By SASHA LAPOINTE
Last week, burlesque performer and choreographer, Amanda Trusty’s video performance of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” exploded all over the internet. I watched each of my girlfriends as they posted the clip to their blogs and Facebook pages, commending Trusty for her bravery, confessing their own deeply emotional responses to the video.
I must have watched the video at least nineteen times. Ten times back to back. I was mesmerized, pushed each time to hit the replay button to feel the wave of connection wash over me, to feel my whole body surge with understanding.
In the video, Amanda Trusty begins her performance with stiff mechanical movements, her hair tied tightly in a knot above her head as she does plies, dancing on point with the calculated movements of a trained ballerina. Trusty’s body hides beneath a black, long sleeve top, and the many layers of crinoline of her stiff, pink tutu.
As the song goes on, Trusty begins to move more organically and freely. Her energy takes off as she makes the abrupt transformation from ballerina to tap dancer. She moves effortlessly across the stage, pulls her hair out of the bun and shakes it loose. Trusty then surprises the audience by yanking off her restricting black top, and shimmying out of her tutu.
Shedding the Labels
The surprise isn’t in the reveal, but rather in the labels Trusty has taped across her naked body, “suck it in,” across her belly, “cellulite,” down the back of her thigh, “fat,” with arrows pointing down, above her behind. As she moves with an intoxicating rhythm, Trusty peels the labels from her body and tosses them aside without missing a step.
By the end of my second or third view of “Roar,” I was teary-eyed. I felt a flutter in my chest and a deep appreciation for what Trusty had just brought to the world.
Trusty writes on her blog, “While I literally peeled the words ”˜cellulite’ and ”˜suck it in’ off my body, as a part of the piece I created in order to share my journey, I thought to myself, ”˜this is Broadway to me.’”
Though Amanda Trusty’s video is in response to her own personal journey through the New York dance scene, it also speaks to women everywhere. She brazenly bares her skin and her passion, risking being considered “outside” the stereotypical beauty archetype that the media has created. She is not what a typical ballerina looks like. She is something fiercer.
It is important that women everywhere take this into consideration, take a look in the mirror and take a tip from Trusty. As an average-sized, or curvy indigenous woman of mixed heritage, it’s hard to find a place in mainstream media’s beauty standards.
Advertisements tell me I’d be prettier if I were thinner. Most magazines geared towards women are instructional manuals designed to remind me I need flawless skin, white teeth, and an arsenal of beauty products to be considered desirable.
Time to Explode the Myth
But in these beauty guides I rarely see myself staring back at me. There seems to be two different ideas of beauty, according to whoever decides these things. One, the corn-fed, all American, golden-haired, blue-eyed girl next door, Two, the highly exotic, dark and mysterious beauty with intensified features, ambiguously ethnic””none of which are me, none of which are anybody I know, wire-thin with a kind of sculpted femininity.
There wasn’t ever a “mixed heritage” Barbie doll for me growing up. I didn’t see strong female roles in any of the movies I grew up watching. Where was the curvy, part native princess who saved herself? Oh that’s right, she didn’t exist. Ever.
Videos like Trusty’s that explode the myth are a step in the right direction. It is essential that we start breaking out of the roles we’ve been locked into by a patriarchal, colonized society.
Copyright © IAIA CHRONICLE 2013