Monday, December 28, 2015

Creating Tony: Debuting Tony, as Sage

"I'm not going to succumb to to just doing normal stuff, and not how I really snowboard, because I think that's wacked.  I kept going and I kept it weird." - Sage Kotsenburg, 2014 Men's Snowboard Slopestyle Olympic gold medalist
Apologies for taking so long to write Part 2 of this series (click here for Part 1).  The past month has been extremely hectic with major happenings in with my lab teching and my striptease.  One of them I would like to share as my first-ever show as co-producer.  Lillith and I are bringing a very special Tuesday Tease, and I will also be debuting a new routine.  I hope you can make it out.
Flyer by Lillith Grey
Okay now back to your regularly scheduled programming.  Once upon a time, I had an idea of a sick burlesque routine where I would strip while skateboarding.  My dream was to incorporate two things I really love: action sports and burlesque.  One problem: I hadn't skateboarded in years.  Although that could be remedied,  I read about Leticia Bufoni's struggles with skating nude for ESPN The Magazine's "The Body Issue" and started to have second thoughts.  Plus I had discarded clothes to worry about.  As I started contemplating drag, I realized that this routine would be perfect for my king alter-ego.

The opportunity to make this reality came much sooner than expected.  Tuesday Tease put out a call for all things involving a ring.  I had submitted an idea for a burlesque routine playing off a telephone ringing and would have left it at that.  However, no one had claimed the Olympic rings, and basically my train of thought was, "Hmm, snowboarding is in the Olympics.  That's kind of like skateboarding.  I can do this."  Granted, it was a lot sooner than expected, but if there was a time to "go big or go home", it was here.

I based the act on Sage Kotsenburg's victory in the first snowboard slopestyle competition in the Olympics.  "Favorite Son" from American Idiot the Musical is not a positive song so I initially did not want to use it.  However, it was so catchy, and it fit with the cocky alter-ego I had created.  Sage may be America's raddest sweetheart, but Tony Fo-Hawk is the person I would be if I didn't have to worry about getting along with others.

Having created someone who absolutely did not give a damn saved me from the real world stresses creeping into all aspects of my life.  There were evenings when I just got on my skateboard after work and felt so much better.  I re-learned the basic skills and tried to see if I could spin on the tail and maybe finally figure out how to ollie (even though you don't do those on snowboards).  Tony gave me the resolve to start skating again, and I'm thankful for it.  I think I’m a lot closer to ollie-ing than I ever was when I was a teenager.

Unfortunately the real world worries did creep into my mind on show day.  Having to go first was nerve-wracking even if it was as Hana.  At least that got me into show mode.  However, another nightmarish contact scenario happened right as I was going from female to male.  I went into major panic mode trying to find a missing contact (which equals losing $200 and the ability to perform without glasses), and I am forever appreciative of my fellow performers and the Tease team for helping out.  Thankfully it was just hiding behind my bag.  There were some other hiccups that kept me from my best performance.  I know we all can't be perfect, but I don't like knowing that I could have done better, even if some things were not in my control.

Hana's act for The Ring
Photo by Brandy Barham
Tony's debut as Sage Kotsenburg
Photo by Brandy Barham

At the end of the evening though, and in Tony's eyes, I had fun and that's all that matters.  I was excited to share this part of me, which sometimes feels more like the real me than any side of Hana Li you see on-stage.  On top of this, freeskiier and Sage's fellow Olympian, Gus Kenworthy, had come out the previous week.  It was the first time an action sports athlete had made such an open declaration, and that contributed to the fire within.  Action sports needed some queerness, and I'd like to think that queerlesque could use some action sports.

 Thank you to Musico Roots for taking video!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Creating Tony: From Tuxedo Mask to James Dean

"Being a good actor isn’t easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I’m done." - James Dean

Tuesday Tease: StripToons
By Brandy Lynne Photography
One day, I posted on Facebook about how I probably should be doing drag rather than burlesque, given my penchant for cross-dressing, but then I wouldn't enjoy the fun of striptease.  A couple friends asked why I couldn't do both, and Lillith Grey reminded me that this is why queerlesque exists.  Although Tuxedo Mask was not my first attempt at androgyny, it was the act that got me re-thinkingmy aesthetic.  I never intended the routine to be full-on drag, just convincing enough to portray the character.  Nevertheless, at times, I wish I didn't wear a push-up bra underneath or sparkly ballroom heels so that I could look more like a man in the beginning.  Other times, I wonder how I got to this point when burlesque was supposed to be an expression of my feminine side.

Accepting that goals can change—evident with my shift from wanting to cosplay Sailor Mars to Tuxedo Mask— gave me a new perspective.  Over the summer, I was thinking about a new act and noticed a few shows centered on classic movie stars.  The glamorous screen siren did not interest to me unless it was Anna May Wong, but even then, I didn't feel inspired.  One night, I was listening to the radio and Taylor Swift's "Style" came on.  In the song, she mentioned James Dean, and I got the idea that he would be my Hollywood icon.

All the cards fell into place with the next No Mija Productions/Fuego Danza Company show.  You see, around the time Ricky Martin was huge and everyone wanted to do a Latin-inspired song, the singer/actor Jacob Young had a minor hit with his James Dean tribute, "Life Is Good".  With LilyLeCroix's help, I added some salsa elements into my routine.  I've spent so much time in recent years, focusing on a feminine dance style that trying to salsa like a guy was harder than expected.  I was also able to use the lessons from Miss Indigo Blue's workshop during the San Antonio BurlesqueFestival to better convey angst and anguish.

No Mija Productions:  ¡Ritmo Caliente!
By Mr. Photopix
Despite the simplicity of his Rebel Without a Cause outfit, assembling the costume took some work.  I accidentally bought the wrong size jacket, but with advice from The Companion and my drag king/fashion designer friend Corvin Rose, I altered it as best as I can.  The breakaway jeans were made by Threads by Mayhem, and after searching for the right red bottoms, I happened upon the perfect thong by Calamity Chang.  Everything fell into place…except the actual performance.

No Mija Productions:  ¡Ritmo Caliente!
By Mr. Photopix
One of my greatest fears used to be popping a pastie.  I had prudishly drawn a metaphorical line of what I allowed myself to expose at the nipple.  It's silly, I know.  When it happened, I wound up being more frustrated than mortified because it was a completely preventable accident.  Thankfully I had assels so the audience got more booty than usual.

Oh well, you live and learn.  The important part is that I had fun.  I really enjoyed adopting James Dean's attitude and returning to a more masculine dance style.  The early concepts for the act had been more drag in nature, and I wondered what the experience would have been like had I went that direction.  Thus, a seed was planted in my mind…

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Upcoming show: Tuesday Tease (as Tony Fo-Hawk)

If you missed Tony Fo-Hawk's debut last month, here's your chance to see him again.  He'll be making an appearance at the next Tuesday Tease, which is feline-themed.  His act will be a little different from what you may expect...

I've also become a member of the Tuesday Tease production team.   Currently I'm focused on the publicity, but I look forward to learning what really goes on behind the scenes and helping the queerlesque community.

Lastly, since I want to thank everyone who bought Ladies of Power mini-prints at the Texas Burlesque Peepshow: Villains and Villainesses show on Halloween.  I wound up stage kittening that night so the table wasn't set up until later.  However, with The Companion's great salesman abilities, we were able to make some money for charity.

My Halloween/stage kitten outfit,
a revamped version of Envy Adams
from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Identity Revisited

"We are rag dolls made out of many ages and skins, changelings who have slept in wood nests or hissed in the uncouth guise of waddling amphibians.  We have played such roles for infinitely longer ages than we have been men.  Our identity is a dream." - Loren Eisley, The Unexpected Universe
Originally I had planned on revisiting my "Identity in Burlesque" post in the context of the racial discussions that have cropped up in burlesque and cosplay, as well as a follow-up to National Coming Out Day.  However, the former has been addressed by many already (please check out those links), and I don't really need to come out again.  Rather I've been turning inward, and so that's what this update will be about.

Repping asexuality and
genderqueerness at the 2014
pride parade
I have been asking myself questions as of late.  Where does Hana Li end and Tony Fo-Hawk begin?  Do I continue developing my O-Ren Ishii act when it doesn't feel "me" yet its message is so important to me?  Can I pull off an asexual pride act?  Does my tagline still work if I'm no longer a lab tech?  Will I have to chance the background of this blog when I stop working with flies?

The last two questions seem frivolous, but they are a part of who I am.  As much as I try to keep my mundane self out of Hana Li, we're still one person at the end of the day.  Through my hamstring injury, which turned out to be a consequence of a lower back problem, I learned that you can't keep your identities completely separate when you share a body.

Likewise I cannot keep my politics apart from my art because my body is political on many levels.  It's just like how burlesque (in its current form) is always sexual.  I've seen that discussion pop up, and I debate whether I should jump in with my own two cents as a grey-asexual.  Just because the art is sexual doesn't mean that the performer is.  I know some of you may struggle with reconciling that, but know that I still struggle with being viewed sexually.

O-Ren Ishii's Chinese side comes out at
A Plumb Askew Revue: Popcorn and Pasties.
By Miracle Bennet
HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth
Further complicating that is how my race often gets sexualized.  I want to be more political in terms of presenting myself as an Asian woman, and that's partly why I still feel dissatisfied with my O-Ren Ishii act.  It's about one's Asian and American identity, and I don't think that's 100% clear.   I also worry about being appropriative as I am not Japanese.  Lastly, the act doesn't feel like it fits with the identity I have developed as Hana Li.

Maybe my inner O-Ren is an aspect of myself I need to further explore, but that brings me to the first question I had asked.  Burlesque was supposed to be a way for me to express my feminine side.  However, I have been unable to ignore my masculine side.  I get my inspiration from male characters, and I'm more a pants type of gal than a glove-and-gown type.  If you've been following my career thus far, you may have noticed that I am getting more androgynous.  That's who I really am inside, and I've figured out how to incorporate my classic training to suit that aesthetic.  I never intended to do drag, but that was inevitable with the way I have been progressing.  Tony can do things that don't work well with Hana.

My next couple of posts are going to return to recapping my performances from the last few months.  Instead of going chronologically though,  I'm going to trace how I've learned to embrace my genderqueerness and how Tony Fo-Hawk came to be.  I’m excited to have you along for the ride.

Tony Fo-Hawk
By Tanya Forno

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Upcoming shows and AnimeFest photos

As I mentioned in my previous post, Tony Fo-Hawk is making his debut at this week's Tuesday Tease.  I'll also be performing a new act so come on down to Sue Ellen's with your dollars.  Doors are at 8 PM.

You'll also want to arrive at 8 PM on Saturday for the Texas Burlesque Peepshow's Villains and Villainesses show, featuring the Evil Queen of Burlesque competition.  I won't be performing this year, but I will be selling Ladies of Power mini-prints.  In the spirit of the show, there will be a 50% off discount on villains prints.  Click here for tickets.

I've realized that I never got around to sharing pictures of my fem!Naked Snake cosplay at AnimeFest.  Here's one from my solo shoot with Axela Media.  He did an amazing and you can see all the cool photos on my Facebook page.


I also joined my fellow Metal Gear Solid cosplayers for a group photoshoot.  Yohan Ko took a picture of us for Central Track (the first time I've been featured in a publication for cosplay), and Michael Nguyen got this fun shot:

AnimeFest 2015-5

Although cosplay is not my primary focus at all, I do enjoy fun opportunities like these.  I also want to thank everyone who attended the Ladies of Power and Nerdlesque panels. Your attendance means a lot to me and my fellow panelists.  The con season is basically over for me, but you'll see me again in the spring.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Introducing... Tony Fo-Hawk

"While technically it would not be a clone at that point, it would be for all intents and purposes, a genetic twin. The mutant DNA would still be active, and the abilities you're looking for would still manifest as in the original." - Dr. Sarah Kinney, X23 Vol. 1
I interrupt my planned posts with a question and a story.  Have you ever thought that your life would more manageable if you only had a clone? Well, I tried (bet you didn't know that I'm actually a mad scientist).  It didn't quite work.

Instead of another Hana Li, my experiment produced Tony Fo-Hawk.

I wanted to call him Lee Hua (a spin-off on my name), but he's got a mind of his own.  He doesn't do the blogging or social media.  He's into action sports but not cosplay, and now he wants to try his hand at dancing or at least performing.  He's almost always got a case of helmet hair, and he's not adverse to eyeliner.

Sometimes I can get him to shave, and that's when he starts looking like my twin, which he does not enjoy.  In exchange for helping promote him, he lends a hand here and there.  You can catch his debut at Tuesday Tease on October 27.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog posts by Hana Li (I still gotta recap a couple more shots).  Many thanks to Tanya Forno for the photos.

Disclaimer: No actual science went into the creation of Tony Fo-Hawk.  Just some comic book and action sports inspiration, along with a strong desire to do drag.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Magic at the Peepshow and Striptease Charm School

"Now you're looking for the secret…but you won't find it because you're not really looking.  You don't really want to know the secret… you want to be fooled." - Harry Cutter, The Prestige

Since I was a little girl, I was a huge fan of magic.  I watched almost every episode of The World's Greatest Magic and Breaking the Magician's Code, and I wanted to see Siegfried and Roy when my family went to Vegas.  I was also into fantasy and, in my later years, witchcraft.  See where I’m going with this?  When Texas Burlesque Peepshow announced that they were going to do a magic-themed show, "I Put a Spell on You", I was only thinking of illusions.  Then, the producers clarified that it encompassed all definitions of magic, and I realized that hey, I have an act from a magical girl anime.  (Tuxedo Mask has powers too, but the original anime doesn't make it very obvious.)

Backstage shenanigans
at the Peepshow
Photo from Black Mariah
In my post about the act's debut, I forgot to give proper credit to Black Mariah for making the tuxedo pants so I'm doing it now.  They're perfect.  The Companion also gets props for helping alter the cape.

It didn't take long for me to get ready even with the attempt at styling my hair a bit differently.  As a result, I was able to peek at some of the other routines.  I really enjoyed seeing all the forms of magic and magical characters, and I hoped that at least some people would make the connection with mine.  I heard a laugh when I decided to wear the signature mask for curtain call so someone must've gotten it.  It was a fun show and an even more fun after-party (Casidy gets mad props for being an amazing host).

My hamstring had not completely healed like I thought it would by the time Peepshow rolled around (one month after the injury).  I had booked a couple more shows and vowed to stick to them unless the doctor said otherwise.  After discovering that the injury was just a pulled muscle, she okayed the dancing.  Since pushing myself landed me in this predicament, I wound up taking a break of all dance classes except Ginger Valentine's Burlesque Charm School.

Ginger was my first burlesque teacher (three and a half years ago!), and I had wanted to do her Charm School since she started it back up again.  I hadn't been able to until August so I wasn't going to miss the opportunity.  Class didn't just involve dancing, which probably made it more manageable.  However, I didn't do myself any favors by electing to work on a routine that required some chair and floor work.
A peek at my notes from Charm School

The routine was one I had previously worked on so the costume was mostly done.  I didn't really like the initial version, and it seemed producers didn't either.  It was the one that I needed the most help even if it wasn't the most urgent one to complete.  Some people might think that Charm School is specifically for classic burlesque or dancers at a certain level, but Ginger is really good about tailoring the class to fit everyone's needs.  Her advice is helpful regardless of your style or goals, as are the dance moves you learn.  I highly recommend Charm School for anyone who is ready to take their burlesque to the next level (though Ginger likes to point out that burlesque really has no levels).  While the act is not yet complete, it's become so much better and I can't wait to get a little free time to finish it up.

Before that, however, I have one more performance for the month.  If you missed Tuxedo Mask at the Texas Burlesque Peepshow, you can catch him at Tuesday Tease.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tacos and Popcorn: San Antonio Burlesque Festival and A Film Strip

"It's a battle between body and mind.  Sometimes you have to make yourself slam once, even if you fall pretty hard." - skateboarder Andy MacDonald

The past couple of months have been a rollercoaster, and I'm still on the ride.  However, I wanted to take a bit of time to write about my experiences.  July was spent doing Tuesday Tease and rehearsing with Fuego Danza Company.  We were accepted in the San Antonio Burlesque Festival's Saturday Night Spectacular.  Because it was our first festival as a troupe and we were competing, we spent time tightening the choreography and making sure the new line-up got all the steps down.  Everything went well for me until the week before the festival.  I pulled my left hamstring…putting on dance shoes.

Photo by Sheridan Original
It sucked.  Taking inspiration from the X Games (which was probably not the greatest idea since I later paid for this decision), I made up my mind that I was going go all out even if I would have to hobble off-stage afterward.  I tried to take it easy before show time, but we had a few rehearsals left. 

As I said, it wasn't the best move, especially with our hectic schedule.  However, I still had a great time.  I got to bond with the troupe and see the friends that I made last year.  The workshop with Miss Indigo Blue on facial expressions was invaluable.  I even incorporated part of her lesson to my performance that night.

Unfortunately fatigue reared its head at the worst time: I blanked in the middle of our performance.  Although I recovered and the crowd loved us, I was still bummed. I tried to not think about the competition because that's how things become not fun.  All the performances were so awesome that it wasn't hard for me to just sit back and enjoy the rest of the show.  Fuego didn't take home a taco award, but that's okay.  Everybody worked hard, and I had fun.

Photo by Miracle Bennett
When we got home, I didn't have much time to rest.  I had to start rehearsing for A Plumb Askew Revue's Popcorn and Pasties: a Film Strip.  It was the first time I'd be performing my O-Ren Ishii act after I made some changes.  I had received some helpful critiques from La Divina after my Evil Queen performance, and I had tried to make revisions for the Dallas Burlesque Festival.  It wasn't quite there yet so I kept working on the routine.  Again, Indigo Blue's advice came in handy.

I improved a lot, but something felt off.  With a better sense of my identity as a performer, I'm not sure it fits my vision.  I won't put O-Ren to rest for good, but I’m going to have to think on this act some more.  Despite all this, I had a blast at Popcorn and Pasties.  It was fun geeking out backstage with friends, and Vivienne Vermuth did an amazing job on my make-up, which alleviated some of the frenzy.  I enjoyed watching how different movies inspired my fellow performers.  There was something for everyone at this show, and I'm glad I was a part of this diverse cast.  Check out the video by Lisa Loving.

I have at least one more post to write before I'm caught up.  In the meantime, I'll share more of Miracle Bennett's photos on my Facebook page.  Also you can catch me with Fuego this Friday at ¡Ritmo Caliente!  No samba group number this time, but I'll be debuting a new act.  Click here for tickets.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Upcoming events and prints for sale

I was going to make a new blog post, but I couldn't wait to make some exciting announcements.  First, here's my next show.  Saturday I will be in the Texas Burlesque Peepshow's magic-themed production, I Put a Spell on You.  Click here for tickets.

Then on September 5 (I guess technically the 6th since it's at midnight), I'll be presenting my Nerdlesque panel at AnimeFest.  My schedule for con is a bit up in the air, but I also hope to join the Ladies of Power for some of their panels.  Check out the schedule here.

Now for the big announcement, also related to Ladies of Power.  We've opened our on-line store!  Due to several roadblocks getting in the way of calendar printing, we decided to sell prints for charity for now.  If it goes well, we might return to the calendar idea or do posters.  Right now we have a first-run of 4x6 prints going for the discounted price of $2.  If you want either of the images of me, check out .  Mention this blog and I'll sign it for free!  All profits will go to Girls Education International.
Wonder Girl - Young Justice comics
By HendrixHunter Photography
MU by Meghan Palla

Nana Osaki - NANA
By HendrixHunter Photography
HAMU by Meghan Palla

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Making Burlesque More Queer and More Nerdy

I'm me.  First, last and always. - Loki, Loki: Agent of Asgard by Al Ewing

Weeknight shows have been difficult for me not just because my lab keeps early hours, but public transport likes to shut down around midnight.  Then I finally got a smart phone and Lyft.  Although I try not to make this a habit since I already need more sleep than what I get, this has opened up a few doors the past couple of months.

If it weren't for Lillith Grey, I probably wouldn't have made my bust-out when I did.  Therefore, I couldn't say no when she asked me to perform at Glitterbomb in Denton.  I'd been reluctant to go to that side of the Metroplex because it's far away and my lungs don't like the smoke.  However, Glitterbomb is a queerlesque show, and that week's theme happened to be nerdlesque.  On top of that, Lillith really went out of her way to create a safe space by adding trigger warnings to acts and having a rule against cultural appropriation.  It was so refreshing.

Helena Isis, me, and Vylette Pairadox
at Glitterbomb Denton
By Kristoph Kale
I pitched my Tuxedo Mask routine to Lillith, and she wound up adding it to the set with my "Black Glasses" act.  Little did I know that there was a guy with a Tuxedo Mask shirt right in the front row.  I actually didn't notice the shirt until Helena Isis mentioned it to me, but he was very eager to tip me and cheered the loudest.   Since my hair is short and I wanted to distinguish between the masculine Tuxedo Mask act and the more feminine "Black Glasses", I opted to wear a wig for the latter.  The Companion bought a wig for his Hange cosplay that he later decided to not use.  It was the perfect length and in a messy but cute style that fit the routine very well.

I didn't realize how famous "Black Glasses" had gotten.  It's always an honor to meet a performer and have them connect you with a routine that they enjoyed.  I have to give a huge shout-out to my friend and newcomer to the scene Vylette Pairadox for being my ride even though she also had work the next day.

Tuesday Tease
By Arctic Fox Photography
Then it was Dallas' queerlesque scene's to have a nerdy show.  Sue Ellen's is always a lovely place to perform at, and I had been wanting to just go to Tuesday Tease.  I wound up reprising my "Black Glasses" routine, and the crowd loved it.  I tried to loosen up the choreography so that I could interact with the audience more and take tips.  Since I did not want to wear my onesie in the middle of summer, I decided to don a cosplay for curtain call, and who better else to do than Agent Victoria Hand, the first lesbian character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (at least in my eyes—they neither confirmed nor denied it).  Like Glitterbomb, I had a lovely time celebrating fandom with my fellow LGBTQIA geeks.

Representation in assorted media has gotten better, but more can be done.  I'm happy to see the burlesque scene doing its part.  Queerlesque gave the space for me to take the leap, and I'm happy to see it get a lot of love and hope to be more involved.  In turn, it's helping me find my identity performer by bringing in parts of me that were always present—the parts that straddle the the gender binary, which have always been the position where I feel sexiest.  Now they get to be a bit more glittery.

If you want to see more nerdlesque from yours truly, check out my next show—A Plumb Askew Revue's Popcorn and Pasties: a Film Strip.  Click here for tickets.  You'll want to purchase ahead of time unless you have cash with you the day of the show.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Moonlight and Fire, the Debut of Mamo-chan

"It’s in my dreams I find the right moment.
It is the night that brings me the moonlight." - "Sailor Moon" by Platina Jazz feat. Douglas Unger.  Translated from the original japanese lyrics by Douglas Unger.
What happens when you attain one of your dream cosplays?  You come up with a new costume to fill that spot, of course!  Thanks to Black Mariah, I had done Sailor Mars, the first cosplay I ever wanted to do.  I was perfectly satisfied with portraying the character until I saw the 2013 live-action musical Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon - La Reconquista.  It differed from previous productions in having a woman play Tuxedo Mask, a.k.a. Mamoru Chiba or "Mamo-chan".  Yuuga Yamato came from the all-female Takarazuka Revue so she had lots of experience playing the dashing male lead.  I was smitten.  I wanted to have a fraction of her coolness, and by extension, I found myself wanting to be Tuxedo Mask.  The idea was further encouraged by discussions of a Sailor Moon cosplay group, which already had a Mars.
Yuuga Yamato in La Reconquista
Around the same time, I discovered a cover of the anime's theme by Platina Jazz featuring Douglas Unger, "Moonlight Serenade".  They added a tango touch while adapting the translated lyrics to Tuxedo Mask's point of view.  The song just asked to be part of a burlesque number.  Since I was working on my solo debut at the time, I filed that away in my brain.

By Mr. Photopix
I started to put a routine together at the end of last year with hopes of reaching out to shows with more classical themes.  Although I initially included the character's signature mask, I realized that I could make the outfit more generalized to appeal to a wider audience.  Yamato's Tuxedo Mask didn't really wear a mask either.  I could just save that for cosplay, which I did for All-con out of eagerness to be the character (sadly I was never at a con where the Sailor Moon group was happening).

No Mija Productions presents: Fuego Noche Tropicana might have been an unexpected show for the act, but I learned that you should always submit if you have an inkling of being a good fit.  This being a Latin-themed production meant that I did have to properly incorporate tango into the choreography.  Thankfully Youtube had a lot of helpful tutorials, and I mastered the basic 8-step for both the leader and follower, along with embellishments that could work in a solo routine.

By Mr. Photopix
Although the audience was not expecting the Sailor Moon theme, they seemed to love the act.  It's tricky business combining cultures but also a lot of fun when it comes together.  I definitely had a blast because everything had finally come together and I was living out another dream.  Since I was also in the closing group number by Fuego Danza Company, I couldn't hang into my tuxedo.  That was probably the evening's biggest challenge: going from anime bishounen (pretty boy) to a sparkly, feathery samba dancer.  Even with the feminine elements of my routine, I still aimed for a more androgynous look.

The group number was a fun way to close a great first show for No Mija Productions, and while I wound up having a very tired Friday morning in lab, it was worth every bit of my energy.  I came away ready to both do more with Fuego Danza Company (catch us at the San Antonio Burlesque Festival) and with "Moonlight Serenade".

Monday, July 13, 2015

Upcoming shows: Tuesday Tease and San Antonio Burlesque Festival

I'll be performing tomorrow at the queer variety show Tuesday Tease.  The theme is "Dirty Nerdy" and there's no cover for 21+.

Later I'll be heading to the San Antonio Burlesque Festival with Fuego Danza Company on August 1.  We've been accepted into their Saturday Night Spectacular!  Click here for tickets.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Body Acceptance series - Eyes

 "Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses." - "News Item" by Dorothy Parker
Recently I did a photoshoot with Musico Roots for her Esteemed project.  It made me confront my struggles with body positivity and gave me motivation to finally get around this series—called "Body Acceptance" because I believe we don't have to be positive about every part of our body, but we need to find some level of acceptance (modification included).  I've been wanting to write a post about being a severely myopic performer as well so I decided to start with my eyes and talk about both their appearance and their function.

Like many Asian-Americans, I grew up with kids making fun of me for my eyes.  If that wasn't enough of a blow to my self-esteem, my own family often commented on how I "would be so beautiful if it weren't for [my] small eyes" or how I should get double eyelid surgery when I got older.  Even now people think I’m sad, tired, or angry when my face is at neutral.

From Buzzfeed's
"25 Beauty Struggles Asian Girls Go Through"
Ami-rian / Getty Images / Cathy Ngo / BuzzFeed
I've never desired double eyelid surgery, but sometimes I wonder if it would make life easier.  On top of having small eyes and monolids, my eyes are droopy and my eyelashes slant downward.  This makes wearing contacts, mascara, and false eyelashes a perpetual struggle.  I've tried every trick in the book with falsies and curlers, but gravity wins in the end.  Buzzfeed hit the nail on the head with all my eye make-up struggles.  If surgery could get rid of some of these and spare me the agony of having an eyelash or three frequently in my eye, I would be thrilled.  At the same time, I doubt it would actually get rid of my insecurities.  I'd be better off going under the knife for vision problems.

That brings me to the source of my biggest performance nightmare: my rigid gas permeable contact lenses.  Before every show, I freak out about the possibility of getting glitter, an eyelash, or a speck of dust into my eye and causing excruciating pain and lots of tears.  RGP lenses are an updated form of hard contacts, which means I can constantly feel their presence (one can get acclimated to them, but my eyes don't like wearing them every day).  A tiny thread on them feels like being poked in the eyeball.  I've had a couple of close calls and one incident while kittening.  It makes me feel bad that I end up being this liability to producers and stage managers.

So why do I bother?  Well, I can only see clearly about 4.5 inches from my face.  Everything else is a collection of blurry blobs.  I'd rather not risk taking a tumble off the stage; plus, unfocused eyes make me look high.  My small eyes and monolids keep me from being able to insert soft contacts, and my vision is still changing so LASIK will have to wait. 

I laugh at irony of contacts being preferred because glasses obscure my face and reflect light, yet having RGP contacts limit my expressiveness due to the fact that the lenses actually shift around my eyeballs.  I make do with what I have by working to be a better actress and sometimes drawing in that double eyelid.  I also get my bit of critique in with my "Black Glasses" act.  The ending is a reminder that glasses in real life are not accessories that enhance or conceal a person's attractiveness.  They're a necessity for near- and far-sighted individuals to live a normal life.

Photo by Dolly Cosplay
I want to end with a note of acceptance.  Initially I struggled to come up with something positive to say because my eyes have been my least favorite trait since childhood.  A few years ago, however, I discovered the character, Kyoya Hibari from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! Not only is he a badass with a serious demeanor that I identify with, but he also had narrow eyes (that don't look closed like Brock from Pokemon).  Cosplaying him made me appreciate the eyes I have, and I'm excited about another future cosplay for the same reason.  This is partly why my aesthetic has shifted toward the masculine since big eyes and long lashes are often associated with femininity. 

My droopy eyes have also forced me to master the cat eye.  It's the one aspect of make-up that I can do well, and obviously it has been very useful in burlesque.

On a final note, you can come see my cat eye (and my "Black Glasses" act) tonight in Denton for Glitterbomb:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Upcoming show: Fuego Noche Tropicana

No BHoF for me this year, but I am going on vacation. I'll leave you with an announcement of a show I'll be in on June 18.  Fuego Danza Company and No Mija Productions Presents: Fuego Noche Tropicana.  

It's a night of Latin-themed performances ranging from burlesque to belly dance, salsa to samba.  The show will run from 9 to 11 PM.  Click here to purchase tickets.