Honey Cocoa Bordeauxx recently sat down with us to talk self confidence, inhibitions, bombshells, voodoo, and being a woman of color in the Texas burlesque community.
1. For someone who knows nothing about burlesque, how would you describe it?
Burlesque is an art form that takes classical dance, vaudeville, and striptease and mixes it with satire and comedy.
2. What three things should a great performer/performance have?
A great performer has to have that natural stage presence and be able to connect with their audience. I love watching performers who you can tell are totally uninhibited when they perform. You gotta dance from your heart, the audience can feel it. I also think that a performance has to be innovative and original. It’s a performer’s ability to take the basic elements of burlesque and make them into something new and all their own that makes for a great routine. And last but not least you have to have wonderful costumes and props to match.
3. How did you get started in burlesque? Describe your first perfomance.
My start in burlesque was really by coincidence. I was working at Joann’s Fabrics at the time and Amy Marquez, one of the original founders of the Vixens of Vaudeville, came in looking for tassels and invited me to a show. After seeing the show I totally fell in love with burlesque and about four months later I was invited to perform as a guest performer with the Vixens. My first performance was a chair dance to “Minnie the Moocher”. It was such an exciting, nervous, and exhilarating experience. The moment I walked on stage though, I felt at home and I just knew that I had found my calling.
4. You are introduced as “The Creole Bombshell”. How does this on stage persona suit you?
I have always taken a lot of pride in my Creole heritage and I wanted to have that be a part of my stage persona. I also get a lot of my inspiration from the classic bombshells like Marilyn Monroe, Jane Mansfield and Bridgette Bardot. A bombshell is curvy, buxom and voluptuous, she’s just oozes sensuality and she is also confident, sophisticated, and powerful. I wanted the mixture of exotic uninhibited sensuality and classic sophisticated beauty.
5. I recently heard another performer describe your perfomance as “Completely empowering… She reaches in and finds that inner sexy, soulful, goddess like quality of a woman and unleashes that voodoo on stage.” How do you feel burlesque empowers women?
I feel that burlesque makes women feel good about themselves. Burlesque takes all the socially constructed views of feminine beauty and throws them out the window. EVERY woman is beautiful and posses a natural inner sensuality that should never be restrained. Burlesque performers have the ability to connect with women in the audience and dance for them in a way that they themselves may not be able to. When women watch me perform I want them to imagine themselves on the stage and be able to, if only for a moment, get lost in the dance and feel a sense of freedom. I want them to go home feeling rejuvenated and totally in love with being a woman.
6. There are only a handful of black burlesque performers in the scene and even fewer in Texas. Why do you think this is? Do you feel an extra obligation to represent women of color?
I think the black community, especially in the south, hasn’t fully caught on to the burlesque movement yet. There have always been black burlesque dancers and vaudeville performers, but a lot of that history is harder to dig up. I think the more women of color that start performing and unearthing all the history and reaching out to other women, the more we’ll start to see women of color in the scene. I feel an obligation to preserve the history of blacks in burlesque and make sure that we continue to be active players in the art form that we played a great part in creating. I also have the opportunity that a lot of black performers didn’t have because of the color lines and I feel that those who came before paved the way for me to be able to do what I do and the history of women of color in burlesque is something that needs to be kept alive.
7. What has your family’s reaction been to your performances?
My mom and my aunt are the only two who have seen me perform, and I think at first they were a little concerned, but they have been really supportive of me and everything that I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I was brought up to believe that whatever you set your mind to you can achieve and every goal or dream you have you should go for and never let anyone stop you. I think they just see this as another endeavor of mine and If it makes me happy then their happy.
8. You have both a strong solo presence in the community as well as being a founding member of the “Vixens of Vaudeville”. Do you find it hard to maintain both?
I am actually not one of the founding members of the Vixens of Vaudeville. The Vixens were founded in 2006 and I have been a member for a little over a year. It is really easy to maintain both. Besides being troupe mates the Vixens are also some of my best friends and they support me in whatever I do. I love being a part of a collaborative effort and there is nothing like having your troupe to support you and fuel your creative energy.
9. Speaking of the troupe, how do you describe the style of your shows? If readers aren’t familiar with the Vaudeville style, how is it different from adjectives like “modern” or “classic” burlesque?
Well our show features both modern and classic burlesque, but I think what makes us different is that we really try to bring the classic feel of the 1940’s burlesque theatres to our show. We are a variety show and we try to make sure that we keep the comedians, slap stick, singing and vaudeville skits that were all an intricate part of burlesque theatres as part of our show.
10. Who are your idols in the burlesque world?
Oh wow, there’s so many! I just got back from exotic world weekend in Las Vegas and was able to meet many of my idols such as Dixie Evans, Satan’s Angel, Dusty Summers, Toni Elling, Dirty Martini and Perle Noire. I also love Josephine Baker, Lottie the Body, Tempest Storm and Zorita.
11. Where do you find inspiration for your numbers?
Everywhere! Sometimes I’ll just hear a song and an idea for a routine will pop into my head or it will just be a reflection of different things that are going on in my life or society in general.
12. What does the future hold for Honey Cocoa Bordeaux?
That I’m not exactly sure of, but I can tell you one thing, I don’t plan to stop performing for a very long time. I am the happiest now that I have ever been and I want to just keep perfecting my craft. Burlesque is something that will be in my heart forever and all I can hope is that I’ll die an old woman still doing what I love.