Thursday, July 18, 2013

Merchandise Sales and Multiple Identities

My burlesque experience has seen me donning many hats: fan, photographer, student, (candy) cigarette girl, stage kitten, and even performer.  Therefore, I shouldn’t have been surprised that my first gig with the Ruby Revue (remember my audition post?) gave me a new role– merchandise girl.  I’m always willing to lend a hand, but I felt hesitant.  I was afraid I’d be a lousy salesperson.  Even though I had helped out at the table during the Dallas Burlesque Festival, I would be doing it on my own for the entire show.  Memories of my fourth grade class’ school supply shop came rushing back, and the thought of giving back the wrong amount of change was scaring than the thought of a bunch of people seeing me in my underwear.

The nice thing about being incredibly single-minded at times, however, is the fact that I can push aside those worries.  When doors opened, I entered “work mode” and tried my best to persuade patrons to buy a boa or a T-shirt.  Sales were slow at first, but as more people filed in, more items started to leave the table.  By the end of the show, I was so swamped by customers that my partner jumped in to help me keep track of what I sold.  He also probably attracted more people because he’s charming (and loud).  It turned out to be a pretty fun experience.

Wearing my Jet Girl cosplay
at the Clever Girl Cabaret:
Flirty Nerd show

There was one point when I felt so overwhelmed that I wound up giving out my real name.  Luckily the gentleman was familiar with many local dancers and asked how he could distinguish me from another dancer whose stage name was similar to my real name.  That gave me the opportunity to re-introduce myself.  The whole thing, combined with my experiences the previous night at The Midnight Ramble (another burlesque event), made me realize that my multiple roles in the community has created somewhat of an identity crisis.

You see, at The Midnight Ramble, I was just taking photos, which I post under my real name  Normally I keep to myself when shooting, but I had some people talk to me and I guess they deduced that I was connected with the dancers.  I started to wonder if I should’ve introduced myself as Hana since I don’t have business cards for my photography.  I have no intentions of making any money from my pictures, but it’s still nice to have everything together as a portfolio, especially since I do a little bit of journalism.  Things get even more iffy when you have burlesque crossing over with another of my hobbies, like cosplay or steampunk.  How do I introduce myself then?

A funny idea of using my glasses to distinguish between my two main identities (we’re not going to go into my steampunk and cosplay alias) occurred to me.  I’ve been told I look drastically different without my glasses, and I always wear contacts as Hana Li.  My glasses could be a Clark Kent sort of disguise for my burlesque self.  There are two problems to this plan though.  The first is that I can only wear rigid gas permeable lenses, and they’re not very comfortable.  One speck of dust and I’m tearing up like crazy because my eye hurts.  There’s a possibility that I would have to switch to glasses immediately after curtain call.  The other issue is that sometimes I do wear contacts when I’m photographing, and while I can always attend shows as Hana, people are not stupid enough to be unable to put two-and-two together.  Plus I’ve already uploaded photos of me with glasses on my facebook page.  Oh well, it’s still fun to think of myself as being a burlesque version of Clark Kent/Superman.

The next time you can see me with the Ruby Revue is on July 26.  I'll be on-stage for the Advanced Burlesque Tease class performance.  Hope to see you in the crowd!
Photo by Karlo X. Ramos

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