Miranti a.k.a "Dame Cuchifrita"

Name: Miranti a.k.a Dame Cuchifrita  
Age: 44
City: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: Rogue Chef, Fashion/Costume Designer, Stylist, Burlesque & Performance Artist 

Photo credit: Marc Schreiner

Photo credit: Marc Schreiner

Please describe how YOU see your body in general when you look in the mirror. 

I am short, muscular, and curvy. 

Body parts you love and why: 

Boobs: perfect size, perfect nipples. I would love them to be perkier as gravity is taking its toll due to my age. Skin: flawless & trouble free. Hands & feet: small and well proportioned. Bedroom eyes.

Body parts you love least and why:

From the tummy down it is a bit of a hot mess. Abdomen area: most "loose" particularly after reaching my 40's. Definitely not as toned, more girth. Hips too wide for my height, legs way too short and muscular. Thighs too thick, calves way too thick and were made fun of since childhood. Can’t find boots to fit around them, over all not lean looking. Butt: people say I have a cute tush, but I can't seem to see that mainly because I don't have eyes on the back of my head. Too jiggly and too much cellulite.
Overall, if I were stretched up another 5 inches I wouldn’t complain. Then my body would look like a decent hourglass figure. Waist is decent but I’m losing it as I age.

Describe how you feel about your body on a “good” day and “bad day”: 

My “best body” day is when I am not bloated, usually one week out of a month, when I’m tan and toned, after a regular exercise regimen of dancing and running but not bulgy and muscular from too much working out. When I get up in the morning is when I am thinnest and tallest. 
“Bad day” body: Bloated, sluggish, stomach extends way beyond what it’s supposed to. When I haven't exercised in a while, when it’s soft all around, wintertime, during pms, posture not perfectly straight, especially when I feel depressed. They seem to have linear correlation; a sluggish, depressed feeling body is weak and bloated.  

What do you consider beauty to mean? What is beautiful to you?  

Beauty means uniqueness that overall fits MY sense of what is artful. I am a visualist so I have a particular eye for all things beautiful. I love strange beauty, especially in people. I don't look at a formula of beauty based on a commercial standard; rather I look for seamless composition that makes sense to me and to itself. My point of reference is the individual itself. Physical beauty is important to me as an artist as a source of inspiration or as a source of appreciation. Inner beauty is important in that it’s the driving force of physical beauty. I like complex, multi-dimensional beauty with depth. 
I think talent makes one beautiful, I think fearlessness is a pillar of beauty, I think vulnerability is an underlying foundation of beauty, I think intelligence is the spine of beauty. I think unique features makes one interesting; a true form of beauty. 

What does a healthy body image mean to you and what are your body image goals?

I want to feel my body is the source of my creative inspiration; I want it to be healthy and strong but also aesthetically pleasing so I can utilize it as an extension of my art form. I want to not feel pain and I want to look leaner and tighter; since I can't ask for height, I want it to be proportional. 

What do you feel you need to do to achieve this? 

Proportionally speaking: Taking stretching and flexibility classes, yoga, dance classes, exercise, and eating healthy.

Are there any people who inspire you to think differently about your body in a positive way? 

Not really. There are not many people who look like me in general or who are in the media. 
Body image role models - Really no one ... I wish I did as far as body image is concerned, but for talent and fierceness, plenty:

One: my sister who has a successful clothing line in Indonesia who makes and celebrates clothing for women of ALL sizes.  The concept of her clothing line is reviving Indonesia's traditional ethnic wear and developing that into day-to-day wear and making it modern. And she uses women of all sizes including her fierce and successful friends to model the line, from mothers, to doctors, to restaurateurs etc. Here is the website: http://indischedesign.com/

Two: a lot of my fellow burlesque performers, especially those who paved the way for the Neo-burlesque movement in NYC from the beginning.

Three: I'm looking for a female role model who is prominent in the media who represents the topics of food and the cultural intersections, and I can't think of one. Clearly, I have to do something about this :)

Can you talk about a time in your life where you felt body confident? When you didn’t? What shaped your feelings? 

I would say my best body image time was when I was around 32-39. That was the time when I was leanest and tightest and well proportioned for my height. I was also working too much, found burlesque at 36, and got in touch with my creative artistic side. 

My childhood years right up to the end of my 20's were terrible as far as body image goes, I conquered a lot in my life then, achieved goals I wanted and needed to achieve to get ahead. Two degrees, moved to a different continent, got married; all building process to afford the life I have now. Most of it was just hard work; body image negativity was there but no longer the main focus.

Growing up in Indonesia, your weight and height is always a subject of scrutiny whether from family, loved ones or strangers. It is customary to talk about it as a form of small talk. Also the standard of beauty in Asia in general is militant and narrow. Colonialism was prevalent in the commercial beauty industry. The highest praise would be given to western-like features, a thin tall body, then Far East beauty: smooth white/yellow skin and lithe and delicate, then Indian and Middle Eastern beauty which is all over the media. Native beauty is somewhat celebrated in a very niche yet common thread among those I mentioned, but it was to be weaved in seamlessly. I never fit that stereotype either. So yes, you can imagine the comments, they’re not always meant to be negative but it is meant for you to be conscious of it. Because I have lighter skin, I also get compliments that sometimes outweigh the negative comments regarding my body image. Almost always does skin color play a more important beauty marker than body image.
 
It was imprinted at a very young age; it helps form your opinion and point of view ever since a young age. To shrug it off is never easy, but to start not caring as you get older as you have other things to think about is the best thing.

Have you had issues or challenges with clothing in regard to body image? 

The good thing about having aesthetic sensibility is that you learn to understand proportion and it was solidified when I became a fashion designer. I learned fundamentals of design and applied my knowledge on how to make flattering clothes. Because I am a fashion designer by training, clothing is used beyond just hiding and accentuating; it’s a form of narrative and character forming. I used clothes to stimulate the minds of the viewer. Of course choosing flattering clothes is fashion 101. 

Growing up as a teen in the 80's where clothing is designed to make you even boxier looking was almost traumatizing. The high-waist and the shoulder pads and the impossible-to-find-jeans that fit this curvy short body were scarring.

How this affects you: 

I make my own clothes. I do a lot of my own tailoring on store-bought clothes.

Does your body image affect how you eat? 

Because my 4th career is as an amateur cook, I eat everything healthy and real. There was a brief time in my teens where I was very strict in what I ate but it taught me healthy eating habits, and I have never dieted in my life. I have to say I had the sensibility to make sure my relationship with food is a great one.

My work with cooking and food hopefully inspires others to rebuild their relationship with food. Good, healthy, real food is about love and care of oneself and others. After I won the cooking competition Cooks vs Cons Season 1 episode 2 on The Food Network, I became determined to use my win and influence to let the public know you can learn to feed yourself and others in a more fun, educational, healthy and delicious way, by practicing making things yourself and developing creativity through the art of making food. I am currently working on my website www.joyoffeasting.com It will feature dinner parties, intelligent conversations, recipes, and love of food from around the world. I hope that it will at least inspire others to see life in a more wonderful light and not make you feel you are less than. Follow me on IG @thejoyoffeasting and @damecuchipastiechef to see different processes of how food can make your life sunnier.

When do you feel best? 

When I create: be it cooking, costume, clothes, a burlesque number, anything creative that comes from my heart, my mind, and hands and have it be exactly how I want it. Also in the warm weather, when my body feels well circulated and when I exercise regularly and when I dance, have sex, or dress up. Compliments from people rarely set my feelings one way or the other. Accomplishment does.

How has your body image changed over time? 

Being in your 40's is not for the faint of heart. Yes, my body image has changed from hating it from birth up to my late 20's to loving it, to not caring about it much, to realizing that aging is real. So yeah, I'm back where I started. 
Emotionally I'm ok now. Aging makes me feel wiser and I am able to choose what I can obsess about. So yes, while the world is all about Instagram and beauty image on social media, I'm also caring less and less about what people think.

Who do you feel influences your body image most? 

My family from childhood, my mother who does not necessarily come from a healthy self-image culture, the environment and definitely the media. But as I grow up and acquire many different skill sets and strength, they no longer bother me. 

What pressure around body image do you feel? 

It depends. I am my biggest pressure. I want to look a certain way and I will work towards it. The Media: only if my livelihood depends on it. Celebrities? Don’t care. Bathroom scales? I weigh myself once a year. 

What are your thoughts on the media/advertising/social media and how they affect body image? 

Terrible. The media is designed for you to feel less than you are so you spend money trying to fix it. There’s nothing more effective to make money off people with low self-esteem than by purposely assigning values to quantified beauty and not be inclusive.

What changes would you like to see? 

Variety of beauty. I get so bored looking at monotone, monochromatic beauty and style. Sooo, sooo boring and uninteresting. 

Thoughts around how they affect young children/teens?  

It definitely will have a strong impact on children. Parents can try to educate and build children's self-esteem but the media definitely has a stronger effect.

How do you feel about altering appearance through cosmetic surgery and applications like Photoshop? 

My personal take on cosmetic surgery is that if the surgeons actually can do such a good job and "correct" nature's aesthetic and make it better, I don't see why not, however, it’s seldom the case. My eyes can always tell a really bad procedure from a good one. I have only known one case where a friend got her boobs done and it was beautiful and made me want to get them done. But other than that there’s too much chance to have an irreversibly bad job done. I personally wouldn't be able to live with a bad job. I am not in the economic brackets to be able to afford such things. However, some people are really into body modification and that’s up to them. I always think the best way is to appear the best that you can be and not transform into a different race or a mythical/fairy tale character. But that's just me.

Photoshop is good to create the best version of you in pictures but must be exercised with caution. I would hate to disappoint people seeing me in person by not living up to my Photoshop standard. Photoshop in the fashion industry has gone to an almost criminal level. It’s a misrepresentation of the world. Pretty soon real live models are gonna be obsolete.

Do you have any advice/tips/suggestions for other women who would like to improve their body image?  

The best thing anyone, and especially women, can do for self-esteem is: develop and cultivate a talent or 5! Find something that you are good at during different stages of your life, work hard at getting better and better and let that shine. It will take your mind off your body image and you can control how people perceive you. If you have intelligence and personality and talents that shine, people will not pay attention to your "less than perfect" physique. It’s a different level of freedom. Also doing things that you love and what you are good at gives you endorphins that can make you happy like being in love. You need not search happiness from the outside rather find it within yourself. At the end of the day that is what makes you irresistible.