interview with vegan burlesque performer Bettina May!

June 5, 2010

While researching for this blog, I copied down a bunch of info about burlesque performers and people who create vegan burlesque goods.  One of the product lines I had found was Coquette Faux Furriers, but little did I know that the creator was also a vegan burlesque star! Below is an online interview I did with the ever so wonderful and fierce Bettina May.  Make sure to check out her website, which is linked at the bottom of the interview, to see and read more about her.

VEGAN BURLESQUE (VB): How long have you been doing burlesque?
BETTINA MAY (BM): I have been performing burlesque since 2003, when I started a burlesque scene in my sleepy little town of Victoria BC, Canada with my dance partner Lulumae, calling ourselves the BettiLu Bombshells.

VB: What first got you interested in burlesque?
BM: I started off as a vintage pin-up model, doing shoots for fun with my friends, both as a model and photographer, and as a longtime collector of vintage outfits, I already had a healthy costume supply.  I started creating cruelty-free costume pieces for burlesque dancers in Vancouver, a nearby city with a burlesque scene for my company, and in the process became enamored with the art of burlesque.  When a local club owner in Victoria approached me about starting a local troupe, I jumped at the chance, and started choreographing an act right away!

VB: Which burlesque performers inspire you?
BM: I’m inspired by ladies who really push the boundaries of glamour, elegance and humour.  Trixie Minx from New Orleans’ Fleur de Tease is amazing, gorgeous and SO funny in her acts.  Dita Von Teese, of course, is vintage perfection and a marketing genius, which I admire.  My favourite legendary performer is Sherry Britton, so beautiful and amazing costumes.


"My all-time favourite venue to perform at is Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ, and it IS vegan friendly!" - Bettina May

VB: Do you have a favorite venue you perform at? Is it vegan-friendly (food/drinks/etc)?
BM: My all-time favourite venue to perform at is Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ, and it IS vegan friendly!  It’s an old 1950s bowling alley, completely restored with the original equipment,  and the centre bowling lanes have been converted into a stage, but you can still bowl on the side lanes during shows.  The concession serves the best tofu bbq sandwich, and the curly fries are to die for!

VB: Do you have a favorite routine you’ve done?
BM: Oh gosh, I love all my routines, otherwise I wouldn’t do them!  I guess the two crowd favourites are my Weekend In Canada act, which is my tribute to my homeland, an ice-skating shimmy act, and the other one is to Josephine Baker’s “Don’t Touch Me Tomatoes” and it’s more Carmen Miranda inspired, with a big faux-feather showgirl headdress and faux feather skirt.

VB: How long have you been vegan?
BM: I have been vegan for about 3 years, and was vegetarian for about 10 years before that.

VB: What made you decide to be vegan?
BM: I was introduced to the idea of veganism in high school when I started going to punk and hardcore shows, and started listening to bands that advocated a vegan and straightedge lifestyle, both for reasons of personal health and compassion for animals.  I became vegetarian when I moved out on my own, and while I always strove to be fully vegan, didn’t fully make the commitment until 2007, when I went on my first European tour – great timing, right?  I was touring with another performer who was vegan, so in solidarity I decided to only eat vegan to be fair, and after realizing I could be vegan in Paris, the land of croissants and fois gras, I had no excuse to be a lazy vegetarian in my little west coast hippie community where vegan options abound!  I’ve been vegan ever since, and appreciate the challenge of finding vegan options on the road, in unlikely places like the Deep South and Midwest.  I’ve started a blog about how I cope on tour and the excitement of finding vegan oases on the road at

VB: Favorite vegan drink/food?
BM: I think my favourite vegan drink is vegan Thai iced tea, so delightfully sweet and creamy, but so full of caffeine that it makes me a bit wild!  My favourite food is deep fried mushrooms, particularly this dish I get at my hometown Buddhist veg place, Lotus Pond, called Shiitake Mushroom Delight, covered in black bean sauce and so amazing!


"The only cruelty that should be onstage is the suffering I inflict on my poor feet from high heels and my back from tight-lacing my corsets!" -Bettina May

VB: How do you deal with the non-vegan aspects of burlesque (such as boas/feather fans)?
BM: It really makes me sad to see how many animals have to die for my profession, from fur stoles to feather boas to leather shoes, when it is so needless!  I enjoy the challenge of coming up with inventive ways of making glamorous costumes that are true to the style of classic vintage burlesque, but without the cruelty.  The only cruelty that should be onstage is the suffering I inflict on my poor feet from high heels and my back from tight-lacing my corsets!  I’ve made a few different fans dances using fabric fans instead of feathers, and shred satin to mimic the fluff of ostrich feathers, and of course I use a lot of faux fur in my costumes, since that is what got me started on this path in the first place.  I have even created custom pieces for Dita Von Teese, who is trying to incorporate more cruelty-free items into her collection.  Fortunately, cute pin-up shoes are easier to come by these days with the resurgence in popularity of vintage styles, so it’s fairly easy to find non-leather heels for stage.

VB: If you could change one thing about burlesque, what would it be?
BM: I would love to see more people using alternatives to animal products in their costumes!

VB: Where can we see more of you?
BM: Right now I’m on tour for 3 months with the Pretty Things Peepshow –, and you can find my full tour schedule and pin-up gallery at


One Response to “interview with vegan burlesque performer Bettina May!”

  1. […] Tonight I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Bettina May (you can read my email with her here) for vegan dinner and desserts! I’ve admired Bettina May for awhile and actually interviewed […]

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