By Kylie Ambu
Renowned poet, writer, performer and body empowerment advocate Caroline Rothstein performed in the Kellogg Center Stack at Albion College last Friday, March 28. The host of the YouTube series Body Empowerment was brought to Albion’s campus by the Albion College Union Board and made lasting impressions on her student audience.
Rothstein packed a multitude of emotions into her set, from poems concerning how to receive the perfect orgasm to how to survive the self-worth battles that humans struggle through to in day-to-day life. With an opening act by singer/songwriter Rachel Brown, and discussions about topics ranging from sex to eating disorders, and from mourning to racism, Rothstein’s performance proved to be both relevant and significant to Albion’s students. Ebonie Williams, Detroit junior, is just one of the many individuals that was moved by Rothstein’s motivational show.
“Caroline’s performance was fantastic,” Williams said. “I felt like she brought a type of voice and opinion that needed to be heard not only by women, but by many students of this campus. Her different issues about her past made a big impact on me, because it was a reach-out towards my life. Her words of encouragement and wisdom really gave me insight.”
Union Board decided to bring Rothstein to Albion after seeing her perform at a conference held by the National Association for Campus Activities. Lead coordinator on Rothstein’s Union Board performance, Langston Brannon-Pugh, Detroit junior, was eager to book the poet.
“When Jen [fellow Union Board member] and I saw her [Rothstein], we were so moved that we were just like, ‘OK, we need to bring her on campus,’” Brannon-Pugh said.
Rothstein is a New York–based poet, and also sits as the President of the Board of Directors for Mental Fitness Inc. In 2010, Rothstein and her Nuyorican Poets Café slam team placed second at the National Poetry Slam. Rothstein believes that part of what makes her performances enjoyable is her honesty.
“I just sort of don’t have the shame button. Of course there are moments of my life that I feel ashamed, and I work through them really quickly. But when it comes to sharing my story in public, I’m not ashamed to share anything, because I really feel like so many of the world problems from genocide to poverty to racism to homophobia to transphobia to sexism are all because of fear of authenticity and fear of honesty,” Rothstein said. “If we were all brutally honest with who we were and let go of any shame surrounding who we are and our narratives, we would eliminate all those problems because we would be living present with ourselves.”
Rothstein feels body image issues are of equal importance to both males and females. While males are often overlooked when it comes to body image battles, Rothstein revealed that self-image issues are something that all humans struggle with and that in her performances she attempts to appeal to every member of the audience.
“Eating disorders and body image struggles don’t discriminate,” Rothstein said. “They are not gender specific, they are not race specific, ethnicity specific. That’s like the one thing that doesn’t discriminate: addiction, mental illness, eating disorders. I have absolutely had men come up to me or people that don’t identify as men or female come up to me and share that it resonates with them as well. I think that’s a really big problem in the efforts to inspire positive body image world-wide is that people think it’s just a women’s issue, when it’s an everyone issue.”
Rothstein has achieved a magnitude of success as a speaker and poet, and the fuel that keeps her going is her audience. One of Rothstein’s most memorable and rewarding moments was when she performed at a college during Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The event was publicized beyond the college’s campus, and a group of high school students attended.
After the show one of the high school students reached out to Rothstein and asked her to put her in touch with the coordinator of the event, a college student. Following contact by Rothstein, the college student became a mentor to the high school student. The high school student is now pursuing treatment.
“The high school student is actively seeking treatment because of the relationship they formed at the show I did,” Rothstein said.”Because I helped inspire the high school student to do something with recovery – that – the fact that they formed a bond where they’re supporting each other through their healing journey, that’s it. Like go home; I’m done.”
Photo via carolinerothstein.com