Warning: as the more astute amongst you might expect from the title, the photos in this article contain a certain amount of nudity and a large amount of cheekiness.
As part of an occasional series, we take readers behind the scenes of some of this year’s biggest European and American burlesque festivals. And who better to show us round than one of the performers? In the past we’ve enlisted the help of Rubyyy Jones in Finland and Sukki Singapora and Aurora Galore in Japan, and USA.
Unlucky for some? It had been a pretty stressful week for me as I sat waiting for my newly approved US work visa to arrive. I’d been working to get it since May, and after further and further nail-biting delays, my passport was only ready to collect the morning I was due to fly. I had to move my flight to the afternoon but I was so happy to finally hold it in my hands. After a 15 hour journey, changing planes in Chicago, I arrived around midnight and ran from my taxi through a tropical thunderstorm to get to the little house I’d rented – soaked but thrilled to have arrived!
My first morning back in NOLA (New Orleans) was gorgeously sunny and incredibly hot; it was about 35°C at eleven in the morning. Despite having visited the city twice before I can still never fully prepare myself for how beautiful it is. It’s a strangely magical place – of course, it’s culturally and historically fascinating, famous for its birth from and embrace of varied nationalities, expressed in its stunning architecture, arts and cuisine. But somehow, it’s even more than the sum of its parts, and it’s impossible to adequately describe the unique spirit and atmosphere. It sounds so clichéd, but the city really does have a soul unlike any other and you can’t help but be affected by it when you arrive. Being back in this beautiful city after my crazy week of visa stress felt almost miraculous.
I walked along Royal Street to Jackson Square to meet Carmen – one of the festival producers – for brunch. It was lovely to finally meet her after our long email correspondence – we really hit it off and discovered we share a slightly warped sense of humour… I explained my visa saga to her whilst enjoying delicious New Orleans style “pain perdu”. We wandered shops a little, had an early afternoon cocktail in a gorgeous tropical courtyard then headed to our respective homes, me for a much needed nap as my jet-lag had kicked in.
Then, after some very sweaty afternoon rehearsals, I grabbed a cab to House of Blues for Bustout Burlesque – an incredible show produced by Rick Delaup, the man behind the NOLA burlesque festival. I had been lucky enough to see a Bustout Burlesque show when I visited the city last November and was blown away by the fantastic performers and live house band, so I was absolutely delighted to be invited by Rick to perform at the show the weekend before the festival. On arrival, I did a quick run through with the band, which went really well and got me suitably excited for the show later. There really is nothing quite like performing to live music, especially when it’s this good! I then headed upstairs to the green room to get my makeup started. The other performers arrived – Gogo McGregor, Elle Dorado, Athena, Foxy Flambeau – and they were all extremely sweet and welcoming.
It was a double show format which was brilliant, as it gave me an opportunity to see everyone else’s performances, which impressed me greatly, and to dance twice with the house band. When I was on stage I felt completely in sync with the musicians, as though we were all intuitively understanding the mood of the music and the performance, and simultaneously anticipating what embellishments and climaxes were to come. I think that a creative collaboration like this can really bring an act up to a new level, both for the performers and audience. This was quite possibly my favourite performance experience of my career so far – I feel so privileged to have been able to work with this group.
After the show we all shared drinks at the House of Blues bar, and then the lovely Gogo McGregor and Dr Sick, the show’s excellent compere, took me for a bit of a local bar crawl. I made it home at about 6am and collapsed, exhausted but deliriously happy.
Sunday 15th I woke up about 2pm feeling surprisingly fresh and found a lovely WiFi café in the Quarter with a blissful tropical garden that was filled with sleepy cats. Last night was already feeling like a dream, until I saw the performance photos pop up on Facebook. I enjoyed a lovely lazy day of exploring; I ate a spectacular crawfish “po boy” and then met Carmen for a night-time Voodoo History walking tour, which was fascinating.
Monday 16th – Wednesday 18th
These days were spent just relaxing. I got to know Carmen and Elle Dorado a lot better, discovering that Carmen, who is originally from Austria, came over from London to work on the festival as part of her theatre production degree, and that Elle used to be an Olympic figure skater! I met up with friends I know in town, and bizarrely ended up playing drums at an impromptu gig at One Eyed Jacks. I was very pleased to find my picture in the local paper, Gambit, advertising the festival’s up-coming Bad Girls of Burlesque show at the House of Blues. Then on Wednesday my dear friend Vicky Butterfly arrived in town – this was her first time in NOLA and I couldn’t wait to show her around!
Today it was hot and rainy. Turbulent skies dramatically shifted from shafts of bright sun to seething grey thunderclouds. Vicky and I took the streetcar to the Garden District, where we oo-ed and ah-ed over the magnificent mansions, ducking under ornate galleries to shelter from the rain, and explored the vintage shops on Magazine Street. Then we took a cab over to Harrah’s for Strut, (the festival’s male burlesque show) which was truly incredible. Everyone was fantastic, but my favourites had to be Jett Adore, Hot Toddy and Russell Bruner. Bruner’s “gentleman juggling”-cum-striptease combo was unlike anything I’d seen before, utterly brilliant and innovative. Hot Toddy’s adorable Liberace tribute and Jett Adore’s glorious butterfly fan dance act literally had my face aching from grinning so widely.
Show day! I met Vicky for breakfast, and we had a little wander in the Quarter. My afternoon tech rehearsal at House of Blues went smoothly. It’s such a huge stage so I had the chance to work in some moves I’ve never had space to do before, which was really exciting. I met Vicky and the Sublime Boudoir gang for seafood and then headed home for more rehearsals. Sadly I couldn’t make it to the Mondo Burlesque show as it was due to finish just half an hour before the Bad Girls doors would open and I figured it would just be too much of a rush. I was very sad to miss Vicky and Elle’s performances – Elle was doing a skating striptease on synthetic ice, and I can’t wait to see the video.
Though I see Vicky’s shows regularly in London, she’s always a joy to watch and I wish I could have been there to witness her NOLA debut – everyone said it was stellar! I got back to House of Blues with time to spare and took my time with my show makeup. The show was so much fun, there was a wonderful atmosphere backstage and it was fantastic to meet the other girls. I got on especially well with Porcelain, who I’d never met but whose modelling work I’ve admired for a long time – a lovely lady with an adorable sense of humour. I was extremely happy with how my act went – the crowd were so enthusiastic and generous, and there was some great feedback afterwards too, a total joy. I then enjoyed one or two post-show drinks and a bit of dancing followed by a late night dinner with Vicky on Frenchmen Street.
Vicky and I went exploring in Bywater. Later on we met up with the Sublime Boudoir chaps again and drove over to City Park Carousel Gardens. It was rainy, but magical riding on the antique carousel deep in the gardens, surrounded by dangling Spanish moss swaying in the breeze. We headed back into town, and after a quick drink at the Roosevelt Sazerac Bar it was time to get ready for the Queen of Burlesque show at Harrah’s. This was the only show in the festival which was accompanied by the live band, and it was fantastic to watch them do their stuff from my seat in the audience.
There were so many amazing performers but the wonderful Medianoche was most definitely my favourite and I was delighted to see her take the crown. I’d only seen her perform once before, at Duane Park in NYC, and her festival performance was even more skilled and expressive, filled with vibrant energy. It was also fantastic to watch last year’s Queen, Angi B Lovely perform her winning act – an extremely accomplished classic routine which also incorporated some very impressive work with aerial silks. Then it was on to The Queen’s Ball back at House of Blues, which was another outstanding show.
I loved Ginger Valentine‘s solo act, as well as her turn with the Ruby Revue troupe – the best burlesque troupe act I’ve seen. Wonderful also to see Elle Dorado’s brilliant boa act (her Bustout Burlesque signature routine) again! Then it was upstairs to the after party for drunkenness and silly dancing to the slightly incongruous pop music the DJ was spinning. Even later on we enjoyed a celebratory dinner on Frenchmen with Carmen, Elle and her lovely husband, Fred.
I had a blissful, lazy morning at the Country Club with Elle, Vicky, Carmen and photographer Kaylin Idora. After amazing french toast and bottomless mimosas we enjoyed a wonderful swim and sauna. I walked home with Vicky then packed for my afternoon shoot with Kaylin. I absolutely adore Kaylin’s work and was so thrilled she wanted to take my portrait. We headed out by the train tracks in Bywater to a stunning urban spot she’d found; lots of puddles and graffiti. We certainly amused a group of girls having their band practice with our antics, and we enjoyed their gentle live music accompaniment to our shoot.
Afterwards we went to the Hilton to say a quick hello to Rick, and then on to Elle and Fred’s place for homemade cocktails. Kaylin received a last minute shoot request from our new Queen, Medianoche, so we all headed out to Jackson Square to join the fun. This was followed by delicious late night beignets at Cafe du Monde!
Sadly, I had to start packing, but enjoyed a lovely walk along sunny Royal to a beautiful little cafe for my last breakfast in town: coffee and a sticky bun. I then went home to finish packing, before Elle and Fred picked me up for a fantastic farewell lunch; I miss them both already! They took me on a driving tour on the way to the airport – I learned so much more about the city and saw areas I’d never seen before – a wonderful end to my stay.
I had no doubt that I’d love being back in NOLA and having the chance to perform here for the first time, but making these beautiful new friends was an extra joy. This is a city where people make the most out of life, and being able to meet new, like-minded people and connect with them creatively and emotionally has been such an incredible gift. I cannot wait to be back here and get to know everyone even better; I’ve already made plans to return in November, so thankfully I don’t have too long to wait…
You can catch up with the latest from Miss Miranda on her official website.
Photo Credit: Andreas Koch