The fabulous Ginger Valentine recently came into the Through the Looking Glass Studio for a Wizard of Oz shoot and to talk MGM, Delores Del Rio, success, and her passion for tornadoes. Photographs & Interview: Shoshana.
What was your original idea to make dance a career, and how did it evolve into burlesque?
Originally I wanted to be a ballerina. However, along with my yearning to portray dying swans and sylphs, I was always, always interested in striptease. I was into burlesque before I even knew what it was. In fact, when I was a kid, my idea of “stripper” was an image of a glamorous woman, with exquisite costumes teasing the audience as she peeled off layers. I can’t say for sure, but I think this image was planted in my head from watching the old MGM cartoons.
How did you choose the stage name of “Ginger Valentine”? Do you ever talk about her in third person, that is has she developed a character different than your own?
Valentine was always a given for me. I’ve collected things with hearts my whole life, and I also picked it because I used to be a huge Rangers fan as a kid and remember the Manager, Bobby Valentine. I thought it was a good name that could almost appear as if it were really mine. Ginger comes from Ginger Rogers, of course. Obviously, I’m no red head.
I don’t talk about myself in third person, because I’m not manufactured and I don’t see my burlesque identity as existing “outside” of myself. With me, what you see is what you get. Sometimes, you see a lot. wink, wink
You are one of a handful of full-time burlesque dancers in Texas. What prompted you to go full time & when did you quit the “day job”?
Well, before I was doing burlesque full time, I was a freelance writer, so I never left a real “day job.” I was able to switch to burlesque once I opened up my Burlesque Charm School. I am very proud of my classes, and more importantly my students. The income from my classes allows me to pursue this full time. Otherwise, I’d have to do something else to supplement my income at this point in my career.
What was your parents reaction? Your significant other’s reaction?
Everyone is very supportive.
Describe some of your earliest experiences with owning your own business.
Well, my earliest experiences with self-employment began when I was writing full time. I’ve been doing burlesque full time for about 6 months. There’s not much to describe, unless you want to know what kind of pajamas I work in.
What are some of the perils of owning a business, where you are the product you are selling and the gig is pretty much a 24/7 job? Are you good at creating personal time?
You hit the nail on the head. When you have your own business, you are pretty much always at work. When I was in corporate America (for about a year), it was so easy to come home and turn off my brain. Now, I’m answering phone calls, responding to emails, working on costumes, rehearsing, performing or teaching around the clock. Of course it all comes in waves. I’m really learning to take time off when I have it. Some weeks I work 80 hours, sometimes less. But my mind is always cranking. Now that I’m self employed, it’s a lot harder to go to sleep.
How do you explain your surge in popularity with both the press and the public, when you are new on the scene?
I have to say that since I’ve debuted as a soloist, I’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the opportunities that have come my way. Some people call it luck, but my secret is hard work and a positive, open mind. Also, this is my full time job, so I take it very seriously, just as if I were a nurse or engineer. I feel that I should be surging in popularity, otherwise I should think about hiring a publicist! I have to say a big thanks to Karyn at The Girls Room for giving my Charm School a shot and for all the gorgeous women who have taken class with me. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have the time to do what I do, because I’d probably be in an office somewhere pissed because I can’t update my blog…
The public vote made you a finalist in the Hot Rods and Heels Texas Solo Performer – Best One to Watch category. If you win, you’ll hold a title within one year of your solo debut. What are your feelings on this?
I’m thrilled and excited to be nominated. I’m in very good company too. Rose Darling and Courtney Crave are both dynamic performers, and I’m lucky to call them my friends.
Do you ever run into people who confuse burlesque with modern “gentleman’s club” stripping? How do you set them straight? Is there a big difference?
Not as much as people who ask me to distinguish the two. I get a lot of “so, what’s the difference?” While both are under the umbrella of exotic or adult entertainment, burlesque performers are fundamentally different from dancers in gentlemen’s clubs in that they do not give lap dances, or receive tips. Also, very few burlesque performers go completely nude or topless. In addition, more emphasis is placed on the performance, costumes and the tease. Gentlemen’s clubs are more focused on business transactions in my opinion, whereas burlesque is more about entertainment and pageantry.
What’s your fascination with tornadoes? Have you ever been in one; would you seek one out?
Tornadoes! When I was a kid, I totally wanted to be a meteorologist. All of my friends know what a weather nerd I am. I’ve always dreamt of tornadoes, and I still do. I’ve never been in one, but I would definitely seek one out. I’ve always wanted to spend a summer with a storm spotter driving up and down the Plains in search of super cells. Some people get their rocks off by jumping out of airplanes. I like to chase storms.
What were your favorite childhood movies?
Sleeping Beauty, Who’s That Girl, The Phantom Toll Booth, Annie, Oklahoma!, Love at First Bite
Who are your favorite vixens (modern or past)? [I’m using vixen to describe women who inspire through their sex appeal]
Delores Del Rio, Veronica Lake, Michelle L’Amour, Sophia Loren, Lauren Becall, Immodesty Blaize… there’s so many, but these are some current favorites. Especially Delores, because she’s a Mexicana! I also have to add that some of my favorite vixens live in our very own Dallas: Rose Darling, La Divina, Courtney Crave and Karyn Pentecost, owner of The Girls Room.
What inspires your numbers? Describe the process of coming up with a new performance piece.
I stick to classic striptease, and rarely use sets or large props (at least at this point). Usually what inspires me is music or the idea for a costume. I do have a few character numbers as well. In July, I’m debuting a flight attendant number and I’m really excited because my sponsor, Tara to the T is making my costumes. My process varies depending on what comes first: concept, music or costume…just depends.
If you could, what’s one thing in the last year you would change?
I wouldn’t change a thing; it’s kind of part of my personal philosophy.
What is the future of burlesque in Dallas?
I can only speak from my perspective, but I think it will only continue to grow. I am very optimistic about burlesque in Dallas because I meet so many enthusiastic fans. Also, there’s a lot of talent out there and so many people who work so hard to produce fantastic shows. I think we will keep growing, and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it all!
What is in store for Ginger Valentine?
In the near future, I’ll be in Chicago for a 3-day workshop with Michelle L’Amour called Stripper’s Holiday. It’s just going to be 5-6 performers, and I’m really looking forward to it. At the end of the workshop we’re performing at a fundraiser for the Burlesque Hall of Fame with Michelle and her Chicago Starlets. I’m very excited!
After that, is Hot Rods and Heels. I’m performing and as you mentioned earlier, a finalist in the One to Watch category. I’ll also be giving a mini workshop on the shimmy. Oh and my new merchandise line by Tara to the T will be ready and for sale at that event. I’m really proud of that.
After that, the sky is the limit! One thing I aspire to do next year is debut at Miss Exotic World.