Chicago’s Michelle L’amour, Burlesque Hall of Fame Miss Exotic World 2005, known as “The Most Naked Woman” and “The Ass That Goes POW!” talks BurlyCon, family, focusing on the luxury of burlesque and more.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: You have extensive dance experience, and after meeting Franky Vivid while studying finance in college, you began performing with his band, followed by your first burlesque performance in February 2003. You quickly went on to win Burlesque Hall of Fame’s Miss Exotic World title in 2005, which effectively put you (and subsequently Chicago) on the map, and there’s been no slowing down since! Would Michelle in 2003 be surprised by where you are in 2013? If 2013 Michelle could offer pre-2003 Michelle any advice, what would it be?
A: 2003 Michelle was too young! Seriously, sometimes I look back and cringe at those pictures. I look like a kid! A stripping kid! I wish that 2013 ml’ could tell pre-2003 ml’ to get better shoes. My taste in heels has really developed since then! I would also tell her to relax! I was coming from a dance background and I don’t think I fully appreciated the beauty and nuance of burlesque striptease until I had been doing it for a couple years. It’s not just about technique. It’s about so much more. It’s a different art form all together and I am still constantly learning and falling in love with this dance. And no, 2003 ml’ would not be surprised where I am now. This is all part of the plan…
Q: I’ve read in multiple interviews that you come from a conservative Christian family that disapproves of your career choice and has disowned you, multiple times even? I’ve spoken to several other performers and models that can really identify with this notion; are you able to offer any advice to those who are dealing with similar negative family reception of their careers?
A: It is hard for your family to see you as sexual, but it might be even harder for them to see you as independent. When you combine the two, it’s a winning combination for conservative families. I was disowned from my family when it came out in the paper that I was doing burlesque. Bibles came out. Scripture was flying. It ended with them leading me to the door and saying ‘God loves you enough for us to let you go.’ Swallow that one. I had a really difficult time going through this. I was experiencing great success and receiving so many accolades but it was hard to parse because I knew my own family didn’t care, didn’t know, and didn’t appreciate it. As independent and strong willed as you think you are, there will always be a part of you that just wants to be accepted by your family. I struggled with this separation for almost 4 years. It was tough on me and tough on my relationship. One day, after I had cried too many tears, I made peace with it. Truly accepted it. A little while after that, my mother called me and wanted to meet with me. As you can imagine, I was very skeptical. I decided to give her a chance. I met with her and she apologized to me! I was NOT expecting that. I decided to forgive her and cautiously allowed her into my life. We’re coming up on 4 years of our new relationship and while she may not like what I do, she is proud of me and always says she wishes she could do what I do. She has seen me perform once (my Sally Rand tribute), and has taken one of my classes. My mother is my biggest project. Helping women is what I do, and she was always the one I couldn’t help…until now. Unfortunately, my relationship with my dad is still strained. We talk but it’s very superficial and he really doesn’t want to talk about what I do. And, what seems to be surprising to people on the outside, my parents are recently divorced. This is actually a wonderful thing and should have happened many years ago. Religion can really put you in bad spots for a long time. Guilt is a powerful motivator.
To those that might be in a similar situation, if you are doing something you truly love to do, keep doing it. If you are just acting out, stop it right now. Entertainers that have a chip on their shoulder do not last. You need to do what you do because you love it, not because you’re trying to prove something to the world or to your parents.
Q: You’re performing in the Dirty Devil’s Peep Show at Theatre Bizarre in Detroit this month, which is produced by Roxi D’Lite in a huge Masonic temple; what do you have in store and what are you looking forward to most?
A: Honestly, I’m terrified! I get scared really easily and I am so nervous about it. Roxi has been trying to get me to go for YEARS! I finally accepted, but man, am I shakin’ in my pasties. I will be performing La Panthere, Boa Tango, Whole Lotta L’amour and Stripping Away, a dance that just has me in elastic and high heeled boots dancing to NIN. That one doesn’t get out much but I am SUPER excited to perform that act.
Q: The end of October will be bringing you back to Lucha Va Voom in LA, and you’ll be teaching workshops as well. You’ve been working with Lucha Va Voom for many years, correct? What are some of your favorite memories or stories?
A: I LOVE Lucha Va Voom. I think I’ve been working with them since 2004. I’m really excited to go in October because I am bringing my newest act, ‘The Ritual Calling of the Gods of F*ck’. It’s epic and really raw. I think it will feel great in that venue. As for memories, what can I say? There are wrestlers all over the place and then there are mini-chicken wrestlers running around too. Backstage is exactly what you think it is. Mayhem!
Q: You’re a guest presenter at BurlyCon this year, and it looks like Tease and Tone, Booty Lab and Stripping Behind the Fans are on your teaching agenda. I’d love to hear about highlights from your past BurlyCon experience and what you’re expecting out of this year’s event.
A: I haven’t been to BC in 2 years, so it’ll be good to go back. I’m excited about teaching all the classes and to see everyone. It’s good to be able to just hang out with people and not worry about a show. I also like being able to go take other classes and participate in discussions and panels. There’s so much to talk about in burlesque and this is the place to do it.
Q: Studio L’amour celebrated its 5th anniversary this summer; congratulations! How have things evolved over the years? Did you imagine the studio would be where it is now five years ago?
A: The studio is still evolving. I’m currently in the middle of making some big changes. I want to focus on the luxury of burlesque. I want people to see the value in what they are learning and know they are learning from VERY qualified teachers. I am sad to see many people teaching who have no business leading a class. This is upsetting and it’s taking advantage of the public. I am not ok with this. I also see Groupon deals, etc, and I will not become a discount-dollar-bin-bargain-burlesque school or entertainer. No thank you. The game has changed greatly since I began doing burlesque and teaching. I’m now writing a new rule book.
Q: Naked Girls Reading also turned 5 years old this year, and it has been expanding like crazy! You must be so excited to see it growing! Are you surprised by how quickly it’s caught on and to how many locations it’s spread already? Any more expansion plans in the near future? Any other exciting NGR plans in the works?
A: I love Naked Girls Reading and I love that we’ve been able to do it for this long. It’s a beautiful event and I love that other cities are excited about it. I really wasn’t expecting that, but once people started asking to do it, we decided it would be a great thing to expand. Currently in the works are some chapters looking to open in Australia.
Q: It’s very well known that Franky and you are foodies, especially with the Cooking for Strippers column and all! What is your favorite thing (or things if you can’t pick just one!) to cook? What are your favorite things to eat that Franky cooks?
A: I wouldn’t say that we are foodies, necessarily. We just really like to eat and we appreciate REAL food. Eating should be a sensual experience and not just a means to an end. I used to do all the cooking and then Franky got into it. I am more than happy to let him cook for me! So, by default, I’ve become more of the baker and he’s the cook. I make homemade bread and it’s SO good. I make a great cinnamon swirl bread and French bread. Oh, and I make a bacon alfredo pizza. It’s so bad for you. We only have it once a year on Franky’s birthday. As for what I like to eat…Franky makes a great maple butter pork tenderloin with smashed potatoes. He’s also got a mean brisket.
Q: What’s next for Michelle L’amour?
A: Next is enforcing my new life plan. I plan to do a lot more traveling and embark on a teaching tour in 2014. Overall, I’m looking to feed myself more as an artist and personally. I’ve been too distracted as of late and I need to start focusing on myself, rather than just trying to pay the bills.
Keep up with Michelle through her website, www.michellelamour.com, and follow her on Twitter at @michelle_lamour for the latest information.