Otaymah Bonds

Occupation: Dancer; Performance Artist; Vocalist; Arts, Burlesque, and Pinup Writer and Historian; Pinup Model; Women’s health, self esteem, sexuality, and sensuality coach; Creator of the History of Performers of Color in Burlesque; Instructor.

Website: www.theirresistibleo.com

Instagram: TheIrresistibleO

 

WHO WILL ETERNALLY BE A WOMAN YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT, AND WHY?
A woman I eternally admire is my mother, Dr. Judy Hankins. I admire her because no matter what life has thrown at her, or people, she perseveres, and she conquers. She never stops being herself, and she has unshakable faith. Dr. Hankins does not give into the sexual shame that society puts on women and she’s taught me to fully be myself, take pride in being a woman, enjoy being female, and to not give into societal pressures that are inflicted upon women.

IN LIGHT OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR HASHTAG #WHYITRIBE, WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATE WHO WE ALREADY ARE TODAY?
It’s important to celebrate who we are today because we might not get a tomorrow. The point of power is in the present, it’s now. Also, women spend so much time regretting, worrying about what we’ve done wrong, or could have done differently. We don’t celebrate the many, many things we’ve accomplished, things we’ve overcome. We need to change that cycle of behavior and begin to know that what we’ve been through makes us who we are today. And that is to be celebrated!

NAME A TIME RECENTLY WHEN YOU SAID SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF/HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?
I try my best to say lots of good things about myself on a daily basis. On a moment basis, really. Positively affirming good things about yourself shifts your entire viewpoint, your entire world. Saying good things about myself makes me feel better. Sometimes I’ll say good things to myself, about myself, to battle negative self talk, or something that has happened that I’ve started to get on myself about. This type of speaking positive to yourself, about yourself, is encouragement. It’s you being your own cheerleader. And it’s a great thing.

WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN SHY AWAY FROM CELEBRATING OR PRAISING THEMSELVES SO MUCH?
Women shy away from so many things about themselves that should be praised. We do this because we are not taught that we, alone, are of value. We are taught that in order to be of value we must be connected to someone or something, some role; be it being a mother, wife, good daughter, whatever. We are taught we have to be a good something, not someone. We as women are also taught that praising oneself is prideful, arrogant, conceited, and lacking in humility, and that there’s something wrong with praising yourself. This type of societal teaching reiterates in a woman that although she may do something or be somebody powerful, it is not “right” to acknowledge it. So we don’t. Then there is a trickle down effect and we don’t feel that we are worthy to be praised, or even that we are okay, as who we are.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE TENDENCY TO DISCREDIT COMPLIMENTS YOU ARE GIVEN?
I accept the compliment and then immediately give one back. That is me accepting the love then giving love right back to a woman who may need it and may not know how great she is.

WHO WAS THE FIRST FEMALE TO TEACH YOU OR INSPIRE YOU TO FEEL THAT #YOUAREENOUGH?
My grandmother, Gwendolyn Hankins, was the first to teach and inspire me that I am enough. I learned this by watching her. She was one tough, foxy dame, that took no crap from no one!

HOW DOES SOCIETY REINFORCE THE IDEA THAT WE, AS WOMEN, ARE NOT ENOUGH AND HOW CAN WE TAKE THAT POWER BACK?
Women are automatically devalued in this world. We are taught we are not enough from the moment we are born. Women are taught this by the rhetoric spoken to us and the actions that take place concerning us. Female babies are killed, given away, not seen as important as male babies. We are taught to be ashamed of our sexuality, our bodies, our periods. It is taught that everything about us is wrong or less than. We are not thin enough, or too fat, not smart enough, or too smart, not strong. We are literally called the weaker sex!

In order to take that power back, we’ve got to teach our girls that they are strong, capable, beautiful, at the onset of life. And we need to show by example that it’s okay to be big and shine bright, to be proud of who you are, to desire, to want more, to speak positively about yourself.

We can change things by fully embracing the beauty and strength that is the female body. We can change the women should hate themselves cycle by not participating in that ideology. We can thwart off this type of negativity by actively engaging in positive self talk, and speaking positively to other women, developing healthy, nurturing relationships with other women.

ARE WE TOLD ENOUGH AS YOUNG GIRLS THAT #WEAREENOUGH? IF NOT, HOW CAN WE CHANGE THIS MESSAGING FOR YOUNG GIRLS TODAY?
We are definitely not told that we are enough as young girls. I’m working to change the messaging of young (and older) girls today by teaching about sexuality and sensuality, writing about it, and doing sensuality and sexuality coaching. I also do this by being a burlesque dancer and pinup, and writing and teaching about women of color in those genres (from which we have been erased). In order to change messaging we have to rewrite history, reteach history, so that we know we were there. Because we WERE there! And we are here, now.

My History of Performers of Color in Burlesque course does exactly this! As do my writings and pictures that have been published internationally, (as well as videos and all forms of media). I’m working to be on the covers of and inside magazines, on stages, in venues, so that girls and women can actually see themselves! It is powerful to see someone that looks like you doing what you want to or are doing. We need so much more of that.

Our bodies (and sexuality) are our own, to do with as we please. THAT is what I teach, what I write, what I coach. THAT is what I do.
If we can exalt in our bodies and our minds, we can see that we are enough. Feel and know that we are enough.

WHAT WOULD YOU GO BACK AND TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF, TO ENCOURAGE SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-LOVE?
I’d tell my younger self to let go. I’d tell young O that she is astounding and not to hide her light.