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Influencer Spotlight: Rachel Micheletti

Curvicality Influencers to Watch - Spotlighting up-and-coming plus-size influencers through inspirational photos and personal interviews.
If you ask Rachel Micheletti the meaning of life, she’ll say: “The meaning of life is looking for magic everywhere and making it yourself where there is none.” Photos by Jose Pagan.

And magical she is.

She’s a counselor and second-degree graduate student by day, burlesque teacher, influencer and lead singer of Rachel and the JellyCats by night. Her sultry moves and deep, sensual vocal tones resonate with the soul.

Here’s the thing: She’s earned a special place in the hearts of plus-size women around the country.

Why? To put it simply, she makes you feel like a million bucks.

Even Influencers Have Dark Moments

But Micheletti hasn’t always been the confident woman she is today.

Like many, she reached a dark, difficult place when she neared 30, fueled by hopelessness, regret and a lack of direction.

“There was so much I had wanted to do, but I didn’t think I had enough value to even bother trying. It was a terrible cycle of wanting to accomplish, not accomplishing and then feeling bad about not accomplishing.”

At this point, she realized she was caught in a vicious loop that was spiralling out of control.

“It had a lot to do with recognizing that so much time had passed, and I felt I had very little to show for it aside from being unhappy with myself and my life.”

Rachel Micheletti
Photo by Jose Pagan.

The Answer: Saying Yes to Life

Micheletti didn’t have an “aha moment” per se. It was more of an evolution of thinking.

“It was a realization that I really couldn’t feel worse than I did, and so what did any of it matter? That kind of nihilism sounds really dark, but in all honesty, when I reached a place of believing nothing mattered, that really meant nothing mattered, the good stuff OR the bad stuff.”

This change in thinking was her ticket to freedom.

“The fear didn’t matter. The possibility of rejection didn’t matter. The anxiety didn’t matter. It was a freedom I had never experienced in my life.”

As a result of her existential crisis, she started saying yes to everything that came to mind, like taking comedy classes.

“That’s really how it started. Anything and everything that sparked my interest became fair game. That doesn’t mean I’m successful at everything. It means I tried. I think we’re really obsessed with the end result of things and not the experience.”

Higher Education: From College Flunk-Out to Academic Success

Micheletti had originally failed out of college as a teenager. In fact, her teenage self would probably never believe she would go on to obtain a master’s in clinical mental health counseling.

“Knowing what I know now, I can see that I was going through what was likely depression as well as being in the midst of an abusive relationship that kept me in a place of near-constant anxiety and torment.”

Like many who have failed out of college, the experience scarred her self-esteem.

“I can offer my younger self some grace in recognizing that now, but it really colored my view of my own abilities to achieve and be a successful student and contributing member of society.”

RAchel Micheletti
Rachal Micheletti
Photos by Jose Pagan.
Rachel Micheletti

Mental Health Awareness as a Calling

After successfully completing her bachelor’s degree, Micheletti’s interest in the mental health field began to emerge.

“It began because of my work as a dance teacher. My students and their needs really led me on this path that I hadn’t even imagined was available. I was consistently working with women who were going through huge life changes — divorce, cancer, children leaving home, even a desire to feel more desirable. You name it and I could see clearly how the experiences of dance and performance were offering far greater gifts than just the physical.”

One by one, she saw lives change.

“I would witness amazing transformations so profound that women’s perceptions of themselves began to change. And I felt such a connection to offering that space of safety and empowerment.”

This brought about a desire to figure out how she could help in more ways.

“I knew I needed to do more. I did a lot of research and soul-searching to see how I could become a more educated and powerful advocate for women, and counseling seemed to provide what I was looking for.”

These days, Micheletti sees failure as a stepping stone to success.

“To anyone who has tried and failed (like I have so many times), PLEASE keep trying. I even got my second master’s degree as of May 2021. It is possible and you are worth it.”

Getting into the “You Deserve Success” Mindset

Micheletti wants readers to know that changing mindset is key to reaching your dreams — and changing your life.

“I think the worst thing about suffering with low self-esteem and poor body image is that I didn’t think I even deserved to have dreams.”

As a child, she was interested in medicine. But depression clouded her vision. And, again like many of us, she was body shamed.

“I remember so many instances of my body being a punchline and being laughed at. It became hard to even concentrate on surviving, let alone doing well in school.”

Her most vivid memory is being taunted in anatomy/physiology class.

“I was met with laughter every single day because my back fat was visible to the girls sitting behind me. That became my least favorite class really quickly and really diminished my excitement in that area of study.”

The experience stayed with her for much of her life.

“Although those girls didn’t know it, I was dealing with serious scoliosis that had greatly changed the shape of my back, so that along with being in a larger body really cemented my hatred toward myself.”

In addition, she struggled to accept the cruelty of middle school children during a singing audition.

“I was in chorus for years and finally built up the courage to try out for a solo piece in middle school. The giggles and laughter I heard during the audition were enough to make me quit singing for more than 20 years.”

Rachel Micheletti
Photos by Jose Pagan.

The Truth about Self-Identity

When it comes to self-identity, Micheletti wants you to look at your life experiences. This, she says, is key to making lasting change.

“So much of our identities can be shaped by harmful comments, powering an intense fear of rejection and self-doubt. I am sure each of us has at least one experience like this, where a criticism cuts so deep it’s nearly impossible to forget. And that criticism stays with us when we make choices for ourselves and our futures. And isn’t it strange how we so strongly hold onto hurtful comments, no matter how few and far between, but give very little headspace to the wonderful things people say about us? I absolutely loved singing, but after that I would never risk singing in front of anyone. Ever. And this was prompted by people whose names I couldn’t even remember.”

In addition, she feels it’s important to let go of the need to be liked by everyone. Not everyone will like and support you, and that’s OK.

“There will always be naysayers and trolls and people who insist on being cruel, but you have a choice whether to engage or not. I decided that unkind people didn’t deserve to live rent-free in my mind.”

When you let go of the need for approval, life will unfold in a more joyful manner.

“Finding and living in my worth has helped me to say yes to even the scariest possibilities — from taking my clothes off in front of strangers in my burlesque shows to being on a stage singing in front of thousands of people. The potential for someone to not like me is always there, sure. But the potential for someone to love me is much more realistic. And what I have found more often than not is that being authentic, vulnerable and doing something that I love usually gives courage to someone else. I think that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give another person: the knowledge that they can live in authenticity, too.”

Rachel Micheletti
Photos by Jose Pagan.

Micheletti’s Advice: Reach Out if You’re Struggling

We all struggle, but don’t do so alone. Micheletti wants you to know that you should never suffer in silence.

“If you are struggling, REACH OUT. Asking for help can be an extremely scary prospect, but feeling awful all the time is scarier, isn’t it? Even the people who love us the most in the world sometimes don’t know we are going through a difficult time.”

When you’re weighing your options, don’t be embarrassed to seek counseling.

“It may be that we don’t feel we have a friend or family member we can turn to, which is why counseling and therapy are such wonderful things. And please don’t be put off by the possible cost; many agencies throughout the country have low-fee or no-fee providers available. (If you are lucky enough to have insurance, you likely have mental health coverage!)”

Realize Your Value Is Not Dependent On Others

It’s easy to get caught up in the people pleasing trap, but don’t. Your value is in no way dictated by those around you.

“Your value is not dependent on those who refuse to acknowledge it. You have value that exists separately from the way people choose to treat you, and the behavior of others speaks to their own insecurities and pain, not yours.”

In addition, expand your inner circle.

“If the people around you are not celebrating you, find new people. Look for communities that will provide support (Hello, Curvicality!). There are so many people in the world who want to be kind and experience kindness, we just have to find each other.”

Be Your Body’s Best Friend

There’s something to be said for honoring your body.

“Take the time to honor your body every single day, even if it’s something small. This will look different for everyone, but for me, I do my best to dress in ways that bring me joy, to carefully select jewelry that makes me feel good and to sneak in a dose of glitter somewhere no matter what my responsibilities of the day include.”

There are lots of ways you can show your body a little TLC.

“Honoring your body could be spending time applying lotion or washing your face at night or even letting your body rest when it’s tired.”

Why Burlesque is for Everyone

Micheletti’s pursuit of burlesque as a means of body love is common.

“When new students are approaching burlesque, there is usually an underlying reason. It could be a wish to reignite feeling desirable, a hope to uncover long-hidden confidence or a drive to try something a little scary and very out of the regular comfort zone.”

The recurring theme is a desire to take the reins and regain confidence.

“Honestly, in my experience, these ideas all relate to a strong need to regain control of the way we view our bodies and how our bodies are viewed. Burlesque gives us back our power in that the performer decides how she presents her body, the performer decides what she shows of her body and the performer gives the audience the permission to view her and enjoy her. How empowering is that?”

The risque side of burlesque is not what it’s all about.

“It’s not about wearing clothes or not wearing clothes; it’s about choice, power and control. That is what I try to instill in my students, that they have permission to make their own decisions.”

This power extends into everyday life.

“We all have the power to say no to things that don’t serve us. We have the power to leave situations that feel unsafe or uncomfortable. We have the power to decide how we dress and how we present ourselves. We have the power to speak our truths, and live them, too.”

At the end of the day, it’s about developing confidence as a habit.

“Gaining confidence isn’t a one-time transaction. It’s a habit we have to work on every single day of our lives. Check in with your body on a daily basis. Let your body tell you what feels good and what doesn’t feel good. Make choices dependent on those feelings. You are, simply put, the expert on your own body and your own needs. The more you harness the power you already have inside of you, the more confidence you will have. I promise it works.”

Don’t Beat Yourself Up for Struggling

Micheletti says that even she has difficult days.

“I have really difficult days; I don’t think that’s something that ever goes away. I know enough now to realize that my hardest days usually go along with times when I feel an overload of stress, anxiety or even lack of sleep.”

She has a system she uses to check in with herself.

“As simple as it sounds, on the days that feel the worst, I go through a little mental checklist: 1. Did I drink enough water? 2. Did I eat today? 3. Did I get enough rest? 4. Do I need to take a break from what I’m doing for a few minutes? These seem really silly, but you’d be amazed how bad dehydration or being hungry or being tired can make us feel. If I’ve gone through the checklist and none of those are the culprit, I try to check in with myself and pin down what is not feeling good. Where are these feelings coming from? Are they logical? Are they real? Is my inner critical voice being a total pain again, talking nonsense? And if I can’t figure it out myself, I talk it out with a trusted friend.”

The bottom line is that it’s essential to open your heart.

“Being honest and vulnerable is a really distressing prospect, I know, but feeling miserable is usually worse.”

Micheletti’s Goals for the Future

Micheletti’s future goal is to keep her platform alive. “In 10 years, I hope that I’m still doing what I do, but even bigger and better. I imagine my private counseling practice, Live Body Brave, to be fully operating, possibly with more than one location. I also want to develop a training program for other clinicians that utilizes the power of dance and performance as a mental health intervention. With any luck, there may be a book or two that I’ve published (special shout-out to Mary Beth Cooper for that push!). And of course I’ll still be dancing, singing and taking my clothes off in public. Why the hell not?”

The Moral of the Story

To sum it all up, Micheletti wants you to celebrate being you. “The world wants us to fit into a perfect box and have a specific label, but we’re all really complex. There’s not a single word that could describe any of us. I think that we feel like we have to be something that other people understand. but that isn’t true. People don’t need to understand us or agree with us.” To learn more about the amazing Rachel Micheletti, visit her website https://rachelmicheletti.com. From counseling to burlesque training, this influencer offers something for everyone!

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