Q&A with Dancer Kaajel Patel

Kaajel’s reflections on, hopes for and words to her body. And her message to you.

By Ellen Downes
Wed 24 Nov 2021

Kaajel joined me earlier this week on an Instagram Live from her mum’s kitchen in Leicester, in the house where she grew up. We chatted about her relationship with her body – what it means, where it’s come from and where she hopes it will go.

She is a London-based visual artist, set designer, dancer and actor. She trained in Bollywood dance and Kathak (an Indian classical dance) and she works across theatre, television and film. She also teaches painting classes as well as moonlighting as a bolly-burlesque dancer in the London Cabaret circuit.

Basically, she is a Powerhouse. I’ve followed her work for a while since I met her on a Made My Wardrobe photoshoot a few years ago, and I’m so glad that she’s part of this series of Q&A. It was such a joy to speak with her. Thank you Kaajel for all that you’ve shared with us x

3 words to describe your body:

Resilient, glowy, ever-changing.

What do you love about your body?

I love that my body is a real representation of exactly where I’m from. My origins are really clear from my body shape, the skin that I have and the hair that I grow.

It only occurred to me when I was 15 that if I had been born in India, like my mum was, I wouldn’t have learnt any English or spoken it like this… I’d be completely different but my body would still look like this. I love that my body is a direct connection to where my ancestors come from.

Last year in September, I got tattoos on the inside of my elbows. My grandma had similar tattoos in the same place and I remember when I was little I used to play with the skin there. I really loved the effect of the patterns on her skin. I love that my body is now adorned like hers was, and that it will age and one day a kid will play with my tattooed skin too.

What would you like to love about your body?

The older I get, the more aware I’m becoming of how much more I need to love and look after certain parts of my body. As a dancer, I really need to take care of my bones. I want to look after my feet and my knees better.

I’d also like to embrace my height more. I’m 5’1. I have learnt to love aspects of being short… but yeah, I do think I would have got more work if I was even a few inches taller.

What would you say to your 10 years younger self?

I developed breasts quite early and as a teenager my body was objectified. It felt like it happened quite suddenly. One day I remember performing on stage and noticing audience members looking at my body in a way that made me feel quite uncomfortable as I performed.

I was no longer comfortable doing certain performances in certain spaces. I felt like an object. It affected me quite badly and actually made me consider changing professions.

I became a lot more self-conscious and started wearing baggy clothes. So, a message to myself back then… I want to tell her that she’s really beautiful and that she shouldn’t be changing the way that she dresses for anyone else.

What are your hopes for your relationship with your body in 10 years’ time?

I’m really excited about getting older. I realise how short life is and how exciting it is for our bodies to be changing and aging. I treat my life as an experience my body takes me through. I just feel so lucky to be on this amazing ride.

So, in 10 years’ time I’ll be 40. Maybe I’ll have children, or might be pregnant. Whatever is happening in my body, I hope that I embrace and notice all the changes that will be taking place. I’ve just started to get grey hairs which is really exciting. I want to be embracing the quirks and signs of aging, and letting them be free.

Her words to you:

Whenever you’re feeling blocked or stuck in your body, take things really slowly. Breathe into the feelings, whether positive or negative. Take account, physically, of moments that are significant in your life.

Do the things that make you feel like you’re really looking after yourself. Give yourself a massage, brush your hair, move your body in ways that feel good.

Every Body's Story Book

The bodies of 30 women aged 20-75 and the stories they hold

Every Wednesday I ask an inspiring creative 5 questions. I ask them to reflect upon their relationship with their body and they share their experiences and the lessons they’ve learnt with us.

You can watch the Q&A LIVE via the Every Body’s Story Instagram every Wednesday at 5:30PM.

Sign up to the newsletter here – where I’ll be sharing the programme of guests for each month, and more blog posts like these.

Next powerhouse guest: Upholsterer and Entrepreneur Leigh-Anne Treadwell 💖