my body would betray me like that during my performances. I felt like I couldn’t trust my menstrual cycle and I wasn’t being very compassionate about having polycysitc ovarian syndrome (PCOS; a cluster of cysts on the ovaries that give women irregular periods leading to infertility, increased vulnerability to becoming diabetic and increased testosterone leading to facial hair and basically thinning out on top). This health care issue completely changed my relationship to my body, my femininity and my sexuality, and now my womanhood. I never went to a doctor because I was too ashamed.
Over time, I learned to forget about these experiences because I went back to playing small with myself and to hating myself with behaviors meant to soothe and comfort me but were actually destroying and sabotaging me. Then, after I completed my dissertation and was working full-time as an pre-doctoral intern, I got a phone call from WGN radio station where I was eventually interviewed on my work (i.e., advocating for a media literacy curriculum on pornography within comprehensive sex ed programs). This made me feel so useful because I knew what I was talking about, I felt confident and important and I felt like I was contributing to the world in a positive way. Oh and this wasn’t the first experience I had for a radio interview – I’m gonna write another blog post about it, so in the meantime you’ll have to listen to my podcast episode “Limelight” for the story.
BUT – my body betrayed me AGAIN during the WGN radio interview. This time it was the first of what eventually turned into a chronic condition I developed what’s called “idiopathic angioedema” in which part of my lip/mouth swells significantly and makes it difficult for me to talk- like wtf is this!? There’s no rhyme or reason for this to be happening. You can hear me lip smacking in the interview because of it, and it continues to embarrass me even though many people tell me no one really fucking cares (all intended to make me feel better). More to be revealed on this chronic condition, it’s a fucken doozy. But basically, this time in my life I’m starting to become confused and angry about my body size (I had been growing in girth), my queerness, my femininity and gender expression.
Now, in my final “training” year as a post-doc fellow, I stumbled upon a unique opportunity to present for Ann Arbor’s “Nerd Nite” on The Story of Hysteria and the Vibrator. It pretty much brings all of my above experiences together. I’ve gone through a lot in life but I’ve also put in a lot of work, both professionally and personally. I had just got back from a 5-day intensive retreat on mindfulness self-compassion (more to be revealed on that too), which really helped me learn to accept and love myself just as I am – truly life changing!!
BTW, this performance will be video recorded and a link will be posted soon so that folks who missed the live performance can watch from the comfort of their own homes, so stay tuned folks! ***UPDATE: 7/21/17*** They didn’t record the performance tonight! My friend Mika tried recording something on my phone so I’ll probably do something with Youtube.. mtbr****
This gig is the epic, mecca of all shows for me because it’s something I’ve already presented/performed on throughout my 8 years of grad school before this, but this time, things are different. I’m different. Also, I’ve stopped doing my eyebrows since last October but I’m still getting lazer hair removal done because it’s keeping my PCOS in check, but other than that, I’ve pretty much stripped away all of what I thought was my “femme” identity from before. I’m fully embracing my queerness, womanhood and body, and now it’s just basic, natural and real. It’s both liberating and terrifying.
So, the plogcast episode “Limelight” doesn’t just share my dreams of being on stage, where I truly feel like I belong, but it goes deeper into the evolution of my relationship with my body, my understanding of gender and beauty standards, and my expression of femininity and sexuality in today’s world. My depression wasn’t because I was hiding, it was self-acceptance in disguise. As a queer, woman of color, it’s a big fucking deal for me to show myself to the world, uncensored and raw. For instance, right now – 2 hours before going on stage – I’m feeling incredibly anxious about what I’m going to wear tonight. My lovely friends, Mika and “Qu-angel Belcher” (aka Queer-Angel from Hell), are helping me figure out why I’m struggling in this arena so badly, and I think I’ve decided that I’m gonna say no to conformity and playing small with myself just to make others feel comfortable.
So, I’m not gonna give any fucks to what people have to say or think about me and what I am or am not (wow, that’s a first, and it feels really fucking good to type this out and PUBLISH IT!). I’m gonna go on that stage tonight and wear the dress that shows all of my imperfections instead of covering myself up with the usual baggy clothes… basically I’m not gonna hide tonight. I’m showing the world exactly who I am, and that is loving and accepting myself completely through the discomfort of being vulnerable in this world.
So, this is it. This is me owning it, without apologies. Showing up to the unknown and saying “fuck it” I’m gonna be me.
“No pressure,” says Qu-angel, “you’ve got your Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent (C.U.N.T.), but now you have the whole internet holding you accountable. Lucky you! Now don’t fuck it up.”
Fast forward to 55:15 on mtrb podcast episode “Limelight” to hear me talk about my thoughts on last night’s performance. I courageously stepped out on that stage and absolutely killed it. I had so much fun keepin’ it real and tellin’ it like it is by bein’ true to myself. I was supposed to go to group therapy two hours before doors opened at the venue for Nerd Nite, but I was overwhelmed with nerves so I gave myself some down time to get my head in the game. I couldn’t have made the decisions I did tonight without my good friends and without embracing who I already am, and without having participated in a 5-day intensive retreat on mindfulness self-compassion and my tarot card readings that solidified the push towards this milestone and journey towards my destiny (mtbr on both topics so stay tuned for that!). As challenging as it’s been for me throughout these past 3 decades, I am learning to give myself permission to let go of all the internal and external noise and trust that I’ll radiate from my sacred, grounded space. With continued practice and the support from my lovely subscribers, I will feel more comfortable and confident to fearlessly and unapologetically tap into my power and my light for the world to see.
…stay tuned on mtbr…
Catch me gear up before my first Nerd Nite performance through the second-part of this episode in which you can also follow along with the powerpoint available on the plogcast titled “Hysteria and the Vibrator.” Unfortunately the Nerd Nite show on July 20th was unable to get recorded, but fortunately I’ve been asked to return for another go at it, so stay tuned for a link to the video sometime in the fall!
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