…I’m all about identity, and what I like to call, Naked Self-Worth® which is the ability to love and value yourself for exactly who you are, not for what you do, how you look, or who you are in relation to others. I cannot tell you how many times I have been confronted by this in my own world since I began this journey.
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lora Cheadle, an attorney turned Life Choreographer®, author, speaker, and burlesque dancer. She believes women are tired of being judged for everything they do, say, or wear, and are sick of settling for “just good enough” relationships, careers, or bodies. Her mission is to ensure that women are seen for who they are, not for what they do or who they are in relation to others. Using the concept of burlesque, she empowers women to strip out of their labels, roles, and scripts; show themselves unapologetically for who they are; and re-choreograph the next stage of life on their own terms with enthusiasm, joy, and satisfaction.
Integrating her unique skills as an attorney, hypnotherapist, and aficionado of all things dance and fitness related, and inspired by her favorite quote, “Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rodgers did everything he did, backwards and in high heels.” Lora coined the term Life Choreographer® to describe her methodology for teaching women how to reclaim their Naked Self-Worth®, which is the ability to value themselves for who they are, not for what they do. She is the creator of Yogalesque™ — Choreograph a Routine, Create Your New Life, Burlesque & Bubbly-Dance Class & Deep Conversations, and Find Your Sparkle coaching programs, workshops, and destination retreats. In 2018 she founded the FLAUNT! Follies, a dance troupe for women of all ages, sizes, and abilities, and she runs the FLAUNT Flock Facebook group, for women ready to know themselves, show themselves, and be unapologetic and free.
Named a Top Influencer of 2020 from the Success Woman’s Conference and an Exceptional Woman of Excellence by the Women Economic Forum in India in 2019, as well as being a plenary speaker on Reclaiming Voice With Validation, she is beloved for her ability to provide practical tools and profound insight to those facing the loss of identity that comes from transition, trauma, or middle age. She is the author of FLAUNT! Drop Your Cover and Reveal Your Smart, Sexy, & Spiritual Self and host of the FLAUNT! Build Your Dreams, Live Your Sparkle podcast for women ready to shed stereotypes and judgment and show themselves fully. She has written for Elephant Journal, Yoga Magazine, OM Yoga Journal, Aspire, The Girlfriend, Thrive Global, Medium, and coauthored the book The Legal Rights and Responsibilities of Teenage Parents while still in law school.
An avid traveler and seeker of all things magical, glittery and fun, Lora dances burlesque under the name, Chakra Tease, a tribute to her favorite philosopher, yoga, and her flirty personality. She lives in Colorado with her husband, animals, and two amazing adult sons. Learn more at www.loracheadle.com and download “The Top 20 Things That Block Your Sparkle and What to do About Them” at www.nakedselfworth.com.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
As an only child, only grandchild, and only great grandchild — on both sides, my childhood was definitely unique! I had the opportunity to try many different things, from horses and camping to theater and ballet. I also loved studying and did really well in school. From an early age on, it was confusing why I was treated differently if I were in a tutu than if I were in boots. As a pom-pom dancer in high school and college, who was also in honor society, it was interesting to note how I was judged more for my looks and the length of my skirt than I was for my grades or achievements.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
Gone With The Wind inspired me on several different levels. Just about every character in the book was trapped by someone else’s judgment or stereotype. Everyone lived a life of pretense and nobody could ever just do what they wanted or needed to do without going to extraordinary lengths to justify or conceal their behavior. That book made me determined to reject stereotypes, judgment, and live unapologetically as I am, not as society tells me I’m supposed to be.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
When I returned to corporate law after maternity leave, I had to pump at work because I was still nursing. I was on the 7th floor, and I had a private office, so I’d slip into my office, close the door, and pump while I worked on my desktop computer.
One day, while pumping, I caught sight of something odd reflected in my desktop monitor. Three window washers on a huge dangling scaffold were right outside my window, washing away! I was mortified, because I was there with my top completely open, the breast pump chugging away, and all the lights in my office were on. I kept my head down, and my back turned, so I have no idea if they ever noticed me or not, but I was mortified!
My takeaway from that experience was how sterile most work environments are. Many conflate being professional with being inhuman, perfect, or even machine-like. It made me wonder how much happier, healthier, and innovative we would be if we were free to be our imperfect, human selves everywhere we went, but especially at work.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
My book, FLAUNT! Drop Your Cover and Reveal Your Smart, Sexy, and Spiritual Self is the definitive guide for recognizing and releasing the labels, roles, and, scripts you unconsciously wear that inhibit you from being and doing all that you want to be and do.
While it might seem like the change is solely for the individual, the impact on society is significant, and here’s why: we are all pretending. Just about every human on the planet is pretending in some way. Pretending to be richer, poorer, whiter, blacker, smarter, dumber, thinner, fatter, stronger, weaker, or whatever it is. We are all covering who we really are, in an attempt to be accepted and loved by others. Ironically, the more we cover, the less likely we are to form authentic connections and the lonelier we become. The lonelier we become, the more judgmental and less tolerant we become, and the more we hide and cover who we really are. We hate on ourselves, our bodies, and on anyone we perceive to be living out loud or doing whatever it is we wish we had the courage to do. The cycle is devastating to our mental, emotional, and even our physical health and it’s got to stop if we ever hope to be unified, happy, and free.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
People are most fascinated by the story of me, as 44-year-old former lawyer, wife, and mother of two, ending up at a pole dancing class, which led to a burlesque class, a dance audition, and performing in Las Vegas all within a few months’ time!
What makes that story so interesting is the way none of it was planned, and how I simply followed my heart, took some crazy chances, and let go of the idea that I was too old, too fat, too out of shape, or that as a lawyer, wife, and mom, dancing burlesque was something I shouldn’t do.
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
The first pivotal moment that convinced me that my message, and my mission, were universal and important to share was when I first started practicing law. As a young attorney, I had a judge berate me for winning the first case I ever tried against a seasoned, male opponent. He called me into his chambers and instead of congratulating me for winning a case I should not have won, he yelled at me for having the nerve to win my case and make opposing counsel look bad. Then, he told me that if I wanted to be taken seriously, I should wear pants instead of skirts because my legs were nice, smile less, and consider wearing my hair up. It was devastating because I knew that if I confronted him, I could be sanctioned or blackballed, but staying silent felt terrible too.
Although nothing that dramatic happened after my judge-incident, there were hundreds of times after that where I’d either experience or witness others being judged for some superficial quality instead of for who they really were, and what they were capable of.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Although many of my clients and readers have experienced dramatic shifts in perspective, one of my favorite examples is of a woman with a high-powered corporate career, who had a heart attack and nearly died on the table shortly after her youngest child left home. Forced to leave work, she found herself faced with the loss of her identity as CFO, as a healthy and unstoppable woman, and as a mother.
She came to me to try to figure out what she wanted to do when she grew up, and as we continued to strip her out of her various labels, roles, scripts, and identities, she was astounded to discover how little of who she had built herself up to be, was truly who she was.
Not only did she re-choreograph her life in a way that was much more authentic and fulfilling to who she really was, but her husband, all three of her adult children, and her mom all totally changed their lives too, simply by witnessing her bravery and her process in becoming who she always was. That’s why this work is so important! Yes, it can change an individual’s life, but it sparks joy and innovation in the lives of everyone whose life is touched by that individual.
My client is currently sitting on boards of organizations that she is passionate about. She’s using her financial talent in a totally different way, and she has recently been certified to teach yoga. Her husband has become an author, her mother moved states to live near friends and be more active, and her children are closer and more connected than ever.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Yes! First, as parents, teachers, or caregivers, we can stop asking children what they want to be when they grow up, and instead start asking them who they are as an individual, and how they want to feel and experience life. Nobody wants to grow up being a stressed out, overworked, substance abusing human who spends their entire life slaving away for one good week of vacation per year. Yet that’s the kind of lifestyle we perpetuate when we focus on the doing instead of the being.
Second, it is imperative that politicians, leaders, and anyone in a position of authority, either at home or at work, admit when they make a mistake or don’t have all the answers. All of us have made, and will continue to make, mistakes. None of us have all the answers. Pretending that we do sets us all up for failure because it holds us all to an impossible standard. It also empowers us to be judgmental, and encourages us to deflect our own mistakes onto others. Not healthy!
Lastly, we can all stop talking about or judging things in terms of right/wrong, black/white, yes/no. Life is lived in shades of gray, and there are very few things that we can ever pin down or agree upon. So why do we pretend that we should? There’s a chapter in my book called Living in the Glitter, and it’s about the glittery complexities of just about every situation.
Take any hot button issue — abortion, police brutality, or whatever, and once you start digging deeper and really looking at the situation, you realize there are so many layers, so many complexities, and so much to grapple with that a one-size-fits-all solution is never going to work. If we normalized the complexity of life, I think we’d all be happier, calmer, and much less quick to judge, stereotype, and condemn others.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I define leadership as the ability to understand and articulate your why, and to inspire others to find their intrinsic why as well.
Similar to what I was talking about earlier, with asking kids who they are inside, and how they want to feel in life, and in their bodies, there is too much focus on external validation in our society. A good leader knows that and connects to a person’s inner passions, drives, or core beliefs. A good leader inspires others to be fully and authentically who they are, by being crystal clear about who they themselves fully and authentically are. Great leaders do not coerce or bargain, they inspire.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
The first thing I wish someone would have told me is that whenever you put your stake in the grass and decide to share or teach something that is important to you, you will be forced to learn and relearn your own lesson time and again!
It’s kind of funny, but I’m all about identity, and what I like to call, Naked Self-Worth® which is the ability to love and value yourself for exactly who you are, not for what you do, how you look, or who you are in relation to others. I cannot tell you how many times I have been confronted by this in my own world since I began this journey.
The most significant example was learning of my husband’s chronic infidelity shortly after I posted a piece on being happy despite any external circumstance. Umm-hum, that was an interesting lesson to re-embody in light of that circumstance!
The second lesson I wish I’d have known is that the journey is not linear. As an attorney, I’m all about making the list and checking the boxes. Business in general, but especially a business based on personal reflection and social change, doesn’t work that way at all!
In my book I talk about life being more like a labyrinth, and I wish I would have applied that analogy to my business as well! The path is very twisty, turn-y, and windy, and when you think you are almost there, the path turns and you are headed in the opposite direction. But then, when you are about to become discouraged and give up, you round another corner and realize that you’ve done it! The end is in sight.
The third thing I wish I’d been told is to that there are no mistakes. It sounds trite, but truly, each mistake is a lesson that I’d not have been able to learn unless I made the mistake. Whether it’s a bad contract, hiring the wrong person, or not trusting your own intuition, each mistake I have made has been a huge blessing in the end because of what I learned through those mistakes.
Fourth, I wish someone would have told me to do less, not more! There have been so many times I killed myself to do it all, when really, I never had to do that much! For about a year, every interaction I had with people I felt the need to teach them everything I knew! Instead of helping them, I just ended up overwhelming them and exhausting me! Less is more!
Lastly, and I think most importantly, I wish someone had told me that you can’t hire someone to do for you, that which you can’t do yourself. No, you don’t have to learn coding, accounting, or the finer points of sales funnels and Facebook Ads, but unless you know quite a bit about the process, you will inevitably hire the wrong person, get taken by the wrong person, or not be able to communicate effectively about what it is you want.
I paid my first web designer more money than I care to admit, and I ended up with a gorgeous website. However, she had built a coded website that was not editable by anyone except her! I’m a radio host, blogger, and I run a wide variety of programs! Posting new shows, editing and updating my site weekly is imperative! She was going to charge me an arm and a leg for the exclusive privilege of posting my weekly blog, radio show, and updating my events.
No, she was not entirely ethical, but I lacked the knowledge to even ask! I wrongly assumed all sites were editable by anyone with basic skills, and I had no idea that designers still used code to build websites.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Even though I rarely remember the exact quote, Michelangelo’s quote: “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”
This has always been top of mind for me. Whether I’m actually losing something I want to keep, or I’m just confused, depressed, or have no idea who I am and what I want, this quote reminds me that I am already complete. I am already there. There’s nothing for me to add, and I simply need to keep chipping away at whatever it is I’m working on.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Michelle Obama, because we have the lawyer and the mom connection and I think we’d have fun, but also because she was tasked with being the first of so many different things, and has handled herself with such grace and dignity. I sing the praises of stripping out of your labels, roles, and scripts so you can be who you are, and live life on your own terms, but she has been thrust into so many situations where there were no scripts for her to follow. From an early age on, she had to know exactly who she was, what she valued, and how she wanted to become. And she did, gloriously, honestly, and with an amazing amount of candor and charm.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/flauntflock/
Lora Cheadle, Life Choreographer FB: https://www.facebook.com/LifeChoreographer/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!