Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: Congratulations on the publication of your new book, Burlesque Beauty, which was published in December by Tomahawk Films. You must be so excited! I understand that it was a two-year process putting it together. Could you share some of the book development process with our readers? Was it difficult to find a publisher?
A: Burlesque Beauty has taken exactly 2 years to come together and it all started when Chris, a photographer & graphic designer I had met at some Burlesque events and indeed where I had performed at various locations around the south, (including several big events at The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu), emailed me to say he had an idea for a photo-led book on the Burlesque scene. However, he & his writer friend Brian, (whom he had asked to pen the words to his pictures), wondered if they could both come and meet me to discuss their plans and get my opinion as both a performer & producer and to possibly offer an opinion as to whether what they were thinking of producing ’would actually float’ as a commercial proposition.
I did indeed meet them and was enthralled by what they were planning: basically a close-up look at Burlesque in the New Millennium by featuring 8 wonderful girls currently on the UK & European circuit, but rather than just a ‘general look’ at the scene Chris wanted to do a photo-shoot & in-depth interview with each girl to really get their ‘story’ of Burlesque, (and have Brian research the history behind it all), and so both illustrate the beauty of the art-form and to really explain to those ‘new’ to Burlesque what it was all about in terms of its history and who these girls were, how they had also come to Burlesque and why. To my delight, this was exactly the type of book I had wanted to find whilst researching the world of Burlesque before I ‘dipped my toes’ some three years ago!
Towards the end of our meeting they asked me if would like to be involved and though I was most flattered, I said I would love to help them produce the book but should not be featured in it as there were many far more experienced dancers that I thought should be in ahead of me. However, over a period of weeks & months both Chris & Brian gradually wore me down and I eventually agreed to also be one of those 8 featured artistes as well as their ‘consultant’, though for a long time afterwards I must admit I still felt I shouldn’t actually be in with the other artistes. Upon seeing what we have now achieved I must admit that I am now thrilled to also appear amongst such talented and beautiful ladies in it as a performer in my own right… and so glad they kept pushing me!!
As a small 3-man (or 2 men & 1 woman) team, once we were up and running with our idea we did not want to then be at the mercy of a big London publisher in it ‘just for the bucks,’ but luckily Chris knew a small film company based near Winchester: Tomahawk Films, for whom he had previously done some design work and discovered they also had a small specialist publishing arm and we were really excited when they said they’d like to publish Burlesque Beauty on our behalf.
Q: The book focuses on a “brief snapshot” of burlesque in the U.K. through the works of 8 carefully selected burlesque artists – Ally Katte, Amber Topaz, Anna Fur Laxis, Carrie-Ann O’Dell, Domino Barbeau, Khandie Kisses, Mysti Vine and you – Sensu’Elle. It must have been so difficult to narrow down the selections! How did you and your colleagues decide on the content? Can you tell our readers a little more about what they can expect by purchasing your book?
A: So in addition to Chris & Brian kindly asking me to be involved we set about looking for 7 other performers across the country: Ally Katte, Amber Topaz, Anna Fur Laxis, Carrie-Ann, Domino Barbeau, Khandie Kisses and Mysti Vine, who were absolutely fantastic and all readily agreed not only to be photographed by Chris but to also be interviewed, in depth, by Brian.
During our chats with them, all 7 girls really opened up and generously imparted so much professional information and fantastic tips as Burlesque performers that we hope aspiring Burlesque artistes will be able to actually use Burlesque Beauty as an inspirational hand-book to help with their own performances. Every one of the girls featured was an absolute star and in our opinion, each fully illustrates and epitomises the ‘real beauty of Burlesque’.
As you’d imagine we had a really tough job trying to narrow down just 8 performers from the multitude of wonderful Burlesque artistes currently across the UK. That was possibly the toughest part of the project as there were so many wonderful performers we wanted to feature. However, we eventually managed to whittle down our initial list to this eclectic mix that, though each were totally unique in their own way, all combined to give the picture of the ‘true femininity’ of Burlesque whilst also dispelling the myth that modern Burlesque performers have to be a blonde, 20-something size 8! For as we all actually know the wonder of Burlesque is that there are no hard and fast rules about who can become a Burlesque artiste, encouraging any girl to perform it, and perform it well and with verve & enthusiasm…and our book, I feel reflects that important fact!!
Q: You’ve been performing burlesque for 3 years, correct? And for two years of that you’ve been working on the book? How on earth do you balance everything? Are there are other projects that you have in the works?
A: As for my own chapter and my contribution to Burlesque Beauty, as a performer I have only been on the Burlesque stage since 12th September 2009, but whereas a number of our girls featured are full-time professional, touring dancers I am actually a Company Director by day as well as being a wife & mother, so for me Burlesque is very much a wonderfully glamorous and rewarding hobby.
However that is not to say I don’t take it very seriously, as I do (and then some!), as over the last few years I have taken to producing my own Burlesque shows, another reason that Chris & Brian were so kind enough to urge me to become a part of their project as they also wanted to harness my knowledge of what went on ‘behind-the-scenes’ of Burlesque production as well as out front on stage!
As such I have also become a Burlesque teacher and am really delighted to see some of my pupils successfully taking to the stage and now performing in their own right and I hope that, through my involvement & participation in this unique little photo-led book, I can also encourage and inspire many other ladies either to take up this alluring vintage entertainment that is enjoying quite a revival once again or at least encourage them to some of our shows and experience the enjoyment of modern Burlesque performed ‘live’!
I am pleased to say that both Chris & Brian have also travelled a long road with their research for this book and the three of us are now looking both towards producing further volumes of Burlesque Beauty, (to include & incorporate the other many & varied forms of Burlesque currently being performed across the country), whilst to my great excitement also actively considering producing our own shows under the Burlesque Beauty banner..!
So I think the future looks really good for Chris, Brian & myself at the moment, for not only have we produced something in this book that we are all incredibly proud of, but we are also having a ball and enjoying each other’s company. We genuinely have had such great fun working with the ladies we featured and so we hope the future will be just as creative & laughter-filled and we can really build on this, our first Burlesque Beauty book.