Photo depicting Alotta Boutté performing burlesque on stage against a purple backdrop.

First-Ever Fatlesque Fest NW Celebrates Body Diversity in a Big Way

by Patheresa Wells

From “The They Them Yas Queen of Burlesque” Mx. Pucks A’Plenty comes Fatlesque Fest NW (FFNW), a unique show that provides art and entertainment through an inclusive body-positive space. The event includes burlesque shows, workshops, and a themed brunch. FFNW will be held at The Triple Door Jan. 6–7, with a finale event at Madame Lou’s on Jan. 8. 

“The arts world is still unkind to Fat artists. Pity, fascination, or disgust tend to be commonplace still,” Pucks said in an interview with the Emerald. “Fatlesque Fest NW is a callout to not only the arts world, but even towards burlesque to think about the internalized fatphobia that can and does translate into casting. Doing the work is thinking outside of our own privilege.”

Producer and performer Mx. Pucks A’Plenty gets ready before a show in 2021. Pucks created Fatlesque Fest NW to provide a space to showcase body diversity through the burlesque. (Photo: Megan Farmer)

FFNW is bringing together performers from across the country to show that sexy comes in all sizes. Headliners for FFNW include local legend Goddess Briq House; Alotta Boutté from San Francisco; Deeva Rose, who calls Minneapolis home; and Jezebel Express from New York City. In addition to headliners, there will be over 40 other performers over the three-day festival. 

A prolific performer as well as producer, Pucks is known for producing What the Funk?!, a BIPOC burlesque festival, as well as the recent debut of Curve Collective Cabaret, a fat-positive all-Black group. Pucks has teamed up with community partners for the event, including Lady Yum, Two Big Blondes Consignment Shop, Pinup Plus Magazine, and Hotel Crocodile. A community-based Kickstarter campaign received $30,000 to help fund the event. Despite the success of the fundraiser, Pucks shared that funding in general has been a consistent barrier in producing events that center Fat, Black and queer communities. “We get turned down a lot for grants because many of these foundations and organizations don’t understand what we’re creating here. They don’t see the value in burlesque and how it can change lives,” they said. 

And how does burlesque change lives? For performers and attendees of events like FFNW, representation creates conversations around the need for change. Despite the emergence of fat performers like Lizzo in the public eye, anti-fatness is still rampant in the entertainment industry. 

Mx. Pucks A’Plenty, a prolific performer and producer, has struggled to receive support for the shows they produce which intersect with their identities of Fat, Black and queer. The outpouring of positive community response to Fatlesque Fest NW proves the need for representation is real and ongoing. (Photo: Megan Farmer)

Ginger Snaps, one of the many FFNW performers, shared her experiences with anti-fatness. Growing up, she was raised by women, including her mom, who believed the worst thing you could be was fat. “That internalized fatphobia rubbed off on me on top of the societal fatphobia experienced at school, on television, and anywhere.” And that fatphobia has continued to this day despite the work she does to combat it. Snaps started Aerials for Plus-Size Bodies, aerial arts workshops specifically for big bodies. Still, she said, when videos of her performing go viral, there are always hateful comments about her size. 

“My presence in these spaces, being athletic and expressing my sexuality, is inherently political and NECESSARY! In fact, I would argue that my presence is doing far more for public health than a bunch of internet trolls; I encourage people to pursue their passions and remind them that you don’t need to be ‘thin’ to be strong, sexy, or graceful,” Snaps said in response to the hate she has received. 

In addition to showing the sexuality, grace, and strength of fat bodies on stage, FFNW will offer workshops held at Studio 2 on 2nd Avenue and Versatile Arts in Greenwood. For example, the public can join Ginger Snaps for an Intro to Sling and Plus-Size Aerial Students class. Other classes include Lapdance for Fat Babes, Body Love, Feather Fan Dance Technique, and more. 

Goddess Briqhouse, a Seattle burlesque legend and erotic educator, will show sexy has no size during the Saturday night Fatlesque Fest NW lineup. (Photo: Argent Rabbit Photography)

The festival culminates with a finale event — Fatties Who Brunch — at Madame Lou’s inside The Crocodile on Jan. 8, a big party celebrating all the hard work this community has put into making this event happen. There will be food-themed acts, comedy, and classic glam burlesque. The VIP brunch add-on allows attendees access one hour before the show to enjoy brunch and mimosas! 

FFNW intends to change the narrative around what is seen as sexy, athletic, and worthy of watching. Pucks said the event has taken a year to produce, and they plan to bring back the festival as part of an even larger event in 2024 called Fat Con!

“Fatness is seen as a moral failing. People have sort of removed sexuality and sensuality from Fat folks, unless we are being objectified. We have to be given permission by society to be seen as desirable or sexy. Lizzo didn’t ask for permission to be sexy, she just is. She owns her sexuality and sensuality because it is hers and hers alone,” Pucks said. “Our performers being unapologetically who they are, owning and loving the body they are in, is sexy and powerful. No one is giving them permission to find pleasure in their body but them. Bodily autonomy and sexual liberation, that’s where freedom can be found.” 

For a schedule of events and to purchase tickets, visit Fatlesque Fest NW website

To sign up for workshops, use Fatlesque Fest NW’s Google form.

(The first two nights of FFNW have sold out, but there are still tickets available for the Sunday brunch and workshops. Shows will be posted to stream for purchase on vimeo. To see when they are available follow Fatlesque Fest NW on Instagram.)

Patheresa Wells is a Queer poet, writer, and storyteller who lives in SeaTac, Washington. Born to a Black mother and Persian father, her experiences as a multicultural child shaped her desire to advocate for and amplify her community. She is currently pursuing a B.A. in creative writing. Follow her on Twitter @PatheresaWells.

📸 Featured Image: Alotta Boutté is a Fatlesque Fest NW headliner and opening night performer. Boutté will also teach the Sing Out workshop on Saturday. (Photo: Keith Johnson)

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