Stripper Talk #17: Bullies in Burlesque

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.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION AND COMMENT HERE: http://www.21stcenturyburlesque.com/stripper-talk-with-sydni-deveraux-bullies-in-burlesque/

This week’s question comes from a performer who’s identity I’ve chosen to protect , location undisclosed. Let’s call her “XX”. All of the identities have been removed from this post, including the location of the peoples involved. Statements (taken from correspondence) from the producer has been  highlighted to give as much of the full story as is allowed at this time, and to encourage a conversation that needs to happen in our community, and that is of discrimination and misogyny in burlesque- this episode being “size-ism”. As burlesque becomes more and more popular, we need to take notice of our surroundings in which we’ve become accustomed to- and make sure that all of it’s participants are treated with respect. It’s a slippery slope- allow an inch and some will run a mile on you. 

Dear Sydni,

I am writing to you after being inspired by this video:  http://www.upworthy.com/bully-calls-news-anchor-fat-news-anchor-destroys-him-on-live-tv?g=2&c=ucfb1

This year I stepped down after 6 years of performing burlesque after having a discussion with a producer.  I was pulled aside after a rehearsal and told to lose weight by him and that now there was a new “code of conduct” which addressed this issue.  Ok…  I calmly said that I understood and walked away from the exchange completely shocked.  We live in a free country, people can do what they want and produce whatever show they want, but I got into burlesque not to be a skinny girl on stage, but to be the sexy woman that I am.  Later that week I informed him that I could not follow his new rule and do not agree to the terms we discuss, which were

1.)  Lose more weight 
2.)  If I don’t lose weight I will be booked less 
3.)  I was not allowed to discuss this topic with any of girls. 

His response was this correspondence: (edited down for length)

“…I wanted it to be a process that we embrace together, with the end result being a healthier, slimmer performer. I want to see the return of the XX on the stage that I originally cast in the show. That’s it….

I represent the audience and what they desire to see onstage. In every aspect of the show….Ignoring social norms of what is attractive is pure selfishness on the part of the performer. That’s a quick way to end up with a show that no one wants to see…. If you ignore the audience’s expectations, then they will ignore you and your show. 

At the end of the day, you are fighting me about this because a.) your feelings are hurt by my honesty about a situation that we both know to be true, and b.) it dredges up all sorts of hurtful self image issues that you are applying to yourself. If you were to step back and look at the situation rationally,  you would agree that this isn’t the body image that you want to represent yourself with or that you want to put onstage. You want to be healtier, more attractive, stronger, faster, leaner. You want the same things that I want for you. You just don’t like hearing it from me. 

So, I’ll ask you again. Will you work with me on this? Will you continue to do what you are already doing, slim down, get healthier and be accountable for this with me? Or would you rather tell me to fuck off just because it feels good to do that, in this particular moment?

Respectfully,
Producer”

Which was then followed immediately with this correspondence:

“Let’s be clear about this. You are currently the biggest girl in the show. That’s why I had the first discussion with you.”

I do not have height restrictions for the show, because no performer can control that. And the pool of available talent in the city is not large enough for me to put that restriction in place. A performer CAN control their weight. That’s why I am addressing this issue. 

…Vegas standards are much stricter than anything that we put forward in this show. Nobody in Vegas would have the prolonged discussion that I am having with you. They would have just fired you a long time ago and hired someone else.”

And my response was:

“Hi Producer,

Since we’re being clear, I understand that it is your responsibility, if anyone’s, to approach me when a change like this is needed. However, I completely disagree with the direction you’re leading this troupe in. When you pitched the show to me, it was a collaboration of gypsy artists, not a weight restricting showgirl strip club. You never pitched a show that would have restrictions on the burlesque performers. 

On that note, I am not the largest girl. I wear a size 4. *S is a 6. Fact.  I have absolutely no issues with *S size. Perhaps the reason she doesn’t count in your lineup of who’s the largest is dependent on a longer working relationship, again, since we’re being clear. 

If you were to step back and look at the situation rationally, you’d recognize that your motives for this are skewed, at best. 

I’m not telling you to fuck off. It doesn’t feel good to have to have this exchange with you. I told you when we spoke that I’m now 3 lbs. away from my weight on my license, which was 135 lbs. When I started this show, I was 141. It hurts me that you’re approaching me based on your personal opinion, not fact. 

I’ll see you at the show tonight. 

XX”

None of the girls I spoke with heard of this new rule, nor did they agree with it.  Of course, that night was the last night I performed with the troupe.

I was going to walk away from this and never look back, but some part of me feels like I need to tear this open for everyone to see.  He had bullied girls about this and that- but about my weight… that was the last straw.  Is this where burlesque is headed?  This homogenized version for the masses to digest?  Is this the future of this art form?  What the hell should I do?  Do I bring this to the community?  My options for performing are slim now that I don’t have a “home” show, so I’m taking this time to figure out what does this is all mean for me.  But please, I would love to hear your opinion.

Sincerely,
*XX

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Stripper Talk #13: Body beauty

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.

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I should mention that this particular blog is long but could be longer because of the enormity of the topic. Hopefully this episode with start another conversation on the topic of body positivity in burlesque. I’m hoping to touch more on sub-topics within the idea of “body image in burlesque” in future Stripper Talk sessions. Please comment or send me an email (glitterwonderland@gmail.com) if you have a question or a topic that you’d like covered. 

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This week’s question comes from a performer who would like to remain anonymous.

” I have been attacked by people due to my size, with things like “She’s fat and she needs to lose weight if she’s gonna take off her clothing” and I know am not a professional dancer like some of the girls but I put effort in my performing and costuming. I’m constantly put down by people saying “sizeist” remarks about my body or the way I perform. As of late I just want to quit. I really need help I want to be healthy for me and that be ok.

Does size really matter?

looking to your answer.

with much love and admiration…”

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Stripper Talk #8: I want to do my first show!

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 question comes from Brittany H.

” Dear Sydni,

Ever since I saw my first show in October, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole into that glitter wonderland that is burlesque.  Eventually I’d love to perform in a show when I have more experience.  I guess my question would be how to break into my first show.  I’ve been told some shows require an audition and some a video.  What would be the best option? 

Yours truly,
Brittany H.”
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Stripper Talk #6: I’m not getting paid my rate

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 question comes from a performing friend who would like to remain anonymous: 

Hey Sydni,

I would like to remain anonymous.
I haven’t been performing nearly as much this year because most of the shows in (withheld to protect) won’t pay me my rate.

In previous blogs you’ve written about NOT performing for anything less than your rate for several reasons.

I find myself performing less and less because I refuse to be paid $25.
I’m kind of at a cross road between not performing hardly at all because no one  will pay me my rate or performing for WAY less than I deserve because if I don’t, I rarely get to let my caged burlesque animal out. I’m not really finding any middle ground.
I realize the economy is bad but my rate is not outrageous.

What do you think?

Thanks,

Anonymous

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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

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Stripper Talk #4: how do I approach a producer?

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 question comes from last weeks inquisitor Atlanta Summer, from Seattle WA: 

“As a hobbyist and a soloist (not a troupe member), I’d love to get in on shows that have “special guests” but I have no idea how to start, how to approach a producer (occasionally not even WHO to approach), how to be noticed and get on the performance radar. Do you have advice?”
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Stripper Talk #3: Is there a place for me?

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 the world of burlesque some insight.

This week’s question comes from Atlanta Summer from my hometown, Seattle, WA:

” I’m a dedicated hobbyist. I love performing. I perform for my own pleasure and that of my audience. However, I have no aspirations to make it my full-time career that pays my bills; I have other goals in that department. This is something I do to scratch my creative itch, and I’m not really worried about a “living wage” for what I do.

Is there a place for me in performance art in the same shows with the professionals, the ones who ARE trying to make a living at it? Is my mere existence damaging to those professionals’ livelihoods?” 

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Stripper Talk #2: recommendations?

Author of Stripper Talk, Sydni Deveraux

Hello there!

Welcome to my Stripper Talk series! I thought that it would be fun to get questions from other burlesquers around the world, and answer them, “Dear Abby” style.

This week’s question is from Bunny VanDoren , from Indianapolis, IN:

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Stripper Talk #1: Who are your major influences and why?

Author of Stripper Talk, Sydni Deveraux

Hello there!

Welcome to my burgeoning Stripper Talk series! I thought that it would be fun to get questions from other burlesquers around the world, and answer them, “Dear Abby” style.

The first question is from Bobbie Baltimore, from Las Vegas, NV:

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Stripper Talk: Burlesque Advice for Newbies

So you want to join the burlesque ranks of the best and the brightest? Sounds groovy, but you need to work to get some work! Working hard at this art form is what you need to stick out in the community- a community saturated with fledgling as well as established performers all over the world.

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