The Would-Be Queens: 20 Questions with Sydni Deveraux (BHoF 2014)
21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene…
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. First up is last year’s 1st Runner Up title-holder, Sydni Deveraux…
21st Century Burlesque Magazine Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014 Coverage is sponsored by Fancy Feather.
Your signature style in three words: Musical, charming, powerful.
Previous BHoF Weekend appearances (and awards, if any): Last year I took the award for 1st Runner Up to the Reigning Queen of Burlesque – or ‘Princess’, if you please. I competed in Best Debut with my peacock act in 2010. I appeared in group acts in 2006 and 2008? I’m forgetting exact years, but it was with the troupes that I started with, Burning Hearts Burlesque and Sinner Saint Burlesque (founding member).
The act you will be performing: My giant peach dress act!
What did you want to be as a kid?
An entertainer, and if that didn’t work out, a lawyer. I did have a fascination with stripping and Vegas showgirls as an early teen that never quite went away.
What is your earliest memory of rebellion?
Of major rebellion? I suppose either getting my first tattoo in a basement at sixteen/seventeen years old or getting my tongue pierced at sixteen without any parental consent. Otherwise I was quietly rebellious. I didn’t like the kids in my neighborhood, but my parents made me go out and play with them anyway. So instead of spending time with any of them I would sneak into the woods and read for a few hours until my time was up. I was an only child, and a loner to boot. I liked very few people my age when I was younger. I was constantly reading or daydreaming. Not all that much has changed.
If you could pick celebrity parents (alive or dead, any era) who would they be?
Well, I adore my parents so I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but in an alternate reality maybe I would pick Audrey Hepburn and Sidney Poitier. They are both huge inspirations to me.
What is one thing most people do not know about you?
I am an introvert and a highly sensitive/empathic individual. I suppose you wouldn’t guess it from the taking off clothes on stage thing, but I know I’m not the only one like that in the business. I would almost bet that more than half of us are like me. Delightful, introverted weirdos.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Champagne. Although I’m rarely guilty about it.
Is there a rock/music star that influences you? If so, who is it and how do they influence you?
Oof! The music of both AC/DC and Led Zeppelin influences me in ways I’ll probably not understand. Listening to Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan reminds me that there are glorious times to act like a lady. Then I smoosh my hands together and hope it all works out on stage.
What is integral to your creative process in burlesque?
Music. It is the first thing I think about.
What do you want people to remember most about your performances when you are dead and gone?
How I made them feel while I was on stage. Hopefully transported and elated. Full of love. Full of… other things (wink).
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.)
I don’t fuck around with my hair anymore; I wear wigs (chemicals to get my hair straight and the amount of time is just not worth it to get the look I like for me personally) and my makeup takes about thirty minutes but I could do it in twenty if I was pressed. So all together, I’d say about thirty minutes for me to feel stage ready aesthetically. I LOVE getting an hour and a half to get ready, though; I put on some Led Zeppelin and take my time feeling out my colour palette and styling my hair. Super fun!
Do you have any traditional pre-show ritual that you do to calm your nerves or bring luck?
I put on most if not all of my makeup before I’m at the venue if I can, even if it’s hours early. I put on my shoes at least fifteen minutes before I am on stage so that my feet are cozy and understand what they are about to do. I ground myself into the earth, envision my energy swirling about my body, and ask that cosmic energy allows me to be at my most entertaining. And then I breathe.
‘I like to get up to a fair amount of hijinks on the road; what is your favourite tour story?’
There was this time at Theatre Bizarre… and another time at a spin the bottle party at BHoF, and another time that I can’t tell you about. A lady tries desperately not to tell all her bad girl stories, right?
For whom you would like to perform if you could pick anyone, and why?
Jennie Lee. I’ve heard and read that she was so full of love and life, so it would have been an honour to show her another part of her legacy (we are all her legacy) in creating the BHoF and all the work she did with the League of Exotic Dancers.
Old school or new school?
ALL school. Do what moves you.
What is your competitive strategy?
Rehearse a little every day and take care of my body. I am dealing with a knee injury right now, so it’s more important than ever for me to honour my body and take the time I need to ice and heal. Yoga. Rest. Hydration. Eat well. Do my best to give a great performance. Be present. Love my audience. Love myself.
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?
It’s not for me to say what it was that made me win, only hopefully that my performance was wonderful and that they truly enjoyed it and felt transported into my story. I would love to be able to say that I felt good about it and did my best. I am preparing by feeling grateful to have the opportunity to dance on that giant stage for so many people that I adore and respect.
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?
It is my intention to travel as much as I can to carry my brand of burlesque and to teach more and more women how to access their beautiful individuality on stage (and off) as well. I would also love to bring more visibility to POC performers that are performing at this level; there are a few of us, but with more visibility I hope that we can inspire more to come and join the party!
As Reigning Queen of Burlesque, how would you consider using your title to spread the word about The Burlesque Hall of Fame and Museum?
I already talk about the Museum and Weekender every time that I host a show and also when people ask me about my participation in this art form. I would hope that I could have the opportunity to publicly talk about and support the museum every time I went to a big festival or convention, encouraging more performers to get interested in the legends and how our own individual legacies will help to give the museum more life. Our history is important. I would love to see the Museum get more support from more people and for it to get out there in the mainstream. After all, much of the entertainment industry has vaudeville and burlesque as its foremothers! I would love to encourage more people to know about it and for them to feel compelled to go to Vegas to discover more.
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21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.