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Author | Photo courtesy of Tiny B
"To be able to be in charge of my own sexuality and femininity, and display it however I want to, is powerful.”

Undressing the Body: Talking with Rising Burlesque Star Tiny B. Hiney on Bodies and Politics

You’re slowly undressing yourself. You’re on stage in a dimly lit bar, and a faded light shines on you, warming your exposed skin. You are flirting with a room full of strangers, enticing them to want more. And they get more—when you allow them to.

For you, this is just a typical weekend. Because, of course, you are Tiny B. Hiney: Rising Feminist Burlesque star extraordinaire. (The extraordinaire part is because not only are you a performer, but you are also a writer, a rapper, a songstress, an activist, a student, and just damn-well adorable.)

Tiny B. Hiney is an emerging star in the Toronto burlesque scene. She is self-taught, self-disciplined, and determined to speak through her body: “I feel like in society, we can’t exactly express our sexualities in certain ways without suffering from stigma, judgment, or being shamed by others,” Tiny says. “Burlesque is extremely empowering for me; [it] allows me to freely express my sexuality and femininity. As a woman, a woman of colour, I think that’s empowering. To be able to be in charge of my own sexuality and femininity, and display it however I want to, is powerful.”

In terms of getting involved with burlesque performance, Tiny cites a documentary that changed it all for her. After watching Immodesty Blaze, Tiny discovered that “burlesque would allow me to express my sexuality in all the ways I wanted to. I can truly be myself, my sexual self, during burlesque, and I can express things on stage that I can’t express off stage.”

Tiny says that burlesque allows for a certain type of freedom that is otherwise stigmatized in our day-to-day world: the freedom to express our sexualities in a performative way. “Whenever a female expresses her sexuality in any way that doesn’t conform to our North American ideals of what ‘female sexuality’ should be, she’s subjected to stigma. I’ve been called dirty, slutty, a whore, and other names.” But Tiny is a pro at handling this type of backlash, and she doesn’t let it affect her work or her confidence in what she does. “I feel like burlesque is an art form; a form of expression and healing and protest as well,” she says. For her, the hardest part as a newcomer is finding gigs, though she says the Toronto burlesque community has been overwhelmingly loving and supportive of her.

Tiny’s real performance begins when she steps off stage and can no longer express her self as a sexual person in her day-to-day life. “When I’m on stage I’m not performing, I’m just being myself, truly being every part and aspect of me. Once I come off stage, that’s when the performance begins. The moment I leave that stage I remember the ideals of what is ‘acceptable’ for women to do and wear,” she says. “When I come off stage, I’m forced to behave and dress in certain ways in order to not be slut-shamed, harassed, or discriminated against. That’s why I love being on stage: I can actually be free.”

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