According to a recent press release: "The Michigan Burlesque Festival started in 2012 with the intent to bring some of the world’s most unique performers to Detroit in hopes of reuniting the traditional concepts of original burlesque theater, where dancers and vaudevillians shared a stage to provide well rounded and entertaining sexy comedic show. It has grown into a two-day festival featuring not-to-miss local talent and award-winning performance artists and world renown burlesque performers, such as past headliners: Lushes LaMoan, Bella Sin, The Weird Sisters, Red Hot Annie, Super Happy Funtime Burlesque, Russell Brunner, Roxi D’Lite, Dangrrr Doll, Ray Gunn, Mr. Gorgeous, Jeez Loueez, Satori Circus, Hank E Panky, Dirty Martini along with so many more phenomenal performers." We get the performer Lottie Ellington to discuss routines, influences, and much more...
This particular act was developed as my theme song for 2019. No matter what the universe throws at me, I just keep saying “You can’t stop me”! In April I had a hysterectomy to remove fibroid tumors, then in May I took over as Headmistress of Boom Boom Basics Burlesque and Performing Arts Studio in Richmond, Virginia. I also produced my first show in February, so I have had a lot of challenges and a lot of on the job learning as I step in to my new role.
2. What got you into burlesque, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a performer? Building on that, is there a specific performer or act that guided your performances in the beginning?
From the first show that I attended in 2009 I was hooked! I attended as many shows as I could, but I was finishing up work on my Masters Degree so I had to put my passion for burlesque on the back burner. Once I finished graduate school in 2010 I immediately registered for classes and I haven’t stopped performing and learning since. The first performer that I looked to as a guide or idol was Boo Boo Darling, she was still in Richmond then and I loved her use of comedy in Burlesque.
3. Who would be your main influences or performers you admire?
I have so many people that I look up to, first would be Momma Toni Elling, without her and Lottie the Body there would be no Lottie Ellington! I love Nasty Canasta, Perle Noire, Egypt Blaque Knyle, Jeeze Louieze, Foxy Tann, The Main Attraction, Ray Gunn, Bazoka Joe, Amber Ray...
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a routine with, who would it be, and why?
I’m not sure that there is any one person that I would want to collaborate with, but I would love to be able to get costume advice from Danger Doll, hosting advice from Foxy Tann and movement coaching from Perle Noire.
5. How would you describe your performance style to someone who’d never seen you perform before? What is one review from the media, an audience member, or a fan has made that made you cringe?
I would describe my style as unexpected, I like to switch things up by doing classic style numbers to hip hop music, I like to do funny numbers, but I can also do serious dramatic numbers. The one review from the media that made me cringe was “Parents Say Fire Twerking Teacher” that headline really hurt. First because people were calling for me to lose my job and second that was the first number that I had created that had twerking in it. The song was “Twerking In The Rain” which was a silly parody of singing in the rain. After my Michigan Burlesque Festival footage of that number went viral my entire life was upended.
6. When it comes to the musical component of your performance, is there a certain musical genre, artist, or specific song you have always wanted to use? What was the first song you ever used – and what does that song mean to you now?
I have always dreamed of performing to the Dave Matthews Band at one of their concerts. There have been a few occasions where I have seen other performers use a song I had in mind, but when that happens I just keep it moving and create something else. An instructor once told me “if other people are using your song that means you didn’t go deep enough into your art”. As a result I use that as fuel to dive deeper into my concept or idea, I find an interesting cover of the song, I find a song that has the same emotion either way I just get on with it. The first song I ever performed to was "Closet Freak" by Cee Lo Green, the song talks about how everyone fears that their freak flags will be discovered and how important it is to embrace and claim those parts of you that are flawed or freaky. After all these years, I still love this song and what is stands for.
I wish audience members knew that I am “people” I’m just a regular person. I’m a little odd and I’m socially awkward. I wish people knew how much love I put into my performances I genuinely love being on stage. I wish people knew that Burlesque is a lot of hard work, it’s late nights, it’s social media, it’s writing, it’s blisters, it’s hot glue gun burns, it’s tears because I can’t get my sewing machine to work. Burlesque is a labor of love. I think the biggest misconception about me and my burlesque journey is that I am famous. I’m not famous, I’m infamous which is not the same. Until I went viral, I was just another mediocre burlesque performer just trying to make art. I’ve had to work hard to put my life back together, I’ve had to work hard to not let trauma change me.
8. When was the last time you were star struck by a burlesque performer and who was it?
I was star struck just recently when I had the honor to perform with Jessabelly, SpICE, Carmel Knowledge and Twirlisha Divine at Venessa Chevelle’s Afrotease, an all POC burlesque show!
9. What is the best part of being a burlesque performer? Conversely, what is the worst part? If you could no longer be a performer for whatever reason, what would be your other artistic outlet?
The best part of being a burlesque performer is without a doubt creating, performing and sharing my art. The worst part is producing, it’s hard having that things to worry about at once. If I could no longer perform I would continue teaching, producing and helping other performers.
10. Looking back over your burlesque career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?
Nope! Every step, every decision was an opportunity to improve and get better.
11. What is one thing you still want to achieve in the burlesque world? At the end of the day, what contribution to the local burlesque scene do you hope you will be remembered for?
I hope to be a good teacher and headmistress, I hope to leave my community with a legacy full of strong and influential burlesque performers. I want my students to grow beyond me and my wildest burlesque dreams. I want to see burlesque offered as an elective in collegiate dance programs, I want people to be able to express themselves without fear.
LOTTIE ELLINGTON LINKS:
MICHIGAN BURLESQUE FESTIVAL LINKS: