Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Stage Kitten Initiation at the Dallas Burlesque Festival

Originally published  March 6, 2013 on Dieselpunks After Dark

Before I embarked on my mission to be naked more, I thought being a stage kitten was a possibility for me.  The outfits would be as revealing as some of the skimpy cosplays I wanted to do, and in college, I helped our theatre group keep track of where props went.  My lack of experience with heels, make-up, and generally being sexy would make the role challenging.  However, with my new resolution to get more involved in burlesque, I decided to answer the call for stage kitten applicants for the Dallas Burlesque Festival.

Bill of N Street Photography had kindly offered his services to provide photos for would-be kittens to submit, and Bella Eden helped organize the schedule and did our hair and make-up.  The majority of my experiences with modeling and acting sexy involve playing a character so I learned several things about pin-up modeling and my own sexy side:

By N Street Photography. 
MUAH: Bella Eden
1. Less is more in terms of wardrobe.  I was glad to have brought many outfits, including lingerie (that didn’t really match but looked okay together).
2. More is better in terms of make-up.  It’s especially true with eyeliner on single eyelids.
3. Being cheap doesn’t work for false eyelashes.
4. You don’t need a fancy hairstyle.  Just a flower will suffice.
5. A headshot and a full body shot don’t have to be boring.  Yes, they want to see your face and body, but you also have to let your personality shine through.

Despite loving the great photos, I didn’t have much confidence in getting the part.  The Dallas Burlesque Festival brings in a large amount of talent, and I had no experience.  You can bet that I was extremely surprised and thrilled to have been chosen.  Lesson #6: don’t doubt yourself.

That wasn’t the end of my obstacles though.  Being without a car, I didn’t have much choice but to put off shopping for the right kind of heels until the morning of my first kitten gig.  I was kicking myself for not being more of a girly girl.  We got everything in the nick of time, and there I was in the House of Blues dressing room.  I was changing next to Bettina May, talking cosplay with Black Mariah, and devouring cheese with a bunch of the girls.  Before the show began, Missy Lisa grabbed a few of us kittens to help sell merchandise.  My job had me behind the merchandise table, which was a good starting place given my anxiety with approaching people.  It was nerve-wracking to be the first person seen by incoming audience members, but I was able to switch into business mode.  The fact that I was in my underwear with fishnets and a corset barely registered in my mind.  Just as things were getting busy, Jes, the usual merch guy, appeared, and I moved onto (candy) cigarette girl duties.  I was still apprehensive about approaching people, but I was able to sell a few things and I even got my picture taken.

Lesson #7 came after the show: bring something nice to change into.  Since kittens were supposed to arrive with hair and make-up done, I came in clothes I could easily slip out of.  Needless to say, they weren’t very glamorous or even cute, but at least I had a DBF tank top, which, according to Tana the Tattooed Lady, made my boobs look great.  Lesson #8: compliments on your body can be a good thing.  When I came home, I discovered glitter on the top of my breasts.  I had no idea where it came from, but I considered it a sign that I was officially part of the burlesque world.

Sunday I felt less shy backstage.  A part of me still fangirled inside with being in the presence of Di’Lovely (the little girl in me always gets excited for Asians doing burlesque because it makes me feel like what I’m working towards is more achievable).  There was another exciting moment when legend Tammi True walked in.  While determining how much time she had to get ready, she revealed that dancers back in the golden age of burlesque would perform 15-20 minute sets.

Janie Slash, Lyric Laveau, and Carmen St. Cloud backstage
I was so nervous about missing an article of clothing or tripping on-stage, but we worked out a plan for pick up and set-up before each act to make things go smoothly.  Lesson #9: don’t panic if you stumble or can’t find something (or the stairs feel wobbly), your fellow kittens and the other dancers will help out.  Seeing performances from a kitten’s point of view was very interesting, and I’m not just talking about the side view.  Because you’re focused on what gets tossed where, you start noticing little details of the dancer’s costume and movements.

After the show, StrOker Ace gave us copies of The Berlesker, a literary journal featuring work by members of the community.  It was a reminder of how many intelligent, multi-talented individuals are involved with burlesque.  I decided that I would try to come up with something to submit for the next issue. 

me with Angi B. Lovely
My attempt to be dressier with a button-up and nice jeans still fell short of the dress code of red carpet glam.  Lesson #10: “Awards Dinner” means super fancy. . . but when you’re a chronic underdresser, a cool shirt will do.  The most important lesson perhaps is to be yourself, and that’s what burlesque celebrates in an exaggerated, sexy, glitter-filled way.  Once I stopped worrying about looking silly, I felt more comfortable chatting and snapping a few photos.  In addition to all the lessons I took home with me on the road to being a Dallas Burlesque Festival stage kitten, I now have a lot of great memories and new friends, and now more than ever, I want to increase my involvement in this wonderful community.

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