Meet this week’s Sexuality Superhero, Olive Von Topp. Olive is a burlesque dancer, sexual educator and empowerment coach. Olive gives her clients the tools to strengthen their loving relationships, so they can move forward in their lives. She also uses her empowerment coaching values about self-confidence and ‘owning your body’, and executes them during her burlesque performances. Get to know Olive a little more by reading her feature below.
How did you find yourself working in sexuality?
Great question. It hasn’t exactly been a straight-line to get here. Like many people featured on this blog, I have always been fascinated by all things sexual. I had two older brothers and my mother always encouraged us to ask questions about sex if we had them, so I think I was exposed to some mature topics at an early age. I was always the one my friends came to with their questions about sex.
I even wanted to be a sex therapist (and still may go back to school for it at some point), but I found a love for sociology and pursued that instead. After completing my masters, I found myself working at an AIDS Service Organization and LOVED it. Talking about sex every day as a job was a dream come true.
When I was a kid, I was very sensual. I loved dressing up in ‘adult’ clothes and I LOVED dancing (and theatre and comedy), so when I found burlesque later in life, it was a natural fit for me. When I discovered it, everything sort of ‘clicked’. Burlesque combines my love of dance, theatre, humour, storytelling, dress-up, and sensuality. I remember when I finally figured out it had a name, I was like, “That!! That is the thing I have been wanting for so long”. Performing, teaching, and producing burlesque has been intensely cathartic and rewarding.
When I started teaching burlesque, I began to realize that my students weren’t attracted to it simply because they wanted to learn the dance moves. They wanted something more. They wanted to gain confidence. Feel sexy. To have permission to explore a side of themselves they don’t usually explore. Unlearn shame. Challenge themselves. Burlesque was a great vehicle for these learnings, but I realized I could go deeper. This is when I began taking on personal clients as an Empowerment Coach.
Coaching was a natural transition from the support work I was doing at the time, and allowed me to work in depth with people, not just on their sexuality, but on their relationships with themselves as a whole. I also started running ‘Sexy Ed’, a local sex & pleasure workshop series, to give a platform to other local sex experts and resources. Every step in my journey has helped expand and deepen my work in self-love, pleasure, and personal empowerment.
What is the best part of your job?
Helping people see their own inherent sexiness and develop confidence. Nothing makes me more proud as a teacher than seeing women blossom and come into their own. It is so rewarding to have a shy woman in your class or a woman who outwardly states that she thinks she isn’t sexy, and then to watch her confidently strip in front of an audience 12 weeks later and absolutely own the stage. It’s amazing. It is the reason I teach.
Empowerment Coaching has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. I get to help folks gain confidence and re-establish a more loving relationship with themselves so that they can start living the life they want. I get to hold space for people to explore sides of themselves that they haven’t been able to previously. I get to listen to them, reflect back to them, and challenge them to challenge themselves and their thinking. I get to help them move closer to their dreams.
People come to me because they want to change their lives and they don’t know how. They aren’t sure why they are doing what they are doing. We spend a lot of time looking at their thoughts, their programmed beliefs—you know, those mean things you say to yourself and the unrealistic expectations you have of yourself, without even realizing it. Getting to witness my clients’ “Aha” moments is so rewarding. When we begin ‘reprogramming’ their thoughts, they start being much kinder to themselves, and we witness their lives begin to change. It’s amazing.
Oh, and playing dress-up and stripping is pretty rad too.
What is the most challenging part of the job?
Hmm. Explaining what I do at dinner parties. Working hard for little pay. Facebook and Instagram censorship that won’t allow me to promote some of my workshops and some of my events. They censored my ‘Body Love’ workshop. That’s a real drag and is really discouraging on how much work is left to de-stigmatize sex, particularly female-identifying folks claiming rights over their own bodies and pleasure.
Unsolicited dick pics are not my fav either.
Based on your experiences, what is your most important piece of advice that has the potential to revolutionize relationships?
Your relationship with yourself will affect your relationship with others. Continue to work on loving yourself, even while you are working on loving someone else. You can’t depend on someone else to fill that self-love void for you. Once you recognize your own worth, your relationships will benefit immensely.
This comes up so, so much in my coaching work. Putting work into your relationships is important, but just as important is putting work into your relationship with yourself. And I think healthy partner relationships allow time and space for us to work on ourselves. They support us to cultivate a loving relationship with ourselves. The better your relationship with yourself gets, the better your other relationships get.
Included in your relationship with yourself, is your relationship with pleasure. The more you allow pleasure (ie. a luxurious bath, savouring good chocolate, digging in a garden etc.) into your day-to-day life and recognize that you DESERVE to experience pleasure, the more sexual pleasure you open yourself up to experience.
Has burlesque taught you any life skills that you carry with you in your everyday life?
Great question. I’ve learned a lot of practical skills from teaching and producing shows. But I would say some of the bigger take-aways from performing are:
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. I do a lot of neo and comedy burlesque, which has been really helpful in not being afraid to look stupid.
- People want to see you succeed. Similarly, they want to see your humility and humanity. They don’t want to see perfect. They want to see themselves represented on stage. They want to see you mess up and overcome it. Be human. They want to connect to you.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You will make mistakes. Publicly even. But you just have to learn from them and try again. Not trying is a bigger failure. This is something I have really tried to incorporate into all aspects of my life.
- Comparison will not only rob you of joy, but of creativity too.
What do you want people to know about your work as a performer and empowerment coach?
Burlesque is not like the movie. It is much lower budget and a lot of hustle. I always tell my students to be prepared to start a very expensive hobby. Burlesque doesn’t really pay the bills. If you are lucky, it pays for itself.
That being said, I am so thankful I have found this creative outlet. It’s wonderful and we have a very supportive community.
Burlesque isn’t just about the tease, though that is a delectable part of it. It is also about representation. About taking up space. About confidence. It is rebellious, in my eyes. Getting up on stage and publicly declaring, “Look at me. I’m sexy AF. I love myself regardless of what you think” in a world that actively tries (even profits off) making us insecure is the ultimate FU to the patriarchy.
I also want people to realize that anyone can benefit from empowerment coaching. There are lots of reasons people seek out coaching; they want to change something in their life, they want more confidence, they want better boundaries, they want to experience more self-love, etc. Empowerment coaching can help with all of it.
Where can we learn more about you and your work?
You can learn more about me and the work I do, on my website and blog here. My Instagram is a combo of smutty pics and inspirational quotes. I also post a lot of self-love tips ‘n tricks and am happy to answer questions.