How The Art Of Burlesque Helped This Body Positive Afro-Latina Find Freedom And Self-Love

credit: @storm_marrero / Instagram

Hollywood’s typical portrayal of the seductive burlesque performer is boring. Like Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Chicago,” Christina Aguilera in “Burlesque, Cynthia Gibb in “Gypsy” and every other Hollywood depiction of burlesque dancers, she’s a very specific type of person: fair-skinned, straight sized, non-disabled and, if her hair isn’t pin straight, it falls in curls like a mermaid. Storm Marrero is a performer who splinters that image with a colorful and blustery act that provides audiences with every delight and display that her stage name, “Storm,”  implies.

“My sister always compared my voice to a storm; starting off slow and sexy, then wailing the house down, making sure people are truly blown away,” Marrero explains in an interview with FIERCE about representation in her industry.

When Marrero first got into the burlesque industry, she decided that her role would be strictly limited to singing.

CREDIT: @storm_marrero / Instagram

“I swore I’d never do burlesque,” the singer says emphatically. When she initially began to perform songs at a burlesque show six years ago, she resided herself to only presenting her vocals. There would be no showing off her body under the thin veils of seductive lingerie and no smokey spotlights highlighting sparkly stripteases. Nope, not for Marrero. Mostly because, as she admits, insecurities with her body wouldn’t allow it.

“I’ve always been a big kid that became a big woman,” Marrero, a Brooklyn-born, Puerto Rico-raised Afro-Boricua, jokes. “There was a moment in time that I felt ashamed of my weight, and that stopped me from pursuing so many things.”

Marrero always had it in mind to become a professional singer. Growing up on the Caribbean island, she took private vocal coaching classes until she was 18 and studied musical theater at the University of Puerto Rico. By the time she was 21, she became a professional entertainer and moved to New York to pursue her career. But for her, burlesque had never been an option on the menu. Then one day about six years ago her best friend, a fellow singer, invited her to see him perform at Duane Park Restaurant, a premiere burlesque supper club in New York. He introduced her to a manager, they got to talking, and after nailing an audition, Marrero became a resident singer at the venue. With each night at the club, Marrero found herself falling more in love with burlesque and pulled into the shows her fellow performers and entertainers put on.

Seeing body-positive burlesque dancers ultimately lured the songstress out of her comfort zone and center stage.

CREDIT: @storm_marrero / Instagram

Watching the performances of other body-positive dancers like Dirty Martini, Fancy Feast and Jezebel Express, women whose stage presence Marrero describes as fearless and unapologetic, began to spark new attitudes about Marrero’s outlook on the path she could take with burlesque. Then one day, while scrolling online, she came across a performance by Alotta Boutté, a queer burlesque performer, and Marrero became inspired. “Right then and there, I knew I could do it,” she explains. Soon enough, she found herself signing up for classes and learning how to put on shows like the women who had motivated her. In May 2016, she made her stage debut as a full-on burlesque performer.

These days, Marrero uses her performance to express both her freedom and resistance.

CREDIT: @storm_marrero / Instagram

“Burlesque is an act of true defiance while taking control of one’s body,” Marrero explains. “Living in the society we live in, in which women still need permission to take up space in just about every aspect, burlesque is the biggest middle finger you’ll find. It celebrates all body types, it celebrates feminine power and identity.”

On a seductive stage where Marrero once cringed at the idea of being the center of attention, she now unabashedly puts herself in the spotlight, where she is paragon of self-confidence and self-regard.

All thanks to burlesque, a genre completely unlimited in its celebration of diversity, and the many different types of beauties and individuals it displays, Marrero has found herself undeniably freed.

“It’s a freedom you don’t encounter often in the ‘real world,'” she says. “After all the work that’s put into act development, costume, choreography; the moment I hit the stage is the most exhilarating moment ever. The best feeling ever.”


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