Lola van Ella’s New Orleans Festival Diary…
Oh New Orleans! What a whirlwind!
I was thrilled to be heading back for the New Orleans Burlesque Festival, which has quickly become one of my favourite fesitvals and burlesque weekends…
I packed up my costumes, my swing, supplies for the class I’d be teaching and more glittery and rhinestoned things than probably necessary (and of course lots of road trip snacks) and headed out with Sammich the Tramp and my little sister, Jessica (in the actual biological sense of the word) to drive to New Orleans. In addition, two of my adorable Bon-Bons, Bitsy Bittersweet and Dewy de Cimalle caravanned right along with us.
We drove most of the hefty drive Thursday night before stopping at a hotel so that I could wake up at the crack of dawn to do a radio interview with Kitten on the Keys for the Jay Thomas morning show. I will say that trying to be witty that early in the morning with no coffee is not the easiest thing. I did my best however, and Kitten, as usual, was her clever, sassy self.
We arrived in New Orleans early Friday afternoon, checked in quickly and headed to the Bon-Bons tech-rehearsal for our group piece in the Mondo Burlesque show that night. This is usually where the whirlwind begins. Road weary and in heels, we mustered up the dazzle and marked our piece and got excited about debuting our new act. Also, this was Dewy de Cimalle‘s very first festival, and I love that I got to share that with her. She was gracefully nervous and I couldn’t wait to share the stage with her and the rest of the gals.
We arrived at the Harrah’s theater amidst the buzz of burlesque fest excitement. We shared a dressing room with the Chicago Starlets, which is fun regardless, but especially because of our midwest connection and the fact that we all color coordinated so well in our red and black ensembles. We all helped each other get ready, with Gogo McGregor pinning in the lovely head piece she made for me, and glittering the bottoms of Bon-Bons and Starlets alike.
The show was fabulous and everyone was lovely. I always enjoy Ophelia Flame and her fierce stage presence, Angi B. Lovely‘s silks routine was beautiful, Jett Adore had everyone screaming, and Michelle L’amour gave a sexy, committed performance. Plus, I have to say that I think the Bon-Bons did a pretty great job! I was definitely proud.
After the Mondo show we all headed to the House of Blues for a hell of a night. The place was packed and the energy was really high. It’s definitely one of my favorite venues to perform and to see a show.
The show was fantastic! Unfortuately I didn’t see all of it, but the acts I did see were stellar. Catherine DLish’ gorgeous costume and fans, Shanghai Pearl‘s over the top sexuality, Bazuka Joe‘s ever shrinking towels, Ray Gunn‘s unbelievably sexy gymnastics and Satan’s Angel‘s incredible, energetic, fiery performance. The other highlight was definitely seeing one of the only non-striptease performances really bring the house down. Sammich the Tramp came out all punk rock intensity and hobo-hilarity. So great.
Saturday morning came all too quickly, and after the obligatory beignets and au lait’s at Cafe du Monde, and a Pimm’s Cup with Ophelia Flame and friends, I headed to tech rehearsal for the Queen of Burlesque show at Harrah’s. I greeted Rick Delaup who was a flurry of nervous energy and busyness and set to work with the Bustout Burlesque band. I love these guys and it’s always great to work with them. However, being up on that stage, hearing my music for the first time with the live band, making sure my wireless mic works, and working with my swing in a new place, really got my nerves in high gear.
I will admit that I don’t get nervous that often anymore. I am always excited, but rarely do I get very nervous. Well, NOBF really keeps me humble. Both years I have been a nervous wreck. All fluttery, twittery, flushy, queasy, nervous burlesque ball of nerves. I would be performing a very new piece, and all of the weight hit me at once. However, realizing that I am doing what I am completely and totally passionate about in front of a fabulous audience and with a group of amazing and beautiful performers keeps everything in perspective.
“It doesn’t feel competitive at all. Each of these women are queens. Beautiful, benevolent, sweet and incredibly glittery queens, who are all more than happy to share some of that glitter with you…”
I went back to the hotel to get ready, where burlesque gal-pal Greta Garter was waiting with mama bird helpfulness to do my hair and to pet me and shush me when I got too twittery.
I am not a big fan of competitions, but one of the things I love about the New Orleans Queen of Burlesque competition (besides of the healthy dose of nerves it gives me) is the camaraderie and encouragement backstage.
It doesn’t feel competitive at all. Each of these women are queens. Beautiful, benevolent, sweet and incredibly glittery queens, who are all more than happy to share some of that glitter with you. Walking into the dressing room was a shock of sparkle. So many gorgeous costumes, and nearly naked gorgeous women. I love my life. We all chatted, caught up and got ready for the show. Did I mention I was nervous? Oh dear.
The show was amazing. Even better than last year. Each lady really went out there and performed. It was such a show. So much loveliness. Ruby Joule‘s sweet theatricality, Evie Lovelle‘s amazing skin and figure under the gorgeous lighting, Renea le Roux totally owning it (and in so much sparkle!), Indigo Blue‘s unreal costume and fabulous fan work, Catherine D’Lish being sexier and bendier (is that even a word?) than I can ever remember, Ginger Valentine‘s beauty, charm and wonderful dancing, Amber Ray‘s sparkly presence and sheer joy, and of course, Coco Lectric‘s incredibly fierce, intense and downright HOT performance. It was incredible.
When it was my turn to go, I was in another world, but the moment I hit the stage and felt those lights hit me, I knew I was in my element. It was quite a moment. I sang Dream a Little Dream, and the band played beautifully, and I felt the love of music, the lyrics and the audience. When the music changed, and the swing was lowered, it turned into a frenzy of energy and pure dancing joy. I had a blast, and left the stage knowing that in the end, I just wanted to entertain people, and it felt like I had.
When the results were announced, I was beyond thrilled to have won 1st runner-up. Such an honor! And I couldn’t have been happier to share the stage with 2nd runner-up Renea le Roux and winner Coco Lectric who was beyond deserving. I am so happy for her and so happy I have had the chance to get to know her. She is a delight!
The night continued in a flurry of flash bulbs, dancing, another fantastic House of Blues show, birthday cake, great conversation with Satan’s Angel, and copious amounts of Irish whiskey. So much fun!
I woke up and rushed off to teach on Sunday morning, coffee in hand, and had a wonderful and inspiring time with the students who took the class. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and recooping before once again, getting all dolled up for the final show. It was lovely to sit and enjoy the show with no stress, worries or agenda of any sort. Plus, I was really excited to see one of my favorite people and performers on the planet, Perle Noire perform.
It was a delightful show, Perle did not disappoint! Dante’, magician and host was charming, Stephanie Blake was wonderful; Kitten Deville, doing one of her signature pieces was fabulous, and all of the performers did a great job. After the show, we headed to the Carousel bar for one last hurrah. Kitten on the Keys played the piano and led the bar in many a sing-a-long, I got to catch up with many friends and performers I hadn’t seen all weekend, and enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere after a wild and crazy burlesque weekend.
So much excitement in such a short amount of time! I am so happy that I was once again a part of such a magical experience and truly cannot wait for next year! I’m already plotting my new act…
Lola van Ella.
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More post-coverage from NOBF coming soon…