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"A QUEEN WITHIN" was released in January 2022. Listen to this episode anywhere you get podcasts. Featuring:

 

Honey Pluton - https://www.clarapluton.org

Allyson Lee Brown - @allysonleeb

Tootsie Spangles - https://www.tootsiespangles.com

Alyza DelPan-Monley - http://www.alyzadpm.com

Laurie Lynch - @laure80

Alyssa Yeoman - https://www.alyssayeoman.com

Theme song by Shelby Easley. Produced and edited by Francesca Betancourt and Linnea Ingalls.

EPISODE FIVE : A QUEEN WITHIN

OPENING NOTES

Cessa  

Welcome to episode number five of She is Fierce: stories from the female and genderqueer perspective. I'm Cessa Betancourt and my pronouns are she/her/hers.

 

Linnea  

And hello everyone I'm Linnea Ingalls and my pronouns are she/her/hers. 

 

Cessa  

We are a storytelling event and podcast that shares and amplify stories from women and gender queer slash non binary people and facilitates artistic partnerships between storytellers. Although we haven't had a live event in quite some time.

 

Linnea  

yeah, October 2019 was our last live event. You were already gone by that time.

 

Cessa  

I wasn't even here. Or there.

 

Linnea  

Okay, so let's get into what this episode is all about. So it is a full recording of a live event we did in 2019 in collaboration with the Museum of Pop Culture for their opening night of an exhibition called A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, and this exhibit was an exploration of female identity and archetypes through contemporary fashion, photography, film and artwork. It featured six incredible storytellers who we love very much. And it included Laurie Lynch, Alison Lee Brown, Clara Pluton, Alyssa Yeoman, Tootsie Spangles, and Alyza DelPan-Monley. And just a note - we have an incredibly long time in between our recording time and when we publish these podcasts. So - the person that you hear introduce themselves as Clara Pluton now goes as Honey Pluton. Let's get into the real question. 

 

Cessa  

What's the real question?

 

Linnea  

Cessa you know what I've been wanting to ask for a while. 

 

Cessa  

A long time!

 

Linnea  

And I'm glad that we're here gathered today to discuss it. I need to know the most embarrassing thing you've ever worn in your whole life. Think back.

 

Cessa  

Oh boy. I feel like there's been some doozies. I feel okay, so the thing that I thought of was like middle school ish I feel like my slash maybe all of humanity's most embarrassing things come from the middle school era. But I'm just thinking about like the things that I used to think were like the coolest things in the world like like when we would like wear spaghetti strap tank tops on top of like wife beater - I hate that phrase - but like the white like ribbed tank tops. Or like yes like a lace like negligee- type like thing underneath like a graphic tees from like little boys like baseball team. 

 

Linnea  

Yes. Absolutely. I would do like long sleeved and spaghetti straps over it.

 

Cessa  

And then like a very short kind of frilly skirt. I just think about like the combination that used to be like... Looks great!

 

Linnea  

Nailed it. And the tiny tiny vests. I don't know if you've ever had like the tiny -

 

Cessa  

I had so many tiny vests!

 

Linnea  

You would look like a weird magician like an ill fitting magician. It just it made no sense. Oh my god. 

 

Cessa  

Yes. Or like yeah some sort of bellhop or like or like service person who like dried their clothes so many times that they - 

 

Linnea  

Oh my god and okay, I don't know if you also remember this but like this just a really long skinny scarf that like made no yes 

 

Cessa  

and that you went around and around and around. Yeah, like it got in the way of things I am specifically remembering that with like this brown corduroy like embroidered jacket that I used to wear and I had a really long skinny scarf. Yeah, it got in the way and sometimes choked me. But I for some reason was like, I have to do this for fashion.

 

Linnea  

I've got to do it for fashion. Yeah, it was atrocious. But we did it. I had very straight hair. And yeah, I still straightened the fuck out of my hair.

 

Cessa  

Yeah. Yeah, I also straightened my hair all the time. Actually, I was just telling Jordan that, um, that lately, I've been just letting my hair sort of do whatever it does, and like not doing really anything to it. And it's like the most I've liked my hair. And I'm like, well, there you go. It only took me 31 years to figure out that I just needed to like leave my hair alone.

 

Linnea  

Oh, yeah. Just let it be!

 

Cessa  

Dry in its natural state. What's your most embarrassing thing you've ever worn?

 

Linnea  

So I'm gonna go back even farther. So it was I think third grade that I realized I decided intentionally I was like, I know what's sexy and it's tucking my polo into my jeans. And that is going to get all the boys and they're gonna see me and they're gonna be like, That's a hot girl. 

 

Cessa  

I love that as a third grader you were like, I gotta think about what outfit is sexy.

 

Linnea  

It wasn't even about the outfit. I had polos and I had jeans and it didn't matter in which combination I put them in as long as the shirt was tucked in. I was looking good. I will tell you that.

 

Cessa  

leaves a lot to the imagination if there's no access. 

 

Linnea  

And I did also go through this phase in elementary school of wearing all one color. Yes. And I would wear a day of all blue, all black and then sometimes I would wear a mix of blue and black. And those were the my three outfits. Yes, the only colors were blue and black. I didn't have anything more interesting than that. But I did my best, you know? Cessa. 

 

Cessa  

Linnea. 

 

Linnea  

What's the favorite, the most favorite thing you've ever worn that you've ever loved to wear?

 

Cessa  

I think it's these pants that I actually put on this morning because I was like, I think that I need a little bit of a boost of happiness. I also feel like I haven't been getting dressed very intentionally lately, because I haven't really had a reason. Um, so I put on these pants that you might remember them. I got them in India, a long, long time ago that they're like bright purple. And then they have like yellow flowers all over them. And they're very big. And, like, flowy.

 

Linnea  

Yes, I do love those pants. 

 

Cessa  

And I always just like, really, I never really wear them like to specific things, but I just love them. I just love them. And I always... like they're very comfy. But they're also just like a very beautiful thing. Yeah. I'm very fond of them.

 

Linnea  

Yeah. And it's nice to have something that you just wear for yourself. You know?

 

Cessa  

Yeah, it does feel like I'm not even really wearing them because I like the way they look on me. I'm wearing them because I just like like having them on me like yeah, enjoy their company.

 

Linnea  

Oh, just you and your pants hanging out baby.

 

Cessa  

Just me and my pants! What about you? 

 

Linnea  

I feel like okay, so I was thinking of this one dress that I wore once upon a time. It was never mine. I never owned it. But it was at this like closing night party of like this immersive show that I was in called Storyville Rising. And this dress was unbelievably beautiful. It had a completely sheer top. And just like this really heavy, long, black with like a long slit up the sides, both sides, probably somewhere, there's slits somewhere.  Just like, so, so elegant and lovely. Like looked like a nebula, I think. But so I am very self conscious about how different sized my boobs are. And so my nipples are in different places. You know what I mean? 

 

Cessa  

I never knew this about you! 

 

Linnea  

Well, you know, I tried to keep my insecurities under wraps I want everyone to think I'm perfect. And I was like, I can't wear this, like my nipples look weird. They looked like they're in different, completely different sides of this galaxy dress that I'm wearing. But the people that I was with backstage, this woman was like, do not worry. First of all, I was like, Yo, I worried about my nipples being in weird places. And they're like, Oh, let us see, it's probably not that bad. And then they looked at me they're like, "mmm. yes." But they were like, do not worry. We have a trick for you. And they gave me these like really sparkly red sequined pasties. And they're like, you put this one right in the middle of your nipple. You put this one a little bit above, so like the center of it is like not where your nipple nipple is, but it still like covers the whole like aerola section. Wow we're getting, we're really getting to the deets of my bod. And it was just like, and then I just like felt so even though like, I don't know, I was just like, I am gonna do it. And I did the whole night with this beautiful dress on with these pasties. Even though, having nipples in different places is totally fine and great. I just was like, need that little kick to be like, you can do it Linnea get out there with your boobs. Yeah, and it was one of the first nights that I spent with my now boyfriend. 

 

Cessa  

oh, it was that dress? 

 

Linnea  

Yeah, it was the dress. Yeah, it wasn't the personality.  

 

Cessa  

Yeah, I feel like that's also like the role of clothing is to like support the, the like version of yourself or like support the vision of yourself that you're you get excited about.

 

Linnea  

Yeah, I also recently had a great session with my therapist, who ended up being like, you know, you don't need to suppress your Leo self, and like it's okay to want to look good. And to like love the part of performance - part of yourself is performance. And that's not necessarily bad. That can be something that can feel really fulfilling and like fun and freeing. And like adorning yourself is part of yourself and like that's all you know, you're great without the adornments and with the adornments and that's all part of who you are. 

 

Cessa  

I feel like we're like feeling that way as a culture about makeup to that like there's this like first wave of makeup feminism that's like if you wear makeup, you're fake and terrible. And there's this like new wave of like, no makeup is really fun. And clothes are really fun and like looking beautiful or sexy or like interesting is really is like an art form and is really fun. And as part of your self expression part of your gender expression. Like all of those things. And those don't have to be bad, like tools of patriarchy.

 

Linnea  

No, because it's like, if you get too much into the area where it's like, well, you can't have any adornment. You can't want to do makeup or look nice or care about appearance at all. Like that's totally erasing a part of femininity that should be valued. And just because it is feminine doesn't make it bad, if that makes sense. 

 

Cessa  

Yeah, totally. I feel like that's such a lovely place to move into our episode. Yeah, this was this was such an incredible live event. Our storytellers were all so well supported. And just like, hyped up by the audience, I felt like it was, it was really the reason why we love gathering and we haven't gotten together like that in such a long time. I've not been in the like room, where stories are being shared or performance room like that in such a long time. And yeah, it'll be fun to return back to when everybody could be in the same place and listen to stories.

 

Linnea  

And this will actually be my first time listening to this. So I was outside of the room when this happened. So I'll be going on this journey with you, dear sweet listener of ours.

 

Cessa  

Yeah, I don't think I was in the room the whole time, either. Because we were sort of running around the museum and coordinating and stuff. But yeah, we were doing three tasks. Yeah, definitely. So everyone, please enjoy A Queen Within. 

 

Linnea  

Enjoy!

A QUEEN WITHIN: LIVE SHOW

[music) 

Cessa  

Hello! Sorry that was loud I'm not used to using a microphone. Hi, thank you all for coming. My name is Cessa. I'm the artistic director of She is Fierce: stories from the female and gender queer perspective. Has anyone been to a She is Fierce show before? Yeah, so this is a new experience for us performing in a museum we're a recurring storytelling event for female and genderqueer or non binary people to tell stories from their lives that matter to them. And normally there are some other components to our shows like dance and music and visual arts. But today, you're gonna hear some stories about fashion and gender identity. Fierceness. Yeah, all that jazz. So without further ado, I would love to bring up our first storyteller Clara Pluton!

 

Honey Pluton  

Hey, everybody my name is Clara Pluton. I am a stand up comedian. I'm a real personality and I love fashion, who else come on? Whose on their period right now and loves fashion? Whose nipples are puffy right now? Like fucking a Pirate's Booty Okay, puffed. So whenever I have my period which seems to be so often I like to go back to a few crucial moments in my own fashion a few moments in fashion, history, queer history that tend to ground me and so when I was invited to tell a story here with y'all I obviously want to talk about a look that really moves me and that is none other than click -

 

Cher at the 1986 Oscars. This is gonna be a history lesson we're gonna learn I'm gonna learn I have to learn a lot. I love Cher. Taurus season she's a taurus who was Cher. Cherilyn Sarkisian, and she's half Armenian, the original Half Armenian queen. Oh, gee. So this is 1986. Right. Where are we? The Berlin Wall is still up. Ronald Reagan is president. This is Reagan's America, people, she's got abs like that. I mean, that is political simply. She's here but she can't do it by herself. Right there is behind every you know, woman showing off her washboard abs. There is a very small gay man who wants to make sure everyone knows how beautiful she is. That's obviously Bob Mackie and Bob Mackie. He was a fashion designer. He's still alive. And I mean, it's like to me this outfit represents it's more than Cher, right? It's this like diva worship that transcends time that still we know about to this day. She's a fucking baby boomer, and I know who she is, right? She's born in 1946. I'm making that up, maybe. But she's old. She's, you know, this is Tina Turner. This is Diana Ross. This is Chaka Khan it's like a legacy of women who were in the time period that they were that chose to say yes. Everything yes to being sexy. Yes to being themselves is why it's amazing. This is pre Met Gala camp. Okay, so this is way before. I watch clips, I wasn't alive in 1986. So I had to go on YouTube. Watch some clips. She's, oh, no offense. I mean, I mean, I think I was because I you know, I'm alive through every decade of everything. I'm nothing. I was there. I'm here. I'm here now. I'll be there tomorrow. But she's presenting the award for Best Supporting Actor. And these mad are fucking hideous they are so ugly, like Robert Loggia -  Who's that he looks like a brick and she is just so gorgeous. Like it's too much. And she also wanted to be the center of attention. Because she got snubbed. She wanted to be nominated for Best Actor for her role in Mass and she didn't get the nomination when the Oscar she got into the golden loves. She was like Mackie make me a star! And there she was. She was nominated the year before she got the Oscar she's transitioning. She wants to be you know, this double, double triple threat and so when I look at the relationship of someone like Cher with someone like Bob, it's really inspired you know these are two people who understand that if you want to be a star if you want to be famous if you want to leave a mark an infinite mark on this tiny, insignificant speck that we all have to be circling around you got to go big baby gotta make sure everyone knows who you are. And so I've always really liked grounded by that but it also made me want to think about you know what it's like to be like the Muse and the master you know, what is that relationship like what informs who and all the art that can come out of two people who truly love one another so much and are inspired by making sure that everyone knows how beautiful it is to always be seen?

 

Like that's what it is when you look at like Judy Garland. Or when you look at Carol Burnett, you know, when you look at these women who you know, especially at a time no one wanted to take seriously because before she even gives the award she's like, her quote is like oh, you know, obviously you can see I got the handbook on what it looks like to dress like a serious actress like the whole thing is a giant fuck you like she knows that. This is all a game this is all an illusion, and she can play in exactly how she wants to get what she needs. And I think it's it's great and I also really love Cher because even though she sells sex, she's kind of asexual, you know, like after sunny like who was it Tom Cruise? like that's fucking fake. Like none of that's real. Like Richie Sambora? Like it's not realistic, like there's no way any of it happened. And so she's a lesbian, he's a lesbian. Everyone's a lesbian. They don't tell you that but you astral projecting and someone tells you on the other side. And that's just a truth. And so when I look at, you know, pieces of work that were designed by Bob Mackie and you know, put on women like Cher, it just reminds me that when you are yourself in such an extravagant way, and want to take up space in places that want you to be quiet, that everything feels more possible and that's fashion people!!! Yeah! Free bleed, do whatever you need to do.

 

Okay I'm Clara Pluton thank you!

 

Cessa  

Clara Pluton! Clara wanted me to mention that they have a podcast called Hot Takes with Hot Dykes, it's on all of the platforms. Yes, obviously, it's hilarious so please listen to it. Next up, I would love to introduce Allison Lee Brown!

 

Allison Lee Brown  

Hey, y'all! Okay, so my name is Alison Lee Brown. I'm an actress. I'm not used to like using mics. So I'm - Can y'all hear me? Yeah, cute, cute.

 

You haven't been told you are queen.

And you had to fight yourself to believe and try to convince the person that told you that you were not the rightful heiress to the throne you know, you were born to sit on.

Bullshit.

We call it quits you see we were meant to glow.

That's why our skin is made of gold.

Our lips drip of honey, our thighs too thick.

Our mouths too quick.

Our backs are home grown and strong.

Our hips sway, our necks roll, our hair is our crown.

Our eyes glisten like the sun we are divine, we are the chosen ones.

Black Nubian sisters worthy of God's greatest love.

And yo, I love the way my style complements my sophistication.

How my yellow dress matches my yellow personality can see I was always told, my spirit was like the sun luminous.

I like the way my thighs don't hide no more how my clothes cling to the parts of me that I was once ashamed to own.

Because see, I walk different when I'm stepping in style.

My clothes are an extension of me.

It's just another way for me to tell the world who I be.

Yeah, I'm Alison Lee Brown from head to toe.

My melanin so poppin baby any color will go.

Now you know sometimes I like to rock my all black.

But I'm an actor. So that's the explanation for that.

Because see, my style is just another way to celebrate my ancestral greatness.

Because Black people invented swag.

We got do rags, box braids, FUBU and baby fat.

Yeah, we invented all of that.

Our culture, our style, our freedom, our expression our fashion.

My fashion is just another way to honor the Queen within me.

 

Thank y'all!!

 

Cessa  

Allison Lee Brown everyone! Next up we have someone you've already met but you probably already adore because I know that I adore her - Miss Tootsie Spangles!

 

Tootsie Spangles  

I pick up the top issue of YM, which stands for young and modern. A teen heartthrob poses seductively on the cover. You want to be like me? You want to know the secrets of being a woman through fashion, beauty and dating tips? Yes, please. Finally the guidance I have been looking for. I have been walking in the shadows but I have found the light and the light is women's magazines. I'm young, 14, probably modern, at least I will be after I read every single one of these. And I do I spend more time studying those glossy pages than I ever spend on pre-algebra. And I want to be like every actor model and singer in that magazine. They're all so sexy. I want to be sexy. And one day I spot them. I'm flipping through the magazine and bright between the advertisement for Slim Fit tampons, and the white eyeliner tutorial. Pleather pants. For a sleek new look, this fall's new must have comes in a variety of colors that won't break the bank. I spend the next several weeks saving up all my money for dark maroon pleather pants. I step to my sexy new britches and they squeak and creak in plastic coated protest but eventually fit like a very, very sweaty...  I'm gonna wear these to school tomorrow because tomorrow is school church day and at school church today I get to be a Eucharistic Minister which means I stand in front of everyone and pass out the holy bread and wine. The body of Christ. The blood of Christ peace be with you! I will bring Lord our God the most banging pair of pants possible. I get to Mass, I'm ready to shut down that aisle I'm  looking like Posh but feeling like Ginger. When I feel a tap on my shoulder "Excuse me. Don't you think your pants are a little inappropriate?" "No, they are technically well within the dress code." "Well, I was talking to my senior and he thinks your pants are a little inappropriate. You can stand in the back." Bummer. So I stand in the back. And I watched as all my classmates file in and I can feel their looks and hear their whispers "what she wearing? What a slut." In a sea of Marys it seems I was the Magdalen.

 

That's fine. It doesn't matter because next year, I'm going to go to high school, public high school. I won't be around these sheltered nobodies that don't know anything. I bet they don't even know the fashion fundamentals. I know you all know them. But let's review. Number one, no white after Labor Day. I'm not sure why but its what we do, right? Number two, the rule of balance. For example, if your neckline is low, keep your hemline long ish. And number three, the most important one, express yourself. Oh, I'm going to express myself. I'm 16 now and I'm going to express the shit out of myself at prom! Now the only thing that fuels my prom obsession more than YM magazine is those early 2000 teen sex comedy movies where 30 year olds play 18 year olds and everyone participates in a magical elaborate choreographed dance at prom which is super hot. I check my reflection in the minivan window one more time. It's prom night baby. I'm feeling like Ginger and looking like Ginger. My dress is a asymmetrical red cocktail number I brought from the internet. I even changed the bands of my braces of violet Scarlet type of batch. Now, my dress the suggests sexy tango dancer. But my tall teased hair says "thank y'all for the Country Music Award!" That's number two. That's the rule of balance and action. When I get to prom, everyone is wearing poofy princess dresses and sleek hair pulled back into butterfly clips and staring. That's fine. I just need to loosen up I need a song like in the movies and some of my castmates from the spring musical are here so we can do one of those magical elaborate choreographed dances. Alright, so I made my way up to the DJ booth. Excuse me, could you play something fun? That'd be maybe sexy. Brigadoon cast assemble!! Right before we start the DJ makes an announcement: "This goes out to that girl in the red dress." And then I hear my classmates: "ugh. What an attention whore. What a dumb slut what is she wearing?" and then like musical lemon juice to a fresh emotional wound, the fun sexy, upbeat song starts to play. And it's Cotton Eye Joe. You heard it right. That's fine.

 

Okay, it doesn't matter because someday I'm going to move to a big city and I'm going to be around people with actual taste. And I do I move to a big city I moved to lots of big cities and I hear "what are you wearing? Do you really think your body is right for that type of clothing? You can't wear that. That's too sexy. That's too frumpy. You're wearing too much makeup. You look really tired. You should probably put on some makeup. What are you wearing?" I'm wearing my favorite LBD. It has pockets. I bought it despite the fact that the saleswoman tried to talk me out of it, because you can see my thighs and quote, "your thighs are kissing."

 

Yeah, they're making out pretty hard. And I don't care really this time. Truly this time. I don't care because now that I'm at the age where I'm finally old enough to play a teenager in the early 2000s. I've outgrown the helpful tips and tricks of grocery store periodicals. I don't care anymore, because no matter where I go, or what I wear, I'm not dressed right. My body's not right. I don't care because I cannot spend any more time on this planet caring about if someone doesn't like my sequins or my beautiful fat ass. I do still follow the fashion fundamentals with a couple of edits. Number one wear what makes you happy. That feather boas, booty shorts. Number two say no to racist Halloween costumes. Knock that shit off. And number three most important one, express yourself!

 

Cessa  

Tootsie Spangles everyone! She told the story she can't get rid of us. Can you do it again? Another one of my favorite people in the world. Please welcome Alyza DelPan-Monley. 

 

Alyza DelPan-Monley  

Hi, I'm Alyza. I wore uniforms for most of my life. You might in fact say that I dress the way I dress today because I grew up wearing uniforms and always being told what to wear. Had a rigid Catholic school uniform from preschool through high school. In elementary school, we had a plaid skirt with a white polo top. In middle school I was stoked when they added khaki shorts and pants to the dress code. Finally, I didn't have to worry about scraping my knees playing basketball at recess or having my skirt flipped up by immature classmates. By high school I was going on 10 years of wearing uniforms, and I was pretty much done. I found every opportunity to customize my uniform within the rules. They even started modifying a few of the rules because of me. Boots were banned after I kept showing up in chunky snow boots with my plaid skirt. And this was in California where snow boots are just cosmetic. Hats were banned after I came in donning a large Derby hat accessorized with chunky jewelry.

 

Some people love the uniform they love not having to think about what to wear. For me uniforms were this demand for conformity that I was just looking to break free from. I sought self expression and individuality wherever I could find it. But even outside of school, I was in uniforms. In ballet, we wore pink slippers, pink tights and a leotard of the color of the  level that you were in. At church I had to wear altar server white robes with a tassel belt. All my sports teams had uniforms. It was hard to get too creative with rule bending, but I found my ways. In volleyball I Sharpie'd smiley faces onto my kneepads and one tournament we got called out by the referee for wearing too much glitter. They asked us to move the curly ribbons that we had used to decorate our jerseys, citing that the opposing team could be distracted by the glare of the flare. Even on the rare cherished free dress days without uniforms, I was surrounded by other types of dress codes and fashion expectations. Many of my classmates were wealthy, like international students whose parents could afford to send their children to American boarding schools wealthy, like classmates who spend free time shopping at Coach, Victoria's Secret, Juicy. Now this was a dress code I was not interested in or more truly one that I could not afford. So I started being very outwardly proud of my anti-brand clothing stance. Whenever the subject of my outfit came up, I would relish admitting that I got it at Ross on clearance or a thrift store for a steal.

 

It's been years since the last time I was in an institution that demanded what I would wear but today I have my own dress code. My own self enforced strict set of do's and don'ts. No pink, no camo, no khakis, no blue denim, no appropriating cultures that are not mine. Nothing too feminine, nothing too mainstream, no brand names or logo clothing. I mean, I love what I wear, I love my clothes. But looking back on why I came to dress the way that I do, I'm realizing that so many of my choices were actually anti choices, subtle opposition stances to what people thought I should wear. My uniform has become the manifestation of all the things I do not identify as. But the thing is, the whole point of dressing against those rules was because I didn't want anyone to tell me who I was. And now I've made my own dress code that tells me how to dress like who I want to be.

 

Clothing is in some ways a superficial pursuit. But it's also an access point for a deeper conversation around identity. Who are we when we're not the universal experience? When we do not fit into majority or mainstream mainstream expectations? How can we find our identity when throughout our entire lives? We've only been presented with identities that are not ours or do not feel quite right, and whose image can we create ourselves? I see the beginnings of answers to those questions as I look to our subcultures. Thankfully, there are enough people retaliating from certain mainstream standards and constructing their own positive identities. I feel camaraderie towards the bright colored costume wearing thrift shoppers with their dyed hair and tattoos. I see bits of myself in those who play around with funky over the top femme looks or bold androgyny, challenging that gender is anything but performance. I feel proud of all my POC friends who show up looking elegant as fuck letting everyone know that they should have been inviting the royalty to the table forever ago. And while I do relate to all those groups, I also have a bit of imposter syndrome in each of those spaces. I'm not quite any of those things. Sure. I'm not white, but I'm white passing. Sure I'm not straight, but I'm not completely out either. I take the Thrifty funky fashion culture. But I also don't feel completely a part of the cool people group identity that seems to come with it.

 

I've been feeling more and more lost in the space between what I am not and what I am. So it's time for some introspection, time to refine my style. Mine. But in the meantime, as I struggled to figure that out. I still have to put clothes on. I still have to wear something every day. When I look at my closet, what I really want is an outfit that says I don't care what I look like I exist in myself exactly where and how I exist. I am malleable and ever changing. And I don't need to explain myself to you. I started wearing pink again, because sometimes I like pink and femininity be damned. I mean, the only rules I'm breaking now are the ones I've decreed. One of my favorite things about how I dress is that it's a conversation starter, people approach me to ask about a shirt and the earrings, by the way ask me about this jumpsuit, the story is pretty funny. And maybe that is the positive identity in me that I want my clothing to capture that I love being playful and offbeat. And I want to adorn myself in such a way that when you look at me, you can see a reminder to have fun to be abnormal. A reminder that even though there are rules of conduct and society rules that guide us toward what we should be and how we should act or dress that those rules are more fun when we accessorize them. Coat them in glitter when we unzip them a little or ignore them completely. Thank you.

 

Cessa  

One more time for Alyza DelPan-Monley! Next up we have another She is Fierce veteran - please welcome Laurie Lynch!

 

Laurie Lynch  

Hello, in the words of Queen Dolly Parton: "It is hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world." I'm genderqueer. And this genderqueer person it's really important for me to have my gender expression, how I talk, how I dress, how I walk, how I present myself to the world. It's really important and it's crucial for me to feel okay in my body through my gender expression. Now I wasn't 100% conscious of this fact until I got pregnant and had a baby. You see I was sick throughout my entire pregnancy. I had dreams of being this cutest, fat, queer, pregnant dandy. And I was going to reject empire waste shirts and leggings. I dreamt of wearing overalls and suspenders with button up shirts and bow tie and the belly bigger than the one I already have.

 

But I was sick. And I mean, not like the dainty kind of morning sickness where the person who's pregnant, runs out of the room and throws up and then comes back in feeling refreshed and better. That was not me, and I could barely get out of bed. It was horrible. I'm really a good birth control for folks. But when I took the medication for the vomiting part, then there were this whole other host of side effects. That really all I can say is they did not make me feel like a queen, right. And then after the baby was born, I had this wound, this C section wound, that took a really long time to heal. And all I could think about during this time, was I want to wear leggings. Now, leggings have a purpose. They're damn comfortable. And some people really like their style. And that's great. And I do too, especially when they're gold. And gold lemay paired with a tutu. Now, when I came out of this fog of everything that had just happened to my body, and I, I felt who I was, I realized - I'm a dandy, right? And I realized I'm doing this thing, this thing that was supposed to make me feel all powerful and strong, and like I could conquer the world. And I did not feel that.

 

I felt broken and lost. And within that lost feeling, I realized my dandy-ness. That the leggings needed to be peeled off my body so that I could stand in my queerness again, and it's been coming up on two years since that birth. And I'm finally feeling my dandy self again, dandy. It's like, masculine, was a flare of feminine, you know, it's that it's all of this. It's the standing tall in who I am, right? It's the queering of being a mom. It's the queering what it means to be genderqueer, right?

 

And my four year old gets this, my four year old really gets this, and one day my partner was taking him to school and he said, Mama, I know. Mommy is like Rainbow Dash, both a boy and a girl. Now if you don't know who Rainbow Dash is, Rainbow Dash is a My Little Pony character. Rainbow Dash, she is a Pegasus. She has rainbow hair. She is a member of the Pony Daredevil Flight Team, and she is fiercely loyal to her friends. Now when my partner told me he said this, I'm gonna be real. I've never felt more seen in my life. My four year old gets it. Now I think you should probably follow me on Instagram because we're probably as a family going to be my little pony characters for Halloween. Or just on a random Tuesday. I love dressing up I love dress up clothes make me feel strong. I am a true best thespian archetype. I love entertaining people. I love telling stories. I love making people laugh. I love expressing myself with words and my body and behaviors and clothing.

 

And in the words of another queen: [sings] "I'm burning through the sky 200 degrees that's why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit I'm traveling at the speed of light I want to make a supersonic woman of you don't stop me now!" Thank you.

 

Cessa  

Laurie Lynch everybody! I'm gonna do a full length solo show later this year so you should look out for it because they're amazing. Our last storyteller is also a She is Fierce comedian, but this is the first time that she's going to tell a story with us, please welcome Alyssa Yeoman.

 

Alyssa Yeoman  

Hello, wow, everybody looks great tonight. Cool. Wow. Um yeah, my story starts. I'm 11 years old. I'm living in Texas at the time. And I'm a girl scout. Anybody ex-Girl Scout? I love being a girl scout. I love being a girl scout because of two reasons. Even though I was the only Black girl in the group. I got to be in it with my two best friends Katherine and Jennifer. And oftentimes being the only Black girl was eclipsed by the fact that I won best cookie seller every single year. Because I love to win. I love to win more than I love racism. And I sometimes like racism. That's a joke. I'm sorry. This isn't what we're here to do. Man, I love Girl Scouts. I like Girl Scouts for being top seller. I love doing outdoor things. I love winning badges. We just go to field trips all the time. My favorite field trip up until the point of the story I'm about to tell was getting to go to Macaroni Grill. Yeah, right. I don't know if any of you know what Macaroni Grill is but it's like if Olive Garden was a little bit better and a little bit more expensive. Great place for birthdays. Macaroni Grill is Zara and Olive Garden is H&M.

 

But this is an exciting field trip we're getting to go a little store called Limited Too. If you were a mall rat like me Limited Too what's up there with 579. The only three sizes they carried: five, seven, or nine. And Claire's, another classic. I was super excited for this field trip for a few reasons. One, it was a mall across town across I-35 that we rarely got to go to we only went to this mall during Halloween time because they had this really banging haunted house that happened. It's just less crowded than the Arlington mall so a little bit quieter. And we were going to get to do a fashion show. There at that Limited too. We're going to get to take home one free item from Limited Too and I never got to shop at Limited Too because my mother deemed it both out of our price range. And not modest enough. My mom is an avid thrift store shopper, the person who can find Yves Saint Laurent at a goodwill type of thrift store shopper and I have expensive tastes. And I think the story is part of it.

 

We get to Limited Too it's super exciting. We're like okay, what are we going to take home tonight? What is this going to look like? We're about to get styled by the cool older teens. You know? They all live versus young teams. Who know everything? Yeah, we get to that Limited Too. Everybody starts to go crazy. They're like, Oh my gosh, what are we gonna pick out right? What are we going to do? I start joining those ranks. I'm like, okay, cool. Let's search through this Limited Too. At this time at 11. I didn't realize that my boobs were already a C size. Because I was still rocking the no bra life, right? Because I'm like boobs aren't real until I decide they're real. None of this is happening to me this is happening to all of you. Everybody's going crazy picking out stuff at the time. And still now I really love 70 style. I felt like 70 style was this perfect iteration of this carefree persona that I already perfectly curated at the age of 11. Right? Whereas like I'm so sad, but if everybody thinks I'm chill as fuck, we will be good.

 

Man, it wasn't really long until we're in that Limited Too where I realized that nothing was made for my body. Limited too is a place where you go if you want to look like a future Fast and Furious actor... A lot of WhaleTail that's what I saying. I didn't have a body for low rise pants. I didn't have a body for small shirts as my boobs are growing. I started looking and I was like okay, I want to find something really cool 70s style to wear because we're gonna strut our stuff in this partially abandoned mall. My Girl Scout career, fuck being top cookie seller, I'm gonna be the Tyra Banks of this mall on I-35. I'm looking around and I start to realize like, I don't know what's gonna fit, I'm picking out all the things that I like. And soon a cool teen tells me that the things in this store were not made for my body. This isn't the first time I've gotten that I grew up being a dancer and there's often times where people would wonder how do we take out shoulder pads of dance things that don't fit as our small shoulders but she's still got long legs and a big ass right? I mean, I'm sure they don't say big ass. Cause i was not old enough to refer to it as a big ass. That would help. Oh man. And I was there with a pile of clothes in the dressing room. And I was just told by a cool teen that this wasn’t the store for me and I find myself crying. I’m the last who’s going to do the walk-down-the-aisle right into the hallway of the mall. And I found a shirt, I found a brown shirt. And I already hated wearing the color brown because people told me that it matched my skin too much. So I was terrified of that color. I was like okay, this is the only shirt that even kind of fits. And these pants are too tight but I’ll still wear them because they buttoned. But here I am with this brown shirt and this beautiful flower collar, and it has this little tie on top to hide my free titties. My free child titties. I can only say that because its about my own.

 

I was like, I guess I’m going to do this. This is going to be the item I take home. I wipe my tears away, I strut my stuff like I don’t care that nothing else fit me. And my friends are in clothes that fit them, right? I walk back in, they’re like what do you want to take home? And I’m like, I guess I’m taking home this brown shirt, that I don’t even feel confident in, because people told me I shouldn’t be wearing brown. But whatever, I’m gonna wear it home, I’m gonna pretend like I had a great time just like all of my tiny white friends had a great time. 

It was the longest drive i’ve ever had back. After a girl scout field trip. Usually i was excited to get home, tell my mom that i didn’t get caught for putting someone’s underwear up on the flagpole. Or that I got my fire badge which was also exciting. But I finally get home, we get back to the parking lot, where our parents were supposed to be picking us up. And my mom was always hyper aware that not everything was made for every body. My mom was white but she was blessed with the ass of a black woman. And I think that’s where we identified the most. I get in the car, she can tell that I’m upset that I didn’t actually have a good time like everyone else did. 

 

And my mom looks over to me, and she’s like, “that color looks beautiful on you because it matches your skin.” And she’s like, “And its also your style, you’ve always been a hippie child just like I’ve known you to be.” And then I wore that shirt for three years straight. 

Thank you so much everybody!

CLOSING NOTES

Cessa

That was A Queen Within! Woo! We’ll include all of the storyteller’s websites and info, social media and places you can find them in the show notes so you can follow them and support their work. This podcast was produced by me, Cessa Betancourt.

 

Linnea

And me, Linnea Ingalls.

 

Cessa

Our theme song is by the lovely Shelby Easley

 

Linnea

You can find us at our website, sheisfiercestories.org or our social media at @sheisfiercestories. Stay-

 

Cessa

That’s it y’all! Stay fierce! Oh I’m so sorry.

 

Linnea

I was trying to read the script…

 

Cessa 

We can do it again!

 

Linnea

Okay. 1, 2, 3 - Stay fierce!

 

Cessa

Stay fierce!

 

Linnea.

Hmmm… did we..? We’ll do one each. I’ll say Stay, you say Fierce. Stay!

 

Cessa 

Fierce! (laughter) That one was not as good. (intense) Stay fierce!

 

Linnea

(laughter) We’ll do this one in a Scottish accent. (scottish accent) Stay!

 

Cessa

(scottish accent) Fierce!

 

(Cessa and Linnea laughing)

 

(music) 

 

Shelby Easley (sings)

she is fire

she is flame

she has a voice

she has a name

she is fearless

she has years

oh you don't know

whoah-ah-oh

she is fierce