It’s not often one gets to see their image created into an object of beauty by a truly talented painter. Chris Horner and I connected on G+ and without knowing much about each other outside of our social network updates, he requested to work off one of my favorite photos for a new painting style he wished to try with portraits. The photo he requested is a favorite of mine because Kenya the snake is pictured in it with me and she has taught me so very much. Look up Chris on G+ and enjoy Horner’s striking and flamboyantly colored portrait painting – the colors are what really matched my soul I feel, personally!
Simply asking a touring artist to wake before 9am spells bad attitude.
It was supposed to be an honorable, private tour through the Nation’s Capitol building for the cast of STOMP while we played Washington DC, but it turned into one of the most humbling and accidentally outlaw events of my life.
My cast mate, VD, and I were particularly attitudaly uncool pre-2p, missing those vital hours of healing beauty sleep after rocking another late-night performance and social life after. Our grumps turned to groans as we artists were directed to stand in a single file line to wait as our personal items were gone through and bodies frisked by uniformed guards with very little sense of humor.
Eventually we made it beyond the concrete threshold and a strange feeling crept up my spine as my still groggy eyes made out the vast expanse of giant, square, unforgiving marble tiles I was to follow our political escort down:
I did not belong here.
The ungodly hour, lines, uniforms and body searches screamed “follow the rules” to me and as an artist, I don’t.
From my creative perspective, it was obvious: whomever built and daily fortifies these walls is scared: scared of surprise, scared of genius, scared of coloring outside the lines – scared of freedom and therefore scared to die. Walking inside the lines is controllable, right angles are predictable, concrete is dependable – all the things life is not.
We proceeded down hall lined with looming stone statues depicting almost exclusively old, white men with their cold noses in the air, carved chests puffed up, one frozen hand clutching a lapel and a grotesque metal plaque detailing how they did something “important for the world” like discovering or conquering or ruling. I constantly referred to my girlfriend, VD, for validation; “Am I the only one who feels like vomiting here?”
The nausea turned to satire as we entered the revered dome room, the room where one can whisper from one side and acoustically, be heard clear as day on the other.
So I positioned myself far away from my girlfriend cast mate, took what I felt was a quiet moment to create some political performance satire, and whispered, “Pssst, VD… Look, I’m posing for my statue”. Then proceeded to drop my pants, stick my nose in the air and puff up my chest, as if I had discovered the Mississippi River or something. Apparently, my whisper was well-broadcast, however, thanks to that damn dome, and my pantless display was in no way concealed by whispering either. It took the uniforms no less than 10 seconds to descend upon me and promptly remove myself and the entire cast of STOMP from the Nation’s Capitol.
Scared to die. All of them!
Why else do they immortalize themselves in statues, build impenetrable structures out of marble and create a Universe with no variables? On a more subtle level, why do they compulsively reproduce – products, wars, human beings. They are reproducing with the hope that something will outlast their precious, meaningless, short lives. A subconscious fear of death drives them. A subconscious fear of life.
Many years and experiences later, I sit at my screenless window, wide open in Hollywood’s September congratulating myself for breaking free of the subconscious death-fearing system. By surrendering to the financial instability of an artist’s career, by wearing sequins and bright colors and using my body any way I like, by choosing to not have children, by facing my fear dead on (so to speak) and seeing what genius comes of it.
But deep down, am I not still just a small step away from the behavior of the line-walkers?
Harbored in my heart somewhere is the desire, as an artist, to create something so impacting it actually changes the trajectory of human evolution and earns me a fond memory as “one of the greats” when I am childless and gone. I, too, fear death and act out quite similarly to the reproducers.
Mine human issues just look prettier than theirs.
Originally published in Pyragraph Magazine
It was both of our first pole shoot. We’ve both shot a lot of dance and form-and-figure previously, but never something with poses that could only be held for a limited amount of time before exhaustion. Plus, our pole was only about 9′ tall (very short) so it was hard to get that low/looking up iconic angle. Not to mention that gorgeous glitter background was near and narrow, so we discovered when I stretch out fully, my image stretched past the background’s photo coverage. We shot for a mere hour and a half and let me tell you – I was exhausted after! With the magic of my favorite graphic designer, adding the end of a shoe back on here, extending the background there – I think our Pole Goddess shoot turned out pretty fantastic for our first time!
Tonya Kay is a Platinum Stages sponsored pole athlete.
Most women have body issues. Heck, most men do, too. I got lucky growing up in theatre and dance. By age 6 I was changing costumes in coed dressing rooms and whipping off petticoats in theatre wings, just beyond audience vision. By age 7 I was gyrating hip rolls and performing my left splits/right splits/middle splits as part of the choreography. These performance arts left very little room for self-consciousness or self-judgement, thank goodness.
Teenagers have the odds stacked against them when it comes to healthy body image. If a girl didn’t grow up in theatre or dance, there’s a high likelihood she was called “loose” if she performed body rolls in public, or worse yet, had to listen to her musical idol get called a “slut” after twerking on national tv. Boys are shamed just as much for the things their bodies do and feel and are called creeps when they try to express themselves. Couple that with society’s obsession with animal products and processed foods and the popular parenting technique of placing an iPhone in every 8 year old’s backpack and you’ve got kids who grow up to be genuinely overweight, ashamed of their bodies, with no clue how to get through it besides posting a few more Instagram selfies, overcompensating with machismo or saving up for that cosmetic surgery someday.
As a mature adult now, I perform live burlesque in Hollywood, CA and across the country. You might be surprised to know that the number of women equal the men in our audiences (the ladies are certainly more vocal!). The well-dressed women run up to me after a show, just sparkling, saying they ” always wanted to do that – but could never,” and I am affected. They don’t mean simply “disrobing on stage”. They mean embodying confidence and embracing their sensuality while being half clothed in public.
Audiences are fascinated by the burlesque performer because we represent people whom have broken free from body issues. We are celebrating the way we move, our emotional connections to the movements, our creative self-expression and our engagement with onlookers. Women love other empowered women. And men need a place where they can express their adoration of empowered women in a classy setting, maintaining their dignity, too. Everyone becomes empowered at a burlesque show.
If I could teach every teenage girl that how she moves her body has nothing to do with how many lovers she takes or doesn’t … if I could teach every young man that changing in front of others or seeing others change is natural and does not warrant perversion … if I could thank every gentleman at my burlesque performance for the respectful praise he lavishes upon me … if I could give every women 2 minutes in that spotlight herself, all the while, gently whispering how stunning her movements, how mesmerizing her performance, how attractive her entire being is, I would. I would, I would, I would.
The spirit of burlesque IS the spirit of self-celebration. Burlesque is today’s medicine for body issues and sensuality fears we’ve been injured with. Burlesque is a much needed, modern healing art and plain, damn good entertainment. I hope to look at you looking at me in a show soon.
For more information on where to catch Tonya Kay burlesque, visit http://tonyakay.com/appearances/.
originally published in Pyragraph Magazine
These are my favorite selections from The Lalas Burlesque Halloween show at The Federal in North Hollywood, CA 10/26/13. All pics by MrLiesAngeles.