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:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

2017 in photos

I almost forgot about my year in review on Tumblr, but trying to get back to blogging helped remind me.  Here is part 1 and part 2.  I made a point to share photos that hadn't already been posted on Tumblr, and that led to some odd choices for months were I was less busy or didn't have photos.

One thing I didn't forget was Instagram Best Nine (since everyone else was posting theirs).

Again, my #1 most liked photo isn't one of me although this time I did play a role in arranging it (it being a proposal at one of my shows).  Clearly, y'all like it when I show skin and wear blue or green.  I don't think this will actually influence what I do this year, but trends are interesting to me.

One thing I want to try to do in 2018 is to take more selfies with people.  My social anxiety catches up to me, and I can never find the right moment.  However, I want the memories.  So far, I've only done it once, but a step at a time, right?

me and Blyre Cpanx
at Tuesday Tease: Toy Box

I've got another chance to take selfie, and you've got a chance to see me perform tomorrow.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Our Pineapple Princess Gone Too Soon

As you might have noticed, I got into a funk with my writing.  A couple weeks ago, I was ready to return with a post, ironically, about timing, and then I got the news.  2017 was already filled with tragedy for both me personally and the queerlesque community, and it had to deliver one last blow on the final day.  The beautiful, sparkling Pineapple of Burlesque, Jette Blaque, had died that morning.

Jette was a frequent performer on the Dallas and Denton queerlesque stages.  Her mentor was my teacher for when I got started at the Academy of Queerlesque, and we first crossed paths at during my second solo performance.  We'd see more of each other as the Sue Ellen's stage became a home for us, and I became familiar her shining presence.  She was full of laughter and joy backstage, and on-stage she could deliver so much attitude.
Panty Raid: Bare Necessities - our 2nd show together
Photo by Kevin Huckabee

We also had the pleasure of working for each other.  I loved having Jette for Tuesday Tease—she was a consummate professional yet a total goofball.  During one of the POC Teases, she became instant friends with the queens I had booked, as they went ga-ga over handsome men and quoted Empire.  It was a riot!  She had also booked me for her POC show at Glitterbomb, and I was so honored to be a part of that experience. 

The last time I saw her was when we were performing for our friend Mina Panamour's surprise birthday party.  Jette was not only going to do a cake sit, but she also planned to stick googly eyes on her butt and twerk during intermission.  Since I was going from Hana to Tony, I had to miss that, but the cake sit was epic!

Dirty 30: Mina's birthday show
Contagious Fantasies Photography
In addition to being a lot of fun, Jette was so kind and generous.  She had organized a surprise Christmas gift basket for the Glitterbomb producers and our dear friends, Lillith Grey and Milo Cox.  It was a great idea, and all of us queerlesquers worked hard to find the perfect items to contribute.  Since I had a Shutterfly account, I made a calendar, and Jette's excitement upon receiving it seemed as though she were the intended recipient.  She and I had also made plans for her to come to my place to give me and The Companion haircuts for a great price.  Previously she had talked about trying to provide cuts for queer clientele who may have faced discrimination or not gotten the cut they had wanted.  Having dealt with microaggressions relating to my hair, I thought the idea was wonderful.

Pineapples were her favorite thing.
Artwork by Jo Moulton
Jette didn't let her health slow her down, and even though she had her struggles, she always had a smile when I saw her.  I didn't know her as well as some other performers, but she still invited me to her and Nate Jones' wedding, which was so sweet and beautiful, and I was planning to get to know her better when she made her house call.  She has taught me to not let misfortunes bring me down, to take more selfies, and to be more like the regal pineapple she was.  Jette Blaque, we miss you so much, but your sparkle will remain with us forever.

(The title of this post was partly inspired by a poem by her maternal grandmother Daisy Kincheloe, "Gone Too Soon".)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Upcoming show: Texas Queerlesque Festival 2017

Hey, I'm back!  I didn't mean to disappear, but I went on vacation and had the time to rethink how I wanted to do this blog.  Rather than recapping events, I want to write about different subjects and how they affect my art.  Naturally you'll still hear about my experiences with various shows, and I will return to look back at some of the more unique ones from back in the fall.  However, I want to get to the good stuff about my struggles with body image, the importance of queer and POC representation, and the intersection of fandom with burlesque... just to name a few.

I already have a lot to say not just from previous ideas, but also a recent series of Tweets by #NotMyPresident .  I'm going to wait because I sliced my thumb in lab a couple of days ago, which put a roadblock in preparations for the Texas Queerlesque Festival, and because my TXQF act has become a statement about gender norms through a military video game character.

In the meantime, please check out this article which features Mad Max Morrison, whom I met at the festival last year: "Transgender service members in Texas react to Trump's military ban".  He's performing this Saturday while I'll be in the Friday show.  I hope y'all can join us!  Click here for tickets to the shows and unicorn school.