How to Find Your Inner Vixen
What are some common obstacles that get in the way of confidence? How can we overcome them, through Burlesque?
“There are several things my new Burlesque students worry about when they first come to me. Usually, it’s body image and the fear of ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’ My students don’t come to me with acts prepared. We build them in class. Just give me your interest – give me the dough, we’ll mold it together. It comes from whatever you have. If you don’t have a six pack, you don’t have to show your belly. If you like your arms instead, focus on those!
“If you can’t dance, you don’t have to. I learned to breathe fire and walk on glass because all the other girls in my troupe were singing, and I couldn’t. If other people have something that you don’t, discover what it is that sets you apart. Burlesque is about learning and embracing your uniqueness, in life and onstage.”
What about the stigma attached to flaunting your sexuality?
“Newcomers to Burlesque may also worry about what everyone else will think of them. Things like: ‘Am I going to go onstage and feel like a stripper?’ Or, ‘are my parents going to think less of me?’
“People feel so much guilt for wanting to feel sexy. Burlesque is not stripping; you are not revealing, in the voyeuristic sense. Rather than going, ‘I’m naked and vulnerable,’ you’re saying, ‘I’m ripping off this mask that society has made me wear.’ You’re not doing this for anyone else. You’re not taking your clothes off to titillate some guy. You’re celebrating yourself, onstage.
“This is not about the naked flesh. It’s about confronting your society, your culture, the way people have treated you…they’ve made you feel you had to wear these clothes, say this, look like that. With Burlesque, I’m going to show people who I really am. Like, ‘Hey, I’m intelligent!’ And, ‘I’m beautiful, no matter what you say! Maybe even, ‘I have this political statement to make!’”
Burlesque can be political?
“Yes, you can be political! You’re making art. And for what other reason do people create art than to say something to the world? That is the essence of Burlesque. It’s therapeutic and cathartic for the performer, and the audience gets something out of it, as well.”
What if you don’t want to take off your clothes in front of an audience?
“Burlesque is about flaunting what you want to show. It’s more about peeling layers than revealing flesh. Not all my students take off their clothes.”
You breathe fire and walk on glass. How do you advise your students (and today’s readers) on discovering their super powers?
“Flaunt what you’re good at, and forget the rest. Everyone is amazing at something. Don’t try to be like everybody else! If someone is a wonderful singer, let them be wonderful. You don’t have to be the singer. In my London Burlesque troupe, Vixen DeVille was the sinister, gothic character in an ensemble of five distinct personalities. One of the girls was ditzy and cute. One of them was a funny tomboy character. Different sizes, different hair colors. Variety is what makes you stand out; so don’t be afraid to be the specialty act!”
In Burlesque, Vixen is dark and sexy. When she’s hosting, however, she’s witty and hilarious. Why does this surprise people?
“There’s this thing where female performers are expected to be either funny or sexy, and not both. Vixen is definitely both.”
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned on the road to self-discovery?
“It’s never too late. You don’t have to settle for the ‘you’ that you are now. Just because you grew up a certain way doesn’t mean you have to be that for the rest of your life. If you’re stuck with something don’t like, change it. You can move, quit your job, break up with somebody, or dye your hair.
“It sounds naïve, I know – many people say ‘fuck you, I need my job.’ But believe me, there’s always another job. The worst thing, really, is to stay in a situation where you’re unhappy with yourself. A lot of people will argue and say that’s not true, but I think it’s because they don’t have the guts to try it.
“When I moved to America, it was a huge leap of faith. I wasn’t happy in the U.K. It wasn’t what I wanted in five year’s time. So, I left my stable job and apartment, spent shitloads of money on a visa and moved to a city with no security or contacts. I’ve gone through so much to build my life up to what it is now. And horrible things have happened, sure. But let me tell you – my worst days in this life truly kick the ass of my best days in London. It’s better to slowly crawl in the direction you want, than to sprint the other way.”