Midnite Martini’s recent victory at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend has been praised and celebrated as a refreshing, encouraging, delightful surprise, and those of you who read her pre-pageant interview will know that we almost didn’t get to see her stunning winning act.  Everything fell into place for this undoubtedly innovative and passionate artist who has worked hard for many years in Colorado, USA, nourishing and developing a thriving local scene as well as herself.  She deserves broader international recognition and I have no doubt she will be a dedicated ambassador for BHoF and the art form during her reigning year and beyond.

In this annual Queen’s Interview we discuss Midnite’s Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014 experience, challenges and developments in her early life, burlesque innovation, racism, and her hopes for the future…

21st Century Burlesque Magazine Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014 Coverage is sponsored by Fancy Feather.

Fancy Feather

Can you take me through your Saturday – how you prepared, your experience during the pageant, what was going through your mind when the results began to be announced, and then finally being announced as the winner?

Saturday I woke up and felt really good; I took it pretty easy the previous couple of days, got full nights of sleep and healthy meals in my belly. I went to work out, where I saw my future king Mr Gorgeous also at the Orleans gym. Then I went to eat lunch with some friends and headed to my tech time.

Tech, as always, is a bit stressful and stirs up the nerves. There’s always something you didn’t plan that ends up happening. But BIG kudos to the BHoF and Orleans tech crew for making things happen and coming up with the brilliant plan to tie a rope to my ladder and pull it from offstage so it didn’t become a ‘safety hazard’ once I climbed up the fabrics.  Then I went back to my room where I ate a good dinner, listened to a Brene Brown TED Talk to help remind myself to be vulnerable onstage, and got ready for the show. (If you don’t know Brene Brown I highly encourage you look up her TED talks – amazing and important!)

“Hearing the gasps and whispers from the crowd as I sat high on the ladder was exhilarating! I thought to myself, ‘Oh, just you wait and see what else I do!'”

I only got to watch Best Debut (which was a fabulous variety of amazing talents) and then had to head backstage to get ready. I listened to my song a couple of times, kept Brene Brown in my head, and then started strapping on the barely there costume. Unfortunately I was not able to see anyone else’s performances. They have a TV backstage that feeds onstage video, but the image is blown out and really hard to see, so I could only imagine how fabulous everyone was, especially with the audience continuing to burst out in accolades after each performance. And I want to say that backstage was so lovely. I have had the pleasure of working or playing with most of the other Queen competitors and the environment backstage was really full of love. And not fake Miss Congeniality love – real friendship and support. Snapping pictures together, helping glitter dust one another, and just joking at the nerves that we all had. What a lovely group of women to share that experience with!

Soon my turn was up and I felt ready. The performances always go by so quickly, but I felt more present and raw than I ever have before on the BHoF stage. My path (both onstage and off) has really lead me to strive to become more vulnerable and authentic, not worry so much about being ‘perfect’.  The room felt electric from the opening of the curtains to reveal my tall dress. Hearing the gasps and whispers from the crowd as I sat high on the ladder was exhilarating! I thought to myself, ‘Oh, just you wait and see what else I do!’ I revelled in each nuance and fed off the reactions as I leaned sideways, flipped upside-down for my ‘signature’ stocking peel, ascended the fabrics, and then pulled them down at the end. The audience was so supportive and loving and I felt connected to them the entire way through.

As I walked offstage I was so proud that the performance not only went well, but felt like a new deepening of this goal of authenticity. Who knows if anyone noticed or felt the difference besides me, but it felt amazing! And I promptly celebrated by finally getting a drink and cheersing backstage.

Actually getting crowned was the complete opposite of my experience of performing. I felt totally numb and out of my body! When they called my name I thought I misheard them. Ray Gunn scooped me up and spun me around as I just stood there, mouth dropped. It’s funny – every picture I see of me getting crowned I have my big ol’ mouth wide open. I thought to myself afterwards, ‘Really Midnite, you couldn’t have closed your mouth and smiled for a couple of nice shots?’  Ha ha! But again I was just so overwhelmed and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.

After that it was a blur of drinks, pictures, celebrations and a full on reign of instigation and fun!

Midnite Martini is crowned Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 by LouLou D'vil, Reigning Queen 2013.  ©Chris Harman/Harman House Photography   (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 - 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)
Midnite Martini is crowned Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 by LouLou D’vil, Reigning Queen 2013. ©Chris Harman/Harman House Photography (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)

In your pre-pageant interview you explained that you might not be able to perform ‘Blue Siren’, the act you submitted, and you were prepared to perform a light, fun number instead if necessary.  Obviously things worked out in the end; do you put that down to luck or fate in light of the outcome?

I’m not sure what it was, but I am ever so grateful! Like I said before, the crew was so great in figuring out all the complex elements of that routine. And I just feel thankful that they found a way to make it all happen!

In the interview you described your plans if you were to win, namely that you would use your profile to increase awareness of the Legends Challenge fundraising, of which you are the coordinator, and inform people about the history of the museum and the pageant. Now it has actually happened, is there anything you’ve considered that you would like to add to your plans?

Yes of course! Now I want to take on the world and do everything! But my first edict is to encourage the burlesque community and burlesque fans to become members of the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum. We have a goal of reaching over 1000 members by the end of the year and for just $35 you can join this amazing glittery family and support BHoF!

See the full edict here: http://www.burlesquehall.com/an-edict-from-the-queen-2014-miss-exotic-world-midnite-martini/

What was your overall experience of this year’s Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend?  Were there any standout performances for you that you’d like to praise?

I always have so much fun; it has become a family reunion for me as well as the legends. I loved the addition of Bazuka Joe’s ‘Let’s Have a Kiki’. It was so great to get a more intimate look at artists in the burlesque community who aren’t burlesque dancers. Plus Tigger! is always so much fun and they had a pretty cute DJ too!

Thursday’s show was fantastic! The acts that are still stuck in my head are James and the Giant Pasty – so subtle and gentle yet impactful and powerful; Sizzle Dizzle, whose joyful tribute act brought the whole audience to tears and to their feet; and Darlinda Just Darlinda who continues to show me how being vulnerable and authentic onstage is the greatest gift you can give an audience.

Friday’s show always makes me cry. The legends are truly inspirational onstage and World Famous *BOB* is such a joy to watch as she wholeheartedly guides us through the celebration. I just remember looking around the audience at each standing ovation and thinking, ‘these are my people’. It is so rare to have a community not only recognise but really praise and love those who came before us.

And Sunday’s show was the perfect capper to the weekend. Not only did I get to see my girl Fannie Spankings help emcee and the return of El Vez, but I’m always in awe of Trixie and Monkey, Michelle L’amour, Dusty Summers, and Stephanie Blake blew me and everyone else away! The whole show was just filled with such strength and power.

Midnite Martini performing her winning routine at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014.   ©Chris Harman/Harman House Photography  (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 - 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)
Midnite Martini performing her winning routine at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014. ©Chris Harman/Harman House Photography (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)

I believe that when you were younger you took various dance classes, including musical theatre dance, jazz and ballroom, in the hope of improving your figure skating; is that right?

That is right! I figure skated starting in elementary school and started dancing to improve my skating. But I fell in love with dancing more and began taking all sorts of classes as well as joining community musical theatre productions. I was painfully shy growing up and I had a really hard time finding my voice, so dancing and singing were the only ways I felt I could truly express myself for a long time. It was the only way I felt like others could see me and it became my sanctuary.

“They told us we all needed to lose weight and our talent and performance didn’t matter if we didn’t have ‘the look’.”

In 2003 you were accepted for a prestigious musical theatre course at the University of Northern Colorado, but you eventually transferred to a psychology course elsewhere.  Can you describe what happened to lead you to that decision?

Oh yes. I got into the musical theatre freshmen class; there were only around fifteen of us that got in and was so excited to start my path to Broadway (or so I hoped). The program and instructors put an enormous amount of pressure on us to look a certain way. This is nothing new in the world of theatre and dance, but this was a whole new level to what I was used to. They told us we all needed to lose weight and our talent and performance didn’t matter if we didn’t have ‘the look’.

Growing up as one of the only ethnic people in a very white suburb and family, plus the pressures of having a dancer’s body and just being a teenage woman in America, I had already struggled with body image and my relationship with food. And this program pushed and encouraged me to start developing harsh restriction of food during the week which lead to binging and purging on the weekends. All of which was accompanied by deep depression.

After a year I realised that staying in that program, in that environment, was clearly not a healthy place for me and I transferred to Boulder, Colorado and changed my major from musical theatre to psychology (which is pretty amusing to me now).

The change was good for me, but even though I moved away from the program I continued to struggle with my eating and taking care of my body for years.

Midnite Martini in her senior photo.  ©Midnite Martini  (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 - 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)
Midnite Martini in her senior photo. ©Midnite Martini (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)

With firsthand experience of eating disorders and the psychological impact of the pressure put on young performers by educational institutions and instructors, when you first became involved in burlesque, did you encounter a welcoming world of body acceptance and celebration as the world of burlesque is popularly described, and do you think that can truly be said of it today?  Has your time as a burlesque performer contributed to your healing process or significantly enhanced your relationship with your body?

Yes! That was the thing that really struck me about both aerial/circus and burlesque. The communities (or at least the ones I found) had performers with all different body types and looks and everyone was valued equally. The emphasis was on strength, artistry, and talent and it didn’t seem to matter what you looked like if you excelled in the rest.

Today I’m so ingrained in the community and I’m sure it’s more difficult for me to see it with the fresh eyes I did back when I started. But I would like to think that the community is still accepting of different body types and appearances. I mean, let’s be real, we’re still onstage and in show business so of course the pressures of looking a certain way (even if that just means having x-amount of rhinestones) is going to be there. But I believe the burlesque community has more ability and more openness to accept performers who don’t have ‘the look’ if they have ‘the talent’.  Having both is great, sure, but the performance comes first and the look is just one tool to support it, as well as innovation, music, character, storyline, and any other element of a routine.

Midnite Martini (front row, left) in a middle school musical. ©Midnite Martini  (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 - 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)
Midnite Martini (front row, left) in a middle school musical. ©Midnite Martini (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)

In 2005 you discovered a local troupe, Vivienne VaVoom’s Burlesque as it Was, and you performed as a member of that troupe until 2009. What were those first years in burlesque like for you?  Were you pleased to see Vivienne (aka Michelle Baldwin) honoured at this year’s Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend with an award?

Yeah, back in the day I contacted Vivienne and told her I danced and did aerial and wanted to try burlesque. She said great, we have a show next month, bring a couple of acts to it. I was lucky that back then burlesque was still underground and small enough in Denver that this is how I got in! So I brought a couple of dance acts to their show, they snuck me into the bar to perform (I was only twenty) and luckily Vivienne and the troupe liked me enough to officially add me to Burlesque as it Was. And the rest is history I guess!

I am very thankful for that opportunity and was pleased to see Vivienne be recognised for her contributions to the Colorado and larger burlesque community. Colorado really showed up to BHoF this year. Square state represent!

When it came to branching out into solo performance, what initial approach and style did you experiment with, and what were some of your first routines like?

Well, I went through a lot of burlesque growing pains, as many of us do. I think my overall style has always been classic with a twist, though I have dabbled in more comedic and slapstick routines, but overall my performances look quite different now. For one, my pasties were huge when I first started! And my acts were focused on doing tons of tricks and not much on connecting or creating moments with the audience. I have always done aerial, worked with props, and tried to come up with new or innovative tricks, but I was just so young! And as I grew and matured offstage it affected everything I did onstage.

I am so appreciative that the Colorado burlesque community and specifically my home venue, Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret, have always supported me through every awkward transition, and they have created a place where I have the freedom to experiment with different styles. To be funny one act and smouldering the next. There is a lot of trust there and that has allowed me to explore and to fail at times, an important thing to do as a growing artist!

Obviously you were influenced by your aerial apparatus training with Frequent Flyers Productions, which also began in 2005.  Did you immediately consider combining aerial and striptease, and were there any other examples of that at the time?

Yes, and I wanted to push beyond just sitting on an apparatus and taking something off. I wanted to see if there was a way to combine actual aerial vocabulary with striptease. So doing an inverted split that could at the same time take off a stocking. Or using a fabric wrap to cover the disrobing of a bra.

I hadn’t necessarily seen much aerial and burlesque when I first started. I had seen the Thomas A Edison video of the disrobing trapeze act but nothing modern (though I was new to the scene and didn’t know much about other performers at the time). Since then I am pleased to have been witness to so many burlesque dancers combine different aerial and variety beautifully. It inspires me to continue to push.

Midnite Martini. ©La Photographie Nashville  (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 - 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)
Midnite Martini. ©La Photographie Nashville (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)

Can you describe giving an aerial performance for those of us who have never looked down at an audience from those heights?  What do you particularly enjoy about it, and do you think people can underestimate the skill and discipline required when accomplished performers make it look so effortless and pretty (I know you’ve had some pretty horrific injuries in the past when things didn’t quite go to plan)?

It is easy to actually lose a bit of the connection with your audience. You are physically so disconnected, being so high up looking down on them, that I have found it important to take my time to have moments where you can try and re-establish that connection from above. I want to relate to an audience on the same level, so being on different levels (literally) with them creates a unique challenge.

I’m not sure if people think it is easier than it is or harder. Sometimes people think I can do anything because I’m up there (which is certainly not true), but hopefully there is an effortlessness in my performance that could easily trick people into thinking it is not that difficult.

“…an unoriginal performer will ride someone else’s wheel down someone else’s path for as long as they can. A true artist will take that wheel, tweak it, redesign it, do things to make it their own, and ride that wheel down their own path forever!”

You are acknowledged as one of our more innovative performers, designing fabulous adaptations such as your ‘finger feathers’ and choreographing athletic signature stocking peels which have been copied the world over.  Do you think encouraging innovation and imagination is increasingly important as the number of burlesque performers continues to grow, and high-glamour, often formulaic classic striptease is seen by some to be financially and competitively rewarded, and given more high profile attention than more alternative styles?

Yes, but in the sense of taking the responsibility to grow the art.  Since this art has such a long history and the current scene has so many performers it is easy and more tempting to merely copy or try to be someone else. Not always on purpose; sometimes it happens because performers don’t know any better or are so inspired by someone else they forget to also create.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; the wheel works, it is effective and successful and those who made the many wheels of burlesque before us are to be honoured and thanked! But an unoriginal performer will ride someone else’s wheel down someone else’s path for as long as they can. A true artist will take that wheel, tweak it, redesign it, do things to make it their own, and ride that wheel down their own path forever!

I have seen so many performers do toe stocking peels or what people call ‘my signature stocking peel’. Some do it exactly as I do and when I see that I see me onstage. But others have taken it and added their own twist, flare, pose, and when they do it I see them onstage. Art was meant to be be cultivated, and to grow it must be built upon, not just reproduced.

Now, to tell performers they have to create brand new moves or new inventions is extremely intimidating, unrealistic, and not necessarily the aim.  I encourage new performers to just find their unique selves. To innovate is defined as introducing something new or making changes to anything established, and that can be a brand new, never-seen-before thing or move, but I also think it can be found through authenticity. Whoever you are is unique and new; there has never been a you to dance burlesque before. So if you can be authentic and vulnerable to the audience and highlight the uniqueness that is you then you are innovative!

Midnite Martini at the Colorado Burlesque Festival.  ©Broken Glass Photography  (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 - 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)
Midnite Martini at the Colorado Burlesque Festival. ©Broken Glass Photography (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)

How would you describe your local burlesque scene in Colorado today, and what are some of the most successful and progressive local productions? How has its identity developed over the past nine years and what are your hopes for its future?

I am very proud of the Colorado scene and honoured to call it my home and family. I joined back in 2006 and the Denver scene was fairly small; the mainstream hadn’t really heard of it and shows were done sporadically in bars. But now we have weekly shows at several regular venues. My home venue, Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret, is a beautiful intimate showroom that has really been devoted to and given lots of opportunity to the burlesque shows. They house at least three weekly burlesque and variety shows, and some weeks we have up to five!

I’d also say that the scene went through some big transitions. First it was small and united, then it grew enough in participants that it fractured and stayed fractured for a few years. But over the past several years all of those fractured groups have been successful, paved their own ways, and have come back together to support the scene as a whole again, which is lovely.

You are a co-producer of the Colorado Burlesque Festival, which began in 2010. What made you decide Colorado was ready for its own festival, and which other burlesque festivals and events did you draw inspiration from?  Which aspects of the festival are you most proud of, and how would you like it to develop in the future?

Yes, CBF started up in 2010 and there were several motivations for starting up a burlesque festival in Denver. One was to (as I said in my previous answer) give a place to unite the entire Colorado scene. Provide a common event that everyone in Colorado had the chance to participate in in some way (through volunteering, taking classes, or applying to perform). It gave us a common goal to all get behind and I am happy to say I think everyone really has!

Also, we knew that the Colorado scene had some amazing local burlesque that didn’t get out of the state much. We wanted to highlight our performers and show the world that Colorado has a thriving burlesque scene! And at the same time we wanted our local performers to get to see some of the best from around the world and see what was beyond our state borders. We wanted to develop a way to connect and network us to the outside and I think that has been successful so far and has inspired many of our local performers to go out and apply or perform in other states now.

We are all really proud of the strides CBF has made and frankly a little shocked. Our first year the original producers (myself with Lola Spitfire, Honey Touche and Fannie Spankings) were thinking, ‘well let’s just get together and try out this thing.’  To our surprise we had sold out shows and performers from around the country come in and it exploded beyond our expectations! I am also proud that people just seem to have a really great time at CBF! It has the reputation of being a ‘party’ festival (though the shows will blow you away as well). The vibe and energy is so fabulous through the festival; we really try to make it welcoming, laid back and fun. The best word of mouth we’ve had are performers telling their friends how much fun they had at our festival!

For the future I hope we can get more local support and volunteers, perhaps develop a board or group who can help take on some of the duties and bring some fresh ideas to allow us to continue building and getting better. Right now I feel like our resources are tapped and all of the current producers (myself, Spitfire, Touche, with Naughty Pierre, Bunny Bee, and Boopsie) are at their maximum bandwidth. So bringing on more people I think could open up a lot of opportunity for the festival!

Midnite Martini  ©La Photographie Nashville  (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 - 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)
Midnite Martini ©La Photographie Nashville (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)

As well as producing the festival, you produce your own show, the Sexy Circus Sideshow.  Is producing something that has come naturally to you and that you were always keen to take on?  Have you developed strong views about burlesque production and the conduct of burlesque producers?

Certain aspects of producing came naturally just because I am usually a very organised person and am used to juggling a million things at once. I was always keen to take it on, but that’s because I used to take on anything! I’m just now learning how to say ‘no’ and that it’s okay to do so to find more balance in life.

Honestly, producing really is not my passion. I don’t mind it and can have a lot of fun with it, but overall I prefer performing. I started producing shows years ago just to give us a chance to perform, and now that there are tons of other producers at Lannie’s Clocktower and Denver I have realised that I quite enjoy just coming into someone else’s show and performing without all the producer stress.  But producing at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret has become very smooth and we have really found a flow to our shows there. They give us great support and trust us, and I realise how rare it is to have such a good relationship with a venue. So producing shows at the Clocktower has become second nature, and I do like having the power to focus on certain themes or performance styles. Like my Sexy Sideshow, I love that I can give our variety performers more spotlight and stage time. Instead of being backup performers to the dancers they are equals, and that is important to me.

“Having men yell out ‘Sucky sucky’ or ‘Love me long time’ becomes an internal self-belief. It brings a lot of shame and embarrassment to who you are, and not because that is who you are, but because that’s what others assume you are and put on you whether you like it or not.”

Issues of racism and cultural appropriation are frequently under discussion in the burlesque community.  What are some of your personal views and experiences; have you ever felt overlooked, offended or discriminated against as an Asian burlesque performer?  Do you feel an added sense of responsibility or opportunity to highlight these issues as an Asian Miss Exotic World?

This is a complex question that I could talk on for hours! It’s an even more complicated issue for me because I don’t always identify as Korean or Asian. I was adopted at a young age, and as I said earlier I grew up in a very white community and family. So in my young mind I was white until others pointed out differently. My experience of being ethnic was a bit more puzzling and complex.  And I have said this before, but I identify much more with fellow adoptees than Koreans. I feel like I can better connect and relate to their experience than I can to an Asian American. I have never felt fully white or fully Asian, but I do feel 100% adopted.

However, I am very proud of my heritage. And I am so honoured to be a performer of colour with the crown. One of my best memories of doing burlesque was having a young Asian woman approach me after a show and thank me for being strong and portraying Asian women as empowered, opposed to submissive or shy. I recognise the significance and respect the responsibility of being a performer of colour who is recognised in the community.

I haven’t necessarily felt overlooked as a performer of colour but I definitely have felt the racial stereotypes. There is an ‘exotic’ stigma placed on Asian women and many other women of colour. I have had a few producers book me because they wanted someone ‘exotic’ before they had even seen me perform. Also there’s a held idea that Asian women are either completely submissive or completely kinky and fetish. Whether this manifests as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ comment that comes out of a person’s mouth, the perception is still there. It is odd to have something like that put upon you without you doing anything to provoke it.

And I have even had a producer tell me (in trying to pay me a compliment) that some people probably did not come to their show because they saw my picture, saw I was Asian, and are just in ‘that generation’ where they didn’t want to see me and were used to blondes instead. Where’s the compliment you ask? Well they then went on to say that if they saw how beautiful I was in person they would have been down at the show in a heartbeat. Enough to make your skin crawl, but unfortunately these comments are real and normal.

And this goes beyond the stage. As a young woman growing up I was made to think that being Asian was bad. I’m different; it’s my fault. Having men yell out ‘Sucky sucky’ or ‘Love me long time’ becomes an internal self-belief. It brings a lot of shame and embarrassment to who you are, and not because that is who you are, but because that’s what others assume you are and put on you whether you like it or not. Even just having someone today ask me to do a traditional Asian act can be triggering. But again it is usually done out of naivety, not malice, and you learn how to deal with it while doing as much as you can to combat it behind the scenes.

I often deal with these issues with humour and have developed a somewhat thick skin to racial matters (growing up in white suburbia will do that to a girl). I am sarcastic and sometimes inappropriate, though always in jest; that has become my personal defense mechanism for dealing with such sometimes painful things.

The perspectives and views of performers of colour is a subject that I think needs to continue to be talked about and debated, within the community and my own personal life. Conversation and communication will hopefully help us all develop some much needed growth and deepening. I will not shy away from this discussion as Queen and if the discussion gets louder because I am Queen I think that is a great thing for the community!

Midnite Martini. ©Phiix Media  (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)
Midnite Martini. ©Phiix Media (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)

In a previous interview you explained that, as an adult, you have taken an interest in adoption culture and the adjustment adopted children go through, and concluded that you may have struggled more than you originally thought with events in your early life, and that you may not be fully at peace with it now.   Have you returned to South Korea at any stage, and where do you feel you are at in terms of processing that part of your life and identity, and reconciling your dual heritage and cultural roots?

No, unfortunately I have not gone back to South Korea yet, but I am continuing to look more deeply at my desires to find my birth family and have an instinctual sense that searching for them and going back to Korea will happen in the next few years. I know that it is definitely something I want to face and process through before having kids of my own.

I’m still very much in my process of looking closer at my adoption. I have actually spent the past several years really working through past traumas and parsing through many things that I learned to repress or deny before. I am confident to say I can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel and I have got to know and love myself and my truth more than ever before. I hope that I will continue to do so and am sure that my journey will lead me back to Korea, attempting to find my birth family, and coming to terms with all the emotions that come with that.

I’m not sure how soon that will be, but I am starting to feel excited about that day opposed to deathly afraid. I take that as a good thing.

“…continuing to be inviting while still keeping a high standard of work for those who do decide to perform is an important challenge.”

What does Midnite Martini do for fun?  I already know how crazy you are about the Denver Broncos; what else do you like to do to relax and enjoy life?

I am trying to carve out more time to spend at home and with my family and friends. I, like many of us, have spent all my working life running around from gig to gig, piecing together 18 different jobs and living a crazy artist’s life. But I crave more balance now, more ease and less struggle.

So the first thing I hope to do for fun is to actually have time to have fun with! Because I am lucky enough to have a job that involves dressing up, going to a nightclub, socialising, dancing, laughing with friends, and drinking, it’s the nights where I can be in my sweats, sit on the couch with Buster and our dog Dean Martin, no makeup, and have nowhere to go all night that sounds like fun to me!

Midnite Martini. ©Phiix Media  (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)
Midnite Martini. ©Phiix Media (Interview: Midnite Martini, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014 – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)

What, in your mind, are the three biggest challenges facing burlesque today?   What are your hopes for its future?

Ooh, that is a tough one. These may not be the top three, but are the three that came to mind first…

One is the line that I feel the neo-burlesque movement has always walked is getting increasingly tricky. There is a balance in burlesque of being inclusive to everyone yet keeping a high standard of art that not everyone can attain. There is a welcoming element of burlesque that says ‘anyone can do it!’ Yet professional burlesquers are highly committed, trained, hard working, talented, and creative artists that produce artwork that not everyone can do. So continuing to be inviting while still keeping a high standard of work for those who do decide to perform is an important challenge.

Second is the challenge to the community to celebrate and connect our legends to this neo-movement locally. I will admit that until taking on the Legends Challenge I was not the best at this, and I am still not the best but am working on it!  The legends are these amazing ballsy women and men and I often thought to myself that I’m just some pipsqueak that they don’t want to talk to. I was shy and scared to talk to them or reach out. I was and still am so intimidated by these pavers-of-our-way that it was sometimes scary to connect. But in sucking it up and reaching out anyway I have found so many legends to be kind, supportive, and so lovely. They are welcoming and wells of knowledge and inspiration that are here for us to tap into!  This connection of past and present is such a vital part of our community and art and we need to continue to challenge ourselves to work and reach out to them. In a society that often mistreats or forgets about their elders, one stand-out thing of the burlesque community is how much it celebrates its legends. It helps create the magic of this burlesque family, so let’s not let that magic go ignored or be taken advantage of!

And third, I think it is what I touched on in the innovation conversation. Making sure we take the wheel of burlesque and not just ride on its coat tails, but continue to grow, expand, challenge, and push it with innovation and authenticity.

http://www.MidniteMartini.com

Further Reading
The Would-Be Queens: Midnite Martini
PHOTOS: Midnite Martini is Crowned Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014

Read more Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014 Coverage here!