Hey, it’s Amber here. I am excited to share today’s writing and introduce you to a good friend and soul sister of mine – Chel Rogerson, who is co-leading my Outer Banks Beach Retreat this August!
Chel and I met back when we worked together in corporate-land and have been friends ever since (12 years!) I’ve been so amazed to watch Chel’s journey as she went from self-conscious and a tendency to hide, to totally badass and self-assured. I’m also incredibly proud of her achievements through her years of practice and dedication to the flow arts.
Chel and I have both had similar struggles with body image, disordered eating, and self-acceptance, and we’ve both found our way to a more peaceful, integrated place through mindful movement and self-care. We can’t wait to share some of the tools that got us there at this retreat (more on that at the bottom of this email)!
And now… Chel shares part of her story:
On booty shorts & cellulite: a story of body acceptance
by Chel “Gypsea BombChel” Rogerson
We all have had our horrors in front of a full-length mirror. Judging ourselves so harshly as we prepare for a big event, summer swim season, or even just starting our day.
Can you relate? That mirror may as well be a magnifying glass, and God help us all under fluorescent lighting!
We are a society plagued by negative self talk, especially women. And it’s not only the media (Instagram, we love you and we hate you!), but it’s an all out attack that comes from our closest social circle and community.
“Great, even my heels have cellulite!”
I grew up ashamed of my body because I was teased “playfully” by people around me. This had me dieting and counting calories by the fourth grade, following the example set by my mom and her Redbook magazines. Even in my 20s, my dermatologist had the audacity to point out unrelated to any medical concern that I have cellulite on my heels (that’s “piezogenic papules,” btw!). Great, even my heels have cellulite!
No matter your size, shape, or fitness level, there’s a constant questioning and judgment that goes on in our heads. We can blame societal pressures, but we are our own harshest critics when comparing ourselves to our friends or media ideals.
There was a time in my life when I reached my thinnest, and I still had the full-length mirror battles. Being of the perfectionist mindset, I nearly gave up. I hid under baggy clothes and just accepted that I would never have the body that could wear certain outfits, such as shorts, short skirts or tight dresses. It didn’t matter how thin I got (and hungry for food!), how muscular or in shape, for me there was the industry-labeled, “orange peel” skin or bra-induced “back fat” to contend with.
Luckily, I embraced a healthier, more balanced lifestyle and found joy through working out and meditation. Ultimately, it was understanding that I had the power within myself to find the path to radical self-acceptance.
When I say radical, I mean parading that “orange peel” skin and back fat in front of live audiences in skimpy costumes on stage. How’s that for vulnerability? In my late 30’s, I did something I could never dream of doing in my confidence-shattering 20’s. I became a professional circus, pole dance, and burlesque performer.
This journey began about 9 years ago when I stepped into my first pole dancing class. I had no experience with dance. I joined a six-week series designed to build confidence and teach women to look and feel sexy in their own skin within a safe and accepting environment. So safe, there were dark rooms with black lights and each gym member coined her own dance name for anonymity. It was at Studio Rio Twisted Fitness in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that I became “BombChel.”
“I had avoided wearing any type of shorts for the entirety of my 20’s. Why would the instructor think I just had booty shorts stashed away in my drawer?”
I was told by the gym when I called to join the series that it was best to wear a skirt or “booty” shorts to class. Booty shorts? Ha, I had avoided wearing any type of shorts for the entirety of my 20’s. Why would the instructor think I just had “booty shorts” stashed away in my drawer? I was terrified of showing my legs, even to the point that I wouldn’t wear tight yoga pants!
Flash forward to nearly ten years later. I’m performing pole dance, hoop and fire entertainment under the burlesque name “Gypsea BombChel.” I have a massive box of costumes that I’ve lugged across the country between the east coast and west coast several times. I not only have booty shorts, I have mounds of cheeky shorts. Even my bikinis are cheeky, and I parade around in them on the beach under the bright sunlight. I’m also a dance and yoga instructor sharing what I love to do with other women.
What changed? For me, I started to connect with an art form, expressing myself through dance, and that joy eventually took precedence over my own self judgment. It took years to work on this, but it’s incredibly liberating to wear anything with confidence performing in front of people, even when I’m not admittedly looking my best.
“…in the burlesque scene in San Diego, I saw incredible performances by beautiful women of all shapes and sizes. These dancers were all so brave to bare their vulnerabilities and dance so exposed in front of a crowd. I was inspired.”
The biggest catalyst for me was going to pole dance class and seeing other brave women bare all and set an example. Pole studios are a safe place to learn without intimidation. Moving onto the burlesque scene in San Diego, I saw incredible performances by beautiful women of all shapes and sizes. These dancers were all so brave to bare their vulnerabilities and dance so exposed in front of a crowd. I was inspired.
If they could do it, why shouldn’t I?!
I never looked at these women with judgment, only with admiration. And that’s when I felt safe to explore my own expression of sexy, sassy performance art.
Since we are constantly learning to judge ourselves harshly by the society around us, then I’m proud to set an example for change. Just as the women before me inspired and encouraged me in pole dance class and on stage, I now have the bravery to bare all and feel comfortable in my own skin. It’s liberating because I never let self-consciousness hold me back from doing what I love–dancing and yoga–and sharing it with others.
“You can be happy and grateful with the body you have right now.”
Whether you are a dancer, a yogi or embracing another form of movement, you can be free as well. Maybe for you it’s not something like wearing cheeky shorts on stage, but you get the idea. You can be happy and grateful with the body you have right now. I hope by my example and by joining many other brave women, you find inspiration. Through movement and mindfulness, you too can enjoy the liberation from your own self-judgement.
If I can do it, why shouldn’t you?!
It’s time to lift each other up, set an example and bring about much-needed body positivity and self-love.
Chel is a 200-hour Yoga Alliance certified instructor and Reiki level 1 and 2 certified. She has a California soul and a Carolina heart: living in San Diego, California, and Outer Banks, North Carolina. She also roams the world always seeking new knowledge to improve her performance art and a vibrant blend of life experiences. You can find Chel on Facebook, Instagram and at www.bliss-fit.com.
Join us in the Outer Banks of North Carolina this August!
Corolla, North Carolina
2 private rooms have opened up for this magical and inspiring retreat. Join me and Chel in North Carolina’s Outer Banks this summer for a 5-day, 4-night retreat vacation packed with gentle yoga, beginner-friendly hoop and pole dance classes, self-care, and beach time.
We have an absolute beach palace for this retreat and there are only a few spots open! Get complete details here.
I hope to see you in the Outer Banks!