Bearlesque Turns Three: Josh Schonewolf on Why the Body-Positive Event Is Still So Necessary

We chat up its creator about why bears are unique.

Josh Schonewolf (center) is the creator of "Bearlesque" which is celebrating their 3-year anniversary tonight.

Josh Schonewolf (center) is the creator of “Bearlesque” which is celebrating its three-year anniversary tonight.

Bearlesque, a monthly burlesque revue that features proud, plus-size LGBTQ performers, celebrates three years of drag shows, vocal battles and gay thrills tonight at Tabu with a special evening dedicated to divas. We caught up with the bear-licious evening’s founder, Josh Schonewolf, who turned 35 today, to talk about what makes bears great, why critics of his event are wrong, and the continued need for body positivity in the LGBTQ community.

Bearlesque is 3 years old today. How has the event evolved in the Gayborhood?
Bearlesque has been a hit show from the beginning, because it’s completely unique and an absolute blast. It’s evolved over the three years in many different ways. Most importantly, people know our show now. And it’s like an old faithful, whereas in the beginning we had to sell people on the idea that they should come to our crazy little show. It’s established and the show has a lot of big name performers, and we’re very proud of it. 

Do you think body positivity within the LGBTQ community has improved and why?
I definitely don’t feel like body positivity has improved. I think Bearlesque is the monthly reminder to the Gayborhood that it’s OK to celebrate our differences, and it’s sexy to be of a certain size. The prototype of male beauty that society has placed onto us is what we’re trying to change, and if we change one person’s point of view about appreciating all shapes and sizes, then we’ve done our job!

How do you address critics who have called the event exploitative?
There’s nothing exploitative about loving yourself. And that’s the kind of show we put forth. It’s sexy, naughty, hilarious, and at times downright wild. And we perform these numbers and they’re meant to resonate with the audience. Anyone who feels like Bearlesque is exploitative clearly hasn’t been to one of our shows.

With the recent controversy surrounding slurs like “No fats, no fems,” are events like Bearlesque even more important?
When I saw that t-shirt, my immediate thought was to get one made that says “All Fats, All Femmes,” because I don’t play that. That’s the opposite of Bearlesque. We ARE fat and femme. And in Tyra’s words, the maker of that shirt can “Kiss my Fat Ass!”

Most important question, what makes bears unique?
Bears are some of the sexiest, most open-minded and most awesome people in the community. Plus, Bearlesque celebrates bear-culture with a little humor and razzle dazzle. Every single cast member of our show is so ready to put on the show or our lives on May 6th. We’re so proud of Bearlesque, and we have some really exciting stuff planned for the anniversary show. Hope to see everyone there!

Bearlesque Does Divas, Friday, May 6th, doors at 9 p.m., show at 10 p.m., at Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar, 200 S. 12th Street. More info on Facebook.”