As a new queen is crowned, Roxi Dlite looks back on her year as the Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2010…
- Roxi Dlite – Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2010 (©Roxi Dlite)
How have you spent your year as Reigning Queen? Have you enjoyed it? How does it feel to be written into burlesque history with all the other incredible queens of burlesque?
I’ve had such a wonderful year. It really has been a great experience. I mean, I’m just a stripper from Windsor, I never thought my career in exotic dance would have come this far. My mom and family are very proud of me. Being written into burlesque history is the biggest honour. I’ve spent my year touring all over North America but some of the highlights included my first acting role starring in a movie called Burlesque Assassins; I travelled to Italy to appear on a primetime TV show, and all the while I’ve been coming up with new shows and re-vamping old ones. I guess the crown solidified what I was doing and I’ve just been putting everything I have into my craft. I’m really enjoying it.
You gave a sensational winning performance last year. Did it feel like a winning performance to you at the time – did everything fall into place and feel enjoyable? Did you think, ‘I’ve nailed it’, or were you not sure if you had done enough?
Well, I’m not too sure if I felt I nailed it, I wasn’t feeling all that competitive. I just had a super fun time on stage and didn’t care if I won or lost; just performing on that stage alone is an experience. I don’t understand why but, for some strange reason, I wasn’t nervous at all. I think it’s such a positive, loving, supportive community backstage at BHoF that when it’s time to step on stage, the confidence and camaraderie follow you from the change room. That’s how I felt, at least. I mean, it’s just a big naked party with my friends right? I was super excited to share my new show with everyone. I couldn’t wait to climb on top of that cigar and ride it ’til it smoked! It’s really like playing make believe sometimes, but it’s real, and you’re with friends.
In your opinion, what makes a ‘winning’ act – what are the essential elements needed to create showstopping magic?
Well, there really isn’t a set formula. The way I create shows is never the same. I didn’t create a winning act, I creating something I wanted to perform again and that’s key. Most of the great acts that exist out there usually take a long time to cook up. It took me an entire year to create the Smokin’ Cigar. What I think makes a great performance in my opinion is stage presence and the ability to engage an audience. I believe costuming is very important – I love to see great costuming in a burlesque show. Above all, originality is on the top of the list. Who wants to see another champagne glass, or bird cage? Leave that to Dita and Catherine, because they’re the ones who do it best. I love to see an original show and so does everyone else. Just when you think all the ideas are gone, you see something that really stands out and it makes you think, aha! That’s a great idea! I love getting that reaction from an audience of peers.
Would you, or have you considered competing again, in the hope of becoming another two-time winner, like Catherine D’Lish?
Everyone is asking me this question. I don’t know if I’d ever compete again; I’m quite content and I’m really not as brave as Catherine. I’m just pleased to have made the cut. I’m in the history books, it’s a huge honour. I would consider competing in other competitions in other countries, but in the U.S. none of the titles really mean as much as the Reigning Queen/Miss Exotic World title. I think every burlesque dancer secretly dreams about being MEW deep down at some point. It’s a thrill.
- Roxi Dlite (©Roxi Dlite)
I have heard you describe your discovery of burlesque; that you were unaware that you were performing burlesque until someone thanked you for doing so, and quickly became devoted to the artform. But how did you discover or first hear about The Burlesque Hall of Fame, and what made you want to be a part of it?
Oh fun question. Actually, I first heard about the Burlesque Hall of Fame through my research of burlesque. Like you said, I found out about the art form after I got off stage, at a swingers club I was featuring at. A woman approached me and said, ‘thank you for bringing back burlesque’. I was like, ‘burlesque? I’ve got to go home and Google this funny word right away!’ It totally stuck in my head. I felt like I’d heard that word before and never realized. Perhaps I was a burlesque performer in a past life, because the instant I learned more about the art form, the more my perspective on being a stripper was justified and it all felt really familiar.
While I was researching I was a total sponge; all of this stuff I was seeing felt right, like I needed to be doing that. Learning the history behind being a stripper was gratifying; no one could understand why I loved being a stripper so much. It wasn’t just the money, it was being on stage, engaging an audience when very few dancers do that any more. I finally had a stage I could perform on. During my research I discovered one of the best strippers of all time, Catherine D’Lish, which led me to the discovery of Exotic World, and Dixie Evans and – wow – I couldn’t believe there was a museum and a pageant dedicated to strippers and burlesque history.
No matter what, BHoF really is the heart of it all. It’s an amazing place where you can learn about the history right from the source, direct from the legends who lived it. It’s incredible. I was nervous to go my first time, because when I first started out I felt like strippers were on the outskirts of burlesque, or that the burlesque community didn’t embrace them, and I was afraid and shy to go to Exotic World. I would hide the fact that I was a stripper, but after the first couple of years, because of Catherine, and Dita and so many other performers who are vocal about being ex-strippers, I felt confident that it’s not something to be ashamed of and perhaps the burlesque community would take me in as part of the community. Looking back, I never thought that one year, I’d be a burlesque queen mentioned in the same category as Catherine D’Lish and Dirty Martini. What a dream!
What does it mean to you to perform at BHoF? Is performing on the BHoF stage an almost spiritual experience?
Performing on the BHOF stage is such a riot. Just standing there on stage in front of all of your peers, fans and burlesque idols is pretty incredible. I just always hope that I’m entertaining the legends, because they have seen it all. I always feel like if you can impress them, then you’ve done your job. I’m looking forward to future years where I can show the audience what else I have up my sleeves in a non-competitive way and perform alongside the legends. I just hope to top myself every year and showcase what I’m up to at BHoF. That’s the way to do it.
- Roxi in a tribute to burlesque legend, April March. (©Roxi Dlite)
Do you enjoy spending time with the burlesque legends? Are there particular stories, advice or memories you treasure from your time spent with them?
Of course, that’s why we’re there. The stories they tell are out of this world and are a highlight of the BHoF weekend. I think of April March recalling the time she was nearly shot while in a club, or how Toni Elling was a muse for Duke Ellington. But the stories are theirs to tell and having the opportunity to hear the stories from the legends themselves is reason enough to make the annual pilgrimage to the desert. These women are artists, innovators and part of an unwritten history and it’s important for us to preserve the history.
Now the crown is won, what other future goals and achievements are you focussing on?
I have to admit, I’m clinging on to my last couple weeks as Reigning Queen. It’s almost over, so I’m just enjoying every moment of it until it’s over and I place the crown on the next queen. However, I am still in the works of putting together some pretty amazing shows. I’m very excited for a big show I’ve been working on. I’ve had this idea in my head for a good long time and it’s finally in the early beginning stages. The costume should be finished by early fall. It’s a dark, foggy, sexy show and I can’t wait to showcase it. So that’s really exciting. Waiting for the Burlesque Assassins film to come out is also really exciting. There is so much to look forward to. I have lots of stuff bubbling. I know that the crown is just a stepping stone on the way to an incredible career.
What words of advice do you have for the competitors this year, and for the next Reigning Queen?
Hmmm… advice. I guess just be really nice and pleasant to be around. Backstage etiquette is so important during the night of the pageant. Creating a positive, happy vibe backstage will go farther than being sour and stressed out. Remember, you’re about to perform for a crowd of people who love you, and love burlesque. Have fun out there and try not to be too competitive to the point where it takes over. If you’re having fun with friends then it’s a piece of cake. All you have to do is take off your clothes…