In a new series, Isabelle L’Amour shares her experiences from her first two years in burlesque. This week she discusses choosing a burlesque name…
When it came to choosing a burlesque name for myself before I took to the stage it was hardly a difficult choice; I had been toying with performing for a few years previously and therefore had plenty of time to create a fitting moniker.
Isabelle L’Amour is a product of two main influences: the French heritage of my civilian name family tree, and my love for a certain diary of a certain famous call girl. I had always fancied myself as a Belle, so when coupled with L’Amour it became ‘Beautiful Love’, loosely translated, but something about it didn’t roll off the tongue quite right, and lo, Isabelle was born.
Choosing a burlesque name is not something to go into lightly as this will follow you for the rest of your performing career, so choose wisely; a silly nickname or a topical choice might seem a good idea at the time, but are you going to feel the same way in a year, or maybe five years time? Also, if you do decide you’ve fallen out of love with your choice and change your burlesque name, will your loyal following realise and come with you, or will you lose fans or even bookings from your change of heart?
A point that I’ve brought to the attention of some of my students that are choosing names at the moment is the use of your burlesque name in real life. I only know some of my performer friends by their stage names, so you may not mind being a Kitty or a KiKi backstage, but would you want someone approaching you in the street and calling you Tits McGee in front of your future mother in law? I think not.
Leading a double life with your stage persona is more common than you may think; after two years I find myself hearing parents calling their to their usually very young daughters in the supermarket, and turn around because I’ve become more accustomed to being called Isabelle rather than plain old Natalie. I’ve sometimes found that performers’ real names are a taboo subject; if you know them, you’re considered to be in their inner circle, an elite members only club, regardless of whether you think the stage name was actually better suited to them than ‘Emma’ or ‘Sarah’.
It’s an extension of your personality, amplifying the wonderful, unique and totally individual character that you have created through burlesque. Be perceived how you want to be and break free from the chains of your boring civilian name! OK, I’ll get down from my soapbox, but the sentiment is true: if you’re a wallflower, you can turn yourself into someone different with a hair flick and a sassy burlesque name. It’s one of the aspects I really love about burlesque – that chameleon-esque adaptability that you can change your character as easily as your outfit.
Note from the Editor: To burlesque newcomers choosing a name, I advise you to, at the very least, Google the name you are thinking of using and run it through social networking sites. All too often a lack of basic research causes conflict and confusion, and it will do you no favours to have the same or very similar name as an established performer, even if you’re on separate continents (the internet makes the world a very small one). Be original and creative! We have so many Cherrys, Kittys, Kittens, Scarletts, Bettys, Lou Lous and Lolas (etc. etc.) already; delve into music, literature, language, history, art, fashion, film, even pop culture, and find a unique burlesque name that captures you as a performer. Happy hunting! H-M.
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.