The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend is almost here, and I know the next few weeks are going to fly away as everyone makes their preparations. I fired my annual, ‘Meet the Competitors’ questions at this year’s ‘Best Debut’ competitors, and what a beautiful, talented and charismatic bunch they are! 

Athletic and elegant Kitty Bang Bang, who wowed the crowds in the Thursday night show last year, will be flying over from London to compete, as will her fellow London competitor, the beautiful and vivacious Banbury Cross, who is attending for the first time. Cleo Viper will be making the journey over from Italy and couldn’t be more passionate and excited about competing and attending this year. ‘Swiss Miss’ Koko La Douce will be strutting her way to the States from Switzerland, and April O’Peel will be hopping over the border from Vancouver with her ‘appalling yet appealing’ and highly original style of performance.

There are a number of performers from New York in the Debut category this year. Chicava HoneyChild will be treating us to her special brand of sensual storytelling, and Spanish siren, Medianoche, who is now based in New York, has an exciting and enticing ‘Cuban extravaganza’ planned. The ‘exotic, sultry and fusion-istic’ Calamity Chang is very much looking forward to making her BHoF debut and making fabulous new friends, the demure and delectable Tansy can’t wait to delight us with an epic Italian striptease, and Gin Minsky will perform a special tribute to her best friend, the much loved and missed Diane Naegel. I have no doubt that it will be incredibly moving and uplifting. Texan temptress, Ruby Joule will treat us to some classic Hollywood glamour, and the devastatingly gorgeous Mosh, from L.A., will thrill us in the guise of a ‘Jungle Queen’. What a fantastic line-up!

Read on to find out how these wonderful women feel about competing and attending this year…

 

Kitty Bang Bang (London, UK)

Kitty Bang Bang, by Neil Kendall.

Kitty Bang Bang, by Neil Kendall.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

I’d probably say, ‘balletic, energetic and ridiculous.’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

The act that I’ve chosen to perform at BHOF is my signature routine. I’ll be taking a very blinged up version of ‘The Cat’. It’s sort of a classic act, in that the cat is a character that a lot of burlesque performers have previously brought to the stage (Tiffany Carter for example), but it will be done in my own inimitable way; expect dustbins and banana skins.

What would it mean to you to win?

To win would be the absolute ultimate accolade and it would just be such a huge honour to be recognised in that way. All that said, I’m definitely not expecting to take anything home from BHOF other than a hangover.

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of  it?

I only went to BHOF for the very first time last year and I was blown away by the level of performance on display. Watching some of those acts just made me want to go and be better. For me it was both inspiring and important to go and watch people like Dirty Martini live, and also to talk with some of the legends. Being part of BHOF is essentially getting a little footnote in the history of striptease. I’m very much looking forward to being inspired again this year.

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

To prepare for the competition I will be racking my brain for alternative endings to The Cat. Normally I’d either breathe fire or shower myself in milk, but the ‘no fire, no liquids’ rule has rather put paid to both of those. Essentially I’ll be panicking from right about now, up until my show is done on the Saturday night. Also, all leads as to where I can get a wheelie bin in Las Vegas welcomed…

I’m looking forward to seeing everybody out in Vegas and a big thank you to everybody who works so hard on the event.

April O’Peel (Vancouver, Canada)

April O'Peel, by Molly McNulty.

April O'Peel, by Molly McNulty.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

‘Appalling yet appealing.’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

My attempt to successfully marry the erotic and the inane.

What would it mean to you to win?

Being chosen to compete definitely feels like winning, but I would love to take a victory home for everybody with a freaky flag and for all my copiously curvy co-performers. I’ve been very inspired by Dirty Martini, Trixie Little, and Tigger! and I hope that me just being involved could inspire other non-conventional performers.

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

It feels like home. I am so honoured to be part of something that means so much to so many people.

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

Team Booty workouts with my Razzle Tassel compatriots, Violet Femme and Melody Mangler. We must! We must! We must increase our butts! That and bedazzling a hundred yellow rubber dish gloves.

I want to sincerely thank everyone who has helped me along the way. Specifically Melody Mangler, Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society, and Kitty Nights West for believing in me and giving me the opportunities I had to perform and grow as an entertainer. I LOVE YOU VANCOUVER BURLESQUE COMMUNITY!

Medianoche (New York)

Medianoche, by Steven Rosen.

Medianoche, by Steven Rosen.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

‘Playful, musical, unexpected.’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

It’s a pretty wild Cuban extravaganza! I wanted to evoke some good old classic Spanish stripper frenzy.

What would it mean to you to win?

I’ve been seeing this less as competition and more as one of the most exciting collaborations I’ve ever been a part of – it’s going to be such an incredible show! Winning, of course, would be a pretty amazing culmination of that.

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

As a first time attendee, I’m looking forward to meeting the legends and watching every single show – it’s such an honour to be a part of it with so many of my heroes.

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

A lot of the daily bump and grind… and enjoying every second of it!

Calamity Chang (New York)

Calamity Chang. by Michael Webb.

Calamity Chang. by Michael Webb.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

‘Exotic, sultry and fusion-istic.’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

If you are an indie film buff, you may recognise what inspired my act…

What would it mean to you to win?

I have not even thought that far! So far I have been feeling so elated and humbled to be accepted to perform in front of everyone in this grand Olympian event!

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

For me, it feels like my official ‘coming out’ to the society ball so to speak. I feel like it’s the kind of debutante ball John Waters would have created for socialites. There are many people I am friends with on social media but have never met, and I am really looking forward to meeting people in person, even if it’s just a hello.

What will you been doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

Eating well, sleeping well, trying not to take on more gigs. And getting my bangs trimmed.

Mosh (Los Angeles)

Mosh, by James Jaeger.

Mosh, by James Jaeger.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

The three fabulous F’s: ‘Fetishistic, femininity, and fanciful.’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

I’ve chosen to bring my ‘Jungle Queen’ act which features a large golden bamboo structure and matching ruby and gold ensemble by Waisted Couture. The number is inspired by the glamourised imagery and idea of a “jungle queen”, as well as that queen’s domain.

What would it mean to you to win?

A great deal! To win would be like placing you in the same category as other accomplished and talented artists that have attended BHoF. In terms of competitions and your category, it’s one of the few places where you couldn’t be placed any higher.

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

I am honoured to be associated with a competition that has brought together and featured many talented performers over the years. To have been selected to be a part of it is quite a compliment.

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

Checking and double checking everything involved with the show and the planning. Details are always a priority in any show or event!

Chicava HoneyChild (Brooklyn, NY)

Chicava HoneyChild, by Ed Barnas.

Chicava HoneyChild, by Ed Barnas.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

‘Sensual. Theatrical. Classic.’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

It’s a moody little one-act play/striptease set to Sade’s song, Jezebel.

What would it mean to you to win?

I think it would be good for the storytellers in the burlesque community for a piece like ‘Jezebel’ to win. It expands the possibilities for burlesque as a performance art and in terms of ways to engage an audience.

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

I love being a part of this legacy of rebellious, courageous, creative women.

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

Rehearsing and playing.

 

Tansy (Brooklyn, NY)

Tansy, by Bettina May.

Tansy, by Bettina May.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

‘Demure. Sublime. Ridiculous.’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

My act is an homage to the Italian ‘Sword-and-Sandal’ films of the fifties and sixties.

What would it mean to you to win?

Why, what an honour that would be. I am already overcome to be able to represent NYC, along with three dear friends of mine, for the Best Debut category. I get giddy just thinking about the four of us up there and how proud I am!

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

I bought my tickets to BHoF with the intention of going and being inspired by the best and brightest performers out there.  Now that I am performing myself, my only hope is that my act might be an equal source of inspiration and joy.

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

These next few weeks will certainly be busy indeed.  I’ll be doing my act in London for their World Burlesque Games in May, so hopefully all rhinestoning, prop-adjusting, last minute changes will be completed before then. Leaving me with two weeks back in NYC to save some money for all the cocktails I plan on drinking pool-side in Vegas.

The pleasure that burlesque has given me is beyond description.  Never have I met such a caring, creative, rambunctious group of artists! How lucky we are to have BHoF as a chance to come together and celebrate the exuberance of live performance, and rejoice in all the friends we have and those we are soon to meet!

Cleo Viper (Milano, Italy)

Cleo Viper, by Valentina Tamborra.

Cleo Viper, by Valentina Tamborra.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

‘STEP RIGHT UP!’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

I’m gonna be the most beautiful and saddest little tiny colourful animal in the world. Guess what…

What would it mean to you to win?

Oh, I would so happy that I would start crying non-stop like a baby right there on stage. And it would also mean I owe my sister the fifty dollars of our bet.

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

Since the beginning of my career, the BHOF has been the place where I would search for great performers, representing the sparkling 21st Century idea of burlesque. If I wanted to take a closer look at modern Burlesque I would search in the past years’ competitors and winners as a reference and performers to look up to, and take inspirations from.

At the same time, the importance of preserving the history of burlesque is fundamental, as long as the idea of creating a responsible, positive, active community around burlesque is needed and beautiful. I am the very first Italian performer ever to enter the competition, and I feel a huge responsibility. To be somehow a part of this incredible list of awesomeness and innovators, is an honour for me, and I will try my best to keep Cleo Viper’s name around there as much as possible.

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

Situps, pushups and back-bends!

“Dance tonight, revolution tomorrow!”

Gin Minsky (Brooklyn, NY)

Gin Minsky, by Josh Curtis.

Gin Minsky, by Josh Curtis.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

‘1920s tap dancing’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

The act I’m performing is to the traditional New Orleans funeral march, When the Saints Go Marching In. At a jazz funeral, this song is played slow and somber on the way to the cemetery, but when the procession is leaving the cemetery, it’s played ‘hot’ as the attendees dance and celebrate the life of the one that just passed away.

This number is my tribute to my best friend, Diane Naegel, who just passed away in September. It is a high-energy and upbeat tap dance – a total celebration of life.

What would it mean to you to win?

It is a total honour just to be on the BHOF stage this year and to share this tribute with the international burlesque community. The fact that this is a competition hasn’t really hit me yet. I’m just excited to dance!

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

BHOF is something I look forward to every year. It’s like a big family reunion with all my friends and loved ones from around the world.

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

I will be doing a lot of rehearsing and some up-keep of my costume, as it has been very ‘loved’.

Koko La Douce (Switzerland)

Koko La Douce, by Martina Begander.

Koko La Douce, by Martina Begander.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

‘Lagavulin Malt Whisky.’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

The beast is within the roses, the death is within the beauty, and the rest? Is showbiz!

What would it mean to you to win?

That my neighbours would be more friendly to me. And that the world is ready for radically sensual cellulite.

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

BHOF is like the navel of the burlesque scene. To me, to be part of it is like being officially born into the history of burlesque.

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

I´ll go and buy swarovskies and I´ll remove the furniture in my flat. Then I’ll get my kids some nice movies and make sure I always have champagne in my fridge.

Don´t miss the ‘Swiss Miss’. You’re gonna jodel for more!

Ruby Joule (Austin, Texas)

Ruby Joule, by Steve DeMent.

Ruby Joule, by Steve DeMent.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

‘Elegant, Ethereal, Fantastical.’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

I have chosen one of my favorite acts to make my debut at BHOF; it is an homage to Hollywood glamour of the 1930s and 40s.  I call it, ‘The Screen Siren’ and it’s a little bit Rita Hayworth, a little bit Jean Harlow, and a little bit me.  As I am also a film and theatre actress, it is particularly delicious to play this role!

What would it mean to you to win?

Oh, I feel it’s an enormous honour to have the opportunity to perform on that stage Saturday night! I feel like I’ve already won something pretty special.  To ‘win’ on top of that would be even more affirming that I’m on the right track. In the company of so many other extremely talented performers who I respect and admire, it would be pretty humbling.

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

BHOF holds a very special place in my heart because there is no other time and place like it on the planet where one can connect with our worldwide burlesque legacy.  When I am there it feels like I’m in a magical flow of creativity, understanding, beauty and excitement, and there is always so much more to learn!

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

Lots of calming breathing exercises, haha!  I will be detailing my costume and routine, polishing up my act so that I can be confident that I am presenting the most entertaining performance that I can.  Basically the same preparations that go into every show, with a wee bit more on the stress management side!

I am beyond thrilled to have the honour of sharing a little piece of myself with the burlesque community in such a grand and visible way.  All my thanks to those who have championed me in this endeavour, and I cannot wait to see all of you!

Banbury Cross (London, UK)

Banbury Cross, by Shadowshow 2012.

Banbury Cross, by Shadowshow 2012.

Can you encapsulate yourself and your signature style in three words?

‘Passionate, energetic, ‘Rock’n’Roll.’

Can you describe or give us a taste of the act you have chosen to perform?

A vivacious bump and grind Americana Striptease, with an explosive finale!

What would it mean to you to win?

It would make me incredibly proud of what I do and the journey I have taken to get here, It’s an honour that I can only dream of!

Why is BHoF special to you, and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

It is history in the making! And it is real privilege (and a little daunting) to share a stage with such beauty and such incredible talent, and the legends of burlesque!

What will you be doing in the coming weeks in preparation for the competition?

I shall be revamping the costume slightly (constant use really takes its toll on a white costume) and cleaning up the choreography. As for me, I will try and look after myself, keep myself well rested and try not to take it all too seriously and HAVE FUN! Competing for a title, in front of your idols can be a terrifying thought.

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