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.
Let’s hear from a burlesque force of nature, Perle Noire…
If I looked you up in a twinkling, rhinestone covered burlesque dictionary, what would the entry for ‘Perle Noire’ say?
1. a ball of fire.
2. highly luminous explosion.
3. ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling.
4. arousing or exciting the senses
5. dancing with exaggerated movements of the hips and shoulders.
Paint us a little picture of your everyday life and work in New York and New Orleans…
The first thing I do when I wake up is dance to the Vanity 6 classic, Nasty Girls. Then I check my email and send out my resume and YouTube links to producers around the world. After working on the computer I sashay downstairs and pour myself a glass of water in my favorite champagne flute before I practice my routines. My workout regimen is followed by a warm milk bath. I like to sit and daydream about ???? After my bath I check out Facebook and 21st Century Burlesque to get an update on my friends and soon to be lovers. If I’m in New York I put my face on and head to the train to perform or meet my girls for champagne. When I’m in New Orleans I rock out with the Bustout Burlesque crew. I love my life!
What would you say is your greatest strength?
I think my greatest strength is my ability to appreciate constructive criticism. I don’t think I’m the best performer in the world. I believe that I can always give more to the audience.
What has been the highlight or defining moment of your career to date, and also in your life overall?
I’m very fortunate. Despite my humble beginnings I managed to beat the odds and make something out of nothing. Before I was chosen by burlesque I was a full time actress and singer. However, I always dreamed of paying tribute to Josephine Baker. The most defining moment for me was when I performed my tribute to her in 2008 at BHoF. I performed that act for years previously, but I didn’t perform in front of so many of my idols and living legends. At that moment I felt liked I belonged to something special and that I was finally accepted for all that I am. I still cry when I think about it.
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?
I’m performing a new act called ‘Exotique Mystere’. This act is inspired by the African goddess Oshun. Everyone has seen an Egyptian or Roman Goddess or Queen act but how many people pay tribute to the African gods or queens? This act is important to me because I want to change or bring awareness to people’s perception of African culture. My costume is elegant and colourful. The act has a classic and modern influence.
“This year I decided to be myself 100% … I’m crazy, wild and passionate. I learned that I can’t please everyone … And that’s okay. My approach is to stay true to myself and the stage.”
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?
This year I decided to be myself 100%. People like me because of the way I dance. I’m crazy, wild and passionate. I learned that I can’t please everyone. Even though I consider myself a classic burlesque performer, others disagree. And that’s okay. My approach is to stay true to myself and the stage.
Is competing something you enjoy, or that pushes or encourages you to excel?
I’m very competitive, but I’m always competing with myself.
Why is BHoF special and important to you? What are some of your favorite memories from past years?
The BHoF is special because the weekend brings artists, legends and press together to celebrate burlesque. This is a beautiful art form that should stay alive. I feel so lucky and honoured to meet the women who started it all. My favourite moments are the moments with the legends. I love to watch them dance and listen to their stories of glory.
How would you spend your year as Queen – do you have any specific plans or goals if you win?
I would spend my year raising money towards the museum. Sometimes I look at the old photos from Helendale and I’m so jealous. The museum looked amazing and I would love to help bring that back. The weekend is amazing, but the museum is the most important thing. We need to make sure burlesque never dies and make the museum bigger and better then ever!
What are your dreams and hopes for burlesque in the future, and yourself as a part of it?
I love burlesque because it’s one of the oldest forms of theatre. I hope that people will continue to take part and support all the burlesque festivals around the world and the BHoF museum. I hope to see bigger and more glamorous shows around the world. My personal goal is to star in a burlesque revue in Paris. The name of the show will be ‘La Baker’!
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.