“So…is belly dancing the same as stripping?”
Ugh. Cue the heart palpitations, blood boiling and stomach sinking.
Throughout my years as a professional belly dancer, this has got to be one of the most annoying questions that men ask me.
To take something that requires thousands of hours of hard work and dedication and reduce it by sexualizing it completely misses the point. Belly dance is an elevated art, and in 2021, it deserves more than to be brushed off and viewed through such a simplistic and narrow-minded lens.
Let me be clear: I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with stripping or “being sexy” by any definition. But for me, there are some key differences between stripping and belly dancing.
Stripping tends to have an external and outward focus, ultimately its meant to evoke desire in an audience. For me, belly dance is more focused inward: on yourself, your joy, and your creative expression.
S-E-X-Y is a four-letter word, with some pretty loaded connotations. For women, this concept has carried a lot of fear, shame and guilt – we’re constantly worried about the potential consequences of being “too sexy” while frequently being told that we aren’t sexy enough. Talk about a paradox!
I like to think that being sexy is more about empowerment and less about shame, it’s about how you think and feel about yourself rather than how others see you. Over the years as a belly dancer, I found that it was easier to cultivate my own unique sense of sexiness when I let go of other people’s perceptions. It helped me feel a greater sense of self-love and acceptance.
As a professional belly dancer for 16+ years, I’ve given a lot of thought about what it means to really be sexy. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned about reconnecting with your inner sexiness and feeling amazing in your own skin.
1. The Most Powerful Way To Be Sexy Is To FEEL Sexy
As ironic as it sounds, the least sexy thing a person can do is to try to be sexy: when someone is obviously self-conscious and uncomfortable, things quickly go from vibey to cringey.
The sexiest thing you can do is put all your focus on YOU and less focus on others. Don’t feel any pressure to portray sexiness, instead, start feeling yourself from the inside out.
Of course, I’m going to say that belly dance is the best way to cultivate this energy in yourself – but it’s not just because I’m biased, I swear!
Belly dance can be a powerful way to keep you grounded and present. Swaying to the rhythm, feeling the music pass through your body, and letting it (literally) move you is a great way to practice this centering – as is any other technique.
Whether you’re shimmying while brushing your teeth or doing jazz hands while stuck in traffic, remember that any practice (meditation and yoga included) that helps you to feel comfortable and at ease with yourself is a good thing. Plus, connecting with your own, beautiful inner energy has a certain magnetic quality – meaning that people will automatically be drawn to you.
Music is another good way to activate this vibe: I have a “Sexy” Spotify playlist (yes, that’s really what it’s called) and as soon as I hit play, I’m instantly accessing my sexy side.
Engaging all your senses can also be a great way to stay present: going for a nature walk, smelling essential oils, taking a relaxing bath, burning some yummy-smelling candles, or napping on soft, squishy pillows can help you get rid of the outside noise and center you back to what’s going on inside.
2. Love Your Body Exactly As It Is Today
Let’s face it- we’re always going to have days where we don’t feel our best – physically, mentally, or emotionally. I can’t tell you how many times I had to perform when I’d just gotten my period – feeling bloated, uncomfortable, and tight in my costume. Even though I felt anything but sexy, the show had to go on, which means I did too.
But simply showing up and doing what I needed to do made me realize that I could still feel good about myself and accept and love my body – no matter how things seemed at the time.
Don’t get me wrong: self-love as a woman is an Olympic sport these days. Billion-dollar beauty and diet industries are constantly profiting off our self-hate and trying to define what it means to be beautiful, attractive, and desirable – particularly for heterosexual women. Thanks to societal pressure and social media, everything from your weight to the shape of your eyebrows is being dissected – into what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
That’s why it’s important to remember: No matter what weight, size or shape you are, loving your body exactly AS IT IS in this very moment is the sexiest thing you can do for yourself. Getting into the mindset of self-love and finding joy within is the most powerful flex of all.
3. Embrace Your Feminine Curves
Fun fact: women have curves, whether they’re apparent or not. One of the most magical things about belly dance in that it celebrates the female form – including, to quote Bridget Jones, the “wobbly bits”. In fact, the curvier you are, the better it is, as a little extra flesh can really show off each, beautiful movement.
Not to say that having a six-pack isn’t an achievement – it’s an art on its own. The important thing to remember though is that women have curves for a reason: our bodies were designed to create and support life. Trying to achieve leanness isn’t necessarily a bad thing but doing so for the wrong reasons can really be an uphill battle.
Instead, focus your energy on celebrating the way nature designed your body and remember that the female form is magical and powerful – in every shape and size.
4. Dress & Adorn Yourself in Things That Make You Feel Sexy
There’s this very cool concept of “adorning yourself” that’s been around for centuries. Beautifying and expressing your personal style externally has long been a way for women to make themselves look and feel sexy.
When I wear a beautiful costume while belly dancing, I feel instantly sexy and attractive – it makes me want to hold my head higher and show myself off! Not only is this an energy boost, but it’s also a great boost to the self-esteem too.
Even if you’re not dressing up for belly dance, the idea of adorning yourself can easily be applied to your everyday life. That’s not to say that you should spend every minute of the day obsessing over what you wear. Rather, it means taking a little bit of time to assess your closet to find something that’ll boost your confidence and make you feel sexy. The upside of this practice is that highlighting and accentuating your features isn’t just limited to clothes, it also means wearing jewelry or doing your hair or make-up too.
Adorn yourself in a way that’s going to make you feel like the goddess you truly are, channel and embody an energy that makes you feel good.
5. Connect With Your Passion & Joy
With our busy schedules, its easy to lose track of what brings us joy and passion. Finding activities or hobbies that make you happy, while keeping you grounded and present can bring you harmony– and there’s nothing sexier than someone who’s at peace with themselves.
Connecting with things that ignite your passion and bring you joy is probably the easiest way to become attractive. After all, who doesn’t love the sight of someone’s face lighting up when they talk about something they’re really passionate about?
You’ll find that when you’re having fun, you’ll radiate an energy that will draw others to you – like a magnetic force. If you feel like you’ve lost touch with what brings you joy, or you’re not sure what you’re passionate about, try sitting down with your thoughts for a minute to figure it out. You can also find and connect with your own personal Passion Blueprint. A cool side-effect of being connected to yourself? You won’t care about who finds you sexy and who doesn’t.
Ultimately for me, belly dancing has never been about being sexy. Instead, I like to think of it as an exercise in feeling joyful and getting to share that joy with others. And isn’t that what true attraction – and being sexy – is all about?