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'I dress for the life I want'

Psychologies’ image expert Mandy Lehto talks to Nancy Hitzig, burlesque dancer, among other things, about loving her body

by Psychologies

Nsncy Hitzig, How to look like yourself

Comfortable in her own skin is how I’d describe Nancy Hitzig, 28, producer, fundraiser and burlesque performer. ‘I’ve chosen to be fearless in the pursuit of my truth,’ she says. ‘Style-wise, I’m sexy because I practise joy and gratitude. I dress for the life I want, and it becomes the life I have. It’s amazing how that happens.’

In her dance classes, Nancy encourages women to find the bits of their bodies that they love, and to emphasise those. ‘I love my bottom and my thighs. I used to hate them.’ She smiles as she tells me that her legs and bum are now her greatest assets in her burlesque performances. ‘I call it my jiggle,’ she says playfully. ‘Burlesque celebrates the booty.’

Ten years ago, Nancy had a moment of reckoning. ‘I weighed just under 100kg and was so tired of feeling that way. So I saw a holistic nutritionist and lost 30kg. I’ll never be thin, but I’m strong and feel great. I’m so done with hating my body.’

Nancy’s costumes allow her to bridge the distance to her audience. ‘People are there to celebrate my form,’ she says, adding that it’s not about having unshakeable self-confidence. Really being in her body, feeling that deep connection and acceptance, has allowed Nancy to be authentic in herday-to-day wardrobe, too. ‘Knowing who I am has evolved my style,’ she explains. ‘I create magic. I build community. I love with abandon. And that’s the message I want my clothes to convey. It’s so much more fun to dress with intention than to dress to hide yourself. And my purple hair invites comment. That’s the point! Connect. Come and talk to me.’ 

I ask how she developed such strong self-esteem. ‘I had back surgery in 2009, so I know how it feels not to have mobility. I didn’t know if I’d be able to dance again.’ Nancy realised that her mobility is a gift, that her body is a gift. ‘I got really clear on that after my operation. Now I dress how I want. My only rule is to wear what makes me feel amazing.’

Dress to love your body

  • Stop using clothes to hide – start using them to connect and inspire
  • Being noticed isn’t a bad thing
  • You have to give yourself permission to wear what you want. No one else will give it to you
  • You stand taller in a good, well-fitting bra
  • Wear colour for evening wear – everyone else wears black
  • Get guidance on what suits you, then go with it!
  • Focus on the feeling that clothes give you, not the number on the tag
  • Swap body-judgement for self-gratitude
  • Strong – not skinny – is sexy

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com or read her latest piece on LifeLabs

Photograph: Ki Price