Stripper Talk #5: Burlesque and Family

Author of Stripper Talk, Sydni Deveraux

Hello world! It’s Stripper Talk time again! This is a place where I field questions and answer them to the best of my ability, hopefully giving anyone who’s interested in burlesque some insight.

This week’s questions come from two ladies who seem to have something in common!

“Hey Miss Sydni,

First off I just want to say that I have been soaking up all your advice and admiring all that you do since I met you at the Vancouver burlesque fest this past May 🙂 Since I’m such a tall girl myself im glad I can have a Glamazon like you to look up to in the burlesque community. 🙂

Now here is my question. How do you (or how did you) deal with and talk to family members that STRONGLY opposed to your choice to become an burlesque entertainer? I’ve hit that road block already so early in my burlesque life, that I’m already discouraged. I have fallen so madly in love with burlesque that I wish my family would understand and try to see my point of view. I feel like I am Juliette and that burlesque is my Romeo. Forbidden love *le sigh*

Warmly,
Coconut”

and

Hello Mrs. Deveraux,

 I am a very big fan of vintage 40’s and 50’s everything!  Which lead me into the world of burlesque and I have been taken in by it’s beauty, grace and freedom.  So much so I want to be a performer, I have gone so far as to connect w/ the burlesque community in my area, find and attend shows and even find classes to start working on the craft.  However I was raised in a religious household that would not be too fond of that career choice.  Do you have any advice or could provide some clarity to my situation?  I really would appreciate any input, thank you.

B.Merri

Hi ladies,

I wanted to thank you both for writing in, and within a day of each other even(!) asking a very similar question. I chose to group you two together for a couple of reasons, one being so that you know that you are certainly not alone in your conundrum.

When I was just going into college I told my mom that I wanted to be a alternative nude pinup model on the internet. You can guess her initial response. I was raised pretty liberal, by loving, hippie-ish lesbian moms and a dad who seems to hear the Shaft soundtrack whenever he walks around. Needless to say, my childhood might have been very different from yours.

However, I think our parent’s worries are probably very similar at the root of it all, which is usually having to do with our personal safety (physical and emotional) and also having to do with their generation’s beliefs around body and body image. Coconut, have you asked your family what exactly they don’t like about your desire to be in burlesque? And B.Merri- have you talked with your family at all about burlesque and it’s existence in your life, even to the admission that you attend shows? Before you get to ahead of yourself calling it a career (most of us aren’t career girls at this), please know that there’s not a lot of money in this. This is for love of the art, B.Merri- for the simple pleasure of having fun on stage while being (hopefully) very entertaining. This is a craft that takes a lot of time, money, sweat and sometimes tears, it’s rarely just a shimmy, a smile and a pretty dress.

I think it’s time to get honest with your parents, have a real, adult conversation with them about what their concerns are, and then take the time to address them. It might not all happen in one conversation. Not only will you be doing your parents a favor by talking with them about their concerns, but you’ll also be doing some good work discovering why you want so badly to perform burlesque. Start doing your research, write the lists of pro’s and con’s and really think about your parent’s concerns, since you both seem concerned about your family’s approval.

A long time ago, actors were seen as lower than low, like prostitutes of the entertainment world. In a lot of ways, people haven’t changed in their thoughts about performing arts, and certainly about arts that include a sexual nature. Burlesque, like all other types of art is baring it all. Your body, your mind, your agenda, all of these things. You will be subjecting yourself to other peoples opinions about you, constantly. You need to remember in your conversations that most likely your family is not happy about considering your sexual nature or your desire to show the world your sexual nature. I would certainly think that it might be in direct opposition to a lot of religions. Regardless of beliefs though- it was my biggest hurdle with my mother. You need to get real with what you think about sex, body image, artistic integrity, everything. Start reading. Start writing.

Now, since ultimately your decision to be in burlesque is your decision because I am assuming that you both are adults, I also feel the need to play devil’s advocate: who cares what your family thinks? You have only one life to live in this body of yours to do whatever you want with it. And at the end of the day, at the end of your life (one day) will you regret not testing your burlesque dreams?

I suggest that you need to sit down and ask yourself the hard questions about WHY this is something that is calling you. Because you might need to share those things with those you love. Is it because you see it as naughty and indulgent? Is it for the glamour? The sense of community you have seen expressed? If you can’t take your families disappointment, are there other ways that you can participate in the community without removing your clothes that you’d feel satisfied with? Do you have another talent to share?

Even after I was a naked lady on the internet, my mother was incredibly wary of my performing burlesque (she once called them “provocative acts”) on live stages in front of men. What worked for my mother was coming to a show that I  was not in, and later coming to a show that I was in. Throughout the process, I talked to her about her concerns about my safety, and her concerns about how other people (she learned that audiences were more than just the male heterosexual gaze) saw me naked. It’s an ongoing process-I perform on bigger and bigger stages all over the world and I still have to talk with my mom about things that might make her uncomfortable when I’m on stage.

No matter your decision I would recommend never lying to those you love. Living in a lie just plain sucks. I really do believe that you give up part of yourself when you can’t fully express all of your emotions. Even if you’re disappointed in your families disapproval, or your relationship changes, you can at least say that you were honest.

“Dream and give yourself permission to envision a You that you choose to be.”
Joy Page

Whatever that may be, darlings, I wish you both luck on your journeys to find your freedom of expression.

xo

Sydni Deveraux

*Would you like your burlesque question answered in Stripper Talk? Email me at GlitterWonderland@gmail.comWant to see more of me? Check out www.GlitterWonderland.com

One thought on “Stripper Talk #5: Burlesque and Family

  1. This is such great advice. I always tell newcomers who ask that they need to spend some time really thinking about WHY they want to do burlesque. In my opinion, you cannot divorce your sexual identity from your performance. If you don’t want to delve into sexuality and have honest, fully-formed thoughts/theories/expressions which are the reasons why your performance includes stripping & sex, then find some performance outlet that doesn’t involve sexuality. If you can’t or you are afraid to explain to your parents, friends, or an interviewer why your art includes stripping (and I get asked this all the time!), maybe you need to educate yourself or spend more time developing your opinions on sex, society, performance, etc. I am shocked how many burlesque performers are willing to expose their bodies to strangers, but not prepared to share an honest & strong reason why. Thank you for posting this.

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