Monday, November 7, 2016

It's not easy being queen...

It’s now a week into November, official 1/3 of the way into my reign as Queen of Burlesque and I sit here at the computer wondering what I have to show for it. 4 months ago, after unexpectedly being crowned, I remember sitting at this same computer, in my hotel room in Las Vegas, feeling terrified. I remember being afraid to go out to the Sunday afternoon pool party because I was drowning the worst case of “impostor syndrome” that I had ever experienced. And now, 4 months later, I would love to report that I am enjoying my reign and embracing this title, but that would not be truthful. If I am to be perfectly honest, the last 4 months have been emotionally some of the hardest for me, and I have been so scared to talk about it because I am terrified of coming off as ungrateful. I am so afraid that I am letting people down.

I never won shit growing up. I was poor and not popular by any means. I was not Prom or Homecoming queen and pretty damn sure I was never even nominated. I was a theater kid who only got cast in the background roles, if I was even cast at all. I was pretty much invisible in high school and don't really have anything to show for the time I spent there. I was pretty much a loser all around. Yet, in spite of this, high School was not horrible for me. Even though I was on no one’s radar, I was lucky to have a few close friends who got me through the tough times, same as I do now. But ultimately, being invisible meant that no one could see how broken I was. And if no one could see me, then I was safe. Well… I don't feel invisible anymore, and as a result, Ive never felt more vulnerable.

Being crowned Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque by Reigning Queen 2015 Trixie Little at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2016. Copyright: John-Paul Bichard for 21st Century Burlesque Magazined caption
Winning the Queen of Burlesque title is the biggest accomplishment of my life. The fact that my image is on display at the Hall of Fame is really unbelievable. It is something that I dreamt about, but never thought that would happen, especially only 4.5 years into my career. I am still finding my voice as a performer and at times, worry that people are looking at me under a microscope, wondering what I am actually doing, questioning if I am actually deserving, waiting for me step up to the plate. But I don't know how to step up because I honestly don't know what the fuck I am doing. And even though I know that most of this is in my head, because that's unfortunately how anxiety works,  it can be just as damaging and paralyzing, if not more so.

Photo by MC Newman Photography

Looking back, many people commented on my reaction to winning the title that night. I'm sure that those joyful 2 minutes on stage were the absolute best moments for me. I was in a state of pure, authentic bliss…until everything began to sink in. What are people thinking? How is Perle going to take the news? How is Jeez doing? What are the other contestants feeling? Did I deserve it? Did I only get it because I’m black? I didn’t know, but the thoughts just kept rolling in and they honestly have not stopped. It seems that every time I accomplish something special, something happens to steal the little happiness that I was able to muster up, and It’s been like this since day one. 

The week following was an emotional whirlwind. Daily, instead of waking up to people being excited that a black woman won the title, more often than not, I was greeted by multiple social media rants and arguments about Rio Savant and how she was the actual first black Queen of Burlesque, not me. That's fine. I don't care that I’m not the first black female winner, but I was hurt that it seemed more important for everyone to point that out and fight about it, than it was for people to actually be happy. I not sure if any other winner had to deal with those types of thing, but it was hard. Even the Burlesque Hall of Fame, who I am very grateful for the opportunity to represent them this year, made it a point to highlight Rio Savant as the first black winner, ultimately taking away any real acknowledgment that something special had even happened. Regardless of Rio Savant’s win, 20 years is still a long time to wait for another black queen, and I think that’s worth celebrating. I don't think any of this was really intentional, but it all left me feeling like my win was more cause for anger and chaos than happiness and pride.

Rio Savant; 1996 Miss Exotic World- Burlesque Hall of Fame
I did my best to make my feeling known and to encourage people to focus their attention on the positive, but with all of the horrible things happening in the world, the mass killings, the police shootings, the need for a #blacklivesmatters movement, it just seemed so selfish to focus any attention on myself. So even though I felt like I started off strong, ultimately whatever fire I had burning was stifled. Jobs were not flying in from left and right. Not at all. And while I did get offered a few amazing opportunities, my schedule is more open now than it has ever been and I it’s terrifying. I mean… I was never the best at hustling for gigs because in order to do that, you have to be good at selling yourself. That was not a skill I ever really mastered. And even after reaching out for help, it still seems like my bookings are suffering more than ever. It’s crazy writing this because I am literally getting on a plane in 2.5 days to headline my first international festival. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity, but the inner saboteur in me has made this booking something I am more fearful of than excited about. Will they like me? Are my costumes good enough? Am I a strong enough performer? The self-doubt is never ending. It’s horrible.

I wanna change this. I wanna be proud. I want to actually feel like I am doing something good for this world… like I am making a difference. I had so many ideas of things I wanted to accomplish this year, but as the months pass, I feel so discouraged. I wanted to raise money for the Burlesque Hall of Fame by getting memberships up. I have been doing my part in encouraging anyone, including festivals, who book me as Queen of Burlesque to become members. For the most part, people have been happy to oblige, but that does not mean that it has always gone smoothly. Ive recently had an experience with a festival that I was really passionate about, only to be left feeling taken advantage of. Not to mention the times I was  called a token and an Uncle Tom by a performer who I really looked up to, even after inviting her to join me on stage at BHoF for my step-down performance. That was one of my lowest points, but I didn’t do anything about it. Maybe its because I am not the best at fighting my battles, or maybe I thought that the “Queenly” thing to do would be to take the high road. But either way, I was hurt. Major lessons have been learned in the last few months. Mainly, that I can’t really trust anyone.

The thing is, I have abandonment and trust issues. I come from an extremely broken home where the people who were supposed to care for me, did not. Because of drugs, my mother was not a part of my life and my father was selfishly living his life, not at all focused on protecting his children. In fact, most of the harm done to me in my early years was from him, but I know there are so many people out there with a similar story. I have done my very best to not let my past dictate my future, as hard as it can be. I still try to remain open to people, relationships, love and support, but it’s still so hard to trust people’s true intentions. Because of this, I have felt myself pull back from anyone who has shown me even the slightest amount of being untrustworthy. Yes, I do feel safer doing this, but yes, I feel extremely lonely. It’s hard not really knowing if someone has your back. I’m just grateful that there are handful of people in my life that I can completely trust, no matter how small handful is.

For anyone who has known me for longer that I have been in the burlesque world, they can tell you that I have been on a journey of seeking internal satisfaction for some time. It was the inspiration for this blog because every time I made a post, I would physically and emotionally feel better about my situation. But like most things that are good for me, exercise for example, I tend to run from it when I am feeling overwhelmed with the idea of success. I did it in college when I dropped out during my senior year and I’m doing it again with this title. But I am so sick of this pattern of self-destruction. It’s easy for me to focus on the outside forces that are making things difficult for me, but it all boils down to one truth, that I am responsible for my own happiness. And at the end of the day, if I am not happy, it’s my own damn fault. I’m ready to break this cycle. In fact, I have been. I’ve been working very hard on myself and it’s important that I finally start give myself some credit. Being able to do that is proof that I have already grown so much, and that is something to be proud of. 

Perle Noire Presents the House Of Noire. Photo by David L. Byrd.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Perle Noire and told her about how I have been struggling the past few months. Like always, she gave me some great advice that is helping me with my insecurities surrounding this title. She reminded me that I'm still just a baby in this industry and that I still have so much more to learn and much more room to grow. She encouraged me to look at people like Dirty Martini and Roxi D'Lite. These women are phenomenal performers who are constantly working on their craft. They are not the same Queens they were when they first won the Exotic World title, they are continuing to move forward, working on their craft, and that will be my path as well. She encouraged me not to be so hard on myself and to not let anyone dim my light. She encouraged me to be proud of myself and to embrace the good things that are, and will continue to come into my life. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do.

The first part of my journey has been a struggle, but that does not mean that it has to continue this way. I still have 8 more months as the Reigning Queen of Burlesque and I don't want to waste another second of it being afraid that I am not worthy of the honor. I am a human being with insecurities just like everyone else. And it’s OK for me to be scared. It’s OK for me to be open with you all about how hard this has been. I’m learning that being vulnerable does not mean that I am weak or ungrateful. It just means that I care about it so much… and that's a very positive thing.

The last 4 months, hell… the last 4 years have been a hard transition. But that does not mean that I have not had some of the most incredible experiences. Being able to travel around the states representing the Burlesque Hall of Fame has been a dream come true. I get emotional every time I put a tiara on some beautiful black burlesque performers head because, in a way, I feel like I have helped inspire these women and men to go for it. I hope that more opportunities like that continue to present themselves in my life. I am about to travel internationally to a county I have always wanted to visit, and burlesque is what is bringing me there. How fucking amazing is that? How fucking amazing it that?? I still can’t believe it.

Photo by Kevin Blumenthal Photography

It is a week into November, my favorite month of the year, the month when the things I am grateful for are the most present in my life. It started 27 years ago when my baby bother was born, and has continued on to last year when I married the love of my life. I am hoping that this November will start a new chapter of things to be grateful for, and that I can carry that with me through the remainder of the year, into 2017, and beyond.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Performers of Color and the Burlesque Revival...

It is an exciting time for black burlesque. Shows like Shades of Burlesque in NYC, Jeezy's Juke Joint in Chicago and St. Louis, Chocolate City Burlesque in D.C, and the Roux in New Orleans, which are dedicated specifically to showcasing performers of color, provide much needed diversity by showing off a plethora of beautiful black bodies. And people are liking what they see! However, with the growing popularity of burlesque that showcases performers of color, there are still many who believe events like this unfairly exclude white performers and, accordingly, hurt the industry and surrounding community. But the truth is, a little knowledge of burlesque history reveals that these shows are vital, and not only to the people on stage.

When people think of old school burlesque, white women generally come to mind.  Many have heard of Josephine Baker, a black burlesque dancer from the 1920’s. But most people’s understanding of black burlesque ends with her banana skirt. This, however, is not because black women are new to the burlesque scene. In fact, black burlesque performers—while rarely the featured, and certainly paid less—were very popular throughout burlesque history.  And like many other elements of pop culture, their musical choices and dance moves were appropriated by white burlesque performers, and are still used to this day. But black performers were often left out of promotional materials, tragically erasing their many contributions.
I must admit that I, too didn’t originally see the need for all-black burlesque shows. I hated the idea that any show with more than two black performers had to be advertised as such. But the more I educate myself about the history of black women in burlesque, the more I understand why these shows are created and exactly how important they are. Even now, there is an intense lack of diversity on the typical burlesque stage. It is not uncommon for audience members to approach me after shows to tell me I am the first black burlesque performer they have ever seen. This is because the majority of burlesque shows, whether by choice or lack of options, have all white casts. Either way, it is a huge problem.
It has become clear that the existence of really good, all-black burlesque shows inspires audience members and potential performers to celebrate, and document, black excellence in this area. With the revival of this beloved art form, performers of color are no longer staying silent. For us, stepping on the stage and confidently sharing our bodies on our own terms is a political act. We are fighting the stigma put on us by the dehumanization and over-sexualization of black bodies. This stigma can, at times, make it difficult for black performers to feel accepted by members of their own race who see us as participating in this objectification. But this is changing as people realize that burlesque is not only about strip tease. Burlesque touches the depths of true human expression. It is about taking power over ones own body and sexuality and confidently celebrating the skin they are in, no matter their shape, size, or color.
Until this year, in the twenty-six year history of the Miss Exotic World Pageant, the most prestigious burlesque competition in the world, only one black woman had won the coveted title. Rio Savant was crowned in 1996, in the early years of the competition. And until recently, google only had one tiny photo, her name and a date. Perhaps by her own choosing, but like her foremothers, her contribution has been all but erased. Now in 2016, I am honored to have been crowned the first black Reigning Queen of Burlesque in 20 years. And it is my goal to see that the contributions of today's performers of color continue to get the recognition they deserve.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Why I don't twerk...

I can’t, bottom line. Try as I might, my booty don’t do what dat booty do. I’m not OK with it, but I live with it. Because in a lot of ways, I believe my inability to twerk has helped to boost my burlesque career. It’s ridiculous to think this way, but in my heart, it’s the truth.

It seems that twerking and booty popping are all the rage in the current burlesque scene. It has been quite some time since I have performed in or attended a show that didn’t have at least one woman doing “ass tricks” on the stage. And that's great! Ass tricks are amazing! I love them, and so does the audience. And coming from the New York Burlesque scene, which is pretty diverse in comparison to other cities, I was never at a lack of seeing performers of different body types and skin colors, all shaking their ass in reckless abandon. There is literally a show for everybody. And if not, New York Performers are not afraid to create their own show.

Over the last year, I have been on extreme Traveling Showgirl status. And the more I travel, the more I learn how  “diverse” the New York scene actually is. It feels crazy to say that when most of the popular shows in NY still tend to book a predominantly white cast, but there are a plethora of shows in NY that are working against this and a few revues that showcase and all black cast. And while the sheer amount of white performers still make of the majority of Burlesque performers in NY, there are still quite a bit of performers of color who take the stage on a regular basis.

Across the country is another story. There has been several times in my travels where I have been, not only the token black person in the show, but I have been the only black person in the room. I find myself asking… why the hell am I in here? Why book me? And then I realized something… I can’t twerk.

I may be jumping to some conclusions here, but when I look at the top performers of color in the game, none of them twerk. Why not? Unlike me… most of these women can twerk with the best of them, but perhaps made the choice not to in order to push their careers forward. Why would this push their careers forward, you ask? Because twerking in their acts kept them from being booked by white producers. And while thankfully there are more and more performers of color making their way into the burlesque community with every student showcase, it is still rare to see them represented on the “Big Stage.”

OK… So what’s the problem? It would seem like twerking was simply not common in burlesque at all, right? Wrong!!! Please refer back to earlier in this post when I stated that it’s been a while since performed in or attended a show that didn’t have at least one woman doing “ass tricks” on the stage. So who’s doing all of this twerking if not the black bodies that created the movement in the first place? Our white sisters are. Yep!!! Can’t see a show without a while girl twerking… whether she can or not.

The Famous “One Percent Twerks” video that went viral a couple years back seemed to open up the floodgates for white women doing booty isolation on stage and calling it twerking. Don't get me wrong, that act was amazing and the video went viral because it was clever. But I don't think it would have gotten so popular if it were a black booty under those coat tails. And since then, more and more pretty white lady performers have jumped on the booty trick bandwagon. Yes, some were doing it before that video went viral, and they have been doing it well… but now… IT IS EVERYWHERE!!!

Lately, more and more artist of color have been speaking up. It super important that our white sisters and producers alike start to hear the call. This is about being bold. It’s about taking a stand against this basic way of thinking and starting to create something new… something better. White women have dominated the burlesque stages for years, not twerking. So if you are not one of those people who are truly blessed with the gift of twerk, please move on and find the thing that works for you. And if you are a producer that desperately wants twerking in your show, then consider booking a woman of color, or two who have been doing it since they were kids so that their culture is acknowledged and represented with respect. Clearly that disqualifies me from said gigs, but I’m OK with that. I’d be even more OK with seeing these same women get the recognition they deserve by actually being booked more on the “Big Stages” of the burlesque world.

I have been very lucky in the way that I have been embraced by the burlesque community. I understand that there is a privilege that comes with being a light skinned woman of color doing some super classic shit. I realize that it’s easy to book me in shows and festivals because I am generally easily accepted by white audience members. With this privilege, I want to use it as a platform to speak up about the things I see that are unfair. I want my contribution to the burlesque community to be one that helps make black bodies on the stage a norm in the contemporary burlesque world. I want to see more black queens. I want see, perform in, and create shows that are truly diverse.

Someday I will get there. I will find the right team of people to start producing the shows of my dreams. With my first attempt at producing, I realized that I still had so much to learn. Without guidance and real know-how, I found producing to be incredible stressful. And at the end of the day, when I took a step back to look at what I had created, I was disgusted. It was clear that I had only added to the problem. Deciding to work as the kitten for my show in order to stage manage, I did not feel the need to perform in the show as I wanted each slot to be given to someone else. And while I loved all of the performer who I booked for my show, at the end of the day, I had booked an all white show with the only black person (me) acting as the kitten. I’m not sure what message the audience left with that night, but the idea that I added to the problem was enough for me to step back from producing until I can get a clue. I still don't know enough. I’m still not ready. And that’s OK.

For over a year now, I have the amazing opportunity to work with a group of talented artist of color who travel around the United States, putting on variety shows for audiences of 500+ on average. The group is made up of poets, singers, educators, comedians, and burlesque dancers, all working together to create the erotic experience known as The Sweet Spot. We currently travel to 36 different cities quarterly and are reaching an audience that I have never seen in the current burlesque scene. The audience is extremely diverse, made of up predominantly black people, with the queer community alive and kicking and our white audience members feeling right at home. It is beautiful to see so many people coming out to see an all black cast and supporting us. It is not uncommon for these shows to sell out.

When I first started working with them, I was afraid that my style would not work for them. Based on what I saw, most of their burlesque dancers were gifted in the language of twerk. I thought I’d get laughed off the stage. But after time, I learned that, not only was my style accepted, but that the team members and the audience loved what I was bringing to the stage. It feels so good to know that, despite my inability to make my booty pop, my love for the audience and performing shined through. I’m saying this, not to toot my own horn, but to make my earlier point. Twerking in burlesque is not a prerequisite. If you are not gifted in the language, it is time to find out what you ARE good at and bring THAT to the stage. The audience is craving to see your best self. Give it to them. Don’t give them some basic version of Someone Else's Act. You are better than that. Burlesque is better than that, and our audiences deserve better than that.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Entitled is a 4 letter word...

A few weeks ago, I wrote something that I was not quite ready to put out into the world. I'm not sure why I was not ready because the post was not controversial. But since I've been trying to embrace a more honest appproach to life, I'll admit I was afraid that putting it out there would come with some repercussions. Now that some time has passed and Mercury is no longer in retrograde, I am no longer feeling the sting that inspired the piece in the first place. It got to the point where I considered not posting it at all. However, after re-reading it, I still feel like the words are 100% valid in the Burlesque Community. So here it is now...

Entitled is a 4 letter word.

As I sit here on the tiny little ass plane, flying from NYC to St. Louis for the Show Me Burlesque festival, I have to admit that my focus has been elsewhere. It's unfortunate, but the last few days have been filled with emotional ups and downs. And with the return of Mercury’s retrograde, it seems like there has been a breakdown in communication like never before. Spending the last few days in a rut, with hurt feelings and no real outlet for my frustrations, has proven to be the worst type of distraction. I have found myself thinking a lot about my voice and what rights I have as a performer to speak my mind when I feel like I have been wronged. Most of it had led me to one conclusion, that I have no choice but to keep my mouth closed because I don't want to be labeled as a complainer, a diva, or even worse…Entitled.

That’s a term that has been thrown around a lot in the burlesque community lately. I am guilty of using it too. It seems to be most prevalent with new performers, feeling like they have the right to be booked in a show simply because the have an act and put a few rhinestones on a costume. But it does not end there. I’ve even heard entitled being used as a bad word to describe established performers. But what does that even mean? Is there a difference between someone feeling entitled vs someone who feels like they have worked extremely hard, just to have been overlooked for a promotion? I think so. But it seems like people are so worried about being labeled as entitled that they become afraid to speak up when being treated unfairly.

This post is not to call anyone out and is not about any group in particular. As someone who has been lucky enough to work with many groups/ troops/ families and communities, this is something that I have found happens across the board. I can’t go online without seeing a post from a fellow performer, feeling frustrated about something happening in their community and feeling like they are not being heard. This is something that I am sure each and every performer has felt at one point or another and I am using this post to express my feeling on the matter. I choose to do it here, on my blog, with limited followers, because it's the only place I feel safe to voice my concerns without fear of repercussions. It’s sad to me that, in a community that prides itself on being there for one another, that I feel trapped in the confines of this blog to share my true feeling. And even here, I can’t be as candid as I would like because this is online and you never know who is reading. But I’ve recently found myself in a few situations that I’ve heard countless performers struggle with, so I’m using my small, virtual soap box to talk about it.

So here is the thing… when working in a troop/mob/family type setting with more performers than gigs available, it is natural that a performer hierarchy begins to happen. There will be, for lack of a better phrase... a performer ranking. Based on, what I admit is still a limited understanding, the rankings tend to look a little something like this:

The A list-
Excellent performers who get priority in all bookings.

The B list-
Excellent performers who get booked semi-regularly as well as
offered any last minute gigs that the A list performers are unavailable for.

The C list-
Good performers who get booking every once in a while,
primarily when A list or B list are unavailable.

And D list-
Good performers who rarely get booked…
unless multiple shows are happening in the same night,
or there is a themed show in which the performer fits the criteria
better than A, B, or C list performers.

Notice that everyone on the list are good performers. It’s a prerequisite to even be considered as a performer in these groups. So getting on these list seems to have less to do with pure talent and more to do with how well connected the performer is to the producer. You can be a pretty good performer, but if you happen to be close friends with the producer, it can help boost you up list. On the other hand, you can be the best performer in the world, but if the producer does not like you, then you may never get all the way up the list, if booked at all. This is something that happens a lot, as as a performer, it is essential that you not only are aware of this, but that you come to expect it.

Imagine yourself in this situation. You're a strong performer, have decent costumes that you are constantly upgrading, you are working tirelessly to spit out new acts and develop a range, and you have excellent back stage etiquette. You continue to work very hard and push yourself to grow, year after year. You keep your fingers crossed that when a position eventually opens up in a higher ranking, that you will be considered. Now imagine that, instead of your hard work being recognized, you get over looked for the promotion to make room for a bigger name. Or better yet, the task of booking performer has been delegated to someone else who does not consider booking you to be a priority. Basically, after years of hard work, you find yourself right back where you started, a C list performer, hoping to get the scraps left over by the A and B list. Tell me, are you considered entitled because you are hurt that you were over looked? I don’t think so. But the truth is, it does not matter. No one cares about your feeling. Whether you were overlooked or if you actually are being an entitled diva seem to have the same result. If you complain, you're out.

This, again, is not about any one group. I have a version of this story from many performers in many different scenes, whether is be solo performers trying to get booked more at a particular venue or performers who have recently been kicked out of a troop the were in because of misunderstanding and disagreements. The one common factor that I have heard from all of these performers was that, at the time of the conflict/incident, they felt like their voices were not heard. Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t a person speak out about how they are feeling without worry of repercussion? Isn't a family suppose to be about unconditional love and support even in the hard times? Why is it OK that most performers are so afraid to openly communicate with producers? I think this is something that needs to change.

This is NOT… I repeat, NOT about wanting more gigs. This post is not about entitlement or the idea that, just because you work hard, it means that you should be guaranteed a raise. I understand, that in this community, that may never be something that a person can count on. What this post IS about is having a voice. It’s about a performer feeling heard by their producers when things don't feel right. It’s about not being written off and being told to “Just get over it” “Let is go” or to “Not take it personally.” Guess what? Burlesque is personal. We are all aware that there are only so many gigs. But when your gigs start getting cut to make room for new comers, its personal. When you hear that people have been talking behind your back, trying to sabotage your connections, its personal. When your producer stops booking you because you unknowingly started working with their arch nemesis, its personal. When you feel like these outside forces are affecting you, and that no one is looking out for your best interest, it’s personal. And guess what else? It does not have to be intentional to be personal.

Sometimes shit happens. There will always be communications issues, misunderstanding, hurt feeling, as Mercury will always find itself back in retrograde. However, it would be so wonderful that when these hiccups did happen, the people you work for take your concerns into consideration and actually try to remedy the problem. Telling someone “Oops… we will try to be better about that in the future” does not remedy the problem, nor does it change what is happening in the present. And if the performer feels that certain situations are unfair, it would be great if they did not feel additionally reprimanded for speaking up about it. That is how trust is developed and a true family thrives.

If I have learned anything over the last few days, it is that in order for a person to be labeled “entitled” it has to be in a situations where the performer has not put in the work. But if the performer is dedicated to their art, constantly striving to be better, and generally respects the community as a whole, when they are hurt, it has nothing to do with feeling entitled. Its because they are feeling unheard and overlooked, and that is personal.

Some day I plan to start producing. I understand that this means that I will find myself on the other side of coin. My vow is to be a producer who listens to the concerns of their performers, takes a beat, and tries to offer a solution that makes everyone happy. And as a performer myself, I know that this community is made up of a million parts, all of which need to work in harmony for it to thrive. Producing is not easy. There are so many producers out there doing it right. But I think that everyone can strive to be a little better, everyone can strive to be a little more understanding, including myself. It’s a constant growing process and I look forward to a future growing as a person is everyone’s top priority.

Back to reality...

Due to BHOF brain, similar to pregnancy brain, I was unable to complete the task of writing every day, leading up to my BHOF Debut. I was so mentally distracted with stress hormones and an ever growing to-do list, that it became almost impossible to focus on anything that was not covered in glitter.

I Do plan to write a recap of what happened, long after the buzz has completely faded away... as is my way. My plan is to include multiple photos, reviews of my favorite acts, and any other amazing stories I can think of.  But since I know myself, it is super unlikely that I will ever actually get around to that. So, right now, I just want to leave you with my overall takeaway from the experience.

No I did not win the award for Best Debut, but if I'm being honest, that was never really part of my long term goals. The things I want to achieve are so much greater. These are things that will go down in the record books, and while competing in the 2015 Burlesque Hall of Fame Debut category was an incredible honor and amazing experience, it was a major stepping stone in direction of my goals... not the goal itself. Leading up to the performance, I repeated a mantra to myself. "My goal is to be present and to give everything I have to the audience. This is not about me. It's about all of them." I have to say, I could not have been happier in the moment.

Performing on that stage, in front of all of my peers, as well as 2 out of the 3 Black living legends of Burlesque is something that I could have only dreamed of. I left the stage feeling more clam and more proud of myself than I have felt in an extremely long time. It did not matter that I didn't win the trophy. It did not matter that I did not write daily, and it did not matter that I didn't drop those couple of pounds I planed to do before I took the stage. All that mattered what that I was there and that I had a good fucking time.
 Moments before the end of my act, my good friend 
and amazing photographer, MC Newman snapped this photo. 
I think it says it all.

I felt loved and supported and inspired to go after my dreams. Thank you to everyone who wished me well, who rooted for me, and who actually got me to this point. I love you all. More than you know.

I ask one thing of anyone reading this who loved burlesque, or who just loves me... Please become a member of the Burlesque Hall of Fame. We need the support of everyone in our community. You don't have to fully agree with all of the aspects of the weekender, but please remember that the Burlesque Hall of Fame's main goal is to keep the history of Burlesque alive and to honor all of the legends of burlesque, both living and past. And with the new, much larger location for the museum, every little bit helps.

Monday, May 18, 2015

17 days until BHOF...

I have been writing for the last hour and lost everything. I am fighting the urge to cry over this, especially since the theme of this post was to be on self care. I am using all the tools in my possession not to get frustrated with this whole project and just give up. Feeling like a failure every time I log in. But giving up is not an option. It's true that this has not gone the way I wanted, but at the point where I am feeling my most vulnerable, I have to push through. Yes, I am exhausted and if I don't take a step back, I may fall apart. Now, more than before, Its clear that it's time to shift my focus. The rest of this journey needs to be about protecting myself.

My goals will not be achieved over night. I need to stop waking up every morning hoping to see a different person in the mirror. I want my body to react to all of these changes. And while I'm sure that it is, it's so hard to stay motivated when I am not seeing results. I am trying to refocus my attention to how healthy I am feeling verses how heavy I am feeling.

My body is broken. It has taken a beating and I am trying to heal. I am attempting to add more recovery based workouts into my program. Stretching my muscles, rolling out knots, working my range of motion and focusing on my overall mobility are the only things that will help me to get my body back.
 Self Care
It is totally acceptable to ask for help. Being disappointed that my request for help are being ignored is not useful. While my feeling are hurt, the truth of the matter is that no one else cares about my goals. Not to say that I don't have supporters, I absolutely do, but everyone has their own life. While important to me, its never going to be as important to anyone else. 

I am doing enough. Just because I am not doing everything I planned, it does not mean that I'm not working hard enough. I know that the my goals are hard to reach, I just have to keep reminding myself that I actually deserve the things I am working so hard for. Giving up now will only prove that I am still that B+ person, too scared to reach for the A. But I also have to remember that, at the end of the day, whatever will be, will be. 

 In 3 days I will be getting on a plane to St. Louis for the Show Me Burlesque and Vaudeville festival. I am hoping that I will leave there feeling inspired. I hope I make friends. I hope I have fun. It's going to be a lot of work for me to fight my hermit tendencies and socialize. It's so draining and I barely have anything to offer right now. Hopefully I will be in a better place by the time I land in St. Louis.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

21 days until BHOF...

Current timeline update:

Birthday - 1 day ago
Show Me Burlesque and Vaudeville Festival - 7 days away
Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender - 21 days away

OK... not much time to work with here, but I am feeling more optimistic today than I have in the recent weeks. I'm not sure if it is a post birthday glow, but things are looking more manageable again. But before I get into that, I want to take a moment and thank each and every person who wished me a happy birthday. With hundreds of Facebook post, multiple calls, emails, text, and IRL moments, I have to say that this was one of the best birthdays I have ever experienced. I got to spend the morning with the love of my life, Alex, opening gifts of vintage wonder, followed by an afternoon of pampering myself. Then I got to perform with my Wasabassco family, in one of my favorite shows, to my new favorite act. If that was not enough, I got to have an encore performance at The Slipper Room, performing along side some of New York's best burlesque artist, including the incomparable Julie Atlas Muz. And to top it all off, I got to partake in, what could only be explained as the most fun moment in my entire life, the naked pie fight. Sharing my birthday with the stunningly beautiful Harvest Moon was the icing on the cake.

I got to see all of my closest New York friends, honored that they came out to celebrate me, see me perform, and tip me their hard earned dollars. It was really the most wonderful day. Finally winding down in the wee hours of the morning, after hours of snacking and laughing with my bestie, Dolly Debutante, and my fiancee, I could only feel like the luckiest woman in the world, to have spent the day surrounded by so much love. Thank you everyone!

Today has been extremely productive. I spent the morning cleaning with the help of Dolly, followed by getting the rest of my household chores done. I even managed to order groceries today. I took some time to do some good for my body by doing the Daily Burn Total Body release video, twice. My body is still all jacked up and in pain, but at least it is feeling more range in mobility. I got a lot of computer stuff done, including making significant updates to the wedding website, and even started researching a band! I plan to spend the rest of the night relaxing, recovering from yesterday, hopefully doing some research on this performer I have to interview, (this is causing a lot of anxiety for me) and going for a walk with my two loves, Alex and Homer. 

Tomorrow will be a busy day, as I am pulling another double header, for like the 3rd time in a week. But it should be a good time. I broke my fans last night because I was whipping them around as if they were indestructible, but since I do  have to use these fans in the very near future, including at BHOF, I think I will spend a part of the morning repairing those. 

Alright, I'm about to get out of here. I am currently pumpkining, as my brain and body are in need of a shut down. I am not really in the mood to post photos from last night, so instead, here is a link to my tumblr. There you will find pics and clips from my night, including the naked pie fight. Enjoy!!