POC Photo’s New Orleans Burlesque Festival experience; plus an interview with NOBF Queen Ginger Valentine.
-Written and photographed by Paul O’Connell of POC Photo (Contributor, Seattle)
For the second year in a row a Texas girl has won Queen of Burlesque at The New Orleans Burlesque Festival. Ginger Valentine of Dallas took the honors with an incredibly sultry, provocative number. LouLou D’Vil of Finland and Lola Van Ella from St. Louis took 1st and 2nd Runner Up respectively. Produced by Rick Delaup (creator of the history-rich Eccentric New Orleans and creator/producer of 1950s style Bustout Burlesque), the New Orleans Burlesque Festival is now in its third year.
There were 5 shows (including of course, The Queen of Burlesque show) spread out over 3 nights, and there were spectacular acts throughout. I took about 2,500 photos so you know I’ll be hunched over my computer the next couple of weeks. Aside from the actual winners of Queen of Burlesque, standouts were the performances by two former Queens of Burlesque. Perle Noire, the Queen of Burlesque for the festival’s 1st year, opened the show with an incredible number (and a costume designed by Portland’s Charlotte Treuse); Coco Lectric, last year’s Queen, spent the last minutes of her title tearing up the stage to “When The Saints Go Marching In”.
The New Orleans Burlesque Festival and other shows like it (BHoF, Viva Las Vegas, etc) are the culmination of months of hard work by all participants. At the end of the Queen of Burlesque show when Ginger received her crown, I couldn’t help but think of the burlesque performers all across the country- and the world- working hard at this art form. Thousands of women and men are practicing, costuming and teaching right now. They’re putting on weekly shows, sometimes in small bars and clubs and sometimes in bigger venues. They’re in Portland and Austin. Seattle and St. Louis. New York and Chicago. Dallas and Vancouver. And they’re all ready to take their clothes off for you.
Like other festivals, it’s an opportunity to meet people you previously only knew online and hang out with friends you met the last time around. Spending an afternoon with Charlotte Treuse, Lydia DeCarllo and Vincent Drambuie at Harrah’s famous All-You-Can-Eat Buffet (several trips were made to the food trough) and lounging at the pool was a pretty great way to spend the day. On Sunday night after the festival a bunch of us went to see Kitten on the Keys and Armitage Shanks open for Eliza Rickman (an excellent musician you should see) in a small New Orleans club. Charlotte Treuse, LouLou D’Vil, Bettina May, Tiffany Carter, Madame MacKay, David Equality Bishop, myself, and some others went there also to celebrate the birthday of awesome New Orleans photographer Kaylin Idora. That was truly a fun night.
And while we’re talking photographers I’d like to acknowledge Derek Jackson, Andreas Koch and birthday girl, Kaylin Idora . They’re wonderful photographers and it was a pleasure shooting with them throughout the festival. Please search for their work on Facebook and online.
I’m grateful to be part of the Burlesque community.
After the festival, newly crowned New Orleans Queen of Burlesque Ginger Valentine took some time to discuss her new title and her passion for burlesque with me:
POC: Can you give a brief description of your origins in Burlesque?
Ginger: I danced with a local burlesque-inspired dance troupe before becoming a soloist in 2008. At the time, I was working as a freelance writer, so my schedule was pretty flexible which allowed me to pursue burlesque as much as I wanted. Later, I began producing Ruby Revue shows and the Dallas Burlesque Festival with my business partner, Missy Lisa. I’m grateful that my hard work has paid off because the work I do now is much more gratifying than the commercial writing I did before!
What influenced your decision to get involved?
Like many other burlesque performers, I have always held a fascination with old Hollywood musicals, glamour and all the mid-century sex symbols. I also have an extensive background in performing arts, mostly dance and ballet. So I look back and see how a lot of my interests from adolescence and even childhood caused me to keep making choices that brought me closer to burlesque and striptease.
What keeps it fascinating for you now?
I feel really blessed to have been able to scratch out a living through my performances, productions and from teaching dance classes. I’m a business owner with the studio [Ruby Room] and production company [Ruby Revue] so I would say that my fascination is borderline obsession. For me, there is no work-life separation, but I don’t mind it one bit. Also, annual trips to Burlesque Hall of Fame and festivals around the country to see all the dynamic performers out there is all I need to keep me inspired.
How is Burlesque doing in Dallas? What has helped it’s progress there?
The Dallas/Fort Worth burlesque scene is huge! Lots of enthusiastic performers and ambitious producers have created a very active scene. Beyond Dallas, there’s also burlesque in Houston, Austin and Corpus Christi to name a few.
Now that a few days have passed, what are your thoughts of being crowned Queen of the New Orleans Burlesque Festival?
I’m really honored with this recent distinction and I’m still trying to process it. I know that the title means that I had one exceptional performance, but now is not the time to kick back and relax. I know that there’s a lot of exciting new adventures out there waiting for me, but I also know that there is a lot of work to do. One of my favorite nerdy zen sayings has been helpful: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” That has been in my mind more than anything, so I’m ready to get back to the grind, put my nose down and work. I’m very excited for the future!
What are some of your future plans?
I perform twice monthly with the Ruby Revue in Dallas and Houston, and I’m really looking forward to the shows we have lined up for the rest of the year. I will also be back to New Orleans soon for a Bustout Show, and next year I’m looking forward to the Dallas Burlesque Festival and Viva Las Vegas. Also, there are a couple of ideas for new numbers that I really want to explore.
Do you have any burlesque heroes in your life, either Legends or contemporaries, that you admire?
Absolutely! I am a huge fan of Stephanie Blake, Tiffany Carter, Shannan Doah, Satan’s Angel, Tammie True and Toni Elling to name just a few. As for contemporaries, I admire Michelle L’amour for her talent, humor and work ethic. She’s taught me the most out of everyone and I will always feel deep gratitude to that woman. Also, every time I get to see her perform, it feels like the first time — she’s amazing. Ophelia Flame has also been not just a good friend, but a very good “stripper big sis.” Locally, I love, love my girls Ruby Joule and Coco Lectric and the Jigglewatts down in Austin. They can do it all – humor, classic, group numbers and variety. They are good friends and some of my most favorite people to work with. And Missy Lisa is always an inspiration to me for self assurance and her ability to constantly evolve. Another fellow Texan that I admire is Perle Noire. She consistently produces some of the most physical and energetic shows and I really love how she leaves her heart out on the stage; she thrills me. I could go on and on, but all these ladies are at the top of the list for me.