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 Mone't Ha-Sidi to discuss routines, influences, and much more...
My Rafiki act was inspired by my love of the Lion King as my favorite Disney film. I first envisioned it as a zombie act. Then I thought why not do Rafiki himself to the Circle Of Life with a twist. I just upgraded the costume to a new look that will be making i's first US appearance at the Michigan Burlesque Festival. I have two Simba tattoos & I am a Leo, so this act does show one of my fandoms and my brand of humor.
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?
At 18, I wanted to be a stripper... but instead worked at Chuck E. Cheese - often being the rat himself. I was head of the Drill Team that performed with my high school marching band, so I have always felt comfortable performing. I never really thought to pursue it until I was turning 30 and now 11 years later, burlesque has allowed me to see the world and express myself through its art.
3. Who would be your main influences or performers?
The biggest influence on my existence has been music. I have been to at least 400 concerts and I have 37 Smashing Pumpkin tattoos. A song will often be the first step in creating an act and for me it's more about how a song makes me feel vs it's popularity.
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a routine with, who would it be, and why?
I have a dream of doing a comedy duet with April O. Peel. The two of us just talking in the park was fun and inspiring, and we both have the same sense of humor that I think an act together would be bananas. Wocka wocka.
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?
Bruce Campbell from the Evil Dead series called me "Disturbing yet enticing." That's going on my tombstone and it's pretty accurate.
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 first act was to Siouxsie & The Banshees "Peek A Boo." It was a song I discovered in 4th grade and always loved. I am currently blueprinting to bring it back but as a completely different act. I use many different genres, but as a kid born in 1978, I am biased toward the alternative genre from the 90's.
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?
I wish people could see the person beneath the corset & fishnets. I'm known for my activism within the community. People assume a lot based on that. I just want our industry and ultimately the world to be a better place for everyone - and that shouldn't be controversial.
8. When was the last time you were star struck by a burlesque performer and who was it?
I am often humbled by sharing the stage with so many talented people, but I will say finally meeting Jeez Loueez was magnificent.
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?
Best - my tassels have led me to travel the world. Worst - Burlesque is not immune from the world's social ills.
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?
I have never been asked this question.
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 wish I would have used my voice in a moment of injustice... instead of after.
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 hope to get Rafiki on the BHOF stage. I hope that diversity and inclusivity become human nature and not a forced practice.
MICHIGAN BURLESQUE FESTIVAL LINKS: