Dare To Be Daringly Different

When I was in grade 4 I thought it would be so amazing to have braces. I longed for the secret identity I thought glasses would provide. I yearned for a unique trait that would separate me from the norm. I wanted a conversation starter, a hook, a gimmick. A limp, lisp or dark secret past. Heck, even my daily bruises developed elaborate stories. I’d detail the fictional fun to make myself seem more interesting than (I thought) I was. I have always wanted to be just left of the middle…well, honestly, deep left field. I’ve always wanted to be different.

I grew up a middle class girl in the middle of Ontario during the mid-90’s. That’s all smack bang in the middle. And the middle is very different from the centre of attention. I was born in the 80’s but my serious memories were made in the midst of Smashed Pumpkins and grunge-y Shangri-la. But as far as I could tell I was just one more of the faceless masses with pre-teenage spirit. I found myself jockeying for position within systems that didn’t celebrate our differences. Sadly, most systems are finite, not interpretative. Systems are by nature are, well, systematic. Empathy, consideration and individuality isn’t part of the equation. I looked throughout middle school, but I couldn’t find my defining feature, no matter how elaborate my exterior got. I was just another little girl in a school of little girls. And, I wasn’t happy with that to say the least.

I am not sure if I was born wanting to be different or if I grew into it, but I’ve never liked the status quo. When my wish for braces came true at 16, it only stopped me from smiling. When I wear sunglasses to protect my sensitive eyes, I lose them and can’t imagine the cost, were they prescriptions. I still suffer from exaggerated bumps and bruises, though I allow their cause to remain mundane and preventable. As for the lisp I lusted after…I’ll admit that sometimes I spit when I talk. But all these minor foibles don’t define who I am and the sad thing is: I didn’t realize that I’ve been unique this whole time. The mere act of wanting to be different makes me so. I am not interchangeable in a row of blondes. I stand out naturally…er at least my weirdo sense of humour stands up for itself. Thanks burlesque for lovin’ who I am, encouraging me to be an individual and celebrating my inner weird-O!

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A MUSE MONDAYS: Belle Jumelles

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting our next Muse before seeing her perform. And I’m glad I did, cuz otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have been so cool…Not that I’m ever cool, but if I’d known how she can cast a stare while drawing you in with her mischievous smirk, I wouldn’t have been cool a’tall! Producer part 2 of 3 for A Platinum Production. The lady with the loveliest twins: Belle Jumelles.

Photography by Angela McConnell

Photography by Angela McConnell

Gracie: How did you get your name?

Belle Jumelles: I went over a bunch of names before committing to mine. I knew I wanted it to be a play on being a bigger girl, or focusing on a specific part of my body because body image is a big deal to me and I take pride specifically in being a bigger girl. I’m also bilingual, so I knew I wanted to incorporate something French there.. After playing with a bunch of combinations, I came up with Mademoiselle Belle Jumelles. I liked the ring of it and tried it on a bunch of my closest friends to get their input. Fell in love with it, and never looked back.

Gracie: How long have you been on the scene?

Belle Jumelles: It was my 4 year anniversary in March. I started out in Hamilton with Boudoir Rouge Burlesque, and then started doing it a lot more when I moved to Toronto 3 years ago.

Gracie: Signature colour?

Belle Jumelles: I don’t actually have a signature colour. I like to play with colours, but I always have a pop of black in all my costumes. One of my goals is to have a reasonably big budget costume that is all colour matching (covered in rhinestones – obviously), with no black in it whatsoever. I’m hoping I get that this year.

Gracie: Who’s you’re biggest fan?

Belle Jumelles: This is a hard one, because I have some really supportive people in my life. I’m going to have to say Joe Kilmartin. He has been cheering me on since the start. (Honourable mentions: Wolfman, Coco Framboise, Kaleen Joseph, My mom)

Gracie: Who is your Showgirl inspiration?

Belle Jumelles: I’m inspired by many performers. Coco Framboise, Dainty Box, World Famous Bob, Judith Stein, Lady Josephine. That’s the short list. But, there are so many amazing performers who inspire me every day. My co-producers, Johnny and Stella are also a huge source of inspiration. I love creating with them!

Gracie: Do you have a signature move?

Belle Jumelles: My titty-shimmy is pretty impressive. But, that’s just based on sheer volume of titty.

Gracie: Do you have formal training?

Belle Jumelles: I took a few improv classes. Does that count? Lol

Gracie: Do you have any secret talents?

Belle Jumelles: I’m a lady. I don’t share those secrets with just anyone.

Gracie: What was your burlesque ah-ha moment?

Belle Jumelles: When Tanya Cheex asked me if she could be in our show. She’s a legend in our community and it felt pretty awesome to have her ask us if she could be on our show. It was that moment when we knew we could ask whoever we wanted if they would like to work with us.

Gracie: Do you tassel? Both directions?

Belle Jumelles: I haven’t yet. I’ve had this notion that my boobs are just too big. But, I might give it a shot this year.

Gracie: What is your favourite peel and reveal?

Belle Jumelles: This one really depends on the act. But, the bra reveal is always fun because there’s been a big buildup and I can really tease people by that point.

Gracie: Do you have a favourite body part?

Belle Jumelles: I’m proud of ALL of this!

Gracie: Does your audience have a favourite body part?

Belle Jumelles: Well.. They don’t call me Belle Jumelles for nothing.

Gracie: What is your favourite style of movement? (ie: erotic, erratic, erroneous)

Belle Jumelles: I’ve been told I don’t have to move much. I give good face and have really sexy slow movements.. So, I guess erotic is my style.

Gracie: What is your favourite part of a new act?

Belle Jumelles: A new act is always exciting! I really love coming up with the costume concept and then having it all come together.

Gracie: How do you build it? What comes first: Song, costume, concept?

Belle Jumelles: That depends on the act too. In the beginning I was mostly inspired by a song. I either loved the beat, or the lyrics said something that inspired me. More recently, we (A Platinum Production) play with themes so much that the concepts come from that inspiration. With the Diva Offs, it’s always the music that inspires the acts.

Gracie: What is your favourite costume piece?

Belle Jumelles: I really love my candy shop corset. It’s covered in jewels made to look like I’m covered in candy. Johnny spent hours gluing each one on. It’s pretty awesome!

Gracie: Your most unique prop or costume piece?

Belle Jumelles: I have this 5 ft tall lollypop that Mark Boyer of 3B Artistry made me that I really love. It looks like a jumbo rainbow lolly pop!

Gracie: What is your characteristic style?

Belle Jumelles: In most cases, I’m a vamp. But, I like to be comical sometimes.

Gracie: What is the most important part of you number?

Belle Jumelles: I think good acts have a few important elements. Sticking to your character, slowing down the tease elements, and musicality make for a great number!

Gracie: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you backstage?

Belle Jumelles: I don’t really have a strange moment that comes to mind. But, the first time I met April March, I helped tease out and spray her hair. It was such an honour!

Gracie: What’s the most unique show you’ve been a part of?

Belle Jumelles: Our holiday show was pretty unique. It was like a Judy Garland Holiday special meets burlesque. There was a really amazing energy about it too.

Gracie: Is there a dream theme you want to perform?

Belle Jumelles: Broadway was a dream theme for me for a while, but I got to do it twice now. We have had the opportunity to perform with a live band. But, anytime that can happen again, I’d be so excited for it. I know it’s not a theme per-se, but it’s what I love the most!

Gracie: Favourite venue in your current city and on the road?

Belle Jumelles: We’re lucky to get to perform is some of the best spaces in this city. I love Buddies, Club 120, The Flying Beaver, The Gladstone, Revival. They all treat us really well.

Gracie: Who is your favourite local showgirl?

Belle Jumelles: Oh man! How am I supposed to answer this? I’m going to give props to an amazing newbie. I think Zilly Lilly is spectacular! She’s creative, she’s funny, she’s got good movements and musicality.. and she’s brand new! Imagine what she’ll be like in a couple years!

Gracie: If you weren’t a showgirl, what would you be?

Belle Jumelles: I would be a Broadway superstar lol

Gracie: Do you think you’ll ever retire?

Belle Jumelles: I really hope that one day I give people the same feelings I got when I saw Judith Stein perform at last year’s festival and April March at this year’s Girlesque. It was truly inspiring!

Gracie: Do you have any words of wisdom for budding showgirls?

Belle Jumelles: Words of wisdom, eh.. get involved in everything. Help out where you can and be nice to people. Then, every time you get an opportunity to be on a stage, rock the shit out of it!

Gracie: I want to thank Belle for her candour and remind y’all that The Producers Show is May 29th at the Gladstone. Doors at 8pm! See you squares there!

FB: facebook.com/bellejumelles

Twitter: @bellejumelles

Instagram: @platinumburlesque

A MUSE MONDAYS: St Stella

About 8 months ago I had the distinct pleasure of watching today’s Muse high-kick her old school high tops through Footloose. I could hardly breathe. Her signature can can choreo and icy blue eyes have her on the tips of many tongues. She’s choreographer and dance captain for the Knicker Kickers. One Third of the fabulous Platinum Productions. Teacher at The Toronto School of Burlesque. And all around Goddess. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present THE Bendy. Buxom. Blonde: St. Stella

Gracie: Thanks for opening up to me and my blogdom. Can I ask, how did you get your name?

Photo: Chris Hutcheson

Photo: Chris Hutcheson

St Stella: When I started in burlesque (an epic 7-years ago), I really was quite the innocent. A friend of mine suggested the name as a kind of gag.

Gracie: How long have you been on the scene?

St Stella: Seven years. Fun Fact: I was the first performer at the first Toronto Burlesque Festival in the Melody bar at the Gladstone.

Gracie: Signature colour?

St Stella: Blue…?

Gracie: Who is your Showgirl inspiration?

St Stella: Michelle L’amour, Dirty Martini, Trixie Little and Evil Hate Monkey.

Gracie: Do you have a signature move?

St Stella: Bum winking while in open splits 🙂

Gracie: Do you have formal training?

St Stella: I took ballet for 12 years, modern for 3. I try to keep up with burlesque training and take as many classes I have the time and money for.

Gracie: Do you have any secret talents?

St Stella: Yes, but they’re SECRET.

Gracie: What was your burlesque ah-ha moment?

St Stella: I’ve had a few. I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with and have amazing chats with some of my burlesque heroes, particularly Cherry Typhoon, Lady Josephine, Dangrr Doll and Nasty Canasta. Whenever I get the opportunity to have heart-to-hearts with any of those magical ladies, their wisdom and love for the art form definitely re-invigorates me.

Gracie: Do you tassel? Both directions?

St Stella: Unfortunately, I’ve never been a great twirler. And, I wouldn’t dare put a sub-par twirl on stage.

Gracie: What’s your favourite peel and reveal?

St Stella: I do love a good hair reveal. I also am a fan of my stocking peel in the splits.

Gracie: Do you have a favourite body part?

St Stella: Blonde. All the blonde.

Gracie: Does your audience have a favourite body part?

St Stella: I’ve had a lot of compliments about my eyes and how they really draw in from the stage. I really appreciate that.

Gracie: What is your favourite style of movement?

St Stella: I love the contrast of big and small movement. A little wink and a hip bump that explodes into a giant kick, for example.

Gracie: What is your favourite part of a new act?

St Stella: I love the lightbulb moment, when the story, the costume, the song and the reason for the reveal all come into focus. ‘Bam! I have it!’ Then, I hate the wait from that to making it come to fruition. Mostly not having the time and money to turn your vision to reality.

Gracie: How do you build it? What comes first: Song, costume, concept?

St Stella: Usually, a feeling/concept comes first, but sometimes the concept stems directly from a song.

Gracie: What is your favourite costume piece?

St Stella: I don’t think I have created my favorite, yet.

Gracie: Your most unique prop or costume piece?

St Stella: Probably my Britney Spears style nude, rhinestoned body suit.

Gracie: What is your characteristic style?

St Stella: Very contemporary, and emotive.

Gracie: What is the most important part of you number?

St Stella:I just want people to feel. I think the arc of the act is most important. I want to tell the audience something, make them feel something.

Gracie: What’s the most unique show you’ve been a part of?

St Stella: I performed in an off-broadway show called Pretencion with Johnny Porkpie, Dirty Martini, Trixie Little and Evil Hate monkey and Angie Pontani. That was unique, unbelievable, magical, and inspiring, to say the least.

Gracie: Is there a dream theme you want to perform?

St Stella: I may have something in the works….

Gracie: Favourite venue in your current city and on the road?

St Stella: I love performing at 3030 in Toronto, it’s a great big stage with a roomy backstage and a good room. If I’m on the road performing, I’m happy anywhere.

Gracie: If you weren’t a showgirl, what would you be?

St Stella: I’d hopefully still have found dance, performing and teaching in some manner.

Gracie: Do you think you’ll ever retire?

St Stella: Never. Or, not until my body gives way.

Gracie: Do you have any words of wisdom for budding showgirls?

St Stella: Be true to yourself. Be kind. Be generous. Be unselfish. Do what you love.

Gracie: Stella, the pleasure was all mine. I’m so looking forward to sharing the stage with you at The Producers Show – May 29th. Lucky me gets to pick up all the pretty pieces that come peeling off. Meow! Follow all things Stella below.

Website: saintstella.com
Facebook: facebook.com/St.Stella
Twitter: @Saint_Stella
Instgram: saintstella

 

How I Feel About The Elevator Video

This week a video was released documenting Ms Queen Bey with husband JayZ as Solange Knowles (Beyoncé’s sister) attacked him in a New York hotel elevator. So, my first impulse was: PHEW! What a freaking relief that my family isn’t the only one that occasionally comes to blows. Secondly, you can’t control your world no matter who you are.
Third…ly, my hats off to Solange for fighting outside her weight classification. But mostly it was the overwhelming sense of relief that the perfect life, marriage, career is an illusion, no matter how many zeros appear on our pay checks.

I grew up watching British comedies; Keeping Up Appearances being one of my favs. Now, at a young age I thought it meant making an appearance, not keeping up with the Jones’ or in that case the Buckets. It meant hiding all those human quirks and whispering all those backhanded remarks. It’s pretending everything’s fine when your foot is stuck in a mop bucket and serving tea with the biscuits that fell on the floor and the dog licked. Don’t rock the boat, don’t shake the tree, keep everything even Steven. Make sure nobody sees the real you. Well, sadly we can’t control the elements around us. Shocking! I know. There are elements under our influence, but total control, well that’s the impossible dream.

So, where does that leave us? The hotel employee who released the video was fired. Which stinks but I understand why. I thank that guy anyway. BeyonJay and Solange will continue to live like rockstars. And, for me, it means being a bit more honest with myself, and those around me. I’m Gracie Klutz for crying out loud and shabby chic is so hot right now. For you, my dear reader, I know I’m not qualified to give advice, but I believe some of the most beautiful things in life come from mistakes, bruises and fights. Perfection is boring, and in the end the only one you’re really fooling is yourself, and you can do better.

A MUSE MONDAYS: Knox Harter

Photo: Rob Sackfield

Photo: Rob Sackfield

About a year ago, I started on this amazing and sparkly journey that is burlesque. On my journey I have met many show ponies who are willing and inspired to share their knowledge, experiences and help you build a better performance. This next lady is one such soul. Her enthusiasm for entertaining is one of the reasons she inspires those around her, and what makes her an incredible teacher. Ladies and Gentlemen, the lady who always Knox twice, cheesecake darling: Knox Harter

Gracie: How’d you get your name?
Knox Harter: My first time I was kittening for Red Herring’s Reveal Me at the Rivoli and I was talking to Joe Kilmartin and we were talking about finding my stage name. At this point I was just kittening and had yet to do a full solo tease (though I had a lot of experience with sexy dancing, Boston and group teases). I told him I had no idea what my stage name should be, but I did want it to involve my last name (my legal name is pretty kick-ass, at least I think so). Joe suggested the name “Knox Twice”, then said “come to me in a couple of weeks and I think I’ll have a better one.” Sure enough the next Reveal me I was kittening as well as performing my first full tease as a soloist, and Joe comes up to me and gives me the name I’ve stuck with: Knox Harter.

Gracie: How long have you been on the scene?
Knox Harter: Arguably almost 5 years, but Knox Harter has only been around for about a year and a half. I actually got into burlesque entirely by accident when I answered an audition post looking for jazz dancers, and ended up in a burlesque show produced by Sophie Luxton at Second City. I did two shows with Sophie and a couple of corporate gigs, at the same time doing sexy dancing and corporate entertainment with DivaGirl Entertainment. From there I was found by Carla Catherwood, who runs Nuvo-Burlesque and worked with her and the Bombshell Beauties for about a year and a half. I met Pastel Supernova in the Bombshell beauties and was offered a spot in her new company Love Letters Cabaret. The rest is kind of history. Knox was developed under Pastel’s watch and I started mingling and kittening with other burlesque performers I never heard of until I made it to do full teases myself!

Gracie: Signature colour?
Knox Harter: Hot pink!!!

Gracie: Do you have formal training?

Knox Harter: I’m a trained dancer since I was three – the whole nine yards: did nothing but dance as a kid through my teens, went to an arts high school for dance, got my BFA in Dance from Ryerson, I’ve been teaching dance since I was 16, still working as a professional dancer, dance teacher and choreographer.

Gracie: What was your burlesque a-ha moment?
Knox Harter: I feel like I’m still having them! With all the performance experience I have I feel like I’m still constantly learning! I guess my most recent one came the last time I was in Ottawa and the feed back I got from my cheesecake act. Apparently that act comes with a reputation…

Gracie: What is your favourite peel and reveal?
Knox Harter: Anything that reveals my bum and stocking peels

Gracie: Do you have a favourite body part?
Knox Harter: I love my back and my legs.

Gracie: Does your audience have a favourite body part?
Knox Harter: My bum.

Gracie: How do you build an act?
Knox Harter: Either the song or the concept comes first depending on what I’m trying to create.

Gracie: What’s your characteristic style?
Knox Harter: Classic vintage cheesecake pin-up. I’m a cartoon.

Gracie: What is the most important part of your number?
Knox Harter: That the character or concept I’m portraying is clear and entertaining, and that I connect with my audience in somehow.

Gracie: What’s the most unique show you’ve ever been a part of?
Knox Harter: I’m biased, but I’ve never had any other experiences like the ones I have with my Love Letters Cabaret family.

Gracie: Favourite venue in your current city and on the road?
Knox Harter: First pick is Revival, second pick is the Second City mainstage. Out of town I enjoy the Rainbow Bistro in Ottawa and Café Cleopatra in Montreal (however I feel like that might change if I ever make it to the Wiggle Room *wink wink *)

Gracie: Who is your favourite local showgirl?
Knox Harter: In no particular order: Pastel Supernova, Lucky Minx, Coco Framboise, Charlie Quinn, Dew Lily… the list kind of goes on! This city has so much talent that each time I see a show I come out inspired, and some of the emerging performers are hidden gems soon to be uncovered…see what I did there… 😛

Gracie: Do you have any words of wisdom for budding showgirls?

Knox Harter:  Find what makes you special as a showgirl and own it. You are enough.
– Take everything you hear about yourself or other people with a grain of salt.
– Get everything in writing.
– You create your own success. Producers, bookers, clients and agents who make promises don’t always deliver. Don’t leave your success in the hands of someone who may not have your best interests at heart. Know your worth and stand by it.

Gracie: As always, a delight! Thank you for taking time out of your busy rehearsal schedule to answer a few of my nosy questions. Be sure to follow Knox Harter:

Website: www.knoxharter.com
Facebook: facebook.com/KnoxHarter
Twitter: @KnoxHarter
Instgram: kknoxharter

Things Could Always Be Worse

I got up this morning without an alarm, which is alarming since I have to be up at sparrow fart. (Sparrow Fart: A time so early in the morning, the birds are just waking up themselves. Stretching their wings and releasing the gas from yesterday’s worms) So, there I am listening to the sounds of nothing in the early morning darkness, wondering what the day will hold for me. Especially, since it’s only just begun and there’s a lot more to go. Then it began.
I banged my head while getting clean undies outta the dryer. I mean BANGED, goose egg steeze. I got a sliver in my sock, which scratched my foot. I missed 2, count them, TWO busses. And when I finally did get to the subway, it was an old car without a ceiling bar for those forced to sway shoulder to shoulder. Where I spend my commute apologizing for my infamous lack of balance. When I get to work, I develop a blister in boots I’ve worn for 5 years. The stiff and starched crotch seam of my uniform pants start becoming intimately aquatinted with my delicate lower lady parts. And on top of all that, I need a haircut so dang bad, I mean I look like Mr Muggs. Blonde bangs covering my blue eyes. The only benefit is that I can blow them up with a cartoon sigh of exasperation. Which I’ve done quite a bit today, and it’s only 9:15! Good news is: it’s only 9:15, and I hope to change today for the better. Which, fingers crossed, I can because there’s still a long way to go. So whether you’re having a great day or the friggin’ worst, I hope you have the courage to change the one thing you can, which is YOU! Happy Fri~Yay to everyone!

The Morning Commute Communication

There was a time when I blogged 5 days a week. I was dedicated. Now, I’m lucky if I get around to 1 or 2 entries a month. Where has all that creative energy gone? Where did the time I used fill with mental floss go? I thought it was gone, just gone. Sucked into the ether, leaving me empty and uninspired. But upon closer inspection, I now see that it’s not my ability to create that’s disappeared, it’s my time to produce that has.
This last year I’ve lost my early morning commute to work. The time I spend shoulder to shoulder with John Q Public. My 5 days a week of solitary creative thinking time, my Me time. Well, Me and e’rebody in the GTA’s Me time, but I have headphones and my thoughts, so it’s like I’m alone. Everyday, we stand, swaying, on these metaphysical and metaphorical journeys together without ever making eye contact. But it’s where I get my best thinking done. Each day I bare witness to the world around me, but those inspiring sardine car subway rides and erratic bus schedules now simply bustle me to and fro. My transit, is now spent shuttling to my evening endeavors. To a creative place, where I am focused on the act, streamlining my performance. To class where I am honing the joke, not exercising my mental demons. I have become project oriented instead of introspective. Lately, I’ve felt the need to change my direction. An expansion of my horizon, a new dawn or sunset, even a hurricane.
So, this morning, I felt inspired to ride the subway. Write. Read and ruminate. Commute and communicate. Well, vent. I felt like venting. Unclogging and blogging. I felt like blogging, but I didn’t know what to say. So I climbed aboard the red rocket and let my thoughts roll around the subway floor like an abandoned coffee cup, until I could pick them up and put them where they belong…on the internet..wait, what? Oh, never mind this is where I get off.