Colorado native Lora Cheadle is a lot of things: She began as an attorney, became a certified hypnotist, a yoga instructor, personal trainer, podcaster, writer, and what she calls a “life choreographer.” It’s a lot, sure, but talking with Cheadle will convince you that “a lot” is exactly what she’s going for. And like any natural performer, she hits her mark.
We spoke with Cheadle on the occasion of her appearance at the Boulder Book Store on Thursday, November 14, to read from and sign copies of her new book, FLAUNT!: Drop Your Cover & Reveal Your Smart, Sexy & Spiritual Self. And when Cheadle talks about “dropping your cover”…she means it literally.
Westword: One of your recommendations in your workshops is to “Find Your Sparkle." So what’s going to be sparkling all over the place at your visit to the Boulder Book Store?
Lora Cheadle: Although my first inclination was to create a big, glittery celebration in honor of my book, I decided to cut straight to the heart of the matter and go deep instead.
All of us are brilliant gems who are capable of sparkling for all we are worth. But unfortunately, many of us get worn down and dulled and worn down by life. Whether it’s health problems, money frustrations, bad relationships or some sort of trauma, every one of us loses touch with who we really are at some point in our lives. I decided that I wanted to fully honor that process of living and of being dulled by life and talking about liberation. Because unless we go deep, we won’t be capable of sparkling!
That said, I’ll be wearing a tiara, using a gorgeous silver pen to sign books, and, of course, my stuffed flamingo, Flossie, will be by my side!
FLAUNT! gets off to a quick start with something you call “Naked Self-Worth.” What does that mean, and why is it important to you?
Eeeeek! I am totally in love with the concept of Naked Self-Worth! Naked Self-Worth is the ability to value yourself for who you are right now, as opposed to who you think you should be. It’s about being brave enough to reveal all facets of who you are emotionally, intellectually and physically, without cover, apology or seeking to conform. It’s about loving yourself as you are right now, despite those extra pounds, gray hairs, crow’s feet, empty bank account or dysfunctional relationships.
When I first started doing burlesque, it was tough to get my mind around the fact that people were going to see me and my body as it was — not cinched into a body shaper or covered up with a “suck it all in” dress with firming panels. It didn’t take me long to realize that my hangups and inhibitions, even though they were “normal” and even encouraged by society, were limiting my own enjoyment of myself and my life.
I loved dancing, and I could either get hung up on the fact that I was in my mid-forties, had a body that had clearly had a couple of babies, and was too exhausted to put together and perfect a fantastically amazing routine, or I could let that stuff go and I could dance. So I danced! With absolute, uninhibited joy. And it was incredible.
In the process, I learned to show myself as I inspired others to drop their cover and start living their lives to the fullest as well. I learned that we were all a little bit scared to be seen, but at the same time, it’s the only thing we truly want. And most important, I learned that I didn’t have to do or be anything that I wasn’t. I didn’t have to prove my worth or seek to please anyone except me.
That’s what Naked Self-Worth is about; it’s finding that sweet spot where we can open up into our own vulnerability and allow ourselves to truly be seen. And when we do, oooh, it feels so good, because we know without a doubt that we are worthy for who we are, as we are, and not for what we do.
You mentioned burlesque, which is something you about a lot in this book. Can you talk a little bit more about your experience with burlesque?
I started burlesque sort of by accident. I really had no idea what it was, but the class time fit into my schedule, so, hey, why not? Well, I ended up falling hard! Not only was it dance, which I loved, but it was humorous, focusing on irony and parody in a pretty thoughtful way. As someone who always laughed at the hypocritical nature of humans, burlesque was right up my alley.
Becoming a part of the burlesque community was a very endearing experience. It is quite literally the most accepting and loving community out there. Everyone, of all ages, races, genders, shapes, sizes and abilities is accepted. And not just in in a superficial way, either.
Burlesque broke me out of my mainstream thinking and taught me that there is a much more diverse range of beauty, grace and experience than most of us ever experience. Too many of us limit our view of the world to that which we see on TV or in the movies, and we spend our lives trying to conform to those ideals.
But real life begins outside of those ideals. Burlesque taught me that being who I was was not an act of rebellion, but one of liberation, and that liberating myself from all that I thought I should do not only liberated me, but everyone around me as well, in the most beautiful way imaginable.
Do you think burlesque is misunderstood?
Burlesque is performance art, and it is misunderstood for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s a parody, it pokes fun at things that our culture is hung up on. And our culture is definitely hung up and hypocritical about nudity! We get offended by women breastfeeding in public, yet think nothing of nudity in movies or on TV. Burlesque makes fun of our hypocritical beliefs about nudity and sexuality, and some people don’t quite understand or see how burlesque is a reflection of much of what is going on around them in the world.
Another reason that burlesque is misunderstood is because people think it’s stripping, when it’s not; it’s strip tease, with the emphasis on tease! Burlesque performers never get fully naked, nor are their performances intended to inspire lust. They are mini-stories, with a plot and a surprise ending that more often than not involves the removal of clothing.
I think the value is in the way burlesque connects us all to each other. At the end of the day, no matter who we pretend to be on the outside, we’re all just people who are much more alike than different. We all have fear, shame and vulnerabilities as well as an innate desire to be seen, known and loved. For who we are.
Burlesque is a visual representation of what we all want to do: drop our cover and reveal ourselves for who we are, not who we think we should be, so we can be known and loved and truly, deeply seen.
All this sounds like quite a departure from your previous professional life as an attorney in California and later here in Colorado. How did you shift from that career path to the one you’re on now? What changes did you make, and why? What brought about that transformation?
The catalyst was the birth of my second baby 22 months after the birth of my first baby. Although I truly enjoyed practicing law and had a very nice setup at work, the real reason I went to law school was to help people solve their problems, and practicing law really had nothing to do with solving people’s problems!
One of the things attorneys are trained to do is look for the root cause of problems. I often found myself delving into the root cause of people’s legal problems and either helping them negotiate a settlement or understand what was really going on. Being at home provided me with the opportunity to learn a wide variety of modalities that were all focused on helping people solve their problems, whether their problem was wanting to look better, feel better or think better.
I have always believed that problems need to be addressed on every level and that when we superficially address a problem, the change we are seeking will not last. I believe that true transformation takes place only when we address our issues on all levels: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. My goal became to find the absolute most effective tools for creating transformation and change with the least amount of effort.
It was my hope that creating a world in which everyone was fully self-actualized, introspective and had a wide variety of tools, tips and tricks to address whatever sources of dissatisfaction and disruption were coming up for them, that the legal system would see a sharp decline in new cases. Because people would be able to solve their own disputes authentically and with integrity.
So would the life you’re leading now surprise the Lora Cheadle just starting out as an attorney?
Yes! Attorney Lora was focused on seeking external validation and doing everything possible to be calm, subdued, and prove her worth. I think that version of me would be shocked at the level of confidence, energy, and authentic worth that I feel now, doing a “job” that doesn’t carry a fancy title.
When you introduce yourself as Lora Cheadle, Esquire, and everyone knows that you practice law, you automatically command a certain level of respect. I think attorney Lora would be shocked at the pleasure I take in not having that deference given to me automatically, but instead allowing people the opportunity to see me first as a fallible, imperfect human.
How does Colorado play into your work and philosophy now?
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I was born and raised in Colorado — actually, I’m a second-generation native — and my work and philosophy was definitely colored by our culture. Coloradans tend to be a little more casual, a little more flexible and a lot more adventurous. My work centers on enjoying life, living in adventurous ways, and embracing and showing ourselves as we are. I think that our more casual culture helps us to see others for who they are, not who they dress up and pretend to be. Colorado is not a pretentious place, whether it’s our clothing, our cars or our attitude. There’s even that meme about only in Colorado will you have a $5,000 mountain bike on top of a $500 car. That’s true, and that’s exactly what FLAUNT! is all about — doing you, your own way and valuing things according to your own needs and wants, not by some external standard.
What’s that place in Colorado that sparkles most for you?
I love all of Colorado, but my favorite place is Glenwood Springs. I love the sparkling hot springs, the glittery red dirt and the glistening snowcapped mountains. But what I really love is the slower-paced living, the ability to walk anywhere you need to go, and my opportunity to disconnect whenever I visit. It truly is my happy, healthy, yummy place.
Colorado author Lora Cheadle brings her book FLAUNT! to the Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, for a reading and signing at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 14.