Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Upcoming shows: Tuesday Tease and Texas Queerlesque Festival

Back from vacation and ready to roll!  Tony Fo-Hawk performs tonight at Tuesday Tease, bringing a little table-top RPG action to the board game-themed show.

Then on Friday, I am performing in the third annual Texas Queerlesque Festival! 

Click here for tickets.  There are many options if you want to join the other festivities.  I'll be helping with workshop setup on Saturday and will be taking classes throughout the weekend.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Body Acceptance series - Hair

"I just wanna be myself, and I want you to love me for who I am
I just wanna be myself, and I want you to know
I am my hair" - Lady Gaga, "Hair" 
It's been a long time since I've done a Body Acceptance post.  This one was tricky because I have a long history of loving and hating my hair.  And hair is covers a lot! (pun intended)

For the majority of my life, people have been sending messages about what to do with my hair.  My classmates talked about how "gross" they felt when they didn't shave their legs or when they couldn't wash their hair every week.  I got bullied for not shaving my legs and having greasy hair. My dad laughed at my hairy thighs, and my mom forced me to shave my armpits after preteen me told her that American women shaved.  A Mary Kay salesperson teaching a friend and me how to apply makeup for prom told me to wax my eyebrows, and one of my friends in college insisted on tweezing them.  The Companion, during a more immature time, once requested that I trim my pubic hair, and to this day, a flash of pubic hair could get a show shut down.

Being an anxious perfectionist, I was doomed to develop a discomfort with my naked body and a terrible relationship with my hair.  I didn't want to do burlesque because I felt too hairy, and thus too ugly.  I couldn't see myself stripping down to a G-string, as those strips of fabric never to covered enough.

Then I started to learn about dancers who bucked societal norms.  It began with the belly dance community, namely Unmata, who had tattoos and unshaven armpits.  In burlesque, I discovered Rubyyy Jones, who stopped shaving her armpits and even wore a hairy merkin for an act.  At Viva Dallas Burlesque's DC vs. Marvel show, I met Shan de Leers who was on her own journey to reclaim her body through not shaving.  I started wondering if I could do the same.

By this point, my dermatitis had me not shaving my legs out of necessity, and thanks to the queerlesque community, I was slowly growing okay with it.  However, I've never truly had hairy legs, just dark hair.  The real test would be when I stopped shaving my armpits, a decision I made at the end of August as I prepared for Glitterbomb's Hair show.  I would be telling my story.

Glitterbomb: Hair
Photo by Kristen Gaddis
The act was a reverse strip based on the premise of getting ready for a show.  I wore my long black wig to symbolize how long and thick hair represents femininity and the struggle I have with my mom every time I want to cut my hair.  Although the inclusion of my samba costume was motivated by a desire to recycle an essentially retired outfit, I must confess other motives.  It was my most glamorous ensemble, and it symbolized a difficult thought that lingered in my mind with regards to all the troupes I joined or considered joining.  Despite the support I received, I still felt pressure to shave in order to not distract from the troupe aesthetic.  In a group, you have to consider everyone else in addition to yourself.  Maybe this is why I prefer going solo— in burlesque and in life.

Glitterbomb provided the perfect venue for this new step.  The audience has always been ultra supportive, and some of my fellow queerlesquers didn't shave.  Plus the hair theme was perfect!  The gods might have been sending me a message that it was time.

Photo by Saraphimart
I never looked back… at least when it came to armpit and leg hair.  It's an extra reveal and a way to challenge audience members who have certain expectations of beauty.  I still worry about my pubic hair making an unexpected appearance and causing an issue, but I can solve that issue with costuming and safety thongs.  As for the hair on my head, it's another beast.

My photos for the Esteemed project cover how complex my struggles with hair have been.  Anytime I wear my long black wig and get a compliment on how good I look with long hair, I start feeling a tinge of regret.  Then I see fellow performers with undercuts and shaved sides, and I wonder if I'll ever be brave enough to do that.  Lately, as I embrace my genderfluid identity and do more drag, I'm more assertive about getting shorter, more masculine cuts.  I also try not to go into hairdressers with too specific expectations because that would lead to dissatisfaction and more angst over being too shy to let them know.  There are always wigs, I tell myself.  We're just working on acceptance after all.

Ironically, my drag self has a hair-related name.  I take the Pink approach with Tony Fo-Hawk in that one's hair does not have to match the name.  Speaking of the extreme dude with perpetual helmet hair, you can catch him tomorrow night at Glitterbomb.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Upcoming shows: Tuesday Tease and Whedonism VII

Tomorrow night, I'm performing in a special Tuesday Tease.  It's our nerdiest showdown ever: Star Wars vs. Star Trek.  This is your chance to catch my Poe Dameron act if you weren't able to make it to Viva Dallas Burlesque.

Then on Friday, I'm performing out of state for the very first time!  You heard right.  I'm heading over to Washington DC to join the Evil League of Ecdysiasts for their 7th Whedonism show.  I'll be debuting a brand new act, along with performing the Black Widow number I talked about in my last post.  If you're in DC or Virginia, this is your chance to see me in person!  Click here for tickets.

There's a lot of prep for the show (along with lots of work to get done in lab) so I haven't updated as frequently as I wanted.  However, I'll be back with new blog posts when I get home.

Friday, May 4, 2018

#NotYourAsianSidekick or Fantasy

As a nerdlesquer, I have a lot of strong opinions about geeky media.  I get particularly fired up about representation—or more accurately, misrepresentation.  Friends have witnessed my rants on social media, but sometimes that's not enough.  Sometimes I have to dance it out.

Three years ago, Avengers actors Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner called Black Widow a "slut" and "whore".  Although they apologized, it was, to me, a tipping point in the mistreatment of this kickass comic book character.  She's often left out of merchandise, and despite having a very interesting backstory, producers refuse to give her a solo movie.  Even in the Avengers universe, she's not free from misogyny (as much as I love Loki, the rape threat was not necessary).

Tuesday Tease: Spy Who Teased Me
Photo by Danny Fox-Trot

All these things gave me an idea for a Black Widow routine.  At the time, I was busy with other acts so I filed it away.  When I finally had the opportunity to work on it, I found another layer to the narrative: the live-action Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, was playing in theatres. 

My anger at the whitewashing of a Japanese character could be a post in itself, but there's already a lot of exiting commentary.  I took this somewhat personally because my name came from the Ghost in the Shell anime.  Motoko Kusanagi was the hero I needed when I first tried to reinvent myself as Hana Li.  Casting Johansson as The Major, even if The Major's apparently-white body is artificial, sends the message that Asian women are not complete individuals— that our stories aren't worth telling.

Burlesque has given me another way to tell stories, and now I could get my revenge.  Not only could I strip away how the names Black Widow has been called along with her tough exterior, I could strip away her identity as a white woman.  After all, Marvel Ultimate's featured an Asian Black Widow named Monica Chang.  Even if few audience members would make the connection, I'm still depicting an idea of hidden identities.  The last word I take off before shedding the red wig is "unseen".  That's what I refuse to be.

Glitterbomb: Guardians of
the Glitter Galaxy
Photo by Saraphimart
I took the same approach with Mantis.  Although her innocence was endearing, I raged at how the omniscient Celestial Madonna had been reduced to a slave and the butt of jokes.  She reminded me of everything I hated about being called "cute": all those undertones of being helpless, harmless, and docile.  As Hana Li, I've been able to combat the infantilization I've encountered in looking young and perhaps being a little na├»ve due to my upbringing.  I would do the same to Mantis and restore her to her sexy kickass self.  I would dare audiences to call my version of Mantis "ugly" (another part of the movie I could critique).

Glitterbomb gave me the opportunity to make this idea reality with their Guardians of the Galaxy show.  The production also made me realize I could get more specific with my nerdlesque themes, as the audience enjoyed what was presented to them whether they were familiar with the film/comics or not.  A bonus for me was getting kudos for referencing Mantis' comic book costume with my bra and panel skirt (from Risk by Raven).  Original Mantis had her own issues in terms of Orientalism, but I felt like I was able to write my own narrative for her.  You get another chance to see my Mantis act next Tuesday at Tease:

You can also catch me this week as part of Viva Dallas Burlesque's weekend of Star Wars show. I'll be debuting a new act inspired by the newer movies on Saturday night.  There's still a few tickets available at the door, but I recommend arriving early to either of the shows.  May the 4th be with you!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Upcoming shows: Glitterbomb and Tuesday Tease

Happy International Women's Day!  How about you celebrate with me by coming out to Glitterbomb tonight?

If you can't make it that show, there's also Tuesday Tease.  I've finally put together the ultimate nerdy show, and I'm debuting a new number for it!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Upcoming shows: 10th Annual Dallas Burlesque Festival

I can't believe it's time for DBF again!  I'm mega stoked that Tony Fo-Hawk and I are both performing in the festival, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

First I’m doing “Moonlight Serenade” at the Opening Night Party on February 15 at 8:30 PM at the Belmont Hotel.  Show is free!

Then Tony Fo-Hawk is rocking out at the Friday night early show at 8 PM at the House of Blues Cambridge Room.  The link directs you to tickets.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Timing of Things

"A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to." -  Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring
The theme of this post is timing.  I'm not talking about musicality although that is definitely important, but like my decision to make this post, the timing of events sometimes just happens to be just what my audience and I needed all along.

I like to use the word "serendipity" to describe the moment when inspiration strikes.  The word has a positive connotation that does not always fit the events surrounding my performances.  However, art has a way of coming out of the greatest catastrophes and injustices.  Sometimes inspiration comes from the worst news, as evident with Tony Fo-Hawk's protest act.

"Know Your Enemy"
Mustache Envy: Politics
Photo by Brandy Lynne Photography
Once again, the act provided cathartic release when I was cast in the Mustache Envy: Politics show.  Even though it had been nearly a year since the election of 45, we (the queerlesque community) had many reasons to give him the middle finger.  The show was around a particularly busy time, as I was helping train new people in lab and there was an anime convention I was going to participate in.  Sometimes my rehearsal was simply listening to "Know Your Enemy" by Green Day on repeat.  

 That was when certain lyrics started to pop out: "silence is the enemy", "overthrow the effigy", "we fight against the honor to obey".  You see, this was when the debate to remove Confederate monuments had peaked.  The tragedy in Charlottesville happened, and I was angry at 45's response.  After talking to the producer, I changed up my act to directly respond to what had happened.  It felt so good to make my statement, and I'm sure my castmates would agree.

"Naked Snake"
TXQF 2017
Photo by The Naked Lens
Another instance where the news impacted my performance was during the Texas Queerlesque Festival.  My Naked Snake act had been accepted, and in the week leading up to the festival, 45 announced that he was going to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.  Immediately I thought of Mad Max Morrison, whom I met at TXQF 2016  He actually spoke out against this proposed ban, and I was inspired to use my routine, which had me genderbending a fictional soldier, to show my support.  I told Milo Cox that I wanted to add a dedication to my intro for the trans people in service.  All of this gave me extra fire so even when my performance didn't go as planned (due to costume malfunctions and a finger injury that right before the festival), I'm happy I got to do it.

In those two cases, I had existing acts that fit the occasion or mission.  There have been other times where inspiration and opportunity meet at the right moment.  That's what happened with my new Mantis act.  I plan on making a separate post about the inspiration behind it, but let's just say I started thinking about doing a nerdlesque number to address my disappointment in her portrayal in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  Just as the idea was going to rest in a place in the back of my mind, Glitterbomb announced a Guardians-inspired show and that was my chance.  Timing is as much as seizing the moment as it is about serendipity.

Speaking of which, one of my friends and fellow performer, Elle Ay'Elle, did that with a compatriot when an important queer space, Mable Peabody's, closed.  They're opening up a queer cafe/bar/performance space and are putting on a benefit show to help raise money for start-up costs.  Tony Fo-Hawk will be performing.  It's tomorrow night at the Sue Ellen's Vixen Lounge: