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 Pixel Universe to discuss routines, influences, and much more...
1. Tell us a little about your latest developed routine. What drove you to choose the particular piece of music, create the costume, and pull together the specific moves in the routine? Are there any links between that routine and your “real life” that tie the two side of you together?
Most of my acts are pop culture mashups inspired by either the character I am taking on or the song. Once I have a character and a song, that’s when I start building the act with the goal of adding more to their story. One act that I’ve only done once is Frank-N-Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I used the song "She Blinded Me with Science" by Thomas Dolby to create a prequel in which Frank is fretting over Columbia destroying his lab.
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 had always been mesmerized by burlesque acts I had seen at the Dirty Show and Theatre Bizarre, but I didn’t really consider performing until I saw classes being offered at the Detroit School of Burlesque. Even after I took the intro class, it took me a while to commit to act building and it wasn’t until I started doing drag that I found what worked for me.
3. Who would be your main influences or performers you admire?
Locally, Leena Allure is perfection and I love everything she does. In general, my heaviest influences come from the drag world.
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a routine with, who would it be, and why?
I recently collaborated with Fannie Smith on a comedic burlesque show for Planet Ant’s competition Versus. I reached out to her for it because we both pursue a wholesomely dirty aesthetic.
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?
As the chameleon of camp, I would describe my style as campy and character-based. All of my acts have a structured story. I did get a useful note from a friend on one of my acts, the Morton Salt Girl. At the end that act, I do a large glitter pour as my final reveal. I start off pouring a tiny amount of salt out of the small spout and, when it isn’t coming out fast enough, the character rips the lid off the can to make a spectacular sparkly mess. A friend asked if I had trouble with the lid after a show. I didn’t, it was feigned stress, but I now have the note that I need to do a better job showing that to the audience. Another person he was with got it, but my goal is for everyone to be in on it.
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 use whatever inspires me or works with the act. The first song I used was I"’m Only Happy When It Rains" by Garbage. I use it for my Morton Salt Girl act. It’s a band I love, so starting out with it made a lot of sense.
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?
Performers are people. We love what we do and we love that you love it, too.
8. When was the last time you were star struck by a burlesque performer and who was it?
I am not sure if I’ve had that particular feeling (performers are people).
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: Creative outlet with a wonderful community. Worst: Burlesque is not cheap. Burlesque and drag are heavily intertwined for me. If I wasn’t doing either of those, I would probably be doing more improv and comedic art.
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 don’t really have anything I want to be asked. The question I hear maybe a little too often is “How did you think of X?” There isn’t a lot of thought that initially inspires an act. It usually just comes to me and then the rest seems obvious along the journey. I never feel like I have an adequate answer to that 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 am pretty early in my career, so I don’t necessarily have one key moment. I would say that seeing more shows would be something I would go back and change. Younger me should have gone out more.
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 did a drag fundraiser this year for the Detroit Women in Comedy Festival. After the show, an audience member came up to me and thanked me for my performance and said it reminded him that being queer is punk rock and he was inspired to express himself more. I want to achieve more moments like that for audiences where they feel they can do amazing things or be themselves because of what they saw on stage.
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