I found out about Missy on facebook as our vegan worlds combined. Based out of D.C. we made little vegan remarks back and forth before I realized I should definitely interview her for this blog!  

Vegan Burlesque: How long have you been doing burlesque?

Missy Aggravation: I’ve been doing it for 4 years now.

VB: What first got you interested in burlesque?
I’ve been performing all my life–I started dance lessons at age 3, did theater and sketch comedy in high school, and majored in Performance Studies in college where all my performances had to do with gender and sexuality. When I saw my first burlesque show in the early 2000s I thought “I should do that!” However, it took me a long time to get there since performance and I had a break-up after college– I just needed that fire in me to perform again. Once I got my groove back I hit up my local burlesque troupe and here I am 4 years later.
VP: Which burlesque performers inspire you?
MA: Delivering the effortless sensuality of legendary burlesque performers is my current goal so Jennie Lee is particularly inspiring me right now. The legends of burlesque have so much to teach that I want to learn, whether it is by listening to them speak now or watching their old (and new!) performances on YouTube. Everyone inspires me in their own ways though and I have learned something from every performer that I’ve watched or interacted with. Of the current performers… Julie Atlas Muz, Michelle L’amour, and Dirty Martini stand out as those who I’ve learned the most by watching.
VB: Do you have a favorite venue you perform at? Is it vegan-friendly (food/drinks/etc)?
MA: I mostly perform at the Red Palace, a music and burlesque club in DC, which is not particularly vegan friendly… but the neighborhood is! You can go to Souk, Dangerously Delicious Pies, Sticky Rice, Ethiopic, or Toki Underground and get a good vegan meal before you go see a show. I also really enjoyed performing at the Windup Space in Baltimore which has an awesome Twin Peaks Red Room inspired stage.
VB: Do you have a favorite routine you’ve done?
MA: This is like choosing children! I’m currently creating my favorite routines right now so I sadly can’t pick those. I think my Audrey Horne (from Twin Peaks) number to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face was particularly inspired.
VB: How long have you been vegan?
MA: I’ve been vegan for 14 years. Next year is a big anniversary!  (Vegan Burlesque side note: CONGRATS!)
 VB What made you decide to be vegan?
MA: I was vegetarian for 5 years before I went vegan. I wanted to be veg since I was 10 when it really hit home to me how meat was made but it took me a few years to realize I could defy my parents and become vegetarian. I created an animal rights group in middle school and everything. I was inspired to become vegan on a trip when I was in college and met this 16 yo runaway vegan and I was like “Damn! If she can do it, I can do it!” I went vegan as soon as I came home and have never looked back. It was the best decision I ever made.
VB: Favorite vegan drink/food?
MA: Hummus. Not like hippie hummus, but good Middle Eastern resto hummus with freshly baked pita bread.
VB: How do you deal with the non-vegan aspects of burlesque (such as boas/feather fans)?
MA: I think having to deal with this off the bat forces one to be more creative much earlier in your burlesque career than you otherwise would be. From day one we have to look outside the box in terms of our costuming (no silk!) and other traditional burlesque elements. I’m lucky because my costume designer is my best friend of 15 years and a vegetarian. She not only knows all the tricks of good costuming but respects my ideals. If I want a custom fabric boa or fan, she can do it, as well as her amazing knowledge of all the kinds of fabric out there and their properties.
VB: If you could change one thing about burlesque, what would it be?
MA: All the non-vegan elements. Fur and feathers in particular are so cruel and it makes me weep how common they are.
 VB:  Where can we see more of you?
MA: My website is http://missyaggravation.com and I’m performing next at Capital Tassels and Tease September 14th at the Red Palace. I’ll be doing my sexy librarian number for their Back to School special!
Also, a note to other vegan burlesque performers out there, Missy and 2 other vegan performers are going to BurlyCon this year and are looking for a 4th vegan performer to room with. Interested? Email her at booking@missyaggravation.com to figure out details!

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Being in the New York neo-burlesque scene, sometimes it is hard to remember that there are so many other performers all over the world.  You may remember the interview I did aussie performer Red Devotchkin, well here is another one from a lady with an accent, Tina Warren from Glasgow, Scotland! I found her early on in my vegan burlesque internet searches, but completely forgot to contact her until recently.

Along with running her own animal charity (One World Scotland), Tina Warren is a performer and impresario of the world’s biggest burlesque club – Club Noir. Based in Scotland they regularly get up to 2,000 people at each of their events!

Vegan Burlesque:How long have you been doing burlesque?
Tina Warren: 7 years, since 2003

Tina Warren as Phantom of the Burlesque Club

VB: What first got you interested in burlesque?
TW: My sister ran a burlesque club in London with her boyfriend.
VB: Which burlesque performers inspire you?
TW:Dita Von Teese is impeccably groomed and has beautiful costumes. She also seems very disciplined.

VB:Do you have a favorite venue you perform at? Is it vegan-friendly?
TW: I run my own burlesque club at the O2 Academy in Glasgow. We love performing on the same stage as huge stars such as Blondie and James Brown. I ask for cocktails to be served at my events and I like them to be vegan.
VB: Do you have a favorite routine you’ve done?
TW:We do about 5 shows a year so I create 4 new acts a year at least for me to perform to. My favourite one is Tina Beans – it’s a grotesque burlesque homage to Dita’s champagne act. But I bathe in a giant tin of baked beans.  It’s really funny and fun to do.

VB:How longhave you been vegan?
TW: 18 years.

VB: What made you decide to be vegan?
TW:Animal welfare. Didn’t want the animals to suffer or be killed.  But now I enjoy a vegan diet for the health benefits too.

VB: Favorite vegan drink/food?
TW:That’s like trying to choose a favourite child. I love everything: Thai, Italian, Japanese, Indian, Scottish. I’m getting hungry now.

Tina as Tina Tsarina

VB: How do you deal with the non-vegan aspects of burlesque (such as boas/feather fans)?
TW:I love the challenge of making my costumes better than much of what’s out there in the burlesque world. I think I achieve it most of the time.  I use Swarovski crystals, quality faux fur, huge jewels, headdresses, 18 inch corsets, massive ballgowns, tailored tuxedoes, I’ve even had my face printed onto fabric for a costume. My acts and costumes are a lot more imaginative than a boring old ostrich feather fan dance. I think chicken feathers on anything is tacky. Sorry if this sounds catty but I’m fed up with people with no imagination resorting to animal cruelty to make themselves look pretty.  It’s an ugly trait in burlesque.

VB: If you could change one thing about burlesque, what would it be?
TW:The ubiquitous feathers. They are undeniably beautiful but they are hideously cruel.  I think feathers one day will be considered in the same way as fur is nowadays. Lay off the birds girls!  Here is some more information about ostrich feathers for example. I want to cry now just thinking about these beautiful animals and unimaginable torture they have to endure so some silly female can wear its plumage.  Why I don’t use ostrich feathers.

Tina doing her Egomaniac act

VB: Where can we see more of you?
TW: I perform at various private gigs; and also at my own Club Noir shows – all upcoming dates are here. Club Noir

When I had first started looking into starting this blog, I compiled a list of businesses to link to and people to interview. Red Devotchkin was the first person I put on a list.  Red, who is a vegan burlesque performer hailing from the opposite side of the world than me. Now, Australia has a pretty large and outspoken vegan community, but I don’t know much about the world of Australian burlesque, so this interview was an exceptionally exciting read.

photo courtesy of ShootMe2

Hope you enjoy it!

Vegan Burlesque: How long have you been doing burlesque?

Red Devotchkin:  I started performing in late 2006, so about three and a half years.

VB: What first got you interested in burlesque?

RD: I’ve always said that I’m a show off and did lots of drama in school, but then let it go for a couple of years. I think I first saw burlesque at Big Day Out (annual music festival in Australia) and loved it. A year or so later some acquaintances opened Bar Burlesque in Brisbane and I got a job as the door girl. It didn’t take long for me to jump up onstage though!

VB: Which burlesque performers inspire you?

RD: As much as I admire many international stars of burlesque, it’s really the ones closest to home that inspire me the most – Lena Marlene and Miss Bertie Page.

VB: Do you have a favorite venue you perform at? Is it vegan-friendly (food/drinks/etc)?

RD: I‘ve only just moved to Melbourne and can’t really say that I have a favourite venue here yet. Up in Brisbane there were a couple – I did at monthly show at The Joynt and they always looked after me. I also really liked performing at The Zoo (not actually a zoo!), mostly because I know most of the staff and they make every night there a barrel of laughs! Unfortunately venues always seem to provide non-vegan champagne to the performers, which is always a disappointment!

Surprised Sailor, photo by Angela McConnell


VB: Do you have a favorite routine you’ve done?

RD: I think I’ve got a couple of favourite routines… One is a sailor girl show using Shirley Temple’s Good Shop Lollipop and Beyond The Sea as covered by Royal Crown Revue. It’s terribly cutesy and has lots of silly props. My other favourite at the moment is my tribute to Robot Maria from Metropolis. But it’s terribly hard to choose…

VB: How long have you been vegan?

RD: I’ve been vegan for just over four years, and was vegetarian for two years before that. So I suppose I only became vegan about six months before starting to perform burlesque.

VB: What made you decide to be vegan?

RD: One of my closest friends at the time had been vegan for twelve years and she made me see how great vegan cooking can be. She also made me aware of veganism is the true ethical choice if you’re committed to animal welfare. I kept it a secret when I first became vegan and only told my boyfriend. I wanted to be committed to it but I didn’t want any outside pressure on it. It is an ethical choice, and has only become more so the longer I’ve been vegan.

VB: Favorite vegan drink/food?

RD: Oh how I love to cook and to eat! This is a hard question! I love lasagna (the recipe in Veganomicon is great) and mushroom ragout pizza (my own recipe). I love cooking so much that I keep thinking I should start a vegan cooking blog… but we’ll see… Favourite drink is probably ginger beer and favourite alcoholic drink is Zubrowka vodka, cloudy apple juice and lime.

VB: How do you deal with the non-vegan aspects of burlesque (such as boas/feather fans)?

Footscray Folly, photograph by Angela McConnell


RD: I have scarves and have a couple of pairs of fabric fans that I use, but they’re not the focus of many of my shows. As beautiful as a feather fan dance can be, I just could never bring myself to use ostrich (or any) feathers. It’s fun to think of new and interesting props to use anyway. For example my sailor girl show uses a large lollipop, a toy drum, a teddy bear, a very large beach ball and a paper plane.

VB: If you could change one thing about burlesque, what would it be?

RD: I don’t know that there is anything that I would change! I love that burlesque can be so many different things to so many people. I suppose people who don’t know much about burlesque sometimes think that it does mean feather boas and fans, but preconceptions are often changed once they see a few creative and eclectic shows.

VB: www.myspace.com/devotchkinwww.modelmayhem.com/devotchkinwww.facebook.com/red.devotchkin

I know I had promised this interview awhile ago, but there were some details that needed to be ironed out on my side.  This interview seems long, but Dale is such a complex person and has such a great personality, you finish wishing there was more.  Heads up, there is some cussin’ in this interview, so if you have sensitive sensibilities, you were warned!

a self portrait taken by Dale Rio as part of her "a gallon of gas and a match" series.

Vegan Berlesque: Why what first got you interested in the world of Pin-ups and pin-up photography? 

Dale Rio: i knew some pin-up models through the vintage car scene when i lived in los angeles and photographed some of them for fashion shoots or personal projects.  i didn’t know much of the history of pin-up, though, until i started doing research for the classes that i teach.  don spiro and i got asked to do a pin-up class at one of the big burlesque events a while back, so we put one together.  we taught at tease-o-rama, exotic world, and burlycon, and when i moved back to new york last year, we started teaching through the new york school of burlesque.  it’s interesting, because something as extraneous as pin-up is actually part of an interconnected web of influences that you wouldn’t necessarily relate to each other; the economy, art movements, politics, war, fashion, etc.  the way we teach pin-up puts it into a sociological perspective, so it’s not just a bunch of pretty images of pretty women.

VB: Do you have a favroite pinup model or photographer?

DR: i really like bunny yeager, because she not only was a photographer, but she started her career as a model, so she’s experienced both sides of the lens.  i feel that must give her a better understanding of what her models go through than photographers who’ve never experienced being on the receiving end of a photo shoot.  also, being a female in a male dominated industry will earn my respect every time.

VB: What first introduced you to the world of burlesque?

DR: i was actually introduced to burlesque by sideshow performers who i was photographing.  I got to know them, and when i went to see them perform, it was usually at a 10-in-1 type show that featured burlesque performers as well as the sideshow style acts.

VB: Have you performed/Do you currently perform burlesque?

DR: i have actually performed…  on a semi-regular basis when i lived in l.a. and seattle.  time and money have prevented me from making it a regular habit, but i hope to find enough of both to be able to perform more in the future.

photo of Michelle L'amour at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, copyright Dale Rio

VB: Which burlesque performers inspire you?

DR: there are so many to choose from, but having seen michelle l’amour’s caged cat act at exotic world this year, she’s moved up to the top of my list with a bullet!

VB: Can you tell us a bit about Shimmy Magazine?

DR: shimmy started when a girl i skated with in l.a. and i decided we wanted to become magazine moguls.  actually, we both loved burlesque and sideshow, so we joined forces, (she was good with computers and wanted to delve into design more, and i’m a photographer and writer), and started both shimmy and our roller derby magazine, blood & thunder.  shimmy has been through several incarnations…  it started out styled after a ’50’s men’s magazine, but that was pretty cost-ineffective.  we then did a regular magazine layout, so we could sell it on newsstands.  (blood & thunder was about to hit newsstands then.)  but then my partner’s personal life, well, sort of consumed her, so shimmy was pretty inactive for a couple years.  but you can’t keep a good idea down, and i decided to take the reins on all aspects of shimmy, (i’ve learned a bit of graphic design along the way), and will be launching it as a “burlesque annual” in 2010.  a burlesque yearbook, if you will.

VB: Now, you are also invovled (were invovled?) in the roller derby scene. Do you feel the worlds of pin-up, burlesque and roller derby are similar in any way?

DR: i played derby for about six years, until i was injured.  (i’m taking an indefinite hiatus right now.)  with derby and burlesque there’s a definite sense of empowerment.  it’s expressed in different ways, obviously, and some people don’t really recognize it in either or both, but it’s definitely all about women taking control.  contemporary derby and burlesque are largely women-run, as opposed to their various inceptions in the past, and i think that’s a very important factor in why they’re both so popular.

VB: In these three worlds, do you find vegans are more common in any of them?

DR: vegans are still the minority in the gen pop, so unless you’re in a community that’s sort of geared towards that mentality, it’s hard to find fellow vegans, period.  i wouldn’t say that we’re more common in any of the three worlds, but i’ve found my vegan cohorts in each, and we look out for each other.

portrait of Darlinda Just Darlinda from Dale Rio's "Night & Day: Burlesque in the Workplace" series

VB: What made you decide to be vegan?

DR: i’d been vegetarian for eighteen years, and about a year or so before i went vegan, i’d started minimizing my dairy and egg intake.  it wasn’t a big conscious decision, really.  just like when i stopped eating meat, it was more of a natural action.  but, like many people, i thought it would be prohibitively difficult to be vegan, so i never realistically thought about doing it.  but then i went on a photo shoot upstate and met a bunch of boys who were vegan.  they were really awesome cooks and would get together on sundays and do big, vegan mash-ups.  i thought, “wait a minute, if these DUDES can do it, then i should be able to, too!”  it just made me realize how easy it must be.  and it is.  especially nowadays.  if anyone claims to not be vegan because it’s too hard, they’re full of shit and are most likely apologists who are trying to cover up a lack of willpower or legitimate desire to be vegan.

VB: What’s your favorite thing about veganism?

DR: THE FOOD!!!  and imagining vegan hells for people.  i’m actually a pretty mellow vegan in the way that i relate with others.  i don’t try to preach or whine about having to search out food if i’m somewhere that’s not vegan-friendly.  that said, i have very strong and definite opinions.  but i realize that foisting your unsolicited opinions onto others isn’t always the best way to effect change.  and i also realize that each person does what he or she is capable of, for their own reasons.  my favorite example is one of my uncles…  he’s vain and eats mainly a vegetarian diet because it’s more healthy, and he wants to look good for as long as he can.  regardless of his reasoning, his decision furthers a cause i believe in, so kudos to him.  i know  he’ll never go vegan, but he’s doing his part in the way that he’s able. and i also respect his honesty.  i can’t stand apologists who feel the need to explain how much they want to go vegan, but can’t, because (fill in the blank).  if it’s a moral decision, then there’s simply no choice.  you just do it and never look back.  the taste of cheese or whatever isn’t enough to overlook all the wrongs in the system, if you feel they’re there.  touching on that issue, i believe that vegans generally are more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies, and the far-reaching implications of things like factory farming and whatnot.  people always get on your case about how you’re going to get all your nutrients, but if you ask a meat-eater where all their nutrients are coming from, most of them have no clue.  they think that the standard american diet is, by definition, healthy, where nothing could be further from the truth.

portrait of Bella Beretta, copyright Dale Rio

VB: Favorite vegan food/drink?

DR: good lord.  how can there be one answer?  one idiotic person once said to me, “you’re vegan?  you must hate food.”  are you fucking kidding me?  i actually love really good food.  and i love to cook, although until i recently forced myself to not be quite as much of a workaholic, i rarely found time to do so.  anything i make in good company is an automatic favorite.  i think vegans have a greater appreciation of food and get together more often than others to cook.  but, let’s see…  i do have a sweet tooth, and vegan desserts are still relatively hard to come by, so i’d say an overall favorite is vegan baked goods.  and…  red bamboo’s chicken parmigiana, dim sum at the vegetarian dim sum house in chinatown, just about anything at lula’s sweet apothecary, mighty o donuts in seattle, ronalds’ donuts in vegas, (they get bonus points for the exceptionally sweet owners and for being an oasis in vegas and because you’d never know they were vegan by looking at the joint…)…  the list could go on.

VB: Where can we see more of you?

DR: my new site is up www.dalerio.com.  i’m trying to get established in philly, so i’m hoping to open a studio there within a month or so and offer pin-up and photography classes there, in addition to shooting, of course.  i’ll be shooting at the toronto burlesque festival, vending for blood & thunder at the east coast extravaganza, and printing my ass off! Blood Thunder Magazine & Shimmy Magazine

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 CoquetteFauxFurriers.com, 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 http://glamorousvegabond.blogspot.com/

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 – http://prettythingsproductions.com, and you can find my full tour schedule and pin-up gallery at http://bettina.ca