Photo by Roxi D’Lite Photography
Roxi D’Lite, Reigning Queen of Burlesque Miss Exotic World 2010, known as the “Drinkin’, Smokin’, Strippin’ Machine” talks Australia, illegal masquerades, Cyr Wheels, self-reflection, assassins and showgirls.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: This month you’re embarking on the Australian Burlesque Festival National Tour. What are you most excited about regarding your trip? Is there anything that you’re nervous about?
A: The Australian Burlesque Festival is going to be amazing. The ABF team has been working hard on this tour for nearly a year and it’s a huge event. It’s going to be an intensive few weeks and very rock and roll. I’ll be touring along with some of the top performers in the world and hitting eight cities. I’ll then be popping over to New Zealand for a few Burlesque Assassins premieres. Australia has long been one of my favorite places in the world and I’m excited to return. I will be bringing two of my biggest acts including my newest act called Moonlight Cyrenade. This act has been my biggest challenge to date and it’s exciting to be able to share it with the world. I wanted to create something unique and inventive and I think I’ve accomplished that. In the past I’ve tried to incorporate non-traditional elements into my routines like the lyra (or aerial hoop). But as the lyra became more commonplace I looked for something else to set myself apart. For the past year I have been training on the Cyr Wheel and, to the best of my knowledge, I am the only stripper in the world using it. The Cyr Wheel is a relatively new contraption created just a few years ago in Montreal. Montreal is the home of Cirque du Soleil and home to many talented circus performers. I traveled to Montreal and spent some time there training with different performers to improve my skill while I was working on the costume, music and overall concept. Moonlight Cyrenade is a mix of Art Deco glamour, modern stripping and circus. I feel it’s a good representation of who I am as a performer and consistent with the style of act I like to create. I hope everybody enjoys it as much as I have creating it.
Q: You’re the producer of the Dirty Devil’s Peepshow at Theater Bizarre. Would you please tell our readers more about the event?
A: Theatre Bizarre is an annual event held in Detroit but to the people involved and those who attend it is so much more. Think of it as the Greatest Masquerade on Earth within an immersive art installation. It is the vision of award-winning Detroit artist John Dunivant and brought to life by the efforts of hundreds of volunteers. Theatre Bizarre began more than 10 years ago when John wanted to incorporate his work into a Halloween party. He and a group of crazy friends took over an abandoned neighborhood in a decrepit part of Detroit and transformed the land into a horror-themed amusement park. A former crack house was converted into a haunted house; they built a roller coaster with flame throwers and even installed a Ferris Wheel. There is a full backstory and complete cast of characters. There were many performance stages spread out over two acres with names like the Scaredy Cat Club and Frontier Land. Everything within Theatre Bizarre was inspired by John’s childhood love of roadside attractions, carnivals and sideshows.
Theatre Bizarre was never advertised yet it was attended by thousands of people in the most elaborate costumes you can imagine. It was also completely illegal. For years the City of Detroit and its officials (police included) were aware of Theatre Bizarre and often attended despite the disregard of regulations. After all, it is Detroit and they had other things to worry about. As years went on and administrations changed more rules were enforced. In 2010, the day before the party, city officials shut everything down and we were forced to relocate. Detroit and its dwellers are very proud and resilient and Theatre Bizarre, much like the city, was forced to evolve in order to survive. The event is now held in Detroit’s Masonic Temple and it is the world’s largest of its kind. The party is now twice as large and draws nearly 5,000 people spread throughout seven floors.
One of the many stages is called the Dirty Devil’s Peepshow, which I produce. The Peepshow features burlesque performances and good old-fashioned bump and grinds from some of the top performers in the world. Dancers enter through the mouth of a giant devil and dance on the runway-like stage shaped like a serpent’s tongue. In the past we have featured headliners like Julie Atlas Muz, Tigger!, Trixie and Monkey and this year we are excited to feature Michelle L’amour, Kalani Kokonuts and Russell Bruner. Due to its popularity we had to open up the performing process to applicants similar to how many burlesque festivals operate. Performers audition online through the Theatre Bizarre website with examples of their best work. The auditions are now open and the deadline is July 15. We select just 15 performers and create six different shows throughout the night beginning at the top of every hour. The energy in the room is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The crowd and energy is off the charts crazy just like Theatre Bizarre and Detroit. Words really don’t do the experience justice so I encourage everyone to visit theatrebizarre.com and learn how to get involved.
Q: You’re a photographer, and you do the styling, hair, makeup and retouching yourself, is that right? How long have you been shooting and how did you get started? Who or what have been some of your favorite subjects to shoot and why?
A: I first started stripping while I was in college. I was taking graphic design and it was a very expensive program. I needed great photos for publicity and worked with various talented photographers in the area. When I graduated I found I was making more money (and having more fun) on stage than I ever would behind a computer. I just decided one day to give it a shot by myself. I always had an eye for the camera I could use my graphic design experience to edit photos. I bought all the equipment I needed and taught myself along the way. I was then able to create everything with what I envisioned. I could style, shoot and edit my own photos and, most importantly, own the images. Since then I have run a pinup and boudoir photography studio where I help women realize their inner vixen. I pamper them and do their hair, make-up and help them be a pinup for a day. I think everybody wants to have pretty pictures of themselves and I am happy to help them. I most enjoy shooting other burlesque performers. They all have such interesting personalities and I try to bring that out with my photos. I have been fortunate enough to meet many talented performers and I am even more fortunate to have photographed them. What began as an interesting side project of photographing my friends has suddenly turned into a collection of burlesque’s top stars. I have loved shooting people like Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz and Tigger! I have also captured great images of Michelle L’amour, Indigo Blue, Jo Weldon, The Stage Door Johnnies and many more. I even started adding some of my favorite burlesque legends to the collection. I have worked with April March, Judith Stein and Satan’s Angel. It’s just a fun way to spend time with friends. I don’t usually seek out and arrange photo shoots but if I know I’m going to see them I’ll bring my camera along. I am still learning as I go and much like the photo collection it’s a work in progress.
Q: In March you shared the following on Facebook, and I was struck by it: “I just received a very uneducated attack in the form of hate mail in my inbox today. The letter was from a woman who clearly has major lack of self love and respect for her fellow females. As females we should motivate and inspire each other, not bring each other down. This woman wrote: “because of women like you men treat other women as objects…” (there is more that I choose not to share). Honey, you’re clearly hanging out with the wrong men. You attract what you put out in the universe, perhaps some self reflection and love is the remedy here? Sending hate mail to strangers is not going to fix your inner pain. Also, I am intelligent, brains and beauty right here and I am very fortunate to be doing what I love, and what I choose to do. No one was forcing me to do anything. May love light your way.” And again in early May, you received a message (from a presumably different user) essentially assuming that you’re a porn star, telling you to “repent from fornication and immoralities” and so on. Is hate mail a regular occurrence for you? You handle it with dignity and grace, but when did you first begin receiving it? Do you have advice for other performers and models who deal with this type of thing regularly?
A: I don’t often get hate mail but I can’t say it never happens. I do get a lot of weird fan mail and I love it. By weird I mean there are proposals with penis measurements and other sexual abilities. I don’t respond but I take screenshots and save it in a folder so I can sometime in the future read it for a laugh. Every so often I will receive some hate mail and I feel the need to respond. One thing that’s consistent with all the weird messages is that they are all written in terrible English. Make of that what you will. Sometimes it’s just silly and other times it’s a little concerning.
Recently a man sent me a religious diatribe about how I should repent from fornication and how fornicators will burn in a lake of fire and brimstone. This is clearly laughable but it is nice to know fornicators get their own lake of fire. I took a screenshot and shared it on Facebook and Twitter and received a ton of positive feedback and shared many laughs with people. Later on I took a photo from one of my darker performances with a baphomet and pentagrams and I was topless. It was the perfect trifecta for this guy to flip his lid. I photoshopped the word “REPENT!” across my nipples and posted it for him. I feel that’s the best way to deal with absurdity–expose it to the world and mock it for what it really is. On another occasion a woman once told me “it’s because of women like you men treat other women as objects.” I didn’t find this absurd at all. In fact, I took this as more like a cry for help from this woman. What I do is actually the complete opposite. I did not want to attack this woman because I feel she gets attacked often and that’s why she feels that way. When a person attacks someone else they are usually attacking the part of themselves they hate. I try to empower women by being an individual and making my own choices and I wanted to show her that perhaps some self reflection is in order. More love and less hate will make the world a better place.
Q: You starred in the Canadian film “Burlesque Assassins” which released last year and is currently screening all over the world. Your character, “Bourbon Sue” is very obviously based on you – the drinkin’, smokin’, strippin’ machine. I’d love to hear about the filming process. What was the most memorable part for you? What were the biggest challenges? Is there any word on the DVD release?
A: I first met the director Jon Joffe years ago in Toronto. He had conceived this idea of a film with actual burlesque performers and was researching the world of burlesque by attending some festivals. We hit it off and he created the character of Bourbon Sue for me. She’s a hard drinking, hard smoking, rockabilly delinquent which I know is a stretch but I did my best to get into character. Some time went by before we even began shooting but Jon stayed in touch. Eventually, I flew to Calgary for a month of shooting and loved all of it. I received some fight training and learned I deliver a pretty mean roundhouse. All of the performers shared a house for the duration of shooting and we nicknamed it the safe house. I learned that shooting a movie is not as easy as you might think. The days are very long and there’s often a lot of waiting between shots. Scenes are shot out of order and they can be difficult to grasp without the context.
Jon has been working very hard to get the movie screened and have it shown to as many people as possible. He is also working on a distribution deal for on demand services and the iTunes store. He also plans to release the film on DVD and Blu-Ray in the near future. We just finished recording audio commentary and I think he has many other goodies in store for the DVD.
It was an honor to be a part of the film and it’s amazing to see it screened around the world and even reviewed by actual industry professionals. The feedback has been great and I would love to have the chance to do it again. Speaking of, the film has done well enough that there are rumours circulating about a sequel. No official comment from me though because Assassins are sworn to secrecy.
Q: What’s next for Roxi D’Lite?
A: I am currently working towards featuring in more strip clubs. I started my career in strip clubs long before burlesque stages and prior to winning Miss Exotic World my goal was to bring burlesque back to the strip clubs. Clubs used to feature great shows with talented showgirls and any of the Burlesque Hall of Fame Legends will confirm that. In recent years, the feature showgirl has disappeared in favour of adult film stars and boring stage shows. Any time I have performed in a club the audience loves seeing a show–the bigger the better. I think people are bored of the norm and want something different. Even though my style is similar to our burlesque legends I am considered a novelty act. When I talk to club strippers many of them don’t even know there is a history to burlesque or even a museum dedicated to this art form. I hope I can educate them about our history and maybe inspire them to be showgirls as well. I hope to bring back the showgirl and do what I can to change the industry for the better.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A: Drink! Smoke! Strip!