Sydni Deveraux competes this week for the title Reigning Queen of Burlesque (Photo by La Photographie)
~ Written by/interview by Jessica Price
If you are familiar with Sydni Deveraux – aka Seattle’s very own “Golden Glamazon” – then you know that the woman eats, sleeps, breathes, and dreams burlesque. Her love for the art form and complete immersion in its past and present history is matched only by her sizzling moves and goddess-like stature (Sydni is 6 foot 1… in stocking feet). She produces, teaches, sings, and serves up burlesque advice and tips on her blog, Living in a Glitter Wonderland. But most of all Sydni is an extremely sensual mover that takes her sweet time, making each and every audience member feel as if they’re getting a steamy private show. When Sydni competes this week for the title “Miss Exotic World 2013, The Reigning Queen of Burlesque” at the 23rd Annual Tournament of Tease in Las Vegas, the phrase “she was born to do this” will take on a whole new meaning. We’re pretty sure it’s one of those special showgirl moments Sydni has been dreaming of since well, birth.
Last week we chatted with Waxie Moon and Paris Original (two of the four competitors in this year’s “Best of Boylesque” category); without further ado, we bring you a BSP interview with Sydni Deveraux as she prepares to shake her moneymaker in Vegas:
Jessica: Hi Sydni! In order to understand a performer and see where they are going, it’s often helpful to view their artistry and career in the context of where they’ve been. Can you tell a little about how you became interested in burlesque, and then of course how you got your start?
Sydni Deveraux: I am interested in burlesque because I like being naked, I love to move and I especially love a good piece of music to be naked and move to! I also really enjoy the costuming elements of it, though I wasn’t as enthralled with doing my own costuming until I began my apprenticeship with Catherine D’Lish.
I got my start in burlesque I guess from being a naked lady online first- I was a Suicide Girl and while I was active in that community I heard there was a burlesque show in my city! I have been a jazz singer since high school and a flutist since childhood- so I was already hooked with the music. I was super interested in seeing how the semi-naked ladies in those pin-ups I adored actually were purported to move to the music I loved….so it all really has been snowballing since teen-hood, if I really had to trace my origins! However, I didn’t just jump in- I asked to help out with the show (the now defunct Burning Hearts Burlesque) and was a kitten for quite a while before I was approached by the manager (Cleo Petra) to get on the stage as a performer. After a time with BHB, I became one of the founding members of Sinner Saint Burlesque and I was with that super troupe (at the time it was Evilyn Sin Claire, The Shanghai Pearl, Ravenna Black, Georgia Miles, Belle Cozette and Inga Ingénue) until I made the choice to go solo in what I think was 2008.
From there I performed in one offs, produced shows by myself and also with Hottie McNaughty (together we were Blood Rhinestone Productions), curated/creatively directed the 2010 Sin On Heels tour and now I am the producer of Burlesque Behind the Pink Door (since 2010- If I remember right).
So you know…I’ve been trucking along- I still feel like I have a long way to go- I’m closer to the starting line than the finish, if I have anything to do with it!
Jessica: Who have been some of your biggest influences in burlesque performance, and what specifically do you think you’ve learned from them?
Sydni: My biggest influences have been Catherine D’Lish, the Seattle community in general and of course the ladies I came up with in a troupe. For years I immersed myself though- I’ve watched several hundred hours of video, read every book and tried to bathe in the stories of all of the legends I meet. Beyond people though- music is my biggest influence. The music teaches me how to move and practice refines it.
As for what I’ve learned from Catherine- I’ve specifically learned about how my body can move, being a happy, sexy lady, the quality of movement, costuming techniques, and a billion other things that would take too long to write.
My comrades in Seattle have taught me about love and community….and how to be cheeky and clever. Seattle burlesque is a riot- like a whole bunch of smart, witty, silly beautiful queens stuck in a myriad of gorgeous bodies.
Sydni Deveraux (AKoch Photography)
Jessica: You’ve spent some time training with Catherine D’Lish. How did that come about, and what is that experience like?
Sydni: I’ve spent around 3 years training with Catherine- she is my burlesque mama and a part of my heart. Every day that we talk I am grateful for her presence in my life- she has affected me profoundly just by being herself, by challenging the beliefs I have held in my heart and mind, and inspiring me to make all of the changes to my life that I always wanted for myself. So far the experience has been magical! She travels so often that it’s been a spell since we’ve seen each other in person, but I am still learning, and I am still trying to learn all about my potential and what it contains.
My relationship with her began in 2009 (gosh I’m not good with dates) after I made a concerted effort to find a mentor. I had contacted some of the giants in the Seattle community with no luck- they were all busy with their lives and productions. I laid my plans for tutelage aside and plowed on, going to tons of shows and hoping that one day I would find a teacher- I just wanted to grow. At BurlyCon Catherine was offering private sessions and I was lucky to be gifted the last one by my mother who had seen Catherine live on stage and didn’t want me to miss an opportunity (my mom is the radest mom, it’s ridiculous, really!). I suppose the stars lined up that day- the session flew by in a snap but it was super fun! A bit later I found out that she had relocated to Vashon. Trixie and Monkey were in town and needed a ride out there to see her for tea and I drove them- and I suppose that truly that was the beginning of our working together- I began going to the island many times a week to help her in any way that she needed- costuming, shipping, errands, you know-the kind of thing you do when you’re working under someone you admire and respect deeply. Catherine is a rad lady- more awesome offstage than on, if you can even believe that- a truly magical individual. The burlesque world has been impacted deeply by her performance and her incredible costuming.
Jessica: As producer of Seattle’s longest running weekly revue “Burlesque Behind the Pink Door” (a pivotal Seattle venue, in the historic Pike Place Market) – what have you learned about running a professional show with high caliber talent?
Sydni: Ha! I suppose I’ve learned that EVERY venue has its quirks. I’ve learned that it’s just as important to have gracious performers that are amazing onstage as well as off, that you’ll always want to pay them more, that being frank and clear is always the way to go, that your stage manager is your super glue, when you make your rules you have to stick to them, never hire someone who you haven’t seen just because they come “highly recommended”, and that often it is hard to be a producer who’s active in the community when you produce a show that is a hard appraiser of talent. Sometimes when you’re a producer, you get to feel separate.
Jessica: You’ve been attending the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame events since 2006, correct? Can you explain a little of your history with BHoF?
Sydni: Yup- I’ve been attending since 2006, I performed in BHoF in 2006, and 2007(?) with troupes in the showcases and pool party, 2010 I competed in the Best Debut Category, 2011 I missed since I was getting hitched, 2012 I was an alternate to compete for Queen (which was hard because I really just wanted to perform that weekend!) and this year I am competing! This particular event is my burlesque Mecca- it’s where I fell so deeply in love with this art that I’ve been immersed in it since I started attending.
Jessica: In light of your passion for burlesque and your own deep connection to its global community, what does competing for the title “Reigning Queen of Burlesque” mean to you on a personal level?
Sydni: This is a real tough question- I suppose it means that I am completing a goal that I set for myself in 2006 when I saw Julie Atlas Muz pop that damn magic bubble and win….I thought “I want to get there, in front of all of these people, I want to create a magic moment for someone and myself, I want to know what it’s like to put in all of the work to get there”. Competing in this category is a HUGE honor in our burlesque world-it’s a show where so many people who have never seen you live actually get to see you do your thing. And Dixie Evans was right about making a competition to get people to pay attention- it might not be right…or fair…but people do pay attention. It’s a world showcase, the only one of its kind- with terribly high standards to perform in the weekend or compete, with applicants and attendees being those who are absolutely in love with performing. I’m also stoked to compete in a category that my mentor has won, not once but TWICE, and to be competing in a competition that has had all of the titans of our field show their heart and soul on that stage. My category is totally full of women that I respect, admire and am utterly entertained by. I’m excited to be included.
Also-we all want to be on that list, you know? We all want to be a part of our growing history in any way we can. You merge with the museum by getting on that stage- and that is a magical feeling. The weekend also creates magical moments for all of us in the audience- being a sorceress of some of the magic feels surreal and wonderful.
I also want to say that competing can bring out the best in you, you want find out what metal you’re made of, it can teach you how to recover from a perceived “failure”, and you learn how to put together something you’re excited about that you think will show well. It is the chance to really get into the nitty gritty of an act. It’s not all great, but it *is* interesting to compete. It’s an interesting thing to do. These months of prep you tell yourself that you want to win (I mean, after all, why would you enter if you don’t want to win) but more than anything at the end of the day, you just want to give a magical show.
And you know- we all want to see what that title might help us do in the community. I would love to see if it could help me spread my wings a little further, have more performing opportunities, teach a few more students, write some more blogs, hit a few more festivals….and to be included in such a wildly talented list of winners would just be bananas I tell you!
Jessica: What has the training and preparation for this particular competition been like?
Sydni: I’ve done a lot of heart preparation, a lot of thinking about what I want to show to the audience, what my intention is while I’m onstage, what impression I want to make. I spend a lot of time in my shoes- and finding the right ones for that stage and costume was a feat I tell you (pardon my pun), I rehearse for a bit every day, I’m taking care of my body with all of the things I typically do (yoga, intermittent lifting, jogging, eating incredible food), and I try to maintain excitement at all times to show people what I’ve been up to since the last time I competed. I’ve had a few people look at it and I’ve made some tweaks to the choreography and to my energy during certain bits. A week ago or so I completed all of my rhinestoning (my act is new-ish) so until a month ago it didn’t have one stone on it (gotta save up those dollar bills, yo!). I’ve also tried to get it on as many stages as I can, but that can be hard since all of the stages in Seattle are quite small. More than anything though, I really just try to have as much fun as I can rehearsing. I’m there to have fun, so I better practice it at home, oui?
Jessica: Can you give us any hints about the act you’ll be performing? (If not, can you perhaps explain your act selection process a little, or how you arrived at what you wanted to convey?)
Sydni: Well, it’s new in its completion but way over a year old in its initial conception. For a long time I just didn’t know how to make the damn thing all work together in an artistic, seamless way. After I finished it- it was the ONLY act that I wanted to submit. I have others that I love performing, but I either didn’t want to edit my act (like one of my signature acts- like Granada- which is too long), or I just wasn’t stoked about them as much as I was about this one, right now. I think perhaps in the back of my mind, as soon as I heard my music, I saw it on a world stage. I want to convey fun, sexy-lady musicality- I wanted to show people my roots, which is my love of jazz. My act is a love letter to the genre for sure.
Best of luck to you, Sydni!