Known as “The Embodiment of Burlesque” and “Queen of the Quake,” Kitten de Ville, Miss Exotic World 2002, talks Texas Burlesque Festival, Burlesque Assassins, the Velvet Hammer, champagne and wrestling.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
You just returned from performing at the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival in Atlanta, as well as judging their pageant, and this month you’ll be in Austin for the Texas Burlesque Festival. Tell us about your role in the Texas Burlesque Fest and your expectations for the event.
I am a big fan of Coco Lectric, the co-producer of the Texas Burlesque Festival, and was very excited when she asked me to be one of the featured dancers at this year’s event. The line-up is amazing with Ray Gunn, Miss Indigo Blue & Shannon Doah, just to name a few. I have been very impressed with the girls from the Jigglewatts and am happy to have the opportunity to come to Texas and perform with them. I will also be performing at Viva Las Vegas April 6th & 7th in Audrey DeLuxe’s Burlesque Bingo, a game show in which the burlesque performer dances on top of a huge numbered bingo board and where our costumes drop is what number they call; every member of the audience has a bingo card and plays along. Each performer is a round of bingo. It is crazy and fun and makes you rethink the way you strip and drop clothing. I also find myself adding new pieces to my costume so there will be more numbers to call out. I love performing at this show!
I remember speaking to you briefly after a show in Dallas a few years ago, and when my friend and I asked if you could share some burlesque advice, you gave us two tidbits that I still remember. First, you said no matter what you do, no matter what your gimmick is – just get out there and sell it. Make the audience feel it and believe it. Second, you said that in your personal opinion burlesque performers should strive not to lip sync with their music (unless it is necessary to the act, etc.) as it blurs the lines between burlesque and drag. Care to expand on those topics for our readers?
I believe that performers should be enjoying themselves and their performance on stage. If they are not having fun then why bother pursuing a career that involves an audience. The advice I give my students and those who are just getting onto stage and may be a little nervous is to remember that no one knows your routine, and as long as you do not let the audience know that something went wrong, by facial expression or body language, chances are they will not catch on. To me a live show is about interacting with the audience, the exchange of energy, and the enjoyment of entertaining. It is about the freedom of expression of that moment and that place in time. It is very special because no matter how many times I may do the same routine the feel and energy is always changing because of the environment that I am in and I love that aspect of burlesque.
About lip-syncing , I feel it takes away from the tease, if a performer has a nice voice then by all means use it along with the strip, but if not, then they should let their body do the talking and use their lips and facial expressions for flirting.
You created your first burlesque act in 1994, which obviously predates YouTube and the multitude of resources that exists for modern performers. You’ve stated that at the time even vintage burlesque videos weren’t easily attainable, and instead you based your dances on how you imagined the movements of the performers in vintage burlesque photos (especially those of Lilly Christine) and you mixed that with the stage attitude of Iggy Pop and Lux Interior to create your own performance style. Being a part of the burlesque revival since its infancy is not something many people can claim, and with such an extensive background, I’m curious to know some of the common challenges that you encountered in the beginning.
The biggest challenge then, and it may still be today, is informing the public on what Burlesque is and that it is an art form. I remember trying to explain how it was not lap dancing; yes we were taking our clothing off, but in a more flirtatious way, something a bit more innocent adding the art of the tease. And now, I feel today with the movie Burlesque and so many Cabaret style dance groups that I have swung the other way by saying it is not about Jazz hands and dance moves, it’s about being sexy and dangerous.
Speaking of your early days, let’s talk Velvet Hammer. For our readers who might not know their burlesque history, could you tell about the early days of Velvet Hammer, how it evolved and share which of your contemporaries also got started with that group?
Michelle Carr and Elvia Lahman started the Velvet Hammer. Our first show was Valentine’s Day 1995. From the very first show I believe The Velvet Hammer set the bar on what a Burlesque show should be and sadly 17 years later there are still not many shows that come close to what we were doing back then. The Velvet Hammer was not about girl, after girl, after girl. There were comics and skits; we had our own band & candy girls. The venue, lights, and sound system were top notch. There was a long runway from the stage where we could get out to the audience who were seated at tables and comfortable booths. It was all red velvet, chandeliers, perfection. Our shows were an event. People dressed up to the nines. We one upped our costumes with each new show. We were a wonderful group of girls who were enjoying life and our new found art form of Burlesque. Backstage was a happy mix of champagne and light hearted conversations. We were a DIY / Punk rock mix of attitude and style that were not afraid to push boundaries. The Velvet Hammer was more a group of headliners rather than a troupe. Each of us doing our own thing, creating our own performances. Ann Magnson. Miss Astrid, Ming Dynatease, Selena Luna, The Poubelle Twins & Princess Farhana are some of the original girls who are still performing today. Dirty Martini, The World Famous BoB, Catherine D’lish, Kitten Natividad and Mamie Van Doren were some of our guest performers. Augusta (AKA Penny Starr Jr.) was not yet a burlesque performer but instead a film documentarian who along with Don Spiro followed the Velvet Hammer for a few years and produced Velvet Hammer the Movie. There is also a beautiful oversized book packed with photos and quotes put out by Michelle Carr called The Velvet Hammer Burlesque. And if you are in France you may be able to find the documentary The Strip Velours by Jean-Marc Barbleux.
You’re appearing in Jonathan Joffe’s upcoming film “Burlesque Assassins” which is supposed to be released this winter. If I understand correctly, it’s an action comedy set in the 1950s in which burlesque gals help fight communism? Your co-stars include Armitage Shanks, Roxi D-Lite, Renea Le’Roux and Amber Ray, just to name a few. I’d love to hear a little more about your role in the film and your experiences during the filming process. The cast alone sounds like it would make for one hell of a party!
The Movie was filmed in Canada with the actors staying in one huge house with its own play room and hot tub. I have a small role in the film and was only in Canada about a week for the last of its filming, and all I have got to say is boy what a week! It was fabulous- nonstop, early call times and late bed times. You never knew who you would find where in the morning and what items of clothing would be out back by the hot tub; did I mention it was snowing? But besides all our escapades the cast and crew were all very professional. What I have seen in the previews from the movie has been amazing. I am so thrilled to have been a part of this film and only hope that there is a Burlesque Assassins 2. I would love to know what becomes of my character.
I saw a recent Facebook post in which you complained about how you’ve caught would-be bike thieves in the act twice and wrestled the bike away from them in six-inch heels. The story itself is amusing, but I was curious because you said, “I may look sweet but this kitten has claws and a wrestling background.” Please do share about this wrestling background of yours! I’m intrigued!
There is a fantastic show in Los Angeles called Lucha Va Voom which mixes Burlesque & Mexican Wrestling. Produced by Rita D’Albert and Liz Fairbairn, it started back in 2002 and mixed the girls of The Velvet Hammer in between Mexican wrestling acts, with Michelle Carr and Hope Urban actually wresting in that first show. I was intrigued from the start and knew that I too wanted to wrestle. So from 2003-2006, I trained with professional Luchadores and wrestled at each Lucha Va Voom show. Mixing burlesque into my act, I always ended up in a burlesque style bra, g string and my gold flake wrestling boots. Slymenstra Hymen (of Gwar) was my first partner. I have also wrestled the Poubelle Twins but Ming Dynatease remained my longest lasting partner. In 2007 Ming Dynatease, our opponents Los Chivos and I were asked to perform our wrestling act at a huge festival that would precede my three month burlesque stay with The Cabaret New Burlesque in France. We trained for 6 months perfecting all sorts of death defying tricks, flying from the post, flips out of the ring etc. But in the end, it was one misstep from my opponent that left me with my leg broken in two places, a week’s stay in a hospital and instead of performing, I was under strict doctor’s orders not to dance for three months and so there I stayed in France, not allowed to perform at the Cabaret New Burlesque or my other scheduled shows in the UK or I would have broken my contract.
In addition to being an award-winning international performer, you’re also a producer and owner/instructor of Kitten de Ville’s School of Burlesque in Southern California. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working on one of your many projects? (Or do you find that you’re always working on something?)
I love to keep busy and with the business of Burlesque there is very little down time. I am always looking for new projects and ventures, scheduling future tours, creating new acts or teaching. But in between this time I do make time for myself. I love to work or lounge in my garden, ride my bike around town and visit with friends.
Like many showgirls, you’re a notorious champagne-lover. Do you have a favorite brand of bubbly?
Most often I drink Moet or Veuve Clicquot.
What’s next for Kitten de Ville?
I am in talks with a producer who wants to do a television show, I am setting up my next European tour for the fall of 2012, I may do a little writing and Ming Dynatease and I are planning on producing another Rock & Roll Strip Show.
Texas based performer Donna Denise talks gentleman’s clubs, competition, drama, and motherhood.
Q: You are relatively new to the world of burlesque, nominated Texas Newcomer of the Year in 2011, but are not new to the world of professional dance, as you began your career years ago as a feature entertainer in gentleman’s clubs. What brought you to burlesque?
I have always been a fan of burlesque. I had collected VHS tapes for years, long before I had ever done a burlesque show. While touring the gentleman’s club circuit, I didn’t know of anyone doing burlesque or even where to go see a show. I had always hoped to someday do burlesque or a show stylized like a burlesque show.
Q: Your long break from the stage was due to the birth of your first and only child, whom, it is very apparent to any observer, is truly the love of your life. How did motherhood change your life?
Motherhood is the best thing to EVER happen to me. My daughter is the most amazing person I have ever met. I have never felt love, happiness, and joy like I do when I am around her and when I think about her. Being a mom put me in check. Meaning, all of the negative people and influences that I allowed to be in my life, I let go immediately. All of the things I was gonna do, I didn’t actually do until she came into my life. I guess she is my motivation to do better and be better.
Q: Your daughter has special needs; what additional challenges does this present? Do you have advice for parents in the same boat?
My daughter was born with a neurodevelopmental disorder which has lead to her having speech and learning disabilities. (In some cases, children born with this condition develop autism and other more severe disorders.) Luckily, her case is not as extreme as it could be.
The only challenges are it takes longer to complete school work because the information has to processed differently for her. I also give her extra work as repetition helps her to understand what she is learning. The school system allows her to have more time to finish her work which is a blessing. Another challenge is keeping her motivated and positive when she feels like she everyone around her knows more than she does. I constantly remind her how great, smart, amazing, beautiful, sweet, and loving she is. I remind her that there have been times in the class when she knew the answer when the other kids didn’t (that makes her just as smart as anyone else). I also let her know that she doesn’t have to be the best, just do your best. And that no matter what, I am always proud of her and love her. For any parent in this situation, I can only advise patience and acceptance. Be encouraging and positive to your children. They look to us to feel and know that they are ok, and we have to instill that in them.
I just took a chance one day. I saw an opportunity to audition, and in my mind I decided it was now or never. I thought if I gave it one more chance to be on stage, I will have proven to myself that I could do it.
As far as “mommy time” and “me time”, when I am with my daughter, I give her all of my attention. I need for her to know, feel, and believe that she always comes first. I do take her with me when I go to fabric stores and craft supply stores. She loves being artistic and creating art (painting, drawing, sculpting) so for her she always gets something out of it. I also use these opportunities to teach her how to do things like how to sew and decorate her own things. When she goes to bed or goes to play with friends; that is “me time.” That is when I get the bulk of the work done, and I am ok with that. I like my daughter; I genuinely like being around her and hanging out with her.
Q: Who are your top three burlesque role models and why?
I adore Catherine D’Lish!! She is beautiful, graceful, sensuous, glamorous, and super nice. Lily St Cyr is another role model. She too was an incredible performer; I love watching her. Her movements and expression…. (deep sigh). Dirty Martini. She is beautiful, confident, sassy, and really nice also. (Please believe there are so many more who inspire me.)
Q: With a background as a feature entertainer you must have a wealth of great tips on competition. In addition, you recently earned the title of “Most Glamorous” at The Great Southern Exposure Festival in North Carolina; what are your views on competition in burlesque and what advice would you give to gals who are competing?
I enjoy going to the different competitions. You get to meet and see some many great performers. I try not to see it as a competition but more as an opportunity to showcase what I can do.
1)Just do your best; that is all you can do. If you bring your “A” game and give it your all, then crown are not you are still a winner.
2) We all do this to entertain so don’t lose sight of being an entertainer. The audience came to see a great show; you came to do a get show, so give it to ‘em!
3) Have fun and be fun.
Q: You have an amazing grace and humility about you that is incredibly endearing, and your kind and generous nature makes you so easy to love. In fact, you recently earned the award for “Sweetest Lady in Burlesque” at the Dallas Burlesque Festival. With a day job of managing an all female staff and your evening burlesque gigs; you spend the majority of your time in worlds full of women competing for the spotlight. How do you manage to always steer clear of conflict, and what advice would you give to ladies struggling with “drama” or cattiness?
I simply cannot have drama in my life. It will affect everything if I let it. I understand people have conflict, I understand some people do not get along; I understand that sometimes it is just a bad day for someone. I try to counsel and console if I can. I offer a hug if needed. I also know when a girl just needs to be left alone.
For people who find themselves involved in drama ALL the time, they have to realize that in all those situations, the one common denominator is them. They have to be willing to accept their role in the drama, change their behavior, and move on, hopefully avoiding future problems.
Not at all. I love burlesque more and more because color and ethnicity don’t appear to be an issue. The people who like burlesque just want to see a good show. They want to be entertained. And as long as you are giving the audience your best, they will love what you do regardless.
Q: If you could have dinner with any five people living or dead, who would they be and why?
Jayne Mansfield- She was beautiful, funny, and smart; I’d like to watch her work a room.
Janet Jackson- She is an all-around entertainer and I would like to know what advice she could share.
Mae West- She had so much sass, intelligence and the best wardrobe ever.
Jesus- Because it’s Jesus.
And my daughter-She just makes me happy. (Luckily, I get to dine with her all the time.)
Q: What’s next for Donna Denise?
I’d like to travel more. I would really like to perform in Italy, France, Spain, well, all over Europe. I hope to do more pin-up modeling also. Outside of those things, I’m very happy with my life. If I don’t get to do those other things, I think I will be ok. I’ve done a lot and seen a lot already, so if this is it, I’m ok with that.
Editor’s Note: When we at Pin Curl were brainstorming on what new additions to bring to the magazine, a question and answer etiquette column kept coming up. You know- backstage etiquette, producer/performer etiquette, all sorts of burlesque related questions filled our heads. We couldn’t think of anyone’s advice we’d rather take than Miss Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Founder of the New York School of Burlesque and author of The Burlesque Handbook! We are so thrilled that Miss Weldon is our newest monthly contributor! Have a question you’d like Jo to answer? Please title your email “Etiquette- _your issue___” and send to editor [at] PinCurlMag [dot] com and we will send them right over to her!
Backstage Etiquette with Jo Boobs Weldon
When I started out I definitely wasn’t demanding fancy dressing rooms and making people treat me like a star… I’ve seen girls do it, and I discovered early on that when you don’t ask for all that and you just do a good job, well, they want to do nice things for you, you know?
Dita Von Teese, quoted in The Burlesque Handbook
When I was a teenager going to rock concerts, all I ever wanted to do was go backstage (which I did, eventually, but those are stories for another time!). When I worked in strip joints, I loved hanging out in the dressing rooms shooting the breeze with all the other strippers. Now, in burlesque, spending time backstage with other burlesque performers is one of my favorite parts of the life. It’s not entirely unreasonable to say that I sometimes think of performing as just the gateway to backstage access. I’m a groupie of my talented and glamorous friends. There is certain etiquette to backstage. It isn’t just a matter of behaving rightly so people will like you. People in burlesque are often performing for artistic and social reasons that they value as much as getting paid, and everyone (yes, everyone) is hustling to some degree to get any gigs at all. They need to enjoy what they’re doing since they’re working so hard for such uncertain rewards. It stands to reason that if you want to not only get booked, but get booked again, you’d better be a pleasure to have backstage. Otherwise performers and producers are going to have you rather low on their lists of first-to-call. So many performers are also producers; you never know if the person sitting next to you gluing on false eyelashes can get you the gig of your dreams. It’s important to get along backstage if you want to get ahead. Plus, it’s just more fun that way!
Points to consider: Most backstage areas are tight. Some things to keep in mind if you know square footage will be limited:
*Think about how much space you’re occupying. If you have a fantastic big gown, of course you must take up space to get into it. But plan ahead. If you know you’ll be in a small dressing area, consider taking a costume that takes up less space.
*Try not to bring your entire makeup collection. If you’re a real aficionado, it can be tough, but consider doing most of your makeup at home and just bring enough to finish and touch up.
*Don’t bring food backstage. A protein bar or something that can’t spill or smear onto other folks’ costumes is probably fine, but a plate of Chinese food not only has a chance of getting on their clothes, but also has a strong odor that can permeate fabric and wigs. Likewise smoking.
*Try to control your perfume, hairspray, and other aerosol products. You can stain other people’s clothes or agitate their allergies.
* Do your best to pack so that you can find things and don’t have to dump out your bag. Have a checklist so you don’t have to borrow (of course everyone does borrow at least one thing a night, but try not to depend on it) eyelash glue, pastie tape, etc.
* Try to keep your personal affairs personal. Even if everyone knows and cares, it might be hard for them to feel like good friends if they are annoyed when you are backstage emoting while they are doing their run-through.
* Watch the gossip. You never know what kinds of relationship the relative stranger next to you might have with the person you think is a jerk.
* Save the critiques for appropriate space, even when people ask. Hardly anyone can really handle being told they need to improve their posture right after they come offstage. And certainly be aware that a person who is not present who you may be critiquing may have acolytes in the room.
Lillith Grey has been lighting up the stage for over five years as a burlesque and fetish performer, musician, and emcee, and can frequently be found performing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education, and is currently completing her Ph.D. in psychology. She has worked as a psychotherapist, educator, and social justice advocate, and currently teaches at a local university while working on her research. She travels extensively, teaching classes and workshops on a variety of subjects including relationships, communication, trauma, body image, sexuality and gender, and diversity issues. Lillith is also active in the Leather community, serving on the NLA-International Writing Awards committee and as a co-chair for the Women’s International LeatherFest. Visit her at www.LillithGrey.com for more information.
Have a question for our new advice columnist? Please title your email “Lillith- _subject___” and send to editor [at] pincurlmag [dot] com
Burlesque is a small world and I just got burned badly by someone in the industry. When is it appropriate to “put someone on blast” on Facebook and warn others about their horrible business practices?
-Burned in Dallas
This seems to be happening quite a bit lately! I’ve seen a lot of these “blast” posts, not only for bad business practices but also in response to interpersonal conflict. Since I don’t have a lot of info from you about your current experience, my answers will probably be a bit broader than necessary for your specific situation, but hopefully I can shed some light on some things to think about as you work through this.
My first thought is to look at the reason you want to make a post about this. This can be very difficult and requires you to take a hard look at what’s going on emotionally. You are probably very angry right now, and you may have other feelings like betrayal, hurt, frustration, worry, fear, and any combination of these and a million others. Feelings are complex and hard to understand, but it’s very important to understand how feelings can impact our actions.
You may feel that your intention is truly to warn other people to prevent them from getting hurt; I’ll talk later about how to do that fairly and conscientiously. However, if you are in a state of emotional upheaval, your underlying intent may be to lash out and get back at the person that hurt you. This is a perfectly natural, reasonable, and acceptable response to being hurt, but that doesn’t mean you have to act on those feelings. Find other, healthier ways to vent your anger and frustration. Have a bitch session with a friend. Write an angry letter. Whatever you need to do, do it, but keep it private. Your emotional experience is not meant for public consumption.
Sometimes when I have a bad experience or am soured by something someone did or said, I have the urge to jot off a quick post about it. Almost every time I’ve done it, I have ended up regretting it. Now I have established a rule for myself: If I have something strong to say about someone, I write it out but I wait four days to post it. If after that time I still feel that strongly about posting it, I will reconsider it. Almost always, though, by the time those four days are up I’ve already found a way to handle the emotional experience and that post just doesn’t seem that important. Find a strategy for handling emotional turmoil BEFORE you end up in turmoil!
You should also think carefully about the damage that can be done by an emotion-driven post. First, and most obviously, you are doing damage to the person you are talking about, which may actually be your intent. Whether or not you are willing to be intentionally hurtful to another person is up to you, so I won’t speak much to that. But that’s not the only person you’re harming. You’re harming your own reputation too, and that’s worth considering as well. When you make emotional posts, you are telling everyone on your friends list that you don’t handle your emotional experience well and that they may fall victim to it as well. Now, an angry post every now and then is fine, especially when it doesn’t contain specific details, but if you make it a habit to post rants on your page, people will be less likely to trust you. I once knew someone who would frequently make those kinds of posts about people and then end up resolving the conflict with them. She clearly thought that her own resolution meant everything was fine, but those of us who witnessed it repeatedly learned two things: one, that if we were involved with her we might end up in a post like that, and two, that we didn’t need to take seriously the claims that she made because they probably would get resolved anyway. I know many people who blocked her posts because they were tired of the drama.
Emotion-driven posts also harm the community as a whole. In many ways, we function like a small town – everyone knows everyone, we are all working together on a regular basis, and we have to deal with each other whether we like it or not. All of us have a responsibility to make sure that we nurture this as a community, which means not pissing in the collective swimming pool even when we really, really need to go! When we bring drama into the public eye, we hurt our community internally and we hurt the way outsiders see us well.
So let’s say that you’ve thought all this through and this isn’t just a random rant or a pissed-off moment, and you truly believe that the person that burned you has the potential to be harmful to others. Then what? How do you let people know they need to protect themselves while still acting in an ethical and respectful way?
First, it’s important to understand that effective communication requires way more than just words; we gather a great deal of information from subtle cues, both verbal and non-verbal. When someone posts something online, the content is stripped of all these cues, including vocal tone, inflection, facial expression, and so on. This leaves nothing but bare-bones words, leaving the reader to interpret it in her or his own way. You may not realize it, because when you read it back to yourself you can hear your own voice in your head. People who know you well can probably also hear your voice and intent as well, but people who aren’t as close to you have no choice but to apply their own voice to it.
Everybody has a “mental model,” which is essentially the lens that we see things through. This is kind of a hard concept to pin down because the very nature of the mental model is vague and imprecise, and it changes all the time. Your mental model is based on your life experiences, your beliefs, your opinions, your preferences, and basically who you are as a person. Since no one else has the same set of experiences and beliefs as you, no one has the same mental model as you. This is why two people can be impacted by the same exact situation and come away with two distinctly different experiences.When you engage in dialogue with someone, your mental model is the filter through which you understand things. Effective communication happens when you can help others understand your model and simultaneously understand theirs.
When you post something online, you are taking out all of that critical, nuanced information that goes along with it, and you don’t have any idea how people interpret it. On the other hand, when you have a verbal conversation with someone, you are providing much more valuable information that aids in their understanding of what you’re trying to tell them. Perhaps most importantly, having a conversation allows them the chance to ask questions, get clarification, and have the back and forth exchange that helps people truly understand each other.
A couple of years ago I was involved in a local show with a producer I hadn’t worked with before. One day I got a phone call from another community performer who was not involved in the show. I did not know her well, but had worked with her before and I always found her to be highly professional, so when she called me I took it seriously. She explained to me that she had worked with that producer before and had been taken advantage of pretty seriously. She also told me she knew of others who had similar experiences who refused to work with him too. She was cautious with the way she phrased things, and although it was clear she was angry, it was also evident that she was not speaking from an emotional standpoint. I went ahead with the show but was very careful, and because of her warning I was able to prevent the same thing from happening to me. In retrospect, I feel sure that without her warning I would have been burned too.
You may be saying to yourself “I want to warn everyone! There’s no way I can call everyone individually!” That’s true, you can’t call everyone – but everyone doesn’t need to be warned. I would venture to say that there are many more people on your Facebook than just other performers. They don’t need to be warned. And even the people who are performers may not find themselves crossing paths with this person. Be selective about who you talk to – choose who really needs to know. That’s the best way to minimize potential damage to everyone involved.
So here’s a quick recap:
Don’t let emotions dictate your response
Don’t react quickly – give yourself enough time to process
Communicate verbally rather than through writing
Be selective about what you say and who you say it to
Consider the impact on everyone involved, including yourself and the community as a whole
I hope that some of these ideas are helpful to you, and I am deeply sorry that you’ve been hurt. Be sure to take care of yourself and get support and help from the people who love you.
If you’re in a Tiki mood and ready for summer like I am, then this month’s Low Brow Lowdown is just for you! This summer you may not be able to make it to Disneyland to see the magical audio-animatronics show at The Enchanted Tiki Room, but here are some recommendations to help you create that enchanted atmosphere right in your own home.
Music: First of all, for the right atmosphere you’ll want to put on some Martin Denny Exotica. Vinyl is best, but if you haven’t got that, Pandora plays a fine mix. I recommend you start with the exotic sounds of Quiet Village. The first Exotica record was released in 1957, and they are all guaranteed to take you to faraway places, so long as you have a little imagination and a good cocktail.
Book: Then, if you’re feeling ambitious, spruce up your home with PAD: The Guide to Ultra-Living. Written by Matt Maranian, this book profiles some very groovy pads, and has the most fabulous ideas for retro, lounge-inspired décor, complete with DIY guides. The projects range from the simpler drink coasters, Tiki art, and ambient lightning fixtures all the way to build-it-yourself Tiki bars and TV cabinets, and even your own functioning tabletop volcano!
The book even includes a how-to on house painting, guides to plants, music, drink garnishes, and flea markets around the country. But, perhaps the most helpful are the bevy of hangover cures included in PAD!
Art: Next, you’ll need to set the scene with some art. The perfect thing would be one of my favorite artists, SHAG, also known as Josh Agle. Pictured on the right is Hula Table from 2004. A beautiful book of his work is SHAG: The Art of Josh Agle. His paintings illustrate the suave sixties in a style all their own. SHAG’s work characteristically consists of bright colors, clean shapes, cool characters, humor, and sophistication, often rounded out with witty titles.
After all that work you’ll need a tasty beverage. Try some of the recipes in Adam Rocke’s Tiki Drinks, illustrated by none other than SHAG. As the introduction says, “With every sip of a Tiki drink, you should expect to be whisked away to a lush, tropical island surrounded by warm, turquoise waters.” Mmmm…
Film: Finally, I suggest you slip into something slinky and settle in to watch Blue Hawaii. As with other Elvis vehicles, the plot may not be entirely inspired, but that undeniable Elvis charm makes it oh-so worth the watch. Not to mention the gorgeous scenery of Hawaii, and plenty of bikini-clad girls! Here’s my favorite number: Rock a Hula Baby.
It’s Tiki Time!
We heard Chicago’s Gorilla Tango Theater had some wild burlesque shows with unorthodox themes, and we wanted to see if the show lived up to the hype. We sent one of our favorite Chicago gals- Jeez Loueez to get the scoop. Learn more about Jeezy at TheJeezLoueez.com; visit the theater at GorillaTango.com
El Mari Chi Chi : A Burlesque Review by Jeez Loueez
If you’re in Chicago or nearby I’m sure you’ve heard the latest burlesque hype. The newest concept to hit stages is Gorilla Tango Theater’s wave of themed “geek burlesque” shows starting with the long-running hit Boobs and Goombas: A Super Mario Burlesque (all of the fuzzy feelings of childhood but now with more grown and sexy).From there they’ve gone on to create popular burlesque parodies like Temple of Boobs: An Indiana Jones Burlesque, Boobs of Khan: A Star Trek Burlesque, and now…Robert Rodriquez?
Yea, apparently I’m really late and have been living under a glitter-encrusted rock! Based on director Robert Rodriquez’s cult classics El Mariachi and Desperado, “El Mari Chi Chi” is definitely for the fan boys and girls of the action flicks. After the first few minutes of not knowing what the hell anyone was talking about or referencing, I was interested to see if the entire next hour of my life would go completely over my head or if I could catch on.
First thing to note is that Gorilla Tango shows don’t follow your typical “host-girl-host-girl” show formula. Most burlesque shows plug in themed acts into a certain number of slots. Gorilla Tango’s approach is more of a burlesque play. There’s a script, lines, cues, and a cohesive storyline or plot to follow.
Mari is a revenge-seeking mariachi player searching for the man who murdered one of his “many many womens”. Lead by Diva La Vida as the wounded mariachi Mari, the cast of hilarious and scantily clad ladies lead us through a fast-paced version of the popular movies interspersed with stripteases to the flavorful soundtrack. La Vida’s comedic timing and smoldering Antonio Banderas impersonation were to die for. By the time she performed her solo act at the end of the show I couldn’t wait to see what moves she was working with! Mierda, El Mari’s rival, was portrayed by the statuesque beauty Zoe Drift who was a stunning and threatening vision in white. Part sketch comedy, part live combat, part sexy lady time, the writing (by Salsation Theatre Company) and acting was funny and engaging enough that I didn’t need to know the script references. Although I was quite excited when I could catch on to the witty Puss-n-Boots jabs.
Other stand-out performers include: Slightly Spitfire, the lithe and bendy gymnast who literally defied feats of strength and agility, and Choco Latina for her creative use of silk fans made from books. Fans of Steve Buscemi’s character will get a kick out of Bottom-Heavy Betty’s side splitting narration and her double duty as the unnamed little boy. While die-hard fans of the Chicago burlesque scene may not recognize many of these new names and faces, I hope the Gorilla Tango ladies start to integrate themselves into the Chicago community. There is definitely a lot of raw talent and I’d love to see them take their burlesque interests even further.
The cast of multi-talented actors, comedians, and dancers definitely matched their sexy to their funny and Bobby Hoffman’s precise fight choreography added tense action filled moments. Wanda Cobar’s costuming was true to both burlesque and the film references and provided just the right amount of sparkle and grit. Beautiful, funny ladies who kick ass and take it off? Totally a dream for fans of both burlesque and geeky tributes!
We tried all of the natural methods: toothpaste, ammonia, club soda, etc.- but one little product that’s about $15-$25 dollars beat them all on removing lipstick stains; especially on costume pieces that couldn’t be thrown into the washing machine! Make-Up Artist Ladonna Stein to the rescue with MAC: Cleanse Off Oil, and no- they aren’t paying us to say that. This product was made to cut through oil, which is good, considering that’s exactly the staining ingredient in lipstick.
DAB the product on gently. Do not rub or you will spread the stain.
Let sit 2-4min for product to break down the stain.
BLOT with a damp rag or paper towel. Stain should minimize dramatically. For non-machine washable products like costumes, repeat this process until in stain is gone. For more everyday clothing, repeat until stain is barely visible and throw into wash. Check that stain is completely gone before drying.
Three natural cure-alls that truly are the most essential of oils:
Traveling or on a tight budget, or both? Then it is especially important to have one product that does everything. Here are my top three picks for all natural cure-alls.
Antiseptic – Use on cuts before bandaging.
Pimples– Dab undiluted on zits to banish.
Cold Sores/Herpes- Works faster than any product at banishing cold sores. If you use when you first feel the tingle of a cold sore coming on, you will never get the blister. Just dab undiluted on affected area.
Dandruff- Mix 60 drops tea tree oil with 6 fl oz. water and put into an empty spray bottle (preferably glass over plastic). Spray liberally on scalp after showering to get rid of dandruff.
Athlete’s Foot- Dab directly onto affected area three times daily to cure athlete’s foot. Once per day will prevent.
Coughs & Colds- Add 15 drops to a bowl of just boiled water. Lean your face over the mixture, cover your head with a towel, and breathe in the minty steam.
Prevent Colds and Flu- Add 10 drops to a large shot glass of warm water and gargle daily during cold & flu season to kill the bacteria and viruses that cause illness. (Do not swallow!)
Unwind- Stressed Out? Dab a drop or two on your wrists or on the spot just below the ear and above the jaw to inhale the calming scent anywhere. Better still- add a few drops to your bathwater or your pillow.
Blisters, Mild Burns, Rashes, & Bug Bites- Grab a 4 oz empty wide mouth jar and add the following: 3 oz carrier oil (olive oil, hemp oil, grapeseed oil, or sweet almond oil are good examples), 30 drops tea tree oil, & 30 drops lavender oil. Shake to mix, then apply directly to affected areas until problem is gone. Store mixture for up to two months.
Eye Strain- Too many hours on Facebook? Add 2-3 drops to a warm washcloth and cover eyes.
Anti-Inflammatory- Grab an empty jar and mix 30 drops with 3 oz of carrier oil. Apply to inflamed muscles or skin as needed. Store mixture for up to two months. (If you are using often- careful when going outside, as orange oil increases your sensitivity to the sun.)
Anti-Depressant – Dab a drop or two on your wrists or on the spot just below the ear and above the jaw to inhale the uplifting scent and kick the blues. Add a few drops to a scent warmer to lift the spirits of an entire room.
Digestive Issues- Use massage oil mixture above on abdomen to aid digestive issues such as bloating, cramping, and diarrhea.
Anti-Spasmodic/Cramps- Use massage oil mixture above on muscle spasms. Also works for menstrual cramps.
Detox- Add 10 drops to your bath water and soak to help the body rid toxins, and boost the immune system.
Bug Repellant- Fill a 4 oz spray bottle with water and add 30 drops orange essential oil. Spray liberally on yourself, and your surroundings- doorways, windows, or your campsite to prevent pesky intruders. If you are using for more than several days, be aware you will be more sensitive to the sun- keep your skin covered to prevent burns.
Pin-Up Model Angelique Noire talks the main steam vs. pin-up modeling industry, natural hair, DIY beauty regimes, and faith.
You have a ton of professional “main stream” modeling under your belt- both in the realm of runway and print. With such a successful “main stream” career, why make the transition to pin-up?
My career is a model, which can include pinup modeling too. I just look at pinup modeling as another avenue to explore because I don’t plan on hanging up my heels anytime soon.
Have you noticed any backlash from the mainstream community due to your involvement with the pin-up community?
To date, I have not experienced any backlash from the mainstream community about doing pinup modeling. For the most part, I keep them separate. My regular modeling career is for my agents to manage with my real name. Angelique Noire is my pinup persona that I manage. So in a way, my professional modeling and pinup modeling don’t really cross paths much, but have the ability to enhance one another. I definitely have been contemplating on just working as Angelique Noire though.
In your Pin Up Passion interview you mention that one of the biggest differences between your commercial print background and pin-up, is that in the world of pin-up you are the creator of your own destiny. Let me clarify: You have reached a point in your professional “main stream” career, where you have agents and marketing people working for you to promote you. In pin-up, you are talent, booking agent, marketing team, and promoter all in one. What tricks have you learned to both manage your time, and to choose which booking requests you will make a priority, verses the large amount of offers your receive monthly?
The juggling act of my pinup ventures is still a work in progress and learning experience. Not only do I have to keep organized all that is entailed with the goings on of Angelique Noire, but I have to find balance to take care of my children and household too. On the days I am not working with a client, I spend it planning future photo and video shoot concepts; editing and retouching photo and videos; performing the duties of stylist, MUAH, as well as model for some of my photo and video shoots; answering interviews; communicating with “fans” and potential clients; submitting photos for various projects; posting pictures all over the internet; the list goes on. I try to get most of it done while my children are at school, and while they are sleeping. All that I do is time consuming and necessary in promoting Angelique Noire. I have to make myself visible being that black pinups have minimal visibility. If I don’t do it, who else will…for free? I just put my abilities to work, and priority goes towards projects that have deadlines.
In my 15+ years in modeling, I mainly did jobs and castings that my agencies would send me on because of safety precautions. I don’t want to step on my agents’ toes, so my regular modeling jobs booked through them most often take priority over my pinup modeling.
The order of priority that guides the decision making process for jobs are as follows: Catalogue jobs supersede magazine editorials (unless Vogue Magazine or other popular high fashion magazines are interested in booking me the same day); Advertising supersedes catalogue jobs; National television commercials supersede all print work especially if print work is included with the commercial job. All print and commercial work trump runway jobs. In essence, it all comes down to whichever project will pay out the most, and/or how much media exposure I believe I will receive. Time is precious so I have to make the most of it.
You have a list of favorite photographers that you’ve worked with, as well as an extensive list of photographers from all over the world and in many different industries. What are the qualities that your favorite photographers have? What should gals look for when selecting photographers with whom to work?
The majority of my favorite photographers are mostly photographers that I have worked with on numerous projects throughout the years. For example, I worked with Matthew Rolston for over 10 years on various print and commercial advertising campaigns. If you look at his website, you would see only a fraction of his celebrity clientele and completed projects. He has incredible lighting techniques, and a phenomenal creative team of stylists, makeup artists, hair stylists, and more that he regularly works with. He has a meticulous eye and gives his input on all angles of the project. Though he is not specifically a pinup photographer, I constantly see the pinup styled pics that he has done of celebrities like Christina Aguilara, and many more floating around pinup websites. Not only do I admire his work, many photographers do as well. I have several others that I have named on my website but there are still others that I would love to work with too.
During my pin up modeling ventures I have been able to work with the amazing personality and super cool photographer Laura Byrnes, the Supreme Overlord of Pinupgirlclothing.com It is not often that I get to work with female photographers, so I am grateful that she has come into my life. Team PUG is pretty darn great.
I don’t have much advice for girls looking to work with photographers. The main reason being that in regular modeling, the photographer and/or client select you for their project. This is how I get my work. If I want to take photos outside of that, I most often contact friends of mine, and sometimes consider working with photographers that approach me. I don’t know if I can get used to the idea of contacting a pinup photographer to shoot in pre-made concept shoots that a bunch of other women have used. I definitely recommend this for aspiring pinup models though. In looking for a photographer to shoot with, pretty much browse the photographers work on their website, and go from there. Work with the photographer if you like their work.
What are the top three mistakes that beginning models make? What is the difference between a model you would list as amateur or a hobbyist, and someone you would consider professional?
I wish I could break it down so easily to name three mistakes beginning models make. Each situation is different. The same choice may be a mistake for one person, and it might not be for another. It’s hard to say. The biggest advice I can give is to make sure that whatever agreements are made, to follow through. Be on time to whatever shoots or appointments that are made. Also, don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t feel comfortable doing something, and be polite about it.
I consider a professional model to be someone who does this for their living. Most often professional models are also represented by agents that are paid commissions.”Model” is the profession that is claimed on their tax returns. An amateur, hobbyist, aspiring model are those who can be in their fledgling stages to becoming a professional model. Every story has a beginning.
You’ve discussed lots of great DIY beauty care regimens in your interviews. What are your five favorite beauty products that are easily made yourself from household items?
I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil to moisturize my skin and hair. I also use it to remove my makeup. My next favorite product I use is baking soda to wash my hair with, as well as to exfoliate my skin. Unfiltered Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is wonderful for many different skin and hair treatments also. I use it as a toner after washing my face, and to rinse my hair after washing with baking soda. I make different facial masks and hair conditioners with eggs. Finally, I keep my cabinet stocked with an assortment of essential oils to include in my different beauty regimens too. Most of how I use these products are posted on my YouTube channel .
In addition to beauty blogs, you also have some great hairstyling videos for gals with natural hair. You also have an extensive portfolio that includes images of you with both natural and processed hair. Do you have any strong feelings one way or another about the black American hair industry, and fashion’s role in it? You now keep your hair natural exclusively, correct? What was the thought process behind this decision? Is it still a bone of contention in the fashion industry?
I am all about options. I like to wear a variety of outfits, and I like to do a variety of hairstyles. I like my hair in it’s natural state, as well as I like using wigs and hairpieces. I do not ever want to have a relaxer put in my hair again just for the simple fact that relaxers are very damaging, and they contain harsh chemicals that enter the body. I totally think that the media has conditioned women into thinking that they are more acceptable or beautiful if they have straight hair. The majority of beauty ads, high fashion editorials, runway shows, etc. show models with straight hair. The main reason being that most of the time these non Black models that are used frequently, have naturally straight hair/loose wave pattern. Instead of waiting for a hairdresser to try to figure out what to do with my textured hair should the client all of a sudden want my hair to be straight too, I just slap on a straight wig that they can work on. My wigs My hair protect my hair from heat damage too. Over the years that I have been modeling, I have been able to appreciate that more images of Black women with kinky/curly hair that are being produced. Hopefully, the natural hairstyles that I do with a retro 40s/50s twist can permeate the pinup world too.
Your website points out that you are “the first black pin-up of the 21st century”. I’m curious as to how you became so inspired by the original pin-ups of the 40’s and 50’s when for the most part, with very few exceptions, they were all white girls. What was it that you related to in those earlier images?
Beauty. I admired how each image was put together. The clothes, lingerie, swimwear, shoes, hairstyles, accessories, etc….all of these in their various combinations showed an image of a classy, sexy, ultra feminine woman. I am sure you can browse through a magazine, look at the models who don’t look like you, and think how you can totally see yourself in the same dress, pair of shoes, etc. that they are wearing. Just because the women were predominantly white didn’t keep me from seeing myself as being able to look classy, sexy, and ultra feminine too.
In watching and reading interviews you’ve done, it is very clear that faith, in particularly Christianity, plays a strong and important role in your life. This is a trait you share with Bettie Page, and we saw her struggle with her faith verses her work. How does faith enter into the decisions you make professionally?
I grew up going to church and still enjoy having a relationship with God. My grandfather is a preacher, whose church I helped renovate and attended while growing up. My faith in God has shaped and molded me to be the person I am today. I can understand that Bettie Page had reservations about the jobs she would do because of the nudity involved, which was very taboo of that time. Do I think it’s “bad” and “ungodly” to show the parts that God gave us? Not necessarily. I do however think that nude photos can be done without looking obscene, vulgar, and offensive. The Sistine Chapel has nudes all over it for goodness sake! So nudity can be tasteful and artistic. I personally don’t want to put all of my goods on display. Look at examples like Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, and Betty Grable who did many photo opts without ever having to expose all of their body. A woman can still behold an abundance of admiration without showing everything.
As far as my faith goes, it’s what I do when I am not in front of the camera that guides my choices in life. I feel it’s important to treat everyone I meet with respect no matter if they are an A list celebrity or a janitor…even at times when people don’t deserve it. I have also learned that I can voice my disagreements and concerns without having to resort to verbal degradation, and I choose to avoid verbalizing profanity in my conversations. I give a percentage of all the income i make, to various ministries I follow, and charities that I like. I also choose not to drink alcohol, never tried drugs, nor do I smoke (mainly because I don’t like it more so than because of my religion). I am in no ways flawless or trying to be Ms. Goody Two Shoes, but these are standards that I set for myself to uphold.
What has been the reaction of your immediate and extended family? Do they understand your move to pin-up (I am speaking from the faith, lack of relate-ability, and the professional standpoint)?
When I first expressed my interest in modeling as a teenager, my parents and other family members were pretty leery about my participating in what they saw as the negative side of modeling- the nudity, the drugs…the “fast” life. I reassured them by showing the results of the work that I would do. Modeling is modeling to my family…whether it is pinup or regular catalogue work for a department store. I think that as long as I am not showing all my goods, they are happy.
You have paved the way for more black pin-up models to emerge on the scene. How does that make you feel? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I am totally thrilled when woman of all ages and races look to me for inspiration. A lot of times I get messages on the various websites I manage like Facebook, Youtube, Tumblr, etc. saying kind words, and asking advice about modeling. I try my best to answer them all, but it’s extremely time consuming so I apologize that I can’t respond to all compliments, but I do try to answer questions that are asked. At the rate things are going, I can totally see myself being as visible as Dita Von Teese and Bernie Dexter in 5 years.
Does pin-up have more longevity than mainstream modeling? If there is an Angelique Noire legacy thirty years from now, what do you hope it looks like?
Pin up modeling does seem to be more accepting of woman, rather than teenagers made to look older. I do see my pinup modeling contributing to more opportunities for me. In addition, I have seen the demand for women over 30 growing in the advertising market. I have agencies that have “classic” women’s divisions, where the models are over 40 years of age. I guess the reason being that there are a lot of celebrities that have made it more accepting to be celebrated as mothers, business women, and sex symbols even if they are not in their mid 20s.
The legacy of Angelique Noire thirty years from now, I hope is as an icon. I hope I am viewed as having the class of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable, and the mass media marketability of Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page. More than anything else I hope that people remember me as not only being exceedingly blessed, but also a blessing to many others because of the various charities, ministries, and people I have and will continue to donate generously towards. I definitely believe I am blessed to be a blessing.
Denver burlesque performer Orchid Mei talks traditional Chinese and Korean dance, changing goals, festivals and penguins.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Your stage name is taken from the Chinese “Mei Li de Lan Hua” meaning beautiful orchid. You’re known for your distinctive style of blending burlesque with traditional Chinese dancing. We’ll talk more specifically about your training in a moment, but what made you decide to blend the two arts? You’ve stated that you wanted to honor your Asian heritage, but were there other factors as well? From whom or what did you take your inspiration?
I decided to integrate both Chinese and Korean dance with classic burlesque because I wanted to do something that both embodied who I was, and wanted to become, with something that was unique. I wanted to differentiate myself, to do something that would be noticed, and that would ultimately be associated with my name.
When I was growing up it was my dream to not only be Grace from Annie, but to also be one of the dancing girls in the scene where Mr. Warbucks rents out Radio City Music Hall for a night at the movies. I really wanted to dance on that camera, and I still do!
When I started molding my character and persona, I took, and still take, my inspiration from classic films, old burlesque films and portraits, and any fabric, dress, movement, or piece of music that stops time for me.
You’re perhaps best known for your performances with chang biao shan, or ribbon fans, and I’m fascinated to hear more about your training experience, which began in 2005. You’re also well-versed in the art of daizi (ribbons), sui shou (long sleeve), panzi (plate) and ba jiao jing (octagonal scarf), and I’m sure our readers would like to know more about the process of learning those arts and the challenges presented by incorporating them into burlesque performance.
As I mentioned previously, I initially wanted to marry both Chinese and Korean dance with burlesque. However, finding an instructor proved to be rather difficult. I lucked out finding my Chinese dance teacher and had to woo her into teaching me. She is very much involved in the Chinese community here in Denver and focuses on teaching adopted Chinese children. When I approached her, she was hesitant. Not only was I American, I was an adult. I won her over by telling her my heritage and that I was obtaining a BA in Chinese language. My first lesson, she spoke to me in Chinese. When I responded and could take direction, our match was made. She still teaches me in Chinese and pushes me to be more fluid in movement. She knows that I want to excel so she meticulously works with my technicality and allows me to practice with other classes. I’ve never had prior dance experience, so to be taken under the wing of someone who won best ribbon dancer in all of Taiwan, is a huge accomplishment for me!
I find that the most difficult aspect of attempting to intertwine Chinese dance with burlesque is to make the movements and dances more provocative without offending the culture.
You got started in burlesque in 2004 with Ooh La La Presents, and it seems you haven’t slowed down since. You made your solo debut opening for a sold out Dresden Dolls show in 2005 and you began accumulating titles at festivals just two years later. You now perform regularly at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret. What were your goals as a performer when you first started? How have those goals evolved over the years?
When I first started, my goal was to win Miss Exotic World and to successfully make and market myself as a business. Now, I think that I have a bit more of a realistic view on the subject. Though I still aspire to become a full time professional, I have chosen not to base my success on competitions but to try to look at the bigger picture, to look outside of the box.
It appears that you stay very busy on the festival circuit! I’d love to hear about your very first burlesque festival experience. Is there anything that you know now that you wish you’d known going into the first one?
My first festival experience was Tease O Rama in 2005. I was fairly well traveled before coming into burlesque, so I was quite used to new cities and maneuvering travel and hotels (thanks to my sister – she was the captain of all of our road trips). I was not, however, prepared for the onslaught of glitter and glamour that a festival delivers. It was like stepping off the plane into Paris for the first time, a different culture. The atmosphere was electric with everyone reconnecting, mingling, and performing. It was all I could do to keep my head! I got to see amazing performances, be in the same room with performers that I had read about and looked up to, and even meet some legends. I will never forget it.
I feel that every step is a learning process and try to learn something from every event. There is always something that I wish I knew. Whether it be knowing train closures during the winter, that cabs prefer cash, or to be aware of the crime rings in certain neighborhoods, some things you just have to learn from experience.
What are some of your favorite memories from the festivals you’ve done so far?
The most poignant memories have been standing ovations, opportunities to perform on historic and amazing stages, getting to meet and learn from Legends and peers, and every tear cried from kind words that Legends and peers have said. I never thought I would have those opportunities or graces, so I hold them very close to my heart.
There are also so many funny memories that make me giddy every time I think of them: taking a cab a half a block in Boston, gallivanting around in New Orleans, missing my flight in Austin (I’ve missed a lot of flights), swooping in and out of St. Louis, and backstage antics and after parties.
Speaking of festivals, you’re competing for the World Female Crown at the World Burlesque Games (the 6th Annual London Burlesque Festival) in May! Tell us all about it!
This will be my second time performing in LBF and my first time on the main stage in the World Burlesque Games. I feel that Chaz has worked very hard to create grandiose event to showcase performers from across the globe. I’m tickled to be performing alongside such wonderful and truly talented women! This festival is a fantastic opportunity to learn what else is out there and to see burlesque through different countries’ eyes. I can only hope to do right by my foremothers and to have people enjoy my performance. Maybe even get my name out there, even if it is a shiny piece of ticker tape amongst a sea of glitter.
I understand that you were featured in Jane Briggeman’s second burlesque book, “Burlesque: A Living History.” How did that come about? Could you share a little about your involvement?
Jane was toying around with the idea of highlighting a few “baby” dancers as a segue from the past to the present. When she decided that it was something she wanted to do, she did her research and whittled down a list of performers to four. When I was contacted, I was beside myself! I was in complete and utter disbelief and half convinced it was a hoax. After much communication with Jane throughout production, I knew that this was not only the real deal, but that it was a tremendous step for her to include “babies” in her book. I’m still dumbfounded that I am written about within the same pages as the women that I model myself after.
I’m very happy that I’ve gotten to know Jane throughout the process. She is a quintessential historian and I’m grateful for her efforts to preserve history.
I’d like to hear more about your love of penguins.
I’ve loved penguins ever since I can remember. I suspect that it started with V.I.P. (the penguin from the Shirt Tales) and escalated from there. I think he was my first and my best love, but don’t tell the other penguins that! I appreciate that they are fluffy and cute yet dapper and majestic; that they are comics on land but graceful in the water. Besides, who doesn’t love a well tailored suit or a chivalrous beau?
What’s next for Orchid Mei?
I am in process of courting a Korean dance instructor. It’s taken a long time to find one locally and, now that have, I plan to finalize my plan to integrate both Chinese and Korean dances with burlesque. I’m also striving to continue to better myself in hopes of progressing as a performer. What’s next? Only time will tell, but I hope it’s a good story!