At my college alma mater, there was a thriving burlesque club which I greatly admired before I even started doing burlesque. During my freshman year, I attended one of the shows and fell in love with the artfulness and beauty of burlesque as well as the idea of performing. I had never seen anything like it before…
I spent the next three years imagining costumes paired with songs I would love to perform to, act ideas, dance moves, and the like. I finally worked up the courage to join the club at the start of my senior year of college and I was smitten. During my first burlesque performance, I slipped off my white, rhinestone-encrusted angel’s costume to reveal dark, strappy devil’s lingerie underneath – all of which I had made myself. Since that first performance, I have loved the idea of using the stage as a setting for a magnificent transformation of my burlesque persona.
Our club leader at the time was knowledgeable and helpful, and all the women in the club supported me and each other every step of the way. I had a tremendously positive experience simply interacting with them, let alone creating the costumes and choreography.
Performing my first set helped me develop into a stronger, more confident performer. I have been performing burlesque and modeling ever since. Burlesque is rapidly evolving, and performers are using it as a platform to explore their ideas about sexuality, femininity, power, art and other topics that may have never been showcased before in public striptease. It’s a great time to be in the industry.
For many people, I’m sure the most difficult aspect of burlesque is being nearly naked on a stage in front of a live and large audience, though that was never the case for me; I’m not at all shy in that regard. Initially, I certainly grappled with making my acts look smoother and more effortless, seamlessly and convincingly conveying the story behind the act.
It requires a degree of confidence, which is arguably more important than most anything in burlesque. That confidence comes from a true sense of freedom to celebrate one’s sexuality, one’s body, and one’s intellectual and artistic voice.
Both inside and outside of the industry, there are countless voices all chiming in to tell you what burlesque is and isn’t. What you are and are not supposed to get out of it, what you can and should do on stage, and what you should never do, et cetera.
I firmly believe that burlesque should be a wholly individual experience, in that it is and whatever you make of it, both for the performer and viewer. I grappled a lot with the idea that I might not be able to get away with more artistic and abstract sets and costumes when I was first starting out. I will always strive to improve myself and my work in the context of burlesque, but there will always be individuals who will not be satisfied with my particular style or efforts. It is up to each individual performer to reflect upon his or her own work in the context of these voices and determine how to proceed and how to present themselves.
Read everything you can about burlesque, watch performances, take classes — dance classes that aren’t even related to striptease, learn about costume and set design, read reviews of shows, see the shows themselves, talk to performers, take pride in your body and how it moves. Learn everything you can about burlesque, and then turn around and do it your way.
I’m torn between two things – the people I meet and the opportunity to express myself in a deeply personal way. I have been so blessed to meet many exceptional individuals through this endeavor, and I’ve been afforded such wonderful opportunities as a result.
I can never pick just one! There are so many performers, new and old, who have inspired me and shaped the performer that I am today: Tempest Storm, Raquel Reed, Jo Boobs, Blaze Starr, Dirty Martini, Bettie Page, Medianoche, Catherine D’Lish, Calamity Chang, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lili St. Cyr of course, and countless others.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Dita Von Teese. I think she shaped my thoughts about grace, beauty, and sexuality before I even started doing burlesque. Through her social media presence and interviews, she has always seemed to be the epitome of poise and elegance which I try to emulate both in my own life and in my performing and modeling careers. My work, from my perspective however, appears to come off as a more pleasantly controlled chaos than Teese’s regimented grace and glamour.