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Susan Stinson

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09:32 pm: Heather MacAllister
I am thinking about Heather, who I knew through the unforgettable impact of her public self.

The first time I saw Heather (outside of pictures in the famous FaT GiRL zine), she was dancing at a fat conference (was it Nolose? Or before?) wearing a pair of tight faux snakeskin pants, a red pvc corset and what I remember as a matching, furry, pillboxy hat. What hips, what style, what presence: a force to be reckoned with. Her voice in panels and workshops made it clear that this was an accurate first impression.

Through her dancing, activism and teaching, she made a gift of disciplined, tantalizing, tough and artful sexuality to so many (I'm very confident that it's thousands, and it might be a lot more than that) fat people, especially, I think, women. The power of that, and the nerve and panache it took, is immense.

Heather and her troupe of burlesque dancers were photographed by Leonard Nimoy for the Full Body Project. When I went to see the photos at a gallery in NYC in 2005, I wrote that I felt as if the models were of my family. I always felt that way about Heather and her work, and also about what I've known of the communities she lived in and helped to make: separate, but close enough in terms of fat culture to feel the need for what she was doing inside me, near the skin, like a pulse.

The last time I saw Heather, she was in Northampton with Big Burlesque for a performance and an opening at the Michelson Gallery of the Nimoy photographs. The group was on an extensive east coast tour, and running late, but made an elegant, formal entrance before Heather gave a passionate statement about their mission. Then she gave me a hug, and I got to watch her face as she looked at this photograph [link removed because the image is no longer available] in person for the first time. She told me that she had seen the image online, but not as a large print in a gallery, and as she leaned close to look, there was an utterly beautiful expression of tenderness on her face. It was unguarded love, something I feel so lucky to have seen.

My heart goes out to those who knew, loved and cared for Heather. And to all of us who are passionate about expanding the possibilities for our scorned, adored, dogged, problematic and beloved bodies, for our loss.

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Date:February 20th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC)
So sorry for this loss.
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