“I still think it’s ok for children to see burlesque in an environment that is suited for them.”
A New Orleans-based burlesque dancer stirred up controversy this week after sharing a photograph of a young girl stuffing dollar bills into her lingerie and touting the scene as a constructive example of body positivity, feminism and the destigmatization of displays of sexuality.
“This little girl was at brunch a few weeks ago and her family was encouraging her to tip and engage with me. It’s always so refreshing to see families actively destigmatizing and changing narratives around bodies and sexuality,” said Bella Blue in a post shared to her followers on Instagram and Facebook.
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The performer, who on her website identifies as a “femme presenting unicorn,” gushed over the progressive mindset exhibited by the girl’s mother.
“At the end, her mom (who’s back there taking pics!) came up to me and said ‘thank you for showing her that being a strong woman is ok.’ And I told her ‘No, no. Thank YOU for exposing her to burlesque and for encouraging her to experience it,'” Blue said.
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This little girl was at brunch a few weeks ago and her family was encouraging her to tip and engage with me. It’s always so refreshing to see families actively destigmatizing and changing narratives around bodies and sexuality. At the end, her mom (who’s back there taking pics!) came up to me and said “thank you for showing her that being a strong woman is ok.” And I told her “No, no. Thank YOU for exposing her to burlesque and for encouraging her to experience it.” . Thank you @dominicimichael for capturing the moment.
Blue revealed in a message to social media followers on Wednesday that the “hate” and “division” engendered by the image caused her to remove it from Facebook, although it remains up on Instagram where it has nearly 2,000 likes and more than 100 comments.
In an apparent dig at President Donald Trump’s administration, Blue urged her followers to focus their energy on “more important topics” such as “our administration or racism or equal rights.”
But the event producer and owner of Bella Blue Entertainment held firm on her stance that there was nothing inappropriate about the photo.
“I still think it’s ok for children to see burlesque in an environment that is suited for them,” she said. “I still think that the family bringing this child and encouraging her to tip destigmatizes everything we grow up learning about bodies.”
Blue finger-wagged at her critics, claiming some “have never engaged in critical thinking or conflict resolution or been outside your bubble.”
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“So, enjoy your place up there on your moral high ground,” she said.
Facebook users were divided in the comments to Blue’s post. “I’m sorry, but a young child putting money into the panties of a grown woman is questionable,” wrote one commenter. “I loved that picture. I really could have used body positive, happy in their own skin, women in my life as a child,” wrote another.
In addition to her work as producer and performer, Blue offers courses at the New Orleans School of Burlesque. Her business’ Facebook activity betrays an awareness of progressive and activist ideology.
“I know that if I want to move deeper into the work of serving the formerly/currently incarcerated population, the queer community, and have a platform for education about racism and systems of oppression, it’s likely that I will need a degree. I have a lot of mixed feelings though. Education in this country is for the privileged and I don’t want to feed the machine,” she wrote in one ruminating Facebook post.
Blue’s libertine stance on sexuality might be shocking to adherents of traditional values. Conservatives, in particular, have taken issue with initiatives that seek to introduce children to ideas surrounding sexuality, gender fluidity and other sex-related topics at a young age.
In March, the parents of an 11 year-old drag queen revealed they had been investigated for alleged child abuse. That same month, Houston Public Library’s “Drag Queen storytime” program came under fire after reports surfaced that the system had hired a man convicted of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old boy in 2008.
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