As we count down to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend, let’s find out more about the eleven talented temptresses competing for Reigning Queen! I have asked each of them about their lives, personalities, preparations and plans, so that those who don’t already know them well can learn a little about them and their work, and those of us who know them better can enjoy their thoughtful and entertaining responses.
Finally, some insight and hilarity from Ophelia Flame…
If I looked you up in a twinkling, rhinestone covered burlesque dictionary, what would the entry for ‘Ophelia Flame’ say?
Ophelia Flame noun \ō-ˈfēl-yə\ˈflām\
1. live performer of the burlesque arts known to incite a burning sensation in the hearts of audience members.
2. fiery redheaded creature, closely related to the peacock, whose natural habitat is preening in bright light.
3. a bawdy broad with a penchant for dirty rock and cocktails at inappropriate hours.
Paint us a little picture of your everyday life and work in Minneapolis…
6am, yoga, coffee, Facebook, spinning, Udon, rehearsal, massage, Gina Louise, costumes, coffee, cookies, more yoga, Playful Peacock Showgirl Academy, dinner, bedtime stories, laundry, wine, friends, hot tub, Facebook, 1 am, bedtime… Rinse and REPEAT.
Can you tell me a bit about your chosen act? Why have you chosen it, is it an old trusted act, or a new routine? Have you made any special changes or ‘upgrades’ to it for BHoF?
This is a new act, but I’ve been working on it for quite a while. The costume is a collaboration with the very talented Seattle costumer, Danial Hellman. I cannot say enough good things about Danial. He is so incredibly talented! I had been looking for a new costumer in Minneapolis, and when Danial contacted me after BHoF last year I was thrilled but very apprehensive. The idea of doing a big costume across country seemed daunting if not totally ridiculous. We discussed the concept and colour, then he sent me a sketch. It was so beautiful and beyond my imagination, I knew I had to do it! We did only one live fitting, shipping it back and forth over the last nine months. I must say that every step of the way has been a joy.
The act itself is the most personal I’ve ever done, but you wouldn’t necessarily read that from seeing it. Mostly it’s a classic striptease in a very pretty costume, but the greater meaning for me is about personal triumph and the ability to reinvent oneself at any moment. In 2009 I was dealt a devastating blow that left my family completely broke and unsure of our future. With some serious hard work, we managed to rebuild our life. Though one of the worst experiences of my life, it gave me the opportunity to push through and reclaim an even stronger self. This act celebrates personal transformation by embracing darkness, fear, betrayal and using it to lift up rather than consume you.
I would love to hear more about the hilarious act you performed in last year’s pageant – how did you come up with that one?
My act last year was inspired by the silly phenomenon of people photocopying their faces. Everything else just fell into place. I love that act because it makes people laugh. One thing is certain – everyone loves a beaver joke!
“The experiences I’ve had at BHoF are incomparable to anything else in my career as a burlesque performer. It’s where we learn from our foremothers, from each other, and find ourselves in a vast and growing web of artists across the globe.”
You have competed before. What has previous experience taught you – do you plan to do anything differently this year, or adopt a different approach or attitude?
I’ve got a new attitude this year! I plan to lace each of my competitors’ food with Ex-Lax leading up to Saturday. Things should be ‘smooth sailing’ after that! *wink*
Is competing something you enjoy, or that pushes or encourages you to excel?
BHoF absolutely encourages me and reinvigorates me every year! The experiences I’ve had at BHoF are incomparable to anything else in my career as a burlesque performer. It’s where we learn from our foremothers, from each other, and find ourselves in a vast and growing web of artists across the globe.
I choose to view competition as a constructive element, not a destructive force. To work hard and be the best I can be is my goal. I want to connect with my audience, entertain the crowd and feel like I did my personal best. I enjoy drawing from the inspiration I get from BHoF Weekend to create something beautiful that hopefully inspires someone else to do the same.
It cannot be denied, as the talented and outspoken Miss Astrid noted, that there’s an element of deep irony in offering ourselves up to be judged and compared to one another. This is especially true since I know many of us consider ourselves feminists. But there is a paradox here. (Or ten!) I want to win, yet I feel I have already won. I strive, yet I am not attached to the outcome. I feel every single contestant, many of whom are my dear friends, is worthy of the title. Many more are as well! Our community is ripe with talent.
My goal is to be recognised by my greater community as someone who consistently produces good work that’s worthy of showcasing, and who has a place in American burlesque. It’s easy to get caught up in egos, titles, and tiaras and forget that the weekend is a fundraising event for the museum that honours the history of our craft and offers an awesome, supportive community. Whether it’s competing in a pageant or sitting in a carnival dunk tank, I’d do whatever I could to support that cause.
How would you spend your year as Queen – do you have any specific plans or goals if you win?
I’d be thrilled and honoured to win the trophy and represent the Burlesque Hall of Fame during 2012! No matter what happens, my goals are the same as they always have been: to celebrate our burlesque foremothers in every way possible, to support the Hall of Fame and museum, and to be a proud performer showing the world what the art of burlesque is.
I’m going to Disneyland!
What are your dreams and hopes for burlesque in the future, and yourself as a part of it?
I’ve enjoyed watching the neo scene transform over the last ten years. I’d like to see performers continue to be inspired and create good work with integrity and respect. As for myself, burlesque is my vocational calling. I will always be a part of it, and it will always be a part of me.
The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.