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 performer Lushes Lamoan to discuss routines, influences, and much more...
The latest act I put together was originally created for a video game show with comedic troupe, Black Sheep Burlesque. I really wanted to have fun with it since this was my return to performing 4 weeks postpartum and I was uncertain of how I would physically feel. I wanted to do something cartoony yet classic (Like me) and as cheesy and childlike as it sounds I made a giant sandwich board cut out of Miss Pac Man. I performed to the Pac Man theme song spliced with that 80’s tune from Dirty Dancing, "Hungry Eyes." It was so silly, everyone loved it! I wanted to put that costume to further use by doing what I do best; Gritty, grimey classic bump n grind. A few years ago I spliced together some music I used to perform to. Upon discovering that the fusion worked well, I sat on that track waiting for the inspiration to design the perfect costume. Little did I know that inspiration would be Miss Pac Man. The costume is out of this world sexy with bright color, and lots of movement, it is really fun. This new act is 8 minutes of smashingly brilliant in your face beauty (Like me).
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?
I have always been an entertainer. It is what I was born to do. I started as a youth, showing off in show choirs, later moving into theater, then film, music videos, documentaries, and am published in multiple books and have even been on television. I was an international performer by the age of 18! (oh man that was 18 years ago..don’t do math, don’t do math!!?! I’m still 21) I was on an independent sketch comedy show; the producer told me I looked like pin up model. This inspired me to try to model, I kept looking for opportunities to get booked, but I was constantly being turned away. Sad face. I didn’t give up! Years later when I was 23 (but still 21, don’t do math, DON’T DO MATH!) I came across a Spag pin up calendar featuring the Michigan hearse club. I met up with the troupe director and went to the Burlesque show to see if I liked it, before trying it, and I did. It was at that show that I first witnessed SATORI CIRCUS and Sprockethole. At the show SATORI blew my mind in an astonishingly confusing sort of way, and I loved that, I love being perplexed. Sprocket was so cute and sexy! I wanted to be up there like her. That night I said to myself, self, YOU can totally “do it”, and I have, I have been “doing it” ever since. Nothing and no one will stop me from sharing my love of dance and nudity.
3. Who would be your main influences or performers?
I am inspired by classic icons such as Mae West and Bettie Paige. Later I learned about our legends, thanks to my Spag Sister the late Sparkly Devil, Rest In Paradise. I’m very blessed to know Lottie the Body, I am good friends with Mama Toni Elling, she calls me her name sake and Val Valentine gifted me her patterns and sanctioned me to use her blacklight costume. I do admire a few Neo performers. I’ve always loved Mrs. Tickle (NY), not only are her costumes incredibly amazing, but her acts rock my brain cells. She is able to create mind blowing stories through her movement, song choice and costuming. I am also head over heels for Waxie Moon (WA). Waxie is poetry and has the grace of a thousand butterflies, being known for having a beautifully breathtaking way of bending gender norms. Thank you Waxie for being a pioneer in the gender bending movement. Of course I have mad love for the incomparable Roxi D’lite. Who is absolutely divine, inside and out. She is a real treat, a true D’lite! I’m so happy she’s home to Detroit! **cough, cough** <insert shameless promotion> Did you know Roxi has a monthly show, the Whoopie Room. Its at Sid's piano bar (formally the Broadway Cafe and Theater) it’s the best show in town! **cough cough** <end shameless promotion>. Next question please.
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a routine with, who would it be, and why?
I’m always willing to work with people, that is how we grow as a community by having unity. It just makes our industry better, stronger. There is no unity in division and exclusion. Community over competition. I miss performing in overtures and closing group acts. We always had them in Spag and When I was regularly producing monthly shows with the Detroit Dizzy Dames. I do love creating and collaborating... especially with my mentor SATORI CIRCUS. We have been told we are soul mates on stage. We have so much fun that the audience feels it too.Horrey fun!!! **singing** Wouldn’t ya like to have fun? Fun! Fun!Hows about a few laughs?I can show you a good time!!!! **end singing** **cough cough** <insert shameless self promotion> I’ll let the cat out of the bag! I am currently collaborating with a few other seasoned performers on a big project that will unfold within the next few months. Plans had to be put on hold due to my pregnancy. I appreciate any support and all of your patience. <end shameless self promotion> **cough cough**
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?
My performance style is authentic, captivating and memorable. I don’t stick to just one style. Diversity is what keeps my creativity alive, it gives producers a choice when booking me and keeps the audience guessing what I’m going to do next. I’ve been told I am an exclamation point amongst the periods, a breath of fresh air, a true professional. I’ve been known to f¥<k the audience with my eyes and send shivers up their spines with my pelvic thrust. That is my speciality. Classic grimey bump n grind. Beautiful, yet, vulgar. In the golden age this style was referred to as Burlesk. No, that is not a spelling error. There is a difference between burlesque and Burlesk. I would love to teach you, if you would let me.
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?
My favorite is kicking it old skool by performing with a live band. I have performed with everything from a trio to a full orchestra. It gives me life. When collaborating with a band performances are organically raw which takes skill to execute, and effectively enthrall the audience. I don’t just stick to one genre of music, doing the same thing feels stagnant and routine. The music has to move me, make me feel. I also have to make sure it’s a song I can listen to on repeat, a million times, for forever. That’s like being in purgatory with your best friend. I do get lots of compliments on my music selections and editing execution. My very first burlesque act was to The Cramps "Bikini Girls With Machine Guns." I still have the zebra print bikini that I made. Due to my current worldview I don’t feel comfortable performing it anymore. It is controversial and I would have to change it, but change is good.
7. What is one thing you wish audience members knew about you, your performances, or burlesque in general? What do you feel is the biggest misconception about you and your burlesque career?
Personally: I’m really from Detroit! Detroit proper, east side; 48205 just south of the red zone, if you don’t know what that means you’re lucky. Currently living on the west side, in Big Sean’s childhood home. I don’t think a lot of people understand Detroit pride. Growing up and going to school in this devastated city was hard, it was brutal. Many people wouldn’t have made it, it, being life. I always joke about what I learned in school. I learned to run, fight and dance, not exactly in that order. Even though there were constant tribulations, life was fun and I have unbelievable stories. Outsiders Just don’t understand what it was like here. When traveling it was almost a burden to say I was from here. Now everyone wants to be from Detroit. Old Detroit is still here, we never left and we are just as hungry as ever and hustle even harder, we know how to survive on instinct. I have to remind myself to always come from a place of love and be humble, forgive people for they know not what they do, know not what they say... and... I know there has been a lot of talk about me, sometimes not in the kindest way. I ask that you believe what you see not what you hear give people a chance, give me a chance. I work incredibly hard and am very giving and kind, I’ve just been hurt a lot, but I wouldn’t change anything. I like me. My experiences taught me empathy and have helped shape me to be the good and to see the good in others. I’m also able to read people. I’ve been conditioned to be as tough as nails. That is a gift. I grew up rough, I am a survivor, I am proud warrior, I am grace and love…..I am a true Detroiter. Say nice things about Detroit, say nice things about us.
Do not take this personally: When you are in an audience, just because you are in a big room separated by darkness and lime light does not mean the performers can not see or hear you. Because we do. Please be kind. All Entertainers work hard, we are dedicated to the craft. It takes a lot of courage to be this vulnerable. Even though performing is not for the thin skinned we don’t need our audience to make our skin thicker. Most of us performers, regardless of hierarchy, are already hard enough on ourselves. If you don’t like what you see, keep it to yourself and save it for the car ride. We don’t need to hear the unnecessary whispering, and neither do the other attendees. We do need your support, we need your patronage, not your judgments. If you do like what you experience, share your thoughts with the performer. Make sure to let us know how much you enjoyed the performance. Don’t be scared of us, most of us are just shy and awkward. A monetary tip is always greatly appreciated. Handing a tip directly to the performer ensures that, that performer gets that tip! A great way to meet a performer is to wait till after the show to give the performer a tip. That makes us happy. We like you and we like that you like us.
8. When was the last time you were star struck by a burlesque performer and who was it?
I treat everyone as everyday people because at the end of the day that is who we are, everyday people, regardless of what or how we do our individual lives. As odd as it sounds I don’t get star struck; I think it may be a Detroiter thing or maybe its because stature never really mattered to me or maybe because I’m extended family with some big names in burlesque and have famous friends. To me they are who they are not what they do. I have even worked with the late great blues legend Johnnie Bassett, Rest In Paradise. Most of us Detroiters are ingrained with the mindset of one day you’re here and the next day you may not be. Live for today because tomorrow is uncertain and yesterday is already gone.
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?
For me the best part of being a burlesque performer is the creative outlet and the abundance of confidence I have. I’m fearless in my skin and with showing it. I’m proud to be me, even with my perfect imperfections. If I could turn back time 18 years to being that young pin up girl yet have the knowledge and confidence I have now, my life would be completely different and I probably wouldn’t have stayed living here. I believe I lost opportunities for personal growth by remaining here seeking opportunity when there was none, yet creating opportunity for others while Detroit was in a transition of rebirth and repopulation. People know not what was here before them, and it seems like they don’t care. There were people living here and trying to work here. There was an art scene. There was a burlesque scene too, it may not have been huge or the best but it did exist and still does, dont let there be a demise of our local cultural history! We all worked so hard...and we played even harder. Oh how we had fun. Last year I got a death moth tattooed in plane view to remind myself to evolve or die. Over the last two years I have dedicated a life of sober living and have become a mother, not just to my burlesque kids. Now that Detroit has changed and is continuing to, I realize I must once again change too. I will achieve this by remaining humble and keep working hard...still not giving up. There was a time in my burlesque life that I thought I would have to retire due to Lisfranc, an incredibly rare yet serious injury. I went to the specialist; my first question was am I going to be able to dance again?!!? I was told I would not be able to wear high heels, or work as a bartender/ server... I was basically being told my life was over... that I had to change my life... my life was no longer my life but my injurys! I couldn’t walk... I couldn’t dance... I couldn’t work... I was devastated... I was in physical and spiritual pain and my mind suffered. I became jaded... bitter... I was no longer me. When I was able to walk again, I immediately went right back to dancing, then back to the hospitality industry and eventually back to dancing in stilettos regardless of pain and against orders. figuratively, I ran, I ran for my life! After all that is what I learned growing up. Thank you to everyone that helped during that difficult time in my life. It’s been one heck of a journey healing my body, now I am working on healing my mind and spirit. If I did have to hang up my dancing shoes I'm certain I would still be involved in the arts somehow, I draw, paint, sew and am a thespian... the show must go on!
10. What is one question you have always wanted someone to ask you as a performer – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?
Do you want ALL of this money? Yes, Thank you!
11. 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?
I would have quit drinking sooner. Yea, I don’t drink even tho my name is lush. I love my sober life. If I had been sober I would have never let my guard down, I would have been clear headed enough to see through people’s transparencies and to avoid dangerous situations. I wasn’t cautious about who I let into my home and my circle of trust.
12. 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’m just thankful to have a creative outlet that I can be as naked as possible. I would like for people to recognize and remember that Detroit's burlesque resurgence was about 20 years ago, it was just very underground, like many amazing things. I want to be remembered for being original, a Detroit original.
LUSHES LAMOAN LINKS:
MICHIGAN BURLESQUE FESTIVAL LINKS: