New Orleans-based burlesque superstar Perle Noire discusses her Miss Exotic World titles, Josephine Baker, wardrobe malfunctions, and how Hurricane Katrina changed her life.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka Photographs: Shoshana, Through the Looking Glass Studio
How long have you been performing?
I’ve been performing since I could speak and walk as an actress, singer and of course I loved to dance around whenever I got the chance. Although I’m not formally trained, I still have such a passion for being onstage.
How long have you been involved with Bustout Burlesque?
I’ve been involved with Bustout Burlesque ever since Hurricane Katrina.
What made you decide to get involved in burlesque?
I fell in love with burlesque when I discovered Josephine Baker. Her story was so fascinating to me that I vowed to perform a tribute to her one day. So I started doing research on other burlesque queens and tried to find shows to audition for. The women seemed so empowered and free. I loved how glamorous and confident they looked. In New Orleans there was a burlesque musical called Backstage at Da Fonky Burlesk, and after performing in this musical I knew that I was meant to be a burlesque performer.
Burlesque is widely interpreted and means something different to many people. What is your definition of burlesque?
The definition is “to make a spectacle of” and I love that. Burlesque is not about taking off your clothes. True burlesque is about showmanship and creativity.
Tell me about your best moment(s) as a burlesque performer.
My audition for Bustout Burlesque was great because I met Dollie Rivas and Rick Delaup and that was the moment that sent off a chain reaction to my burlesque career. This moment followed winning Best Debut [at Miss Exotic World 2008]which lead me to London to perform in The Tease show with the mighty Immodesty Blaize, Kalani [Kokonuts] and Catherine D’Lish. Now I’m speaking with you as the Second Runner-Up Miss Exotic World 2009.
Do you have a worst burlesque moment or embarrassing story (wardrobe malfunction, accident, injury, etc.)?
I’ve been known to lose a pastie.
Tell me all about your experience at Miss Exotic World. What are your aspirations for next year?
I had such an amazing time at Miss Exotic World. Everyone in the community has been so helpful and kind to me. I remember when they called my name last year for Best Debut, I was in shock. It’s such an honor to perform on the stage and I still can’t believe I won at Exotic World twice. I really hope to become a burlesque queen one day.
Who is/are your inspiration(s)?
I’m so inspired by Josephine Baker, she was so ground breaking. I love to watch other performers; they inspire me all the time. I love the queens and upcoming queens such as Immodesty Blaize, Kalani Kokonuts, Catherine D’Lish, Dirty Martini and so many more.
What do you know about the history of burlesque in New Orleans, and what impact (if any) does that history have on what you do today?
New Orleans Burlesque was so vital to the burlesque scene. Bourbon Street was famous for its burlesque legends such as Wild Cherry. I’ve had the honor of performing on Bourbon Street and I’ve worked with Wild Cherry. The stories she’s told me about Bourbon Street, well you’ll have to ask her yourself.
Tell me all about the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. What are you most looking forward to about the weekend?
I’m so excited about the festival! It’s the first burlesque festival to feature a LIVE BAND! I’m competing for the title and I have to say, I’m extremely nervous. I can’t wait to watch everyone backed by a live band.
Were you there during Hurricane Katrina, and if so, what impact did it have on your life and/or your involvement in burlesque at that time? Would you say that New Orleans has now “fully recovered” or do you think there are any areas that may never recover?
I was in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina and I lost everything. This event made me more determined to live my life and pursue my dreams because everything really can change in the blink of an eye. The New Orleans Burlesque Fest is proof that New Orleans is recovering.
What do you like to do when you’re not performing, rehearsing, etc.?
When I’m not performing I’m working on performing again. I contact shows about performing as a guest performer and audition for plays.
Anything you’d like to add?
I would really like to thank all the burlesque queens before me. Thanks for taking a chance and opening up so many doors. The burlesque community has accepted me with open arms and I’m truly grateful.
All Photos taken at the Victorian House Bed & Breakfast on Rampart. www.victorianhousenola.com The staff was very hospitiable, the building was beautiful and has a rich history (it is over 100 years old, and after being a private residence, it had a run as a brothel beginning in the 1930s, before becoming the beautiful bed and breakfast it is today). I highly recommend The Victorian House to any NOLA visitors.
During our shoot, while sipping a vodka, sprite, and soda, Miss Perle Noir shared her infalliable Hangover Cure with me:
Two Pepto fast tabs (the melty kind, not the shaken kind) dropped into a glass of Sprite (Coke will do). Drink while still drunk, before you hit the pillow. Perle swears by it!