I met today’s Muse in the total darkness of Disgracedland, this past October. I don’t know you, but for me the dark is a great place and also the worst place to meet people. I tend to forget my manners, like the essential and ever important introduction. I launch right into comfortable conversation, with total strangers. When I finally do get around to introducing myself, I already liked my conversation partner. It was this fiery lady. Upon realizing it, I spent the next 15 minutes searching the inside my oubliette of a purse for my business card, in hopes that I could add her to my menagerie of local burlesque beauties. Which pretty much brings us to where we are today. Ladies and gentlemen, the blazing bombshell: Scarlett LaFlamme!
Photo Cred. Photolena
Gracie: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few of my questions. First off, how did you get your name?
Scarlett: I read somewhere that a good way to pick a burlesque name was to highlight a physical attribute of yours. I could have gone with boobs, but anything in that vein would have been a pun or a concept name, and I decided that wasn’t for me; I wanted something that sounded like a real name, only more glamorous. So I went with being a redhead as my physical attribute, and wrote down a bunch of names that evoked that. I was almost Ginger LaFlamme, but I went with Scarlett because it sounded stronger and sexier to me – plus, yes, I’ve always loved the character Scarlett O’Hara. I chose LaFlamme because I’m half French and wanted something French.
At the time, I didn’t realize Scarlett was a common burlesque first name – there were none in Toronto, and that was good enough for me. When I did realize that and started to become aware of the larger burlesque community, I considered changing it, but I really liked the first and last name together and felt connected to the name Scarlett. It’s kind of become my real name – my best friends call me Scarlett and introduce me to their non-burlesque friends that way, and I find myself using it more than my legal name.
Gracie: How long have you been on the scene?
Scarlett: I’ve been performing since May 2009.
Gracie: Signature colour?
Scarlett: It would have to be red.
Gracie: What is your signature move?
Scarlett: I just figured out recently that I actually have a signature move. This is a small thing, but whenever I get up from doing floor work (which I love and do a lot, curse the abundance of low stages in Toronto), I do this thing where I face my back to the audience, slightly spread my legs and straighten them so my butt is sticking up, and then I slowly run my hands all the way up the backs of my legs before bringing the rest of my body up. Sometimes I stop my hands at my butt, sometimes I smack it, and sometimes I run my hands all the way up to my hair, but I always run my hands up my legs like that. I did that spontaneously during my debut number, and I’ve never seen anyone else do it. It always gets a good reaction.
Gracie: What is your favourite peel and reveal?
Scarlett: I love stocking peels. I love doing them, and I love watching other people do them well. I like them to be really sexy and drawn out, and I love them being taken off with something other than your hands (teeth, etc.). One of the most disappointing things to me is when someone just sits down and takes their stockings off quickly, like “meh, got that out of the way.” I love the stocking peel because it’s revealing a body part that people see all the time now, but it’s the meaning you put into it that can still make it incredibly sexy.
Gracie: Your most unique prop or costume piece?
Scarlett: Easily my giant dragon. I had him built for my first Game of Thrones show – he’s big and sturdy enough that I lay on him to do stocking peels and rode him offstage (wheels under the feet) for my first Daenerys Targaryen number. In the second Daenerys number, the one I do most often…I do very dirty things to him. That was the first time I had ever spent serious money on an act, and it was well worth it.
Gracie: If you weren’t a showgirl, what would you be?
Scarlett: An actor/writer. I realized that I loved burlesque more than just straight acting when I realized that although I never had money for professional headshots, I had happily spent $700 on a dragon. But I’m still working on that stuff, too. I’m actually collaborating with a good friend in the burlesque community on a writing project.
Gracie: Do you have any words of advice for budding showgirls?
Scarlett: Oh yes – maybe too many!
First: GO SEE SHOWS. I can’t stress that enough. If you love burlesque, this should be an easy one. Learn, network, support your community. Get to know all the producers and other performers. Watch tons of burlesque so you can see what styles you like and what inspires you – and also if someone already has the act you’re dreaming up! (Ask about things like that outright, by the way. If someone has a cat act, that doesn’t mean you can’t have one too, but if someone does something very specific in their act, stay away from copying that.) Let people see you supporting their shows. Meet the other producers and performers in your community with an open mind, get to know people for yourself, and let them get to know you. Not only is the social aspect of burlesque really fun, but producers like to work with performers whom they like as people.
Second: Be humble and patient. Know that you won’t always be the best part of a show, and that you may screw up sometimes, and be okay with that. It’s part of being new and is how you improve. Know that you probably won’t get into everyone’s show at first. Don’t take it personally or get discouraged. Ask for feedback, but don’t bombard the producer with questions about why they didn’t accept your act. Being eager is awesome (definitely keep pitching for all the shows you want to get into) but don’t be aggressive. Also, be willing to kitten and volunteer at the door for shows. I kittened a lot when I first started and kept occasionally doing it for a couple of years. It’s fun and a great way to get to know people and show them your work ethic. It’s also a great way to see how a show works, particularly if you’re thinking of producing at some point. Be willing to take the time to build your burlesque career instead of expecting instant gratification. Trust me, everyone will see and respect your hard work.
Third: Speaking of producing – it’s probably not the best idea to start that before you’ve even performed in someone else’s show. There’s a LOT to learn before you take that on, and believe me, it’s harder than you think it is. I had been performing for almost a year before I formed a troupe – and I formed a troupe and co-produced shows with people who were all much more experienced than I was. I didn’t start solo producing until the first Game of Thrones show, which was about 3-1/2 years after I started performing, and by that time I was finally ready to put on a top-quality show. Think about the product you’re going to be able to put out into the scene. Ask yourself why you’re producing – if you’re only producing to give yourself a performance opportunity and/or you need to be the star of your show, rethink things. Think about what your show offers that other people aren’t already doing.
If you’re going to go ahead with it, I recommend starting by putting on smaller shows in smaller venues that don’t charge rent or charge very low rent. Surround yourself with an awesome stage crew and keep all your overhead low. Check the document in Toronto Burlesque Events to schedule your show properly – you probably don’t want a lot of other shows happening around your brand-new one. And oh yeah…PAY YOUR PERFORMERS WELL. Cut of the door no longer cuts it in Toronto.
Finally, never stop learning! Take classes from different people. One person is not going to give you everything you need and make you a well-rounded performer. Five years in, my favourite part of festivals and expos is still getting to take workshops with performers I respect!
Gracie: Thank you for sharing yourself with us, Scarlett. Follow Scarlett’s shenanigans at the links below. See you lovelies next week. Same Gracie time, same Gracie channel.
Facebook: Blazing Bombshell Burlesque