'Black thighs save lives': How Dainty Smith is empowering women of colour through burlesque

Smith is a preacher's daughter turned storyteller and performer — and for her, the burlesque stage is the safest space to tell stories that are fearlessly feminist.

For Smith, the burlesque stage is the safest space to tell stories that are fearlessly feminist

"Black thighs save lives": How artist Dainty Smith is empowering through burlesque

5 years ago
Duration 3:47
For Smith, a burlesque stage is the safest space to tell stories that political, sensual, satirical and feminist.

Dainty Smith is a preacher's daughter turned storyteller and performer. She specifically found empowerment as an artist through burlesque performing — and after seeing women of colour fetishized and underrepresented in Toronto's otherwise thriving burlesque scene, she decided to do something about it. The result was Les Femmes Fatales, a burlesque dance troupe of people of colour she created five years ago that's still going strong.

"I just didn't see a collective or a lot or an ensemble of black and brown women all together on stage," Smith says in the above video. "Usually in a show, it would just be one. So I wanted to create a space where you could be the blackest black you wanted to be on a burlesque stage."

Smith says she wanted women who were queer or queer allies. And even if they didn't necessarily call themselves feminists, she wanted to collaborate with people that had feminist beliefs and values.

"If you know that black thighs save lives...this is the church for you," she says on her website — which is also where you can see how to find that out for yourself at upcoming shows.

Watch Exhibitionists online. New episodes Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.


Lucius Dechausay is a video producer at CBC Arts, as well as a freelance illustrator and filmmaker. His short films and animations have been screened at a number of festivals including The Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs. Most recently he directed KETTLE, which is currently streaming at CBC Short Docs.


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