Iris Le’Mour of Dallas, recent winner of Best Female Soloist and Best in Show at the Pinup Burlesque Festival in Florida, talks stage fright, rocky starts, Swarovskis, shenanigans, costuming and surprises.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: What is your performance background? Do you have formal dance or theater training? You seem so comfortable on the stage!
A: Well, I’ve always been involved in some type of performing art in one form or another my entire life. In school, I was involved in theater and choir, and as an adult, I did a lot of modeling and promotions. It was just always something I fell right into I guess. I think some people are just meant to be performers and I feel so fortunate to be one of the blessed few who can entertain people and make them smile. The funny thing is that I have crippling stage fright and I’m a nervous wreck before I take the stage, but when I take the first step on stage, all the nerves dissolve away. I am more myself on stage than any other place in the world.
Q: How and when did you get started doing burlesque?
A: I’ve been doing burlesque for about 2 years now. I had a pretty auspicious start in burlesque. I was a pin up model for a long time and a burlesque producer asked me if I had ever done burlesque. I have always been completely enamored with the burlesque of the 1950’s, but I never knew it was being performed anywhere currently. So as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I jumped right on it and responded with, “Sure I know how to do burlesque!” He was throwing a burlesque competition and I jumped in head first. Looking back, my first performance was extremely rocky and raw, but they must have saw something in me because I walked away with a tie for first place. After that I kind of hit the ground running, learning everything I can, taking advice from the pioneers, and working hard to always evolve and grow as a performer.
Q: You’re known for your elaborate costumes, which are all handmade by you, right? Have you made your own costumes from the very beginning? What prior experience do you have with costuming?
A: Yes I have always made my costumes myself or designed them myself. When I first started doing burlesque, I was also finishing my bachelor’s degree, doing an internship, working a full time job, and modeling on the side, so needless to say, time was scarce. My first three costumes were all my designs to the last detail, but I had to outsource their construction to a great friend of mine, named Glen. After I finished my degree and had run into the costuming grandeur of ladies like Kalani Kokonuts and Renee Le’Roux, I started to take on every aspect of my costume construction and went Swarovski crazy. I try to always make costumes that are aesthetically breathtaking and wowing. My mother used to sew when she was younger and she taught my sister and I, and ever since I was a child, I have always wanted to be a designer and to create beautiful clothes. As a child, I used to take worn out clothes and scrap material and would make clothes and dresses for my Barbies. I guess you could say I’ve always been a costumer, but I just get more skilled at it as I mature and grow.
Q: You have been very busy traveling and going to festivals! You did the Carolina Burlesque Festival, Windy City, and you also won Best Female Soloist and Best in Show at the Pin Up Burlesque Festival in Florida. What are some of your fondest memories you’ve made while traveling so far? Have you learned anything from the festival circuit?
A: It has most definitely been a very wild ride to say the least. I actually really love doing all these great festivals because it really gives me a chance to see burlesque from all over the world and really grow as a burlesque dancer and as an audience member. Along the way I have also met some fantastic people and made lasting friendships with other performers. I’d have to say that one of my fondest memories happened at the Carolina Burlesque Festival. I was fortunate enough to travel and perform with one of dearest friends, Donna Denise, and besides the fact that I probably lost five pounds laughing at all our shenanigans, I got to see my burlesque booby buddy get crowned the Miss Sweet Tease Queen and I also won producer’s choice in front of my mother. It was a humbling and fulfilling experience. Being able to share that experience with someone so dear to my heart and to be recognized as a great performer in front of my mom was just beyond words for me.
Q: Who or what inspires you as a performer?
A: I find inspiration everywhere in life. I have made whole costumes based on the colors I have found in a flower, or whole skits based on a song that just randomly happen to find me. Early on, I was very influenced by the glamour and costuming genius of Renee Le’Roux and Kalani Kokonuts and have dedicated myself to be just as visually stunning as those ladies. As far my burlesque persona, I’d have to say that it’s a mix between Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, Lilli St. Cyr, Tempest Storm, Betty Paige, and my mother.
Q: I’d like to know more about your creative process for developing a new act.
A: My creative process is very broad actually. I try to leave myself open to all forms of inspiration. Most times though, it always starts with a song. Anyone who knows me, knows I hoard music, but sometimes the music just finds me at the most random times and places. With my best acts, I would hear a song and would immediately start going through the theme, costume, and choreography immediately. It’s like I hear it and my brain just goes on auto pilot and just lays out the blue print for something beautiful. After that I’ll tweak and edit it until I feel its stage ready. It’s funny because I consider all my acts to be like immaculate conceptions. I believe inspiration should come naturally and when you force it, it comes across that way on stage.
Q: What are three little known facts about you that might surprise our readers?
A: Well, it surprises most people to know that I used to be military intelligence in the Army. Also, I’m a member of the North Texas branch of Mensa. I think it also surprises people that I have such horrible stage fright. I’ve been told I seem very comfortable and fluid on stage, but the truth is that I’m a nervous wreck most times.
Q: What’s next for Iris Le’Mour?
A: You know I hope just more great things really. I love burlesque and the people in it. I want to continue traveling and performing all over the country, and hopefully, all over the world. I would really like in the future to making performing and costuming my only jobs. I have been so blessed this year to walk away with some amazing awards and I hope to keep graduating into bigger and better arenas.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A: Just that I love my art and all the things it has brought into my life. Few are as blessed as I am to find a place where they feel like they completely belong, like they are complete. I am very appreciative of everything this life has brought me.