Apr 9, 2014

What to Do with Comments From Haters ('Female Chauvinist Pigs')

Oh, you know this. We all know this. I'm sorry anyone has to deal with this kind of thing. If you haven't had to deal with negative comments, then well you are lucky for now, but it's just a matter of time before you too will read something negative about you. I guarantee it.

This happens to all burlesque performers at some point in their performance career. It happens to anyone who is in the public eye and even more to those who utilize their bodies as vehicles for self expression of whatever kind. I think back on how many times I have criticized a celebrity/singer/actress for being too fat, too skinny, or whatever ass-inine comments about their appearance. Since I've started my burlesque career I've stopped doing that. I've become more aware (even enlightened) about what's going on with women.

There was that one time when a male fan posted a photo of me on his Facebook and it instigated several negative
comments about my scar, mostly from women. I defended myself on that thread and explained why I do what I do.
I don't feel like I should feel ashamed for having a scar from a near fatal surgery, and I love the art of striptease, the creation of self made glamour, and I certainly did not feel the need to censor myself because someone else believes only "perfect unmarred bodies" should be seen publicly.  And... then there was last night. A female fan posted a photo of me on IG, full frontal in the middle of my act. I really like the photo even with the low camera angle and up-my-nose-ness (the show was really packed so many people graciously sat on the floor as I instructed and that was where her photo was taken from, see below).

The first comment (now disappeared): "shame she's not even hot." Comment was by a woman. I replied, "thanks (name) love the haters". I then re-posted the photo on my IG (below), because I felt like this phenomenon of women-hating-on-women must be addressed! Then suddenly my followers, many I know and many more I don't know, jumped on the thread to defend me. One "Amy_robot" even took the trouble to look at the commentator's profile and threw it back at her by saying:

I see you have a quote from B.K.S. Iyengar at the top of your profile - have you heard this one? "You must purge yourself before finding faults in others. When you see a mistake in somebody else, try to find if you are making the same mistake. This is the way to take judgment and to turn it into improvement. Do not look at others' bodies with envy or with superiority. All people are born with different constitutions. Never compare with others. Each one's capacities are a function of his or her internal strength. Know your capacities and continually improve upon them."

Wow! Go social media! I also cross-shared this post on my Facebook Page but that didn't accomplish the result I wanted.

Many people reassured me of my "hotness" which was very nice of them to be sensitive to the possibility of an injured ego and for that I thank you, but I was honestly not trying to fish for compliments or reassurance. The issue at hand is the culture of competition between women.

Criticizing other women for not being "hot", too fat, too skinny, "gross" or my favorite women-hating-women term being a "skank". Many of my followers theorize that these kind of negative comments speak to the commentator's own insecurities and self loathing, but I don't really buy into that explanation. I believe it is what author Ariel Levy calls the "female chauvinist pig" syndrome in her titular book "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture" (good read!).

Levy's main argument is that contemporary culture has become so saturated and inundated with sexualized images of women as commercialized objects that girls are raised to compete with each other to be the "hottest" and "sexiest" rather than the most accomplished or successful. She explains that this is defined by displays of "...inauthenticity and the idea that women should be constantly exploding in little bursts of exhibitionism." How many times have you gone to a party and suddenly some girl whips off her top and it's supposed to be so shocking, so wild, crazy and so hot? That is because we live in what she calls "raunch culture" where women are not only encouraged but rewarded for out-competing another woman as "the hottest" and most sexualized object in any given social situation (ie: the Girls Gone Wild franchise)

And this is what I think is happening when women make comments like "shame she's not even hot", because she insinuates that she herself is hotter than the criticized subject, or at the very least, she is an expert on the topic of what society portrays as the ideal object of male sexual desire. And thus she gains status (essentially "wins") at this competition for the attention of men by ironically acting like a chauvinistic male pig.

Theory is helpful for me to place things in context and to not take negative comments personally. But on a more immediate level, the most proactive thing I can do is to NOT participate in the culture of chauvinist pig behavior by thinking twice about my own comments. Lastly, if you hear something, say something. If someone backstage (or in regular conversation) make comments that sound pig-like, call them out. You can turn the attention on another facet of the person rather than their perceived hotness or physicality, or do what I like to do and simply say, "That's a really negative comment" and let that stew.

So on that note, I'm going to buy something on Pin Up Girl Clothing's sale site right now to make myself feel hotter. ;-)

Feb 28, 2014

ByeJoe: Spirit of China is Our Official Sponsor for Asian Burlesque Spectacular 2014!

I am so happy to announce that for The 2nd Annual Asian Burlesque Spectacular on Friday, May 16, 2014 our official sponsor is ByeJoe: Spirit of China!


I was introduced to ByeJoe at Macao Trading Company for one of my monthly Drunken Dragon Nights, and it was a match made in heaven! ByeJoe (aka: baijiu,白酒) is much like me. A bit of the east and a bit of the west. Baijiu is a traditional Chinese liquor often served at important business functions to "close the deal." But now ByeJoe has arrived to create a more accessible taste for the Western market and cultural-hybrids like me!

BTW-ByeJoe is gluten-free distilled from 100% red sorghum!

Feb 26, 2014

"Calamity Chang is my favourite colour" says beauty writer Alle of xoVain.com!

So happy to see Alle of xoVain.com write up her top 13 favorite red lipsticks and that my shade made it in her top list! I also loved seeing my shade on someone with fairer skin tone and I gotta say, it looks damn good too! It has a touch of 1920s, Gatsby feel to it. I can see it on Alle with dark smoldering eyes as well.

"...it’s totally worthy of the fanciest of occasions: it’s insanely beautiful, it’s incredibly comfortable on my lips, and is one of the few lipstick formulations that does not “feather” out. A deep plum that doesn’t need mega-lipliner is basically magical."

Read the entire article here or buy "Calamity Chang" (limited supply, $3.50 for shipping to US)

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Feb 13, 2014

Alamo in Chinatown

On this Valentine's Day eve I thought I would share a truly unforgettable story. Years and years ago I was dating a "kiwi" (someone from New Zealand). Actually, we weren't just "dating". We were in a relationship. We were together for three years and two of those years we lived together in a noisy two bedroom apartment in chic NoLiTa. In all three years together he never once told me he loved me. I was always in doubt. Did he love me as I loved him? What did he really think of me? Did that make him happy? Would he like this? Would he like that? To this day I am still apologizing to my girl friends for putting up with the me back then. I stayed though in the relationship, because like all girls, I rationalized with myself, obsessively weighed the good (he made me laugh, handsome, he made web sites for me) versus the bad (lack of emotional expression, lack of communication, extreme opinions that were very alarming). I do not miss navigating through that murky, uncertain relationship terrain.

Somehow, towards the end of the relationship he convinced me that we needed to have our own apartments after moving in and living together for 2 years. His reasoning was that he never had his own place since he moved to NYC and he really wanted to have that experience. Being the understanding and forever accommodating girlfriend that I was (fool!), I acquiesced. Part of me totally understood that desire. Having your own place in NYC is pretty awesome! But part of me felt like this was taking a huge step backwards in the relationship. In retrospect I see that he was "too nice" to break up with me because he didn't want to hurt my feelings (the sensitive man's selfish cowardly excuse to not own up to his own feelings), so he opted for "let's move out to our own place but stay together."

My favorite noodle shop in Chinatown on Eldridge Street

I found a small studio apartment on Essex Street and he found a slightly larger but old, old, old! one bedroom apartment nearby on Eldridge Street. That place was a real fixer upper located above Sheng Wang, a basement dumpling noodle shop which ironically has become one of my favorite places now. Naturally I put on a brave face but it made me really sad every time when he would go to his house and I to mine.  No matter how I rationalized it just felt sad and I felt utterly rejected. It almost felt like he was making me feel bad so I would leave first (probably true). If I could go back in time I would go back to the younger me, bitch slap myself, and the convo would go like this:

Future Me (Me Now): "You fool, you better start listening to your feelings and stop accommodating for things that are not you!"

Past Me: "Watchoo talkin about, Future Me? This is REALLY how I feel."

Future Me: "Oh really? You LIKE snowboarding? You LIKE falling on your ass all day long on the ice and up and down that freezing gondala?"

Past Me: "..."

Future Me: "You don't have any feelings of abandonment from the time he was off mountain biking in Canada and left you here during the big summer blackout?"

Past Me: "...he did call..."

Future Me: "And you honestly like wearing this raver clothes you are wearing?"

So yea Future Me rules. This is what people mean when they say "I know myself". This realization came slow and late to me but the final turning point hit me hard like a stink bomb during another time when he was away again (either for visa issues or recreational outdoors stuff). Naturally I was the lucky one entrusted with getting his mail and checking in on his apartment. These visits were pretty pathetic and involved me smelling his clothes, looking through his cupboard to see what he has been eating, lying down on the bed pretending I lived there, or looking out the window in silence to punish myself. Then one day the landlord called and said there was a leak in his bathroom that was leaking down to the floor below. He wanted me to go to the apartment and check for faucets that were accidentally left on. I went after work confidently climbing up the stairs feeling so capable! I was here. I am the one to solve his problem for him to make his life easier while he was having fun in another place! He's going to love me so much!

I went in the apartment and headed straight to the bathroom. I stood by the bathroom door and as I reached to my left to flip on the light switch, I felt a dampness on my shoes. I looked down just as the light snapped on and to my horror I was standing in sewage water. The entire bathroom floor was covered with brown water. The bathtub had about a foot of water with mysterious lumps and sinewy stringy things that I dared not think too long about. The sink too. The toilet overflowed with indescribable scatological horror - and that was when I drew my Alamo.

I turned right back around and walked out of that depressing Chinatown apartment. I will pick up Chewie's poop but I will not cleaning up after no man's. I broke it off with him shortly after he returned from his trip. That was the first time my heart felt broken (but I got over it - trust me, you'll get over it too if you WANT to). If I had stayed in that relationship I don't know what kind of person I would have changed myself into just to be with him. One day its trying out snowboarding, the next day is wearing something you don't really like, and then before you know it, you are cleaning up poop being half the woman you used to be. Let that be a lesson to you young girls out there whose Future You haven't bitch slapped you yet. Happy Valentine's Day!

FYI - Sheng Wang has amazing hand pulled or knife-shredded noodles. This is their beef fried noodle dish. I always go for the beef soup noodles when I have a serious hangover. Sheng Wang has a unique feature. They have pickled cabbage on each table for you to put on your noodles - a real Taiwanese treat! I still think it's funny that such deliciousness was here the whole time when I was in that unsavory relationship right upstairs! Ah, Chinatown's mysteries. 

Jan 31, 2014

A Horse is a Horse, Of Course, Of Course.

Happy Chinese New Year (Year of the Horse)! My mom had to call for me to know. Make sure you eat noodles, she reminded me. Noodles symbolize long life and by eating it you kinda sort in a way supposed to have long life yourself. This is just one of the many, many Chinese traditions you are supposed to do for New Years to bring luck. Some other "traditions" include wearing red underwear on new year's day, getting your hair trimmed before the new year, and eating dumplings but - and this was the most crucial part - you can't count how many you've eaten. Come on, EVERYONE knows that would be the worst luck ever! You didn't know about that? Well keep that in mind next time you are shoveling dumplings in your face at Vanessa's or Joe's Shanghai.

I grew up hearing stuff like this. Americans have her own equivalent like not walking under a ladder, stuff about black cats crossing your path, and even the saying "Bless you" after sneezing has a Germanic root. Some are based in folklore (like the dumplings), some are simply phonetic correlation (ie: never give someone a clock for their birthday because the word for clock (zhong) sounds just like "the end"), and others are as sinister as ghost stories.

Like many immigrant families my parents used to own a Chinese restaurant. We had one when we lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and then later in Houston, Texas. Both were proper sit-down places not take-out hole-in-the-walls. But they weren't so sit-down that Zagat would come review them or anything. My mom was (and still is) a damn fine cook. Even though we have not been in the restaurant business for over twenty years, she can still whip up a General Tso's Chicken, Pepper Steak, or anything with her eyes closed. The restaurant I remember most vividly was the one in Houston "Sichuan Garden". As the Chinese would say, it was very unlucky. We struggled financially and couldn't afford hiring a restaurant staff. My mom managed the front desk and was also the cook, my brother did the dishes after school (if he wasn't getting into fights on the school bus), my dad made deliveries and helped managed the front, and I read. My passions back then were books and Mr. Ed. I loved Mr. Ed. I never missed one episode. I was too young to really be of any help in the restaurant other than fold napkins or set the tables, so my parents often let me go back to our apartment which was right across the street from the restaurant and I would drown myself with reruns of Mr. Ed. Like a lot of ten year old girls I loved horses. It was easy to love horses growing up in Texas. I read every single book I could find in the dinky public library about horses. After I pillaged through everything there I made my dad drive me to the neighboring county's public library and borrowed from there. I also made my parents take me horseback riding whenever we could afford the $30 and hour trail ride. I bought all the Walter Foster books on how to draw horses. I cocooned myself in a black-and-white world of words and talking horses while strange and inexplicable things were happening at the restaurant.

One of the problems was the air conditioning. It never worked and would be fixed for a day then stop working again. Without air conditioning any establishment in Texas could not survive through the 100+ F summers. Once people realized how uncomfortable it was to eat pork fried rice and hot and sour soup in an AC-less restaurant they stopped coming in to eat. But my mom's cooking was still damn good so while dine-in decreased, deliveries increased. There was one delivery that I will never forget. My dad went out and after an hour still haven't returned. My brother had to take phone orders while my mom cooked. I was given the task of watching the front. This was pre-cellphone so there was no way to even call him. An hour and a half passed still no sign of our white Dodge station wagon in the parking lot. Another half hour passed. Now it has been two hours since he left for this local delivery. It was quite dark out now, and more and more undelivered food orders were piling up. My mom was starting to panic. Just then my dad's car pulled up to the restaurant. He still had the delivery bags in his hands as he walked in. He never found the house address after two hours. He couldn't explain what happened except that it felt like he was driving round and round in a loop. I would make a turn and it was the same street I was just on, he told us. It was like he could see the destination on the map he had in the car but just could not get to it. We all remained silent. Then finally my dad said out loud what we were all thinking but didn't want to say: 鬼打牆, or in English translation "demon walls", "drywall," "ghost wall".

"Demon Wall" is a folklore story describing a phenomenon when people traveling alone and in a hurry, usually in the middle of the night, in the wilderness or in cemeteries, find themselves moving in a circular direction and find themselves back at the starting place. Sometimes the situation may be last all night or continuously for a few days. In old, old traditional belief this happens when a wandering un-mourned spirit tries to confuse and distress a living person in order to attach itself to him/her to reincarnate. This is REALLY old school like something grandparents would believe. I had to ask my mom what it meant and she had to call her mom to find out. Just so you know, this is NOT common knowledge or a belief that modern Chinese people carry with them in their heads. Nevertheless I'm fascinated with these old superstitions and I DO believe that when you encounter spirits, your chi (energy) is weak. As Confucius said, "Respect ghosts and gods, but keep away from them." That's why I would never ever touch a ouija board or do a seance. Why take the chance and invite something malevolent?

Another incident related to the restaurant had a tragic turn. We had a new signage to install outside on the awning, but our extendable ladder didn't quite reach high enough. The man making deliveries next door at the shish-kebab restaurant volunteered to help us by standing on the top of his van to place the signage. Two days later the owner of the shish-kebab restaurant came over and informed us that the delivery man died in a car accident. That was also the year when The Challenger exploded. I was in third grade (I think) Home Room period. My English wasn't that great so I didn't know what the word "explosion" meant. It wasn't until our teacher turned on the classroom TV and I saw that infamous news clip that I understood what was happening in America. Some of the girls in my class  were crying then my teacher cried. Even the boys I hated (cause they were always trying to talk to me when I didn't want their attention or cared to open my mouth cause my English was shitty) shut the hell up and were quiet for once. The principal came on over the intercom and let us out early that day. I went to our restaurant as usual after school. We didn't have a lot of customers that day. I don't miss that restaurant at all.

Where our resto used to be is now a Valero gas station

Jan 27, 2014

RED Burlesque "Calamity Chang" Shade on My Hapa Friends!

This weekend I met with my two self-described "hapa" girl friends to have them try on my RED Burlesque lipstick to show how the shades flatter darker skinned Asian girls too. Kathleen and Melissa are sisters, and they are of half-Bangladeshi and half-Filipina heritage.

Fun fact: I actually went to high school in Texas with Kathleen. 

Here are the results!

Melissa is wearing "Calamity Chang" here. It was by chance that she happened to wear this gorgeous fuchsia colored sweater which matched the shade beautifully!

Close up of "Calamity Chang" with a fuchsia-plum colored top. Really great match.

Kathleen wearing "Calamity Chang". She is slightly darker than Melissa. Both colors "Calamity Chang" and "Strawberry Siren" seem to complement their complexions.
Close up of "Calamity Chang". All shot with natural lighting on my iPhone and no doctoring in Photoshop!

Melissa wears "Strawberry Siren" here. As you can see, Strawberry Siren is redder on darker skin.
Close up of Strawberry Siren.

More Strawberry Siren

One of the Beauty Editors of Jane Magazine recently reviewed my shade and said it is for "going to the Oscars". Read about it >

So, wanna try my shade? It's quick and easy!