for the love of curves, sparkle, and twirling tassels

I think growing up I never knew what beauty really was. Looking back at childhood pictures, I realize that I didn’t really acknowledge the common notions of fashion, beauty, or mainstream iconology. In the past few months I have spent an ample amount of time looking at family photos, so this is something that has been on my mind a great deal. Those of you who know me best know that this was spawned by some extreme family drama culminating in the loss of my father in November (also being the reason for my general absence on DCF in recent months).

When looking at these photos, I notice a general theme. My sister always had the nicest dregs, and kept up with what was current in fashion. I, on the other hand, was quite content cutting up, stitching, or otherwise embellishing all kinds of hand-me-downs and second hand store buys; thusly creating a style or image all my own. In retrospect, part of this was because of my own skewed self image.

I never considered myself a super model. In fact, I didn’t even think I was in any class of attractive women or girls. I was chubby. I was awkward. I came from a mixed race family and single parent household. I was not the norm, and in many ways had regulated myself talk to reflect such. Why bother with beauty? I am not that and will never be that, so why not just focus on being a fun and likeable person? In a way, this relieved a lot of pressure from my young self. As I grew into a young adult, teen, and twenty something my love of all things vintage become more and more apparent. I don’t even remember the last pair of “modern” eyeglass frames I owned.

In 2003, my whole world changed. Two friends and I bought tickets to The Burlesquefest National Tour. The night included mesmerizing performances from world renowned performers such as San Diego’s Catherine d’Lish, San Francisco’s Kitten on the Keys, and Michelle Baldwin – founder of Denver’s Burlesque As It Was. I saw more sparkle, shimmy, curves, style, and CLASS than I had ever seen. There were women of all shapes and sizes. AND THEY WERE ALL BEAUTIFUL. There was every type of performance: dance, strip tease (with no lewd reveal), and comedy. AND THE AUDIENCE WAS RIVETED AT EVERY MOMENT.

Ri and Tempest Storm!!!
(me with the LEGEND Tempest Storm in 2006)

I was hooked. I knew from that moment that I wanted to do this. I wanted to be beautiful, I wanted to feel like a bombshell, and I wanted everyone to know that I could be all those things AND be a chubby, voluptuous, plus sized, fat, obese, overweight, SENSUAL WOMAN.

After this, I plunged my heart and mind into the burlesque world. I read books, magazines, watched films and documentaries. I learned about which greats made waves in which ways – paving the way for beauty and acceptance of women in all forms. I learned who the belles of burlesque are today, and studied what makes them great. I learned what burlesque has become in this modern day.

Ri Ri and Dirty Martini
(me with Dirty Martini in 2006. classic fan girl moment!)

Burlesque is really an art form. It is sexy without being lurid, racy but not X-rated. Striptease is one thing, but burlesque is much more about the tease than the strip. It is about appreciating every moment and move of the eye candy before you. A look, a shoulder turn, and a twinkle in the eye; all of this should be enough to lead to a mental climax. THIS is burlesque. Comedy in its purest form: classical, vaudevillian, slapstick, baggypants. THIS is burlesque.

(I LOVE Kitten on the Keys!)

I founded Voodoo Bettie’s Burlesque & Variety in 2004. I enlisted a crew of friends and performers in Phoenix that I knew would want to participate and appreciate my passion. We had a lot of fun. We performed all over town – for free and for pay. And, we helped to pave the way for what is now a booming burlesque scene in Arizona.

In 2006 I attended my first Miss Exotic World Burlesque Reunion and Competition (now known as the Burlesque Hall of Fame). This is the “mecca” of the burlesque world. I met all my modern heros, and many of the “legends.” I saw performers do acts that blew me away. I saw burlesque as I didn’t even think it could be. After this I changed my performances in ways that I wouldn’t have even thought of before. My standards grew exponentially. I was inspired. Legend Satan’s Angel, Queen of the Fire Tassel’s, enlisted me in her run of monthly shows in Phoenix as a solo performer. By this time most of the “Bettie’s” were off doing different things. We all still love eachother, but weren’t much of a performing group anymore.

(Tucson's Desire D'Amor)

In 2007 I moved from Arizona to Albuquerque. It has been almost a year and a half since I’ve performed. Burlesque Noir has offered up a couple of opportunities, and I thank them for that, but something has jumped in the way each time.

Well, Albuquerque, the time has come. The 3rd Annual Southwest Burlesque Showcase is upon us this February 20th, 2009 at the Kimo; and it is filled with AMAZING performers from Arizona, New Mexico, California, Colorado, and Texas. I think I can securely state that we will represent a wide range of types of performers and performances. If you ever wanted to know what burlesque is Albuquerque – now is your chance! Tickets will go fast, so get them while you can!

Southwest Burlesque Showcase 2009

And, just to reinforce, this is my NEW MEXICO DEBUT.

I am so excited. Burlesque has given me so much. It has given me lifelong friendships. It has given me a sense of self worth and joy. It has given me confidence and appreciation for my body and attributes. It has given me the ability to break away from the quiet reserved person I was, and taught me that it is o.k. to be the loud, vocal, activist that I am. And if shaking my chubby butt gives one person in the audience the feeling I had that fated night in 2003 … my job is done.

(just for funsies, since I'm on a photo and video kick, you should also check out these legends as well:)

Views: 472

Comment by Kitty Irreverent on January 29, 2009 at 6:48am
Wonderful post! I can't wait to have you grace the stage!
Comment by RiRiSynCyr on January 29, 2009 at 7:05am
Spartacus -

ACTUALLY, Angie Pontani is currently the reigning queen of burlesque, having won the title of Miss Exotic World last year!..I love them too, they are all so super nice and friendly. They came through Arizona (when I still lived there) with Los Straight Jackets and Kaiser George a couple of years ago - doing a touring TWIST PARTY! It was fantastic! Did they stop here on that tour?
Comment by Kelly Vickers on January 29, 2009 at 7:16am
Wonderful Post! We will be buying our tickets within the next week and look forward to you seeing you in person. You are beautiful!
Comment by Lloyd Thrap on January 29, 2009 at 7:56am
Amazing post. Great stuff. Can't wait to see you perform at this years showcase!

Comment by RiRiSynCyr on January 29, 2009 at 8:50am

and that's weird Susan....the html shows that it's right...

well, the like is to this:

the myspace page for the showcase!
Comment by Paula Manning-Lewis on January 29, 2009 at 8:57am
RiRi, you ARE so beautiful! And I have to say sorry to hear about your dad, I too lost my dad last year, so I know what that's like. My dad was a gay man and loved burlesque! He let me watch the movie "Gypsy" with him when I was young and I still remember the fan dance the most. Great post!
Comment by Gemini Goddess on January 29, 2009 at 9:57am
Oh I am so buying tickets to this!
Comment by cathyray on January 29, 2009 at 10:22am
Oh RiRi, what you have done for me this morning!!! I have been basically thin my whole life but it was a struggle. My mother was scared to death that I would be big like my father's side of the family (and I am) & she would always comment on the size of my butt or how much I loved mashed potatoes & gravy. This lead to me thinking that I was huge & ugly all my life. Now I look back on old pictures & realize that I was not at all fat & not all that ugly. Now that I am older, I am fat. It started when my father died & then really took off four years later when my mother died. If she could only see me now!! sucks losing a parent, huh? Sorry you had to go through that.
I could go on & on about this but the point is that I am continously caught in a debate with myself over the bombardment of media images insisting we are wrong to be big & the fight to love myself as I am, right here, right now. Every time I have seen you, you are beautiful & confident. You sure have stirred up my mind this morning (which it definately needs from time to time).
I can't wait to see you perform. While you are up there on the stage know that there is at least one big girl rooting for you, seeing how gorgeous you are & being inspired by your confidence & grace.
Comment by Kitty Irreverent on January 29, 2009 at 10:26am
The link to the official Showcase page is: here
Comment by mombat on January 29, 2009 at 12:22pm
You are fabulous! You are smart and beautiful and positive roll model too. I have two daughters, one who is thin and willowy like her Dad and one who is round like me. I am thrilled that my kids know you.


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