I have just concluded a Skype call with Bella Blue, producer of The Blue Book Cabaret at Lucky Pierre’s, regarding her decision to stop working at the venue and her feelings about the past weekend.
As most of you will know at this point, burlesque performer Ruby Rage was dropped by the venue, apparently due to her body type and appearance, and a statement was published by a Lucky Pierre’s spokesperson which provoked fury from the international burlesque community. Blue Book producer Bella Blue – Ruby’s close friend and colleague – was informed of the decision, rather than making or supporting it.
Last night they appeared to backtrack on their original comments, claiming they were unhappy with the quality of Ruby’s performance, but it only encouraged further condemnation. Even more infuriating is their shameful new post, which seems to be directing blame towards Bella and away from themselves.
The following is a statement from Bella, created from her heartfelt comments made during our interview. I had the opportunity to look Bella in the face as she spoke with great emotion and determination, and I hope that you will sense that as you read her words and continue to lend her your love and support at what has been a draining and difficult time.
“I had a meeting with Lucky Pierre’s last night. I wanted to make sure they understood the importance of communication, that any initial communication with performers requires carefully chosen and considered words, and asked that, moving forward, they work with sensitivity. They have to respect an art form and its performers. When you don’t, people get hurt, and when you don’t know how a community works, storms like this are created.
I wanted to hear them out, and I took time to think about what would be best for everyone.
The internet can be very powerful and very harmful. There has been a lot of miscommunication and misquotes, anger and upset. I understand that it’s a hugely personal issue for many people, but I encourage people to use the internet wisely. A lot of innocent people have been attacked – drag queens, bar staff – who had nothing to do with this situation. I want to use this opportunity to encourage people to be smart. Stand up for something, but consider how, and what you say, and how far reaching our words and actions can be online.
There have been good points made; it is a more than valid topic which should be discussed, but you have to think of who else is involved and touched by it.
At Lucky Pierre’s, an individual made poor communication choices and handled this situation badly. It is difficult to see innocent people hurt and attacked as a result.
After the meeting, and careful consideration, I decided the best thing to do was not continue as a producer at Lucky Pierre’s. I don’t know if burlesque performance will continue at the venue.
Nothing particular in the meeting provoked this decision. Things have escalated so fast over a single weekend that my head is spinning. In a tiny amount of time the world around me has unravelled; it’s like quicksand. I found myself in a position where the community, here and further afield, were looking to me for a decision and reaction.” (Continues below…)
“I have always produced shows with equal ground for all. I believe the true essence of the art from celebrates women and femininity in all shapes, sizes and colours. The difficulty is determining where the line is – the line between trying to bring burlesque to the masses but not falling foul of corporate standards and ending up compromising your core beliefs. It has been difficult feeling caught in the middle of all this. Between a rock and a hard place. It has affected a lot of people.
I am very sad not to have this show anymore. I and many others earned a living through this show – livelihoods and families were knitted into it. I firmly believe that burlesque in its true essence should be celebrated on stages across the world. But showbusiness is brutal. It is so hard.
I have feet on the ground here alongside many colleagues, but I truly appreciate the world wide support I have received. It is very touching and very powerful. It is breathtaking to see a community stand up for what it believes is right.
If we learn anything from this, it has to be that communication is super, super important. The huge flaw is the actions of the individual speaking for the club online – and I don’t know who that is – but it was really difficult to watch. It seems clear that very little research was done, and people were referenced in their statement without being contacted or consulted. It demonstrated no real knowledge of the art form or the community. And then when whoever was speaking tried to pull it in a different direction – claiming dissatisfaction with Ruby’s performance – well, too late now. If that had been clearly communicated from the beginning we wouldn’t be here now.
I want to stress that in all my communication with the venue prior to the decision regarding Ruby working at the club, the focus had always been on her size – not her performance. Had I initially been told that they thought her acts weren’t a good fit for the venue, it would have been a whole other issue.
I really, really want this to hit home, if nothing else comes from this interview. Producers – when you deal with a corporate venue – while you may set out with the vow to preserve the essence of burlesque and celebrate all within your show, be aware that you may be asked to compromise those principles for aesthetic reasons and standards held by that corporate venue. Choose your connections and partnerships wisely, and know what you are getting into.
I have seen both the power and the harm of the internet this weekend. Watching people join together and spread the word across the world, but also hurt many innocent bystanders. It took me so long to speak out publicly because thirty performers rely on Blue Book as a source of income. I wanted the show to pay well, to be consistent, to set the bar for entertainment and opportunity in New Orleans. People moved here to work, and even quit their day jobs because of this show. And it exposed so many people to burlesque: the audience is 90% tourists and they are entirely new to it. It was magical to be a part of their first time experience, a minimum of four times a week. They will remember us until they die! It goes beyond just doing a show – it had heart and soul and gave a space to people to make a living and bring in out of town acts.
I should add that my discussions with these performers about my decision have been extremely respectful with no drama whatsoever, and all my communication with Lucky Pierre’s has been very respectful on both sides.
I have a bunch of projects I am currently working on, and the New Orleans School of Burlesque will of course continue. I also have several upcoming headliner engagements at festivals and other out of town events. This is not the end of the road, for me or my colleagues. There are other wonderful opportunities on the horizon.”
Read the full report: New Orleans Venue Drops Burlesque Performer Due to Her Size. Burlesque Community Erupts.
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.