Tana the Tattooed Lady

Photo: VIXEN Photography
Photo: VIXEN Photography

Portland’s Tana the Tattooed Lady, Miss Tiki Oasis 2013, talks El Vez, Robocop 2, Yogatease and being a “lunatic drag queen.”

Interview: Divertida Devotchka

Q: First off, congratulations are in order! You were recently voted Miss Tiki Oasis 2013; how exciting! Please share with us your experience at this year’s Tiki Oasis.

A: This year’s Tiki Oasis was the most magical year ever. It was so fun to connect with all my friends & play in the San Diego sunshine. 2013 marked the first annual Miss Tiki Oasis Pageant, a beauty contest of sorts to represent Tiki Oasis all year long. I was in total shock when they announced my name as the winner. My dear friend & fellow devoted Tiki-goer Meghan Mayhem (with whom I moved to Portland in 2007 after stealing her from Honolulu) handed me my GIANT trophy with all the appropriate cheekiness. Being crowned Miss Tiki Oasis gave me such confidence I felt like I could chat with everybody. What a fun feeling to be so popular. Southern Culture on the Skids- one of my all time favorite bands- played Saturday night before the midnight burlesque show. I was shaking and bopping so hard in the crowd I almost rocked my beehive loose. I also got to teach a custom stretching class Saturday morning set to the lounge sounds of Cal Tjader. Then to cap off the most wonderful weekend of good vibes I played a special Hawaiian Elvis set with El Vez! He even had me sing a solo song while he changed into his tiger suit. Afterward I found out that Mary from Southern Culture on the Skids was in the audience and thought that I’d done Wanda Jackson proud with my rendition of Let’s Have A Party! AND THEN… I met Exene (from the legendary punk band X) who told me she loves what I do & would like to use me for a web series she’s doing.

Photo: VIXEN Photography
Photo: VIXEN Photography

Q: Let’s talk about your performances with El Vez. How long have you been performing with him? You’ve toured with him too, multiple times right? I’d love to hear some of your favorite stories about that!

A: I’ve been an Elvette for nearly nine years. More recently El Vez and I have been performing new material together as a duo act. But don’t get me wrong, nobody outshines Robert Lopez. We were just in Austin, Texas last month performing his new soul show. That was a lot of fun. Our drummer for the soul shows was Hunt Sales who played with greats like Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Todd Rundgren. My first exposure to El Vez was when my burlesque troupe, The Atomic Bombshells, opened for his Christmas show in Seattle at the Showbox. I was sooo enchanted I basically harassed him until he gave me the gig.  I think I got his email or something and wrote him every few weeks and stars aligned to where I kept running into him. I’d say in my coyest (give me the damn gig) possible voice “you know, if you ever need another Elvette…” Finally he relented. I’ve been performing with El Vez since 2004.  Some of the best times of my entire life have been singing on the road with our band the Memphis Mariachis. The most incredible time I had on the road with El Vez was when we played the Crossroads Music Festival in Gijon, Spain with Little Richard, The Blasters, The Presidents of the United States Of America and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. All the bands stayed in the same four star hotel; lots of mischief ensued. One night we played spin the bottle on the roof top. I wrote a little song up there that evolved into a track on the next President’s record. My version was pretty emo, but Chris doctored it up in pop as only he can. Spain with The Presidents led to more collaborations including the Capitol Hill Block Party and a music video for a song called Some Postman. It was the first music video shot completely on cell phones. Technologically speaking, it was a pretty big deal at the time. We made a behind the scenes DVD with an Australian film company in support of their upcoming tour. Then in a worst move ever I quit perusing the offer to go with them to Australia and stayed in Seattle to work toward my master’s degree in theatre only to embark on my journey as a full time artist mere months later.  Bye bye, Seattle U. Never got the degree.

Tana for Slappy Cakes (Photo: Arian Stevens Photography)
Tana for Slappy Cakes (Photo: Arian Stevens Photography)

Q: On that note, I’d like to discuss your background. You’re a singer, a burlesque performer, a model and a yoga instructor. Did I miss anything? How did you get your start in each of those areas? Do all of these elements blend together to equate a full time job for you? Or do you also miraculously balance another job on top of all of that?

A: My mother swears I came out of the womb singing and tap dancing. I used to take off all my clothes in the backseat as a kid and jump around the moving car. I performed my one-woman-show at Kmart near the blue light to reach the largest audience possible.  I auditioned for anything and everything I could. At age eight I was an extra in Robocop 2. My uncle Paul and I threw hot dog buns and Nerds at the cops in our scene in the movie. As I approached double digits I became obsessed with Hollywood glamour, movie musicals, musical theatre, all forms of dance, vintage clothing and home furnishings but the most mystifying and alluring fascination of my young mind was sex appeal.

I’ve not had a “day job” since I quit my makeup artist gig with Benefit Cosmetics in 2004. Thoughts become reality and I was ready to create a reality where I was a successful international entertainer.

Yoga is my daily moving meditation. It helps to center me and maintain spiritual connection with my community and the cosmos. I’m a certified hot yoga instructor (250 sweaty hours) worth every pain, ache and dime.

Currently I teach power yoga which is a crazy hard workout that has more mass appeal to westerners, and a vinyasa yoga inspired by Patanjali’s yoga sutras. I really prefer to gift these styles of classes. Traditional yoga is something I enjoy sharing. Creating a space for people to have a transformative, healing experience is absolutely amazing. I find teaching class more rewarding than a sold out, standing room only crowd cheering on your every move. While living in the Minneapolis area in 2012 I brought yoga into Pride, one of the only GLBTQ treatment facilities in the world as a weekly volunteer. Talk about a heartwarming experience. But a gal’s gotta pay the bills… So I took my power yoga knowledge, classical dance educator and burly teacher background and created a fusion workshop called Yogatease. I teach Yogatease all around the world and am currently working with an investor who thinks it’s a multimillion dollar idea.

When I’m home in Portland I work for the Rose City School of Burlesque as the dance and movement teacher.

I’m also a pin up model. Bettina May and Go Go Amy took me under their proverbial pin up wing in 2006 and we developed a workshop which traveled to Portugal, France, Germany, Canada and all over the US. Now I teach classes to spread the gospel of high hair and ruby lips solo. I’ve had a few prestigious modeling gigs. I was chosen for PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur” campaign in connection with Suicide Girls. Most recently I became the face of Slappy Cakes- a DIY pancake house with locations in Tokyo, Singapore (Universal Studios), Maui, five locations in Manila and the original in Portland, Oregon. Last spring Slappy Cakes flew me to the Philippines for the grand opening in the third largest mall in the world. There were life-size cardboard cut outs and floor to ceiling posters of me everywhere. It was totally surreal.

Tana live (Photo: Beth Olson Creative)
Tana live (Photo: Beth Olson Creative)

Q: Speaking of travel, you just returned from a tour of Italy and Finland! Please tell our readers all about it!

A: Earlier this year I was selected to join an erotic circus for an event called Turkkusex. It boasts being the largest ‘sexfest’ in Scandinavia. Our Portland based cast was joined by a bevy of porn stars, male strippers from Russia and beyond and champion pole dancers from around the globe. One of my very best friends, Ivizia actually blew fire balls in a blinged out bikini inside a metal sphere with two Finnish motorcycle riders whizzing past her. Then my friends bought me tickets to Italy and insisted we go ‘make party’.

Q: From whom or what do you gather your inspiration?

A: I have no idea where my ideas or inspiration come from. Most often if I’m writing a show or creating a character I hear a piece of music and go from there, but all burlesque is derivative. No one has any original ideas anymore. I’m just a crazy, lunatic drag queen.  I am certainly not the best at anything I do, I’m just not afraid to try new things and fail horrifically.

Q: What’s next for Tana the Tattooed Lady?

A: This year in addition to Miss Tiki O, I was voted Hardest Working Woman in Show Business (according to Portland) and I won the Satan’s Angel Award for Hottest Body In Burlesque at the Dallas Burlesque Festival. Every time I think I’m about to slow down another amazing opportunity turns up. I have no idea what’s in store for me and I’m thankful for the mystery. My life has turned out to be better than my wildest dreams.

Q: Anything you’d like to add?

A: Thank you for this opportunity!


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