The Would-Be Queens: 20 Questions with April O’Peel (BHoF 2014)
It’s that time of year again when the ten wonderful women selected to compete for Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque face my pre-pageant interview. This year, the contenders were sent twenty questions, composed of a question contributed by each of them and some additional questions from previous Miss Exotic World title-holders. Next up is comedy queen April O’Peel…
21st Century Burlesque Magazine Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014 Coverage is sponsored by Fancy Feather.
Your signature style in three words: Ridiculous, audacious, bodacious!
Previous BHoF Weekend appearances (and awards, if any): I’ve performed in the Best Group category with the Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society in 2010 and 2012, and again in the Best Group category with The Razzle Tassel Tease Show in 2011. I also competed in the Best Debut category in 2012 and was the winner of Most Comedic that year as well.
The act you will be performing: A tribute to legendary performer Carrie Finnell. I love performing this act and I’m really excited that I get to share what my vision of her character was. Carrie was an original Zeigfeld girl and had a career that lasted well into her seventies. Apparently she beat Mae West in a strip-off, introduced Bud Abbott to Lou Costello, talked Gypsy Rose Lee into taking off her clothes on stage, has been credited for inventing not only the strip, but the nipple tassel. Carrie also held the record for the world’s longest striptease – 54 weeks in Cleveland, one piece at a time. She was billed as ‘the girl with the $100, 000 legs’, and then later ‘the remote control girl’ for her talent at twirling tassels with only her pectoral muscles. I studied a lot of Judith Stein’s tapes for inspiration. I think Judith is so sexy but still absolutely hilarious at different moments during her acts. I love how she communicates with her audience – she has conversations with people without saying a thing. I imagined Carrie as being that same sort of truly engaging character on stage. I hope that I’ve done her justice.
What did you want to be as a kid?
A rock star. Happy.
What is your earliest memory of rebellion?
Telling my mother I would never have children (I was probably 5?)
If you could pick celebrity parents (alive or dead, any era) who would they be?
Kermit and Miss Piggy.
What is one thing most people do not know about you?
Hmmm… Maybe that I do have a pretty decent range as a performer. I just excel at/enjoy comedy and tend to lean towards that more. I think it’s really neat that I’m competing with what I would consider a fairly straight number (at least for me).
What is your guilty pleasure?
Sweet, sweet Mary Jane.
Is there a rock/music star that influences you? If so, who is it and how do they influence you?
Jem and the Holograms. When I was a kid, there was no one cooler than Jem and her friends. Now I’m my own version of a rock star with my own gang of vibrantly/multi/neon coloured friends.
What is integral to your creative process in burlesque?
A positive mental attitude and great music.
What do you want people to remember most about your performances when you are dead and gone?
That I made them feel happy.
How long does it take for you to get into hair and makeup for a show? (Don’t lie, we all know you’re a diva… we all are, darling.)
Depends. I am a master at doing my hair and makeup quickly because I would rather spend time doing other things. I can pull it off in thirty minutes if needed. Otherwise, an hour is what I usually budget.
Do you have any traditional pre-show ritual that you do to calm your nerves or bring luck?
If I am feeling nervous, I have a toke, take a bath, and listen to some sort of calming playlist on Songza. Really just depends on time and the situation.
‘I like to get up to a fair amount of hijinks on the road; what is your favourite tour story?’
We did a pretty good job recreating the five guys humping furniture video on our last Dirty Dancing tour! (Video)
For whom you would like to perform if you could pick anyone, and why?
I wish my Dad could have seen me perform in a large/impressive venue like the Vogue or the Orleans before he passed away. He only ever got to see me at the Cobalt, a legendary punk venue in Vancouver where I got my start with the Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society. He was, how you say… not a fan.
Old school or new school?
Can’t have the new school without the old school! I do have my favourite part of history that I prefer to tribute: all the parody and vaudeville elements from the late 1800s/early 1900s are my favourite. That being said, I have major respect for the diversity of neo-burlesque; there literally is something for everybody. I just find it so exciting to be part of the evolution of the art form. I want to be able to say, ‘Yes, I was part of this,’ and that I contributed something awesome that was part of the development of burlesque at this time.
What is your competitive strategy?
Have the most fun.
You’ve imagined yourself performing at the pageant and doing a GREAT show. And then suddenly, they are placing that tiara upon your head. What was it about you, your show and your performance that put you in first place, and how have you been preparing to make that fantasy a reality?
I think that my style reads because I try to sell joy. I’m happy if people are at all titillated by my performances but my focus when I am on stage is to radiate joy. I believe that my life purpose is to make other people happy and it’s no different on stage. I think maybe people love me because I love them. In all honesty, I’ve been trying not to build it up too much in my mind. I really think its just awesome that I get to perform with all my friends that I have grown up with and looked up to here in Vancouver. I just want to make it there and have a great show.
If you are selected as this year’s Miss Exotic World, what will you try to accomplish to make your mark on the title and how do you plan to distinguish yourself?
All I can do is let my work speak for itself. I would love to travel more and bring my brand of comedic sexy to the world.
As Queen, how would you consider using your title to spread the word about The Burlesque Hall of Fame and Museum?
I would be more than happy to be an ambassador for the organisation. I thought Indigo Blue did such a great job keeping the museum present and visible; it was really at the forefront of everything she did that year. The YouTube videos, the tiara and sash at all times; she was a Queen who really was an ambassador. I’d love to be able to try to replicate that level of involvement and awareness.
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