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Lola Coquette Oral History Interview, January 19, 2020

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LAURIE KURUTZ: Today is January 19, 2020, my name is Laurie Kurutz, my pronouns she/hers. Would you please introduce yourself, say your pronouns if you care to, and tell us all the things you do?

LOLA COQUETTE: Of course! Hello, my name is Lola Coquette. My pronouns are she/her. I am a queer, fem, Latin, Latinx performer, originally from Arizona, and now based in the Rose City. I am a performer, producer, and instructor, and in order to be able to be a working artist, I work in the service industry. I work specifically in champagne and wine. I like to say I work with bubbles and butts.

LK: Let's start off with a big question. What is Burlesque?

LC: Okay, Burlesque comes from the Latin- the root word to burl, to make fun of, 00:01:00to ridicule, to find satire. With that, it is also the art of the tease. For me ultimately if I were to describe Burlesque it would be Lucille Ball, or Carol Burnett, with a little bit of shoulder and shimmy.

LK: What's the difference between stripping in a club and Burlesque stripping?

LC: I feel that the difference is the intent. I've never worked in a club. So that's something to be said. But I feel that's something for the male gaze. Those performers are there for hours on end, set after set after set after set. So it's very physically demanding and there is no minimum wage; tips only. Performing in a theatre setting [with Burlesque] I feel that the gaze is different. That it is for anybody and everybody. There is a little bit of a distance- can be a little bit of a distance from the audience, and most shows at 00:02:00least, we are trying to make that a mandatory. Hopefully, most producers honor a base pay and then in addition to that tips. So mostly, it comes down to intent.

LK: How do you describe the kind of Burlesque that you do?

LC: I, as any other person, am multifaceted about their- multidimensional, I do very fierce- a fierce fusion of Latinx, Samba, Cha-cha, Reggaeton, to classic bump and grind. Because I think bump and grind is so sexy and raw, and in your face. But I also do very goofy Burlesque and I incorporate a lot of Nerdlesque. As my best friend Kit Katastrophic says, I am a goofy motherfucker. So, a lot of physical comedy, and it just depends on the act, and it depends on the venue. So, I'm very versatile.

LK: Where were you born? And where did you grow up?


LC: I was born in Tucson and grew up most of my life in Nogales. On the American side of the Mexican border. We were eleven minutes walking distance from the border and I lived there most of my life. I went to the University of Arizona and I went to the grad school there as well. Then I lived to Phoenix, which is where I started doing Burlesque.

LK: Great, what brought you to Oregon?

LC: So, this is a deep question. Oregon actually saved my life. I was in a very dark place in my life and hitting a wall professionally, personally and artistically, and I met wonderful people here. My first Oregon Burlesque Festival here, backstage: Kit Katastrophic, Holly Dai, Angelique DeVil, Zora Pavonine, and Isaiah and Johnny. I befriended them, and a couple months later, I 00:04:00came back to tour. Angelique helped me put together producer lists, and reach out to them, so it was a really hard couple years. Finally, I said I need to go where I am happy, I'm celebrated, and I am appreciated. So yeah, Oregon saved my life. Portland specifically saved my life, so that's what brought me here. You know, without going on a rant.

LK: What did you do in your formative years, whatever those are, that lead you to performance?

LC: I've been performing since I was a child. I did the ballet thing, but I actually danced for a ballet company, and I danced ballroom. I did competitive hip-hop dancing. As well as musical theatre- never singing, always dancing. I'm not a singer, but I'm also a musician. As a jazz musician, I played bass, 00:05:00upright bass, and bass guitar. I've always been drawn to the drama of performing onstage. Other than that, I was a writer, I was an editor, I worked in politics. So, a little bit of everything. It let me understand what I don't want to do, and what I do want to do, and where my boundaries are, as far as how much I share of myself, and when I do that.

LK: What did you do in politics?

LC: I worked for a couple of different politicians. I worked on their campaigns. I worked with Gabrielle Gifford's campaign in Tucson. [28 seconds of text edited here per narrator's request.] A long, long time ago.

LK: What came first? Being a musician or the dancing?

LC: The dancing came first, but I grew up in a house that was multilingual, multicultural, so dancing and music were always around. My first instrument was the church organ with my grandmother and I'm sure I was awful. I played two 00:06:00chords- two keys. But I played violin for a long time. I started at eight, but I started dancing at three. I started self-defense at five, which led to Capoeira, which I started later. Which is Brazilian martial arts disguised as dancing and singing.

LK: Why is it disguised?

LC: It was the only way slaves had to protect themselves. It's a form of self-defense and it was disguised through music, sound and dancing. There's drums and there's- it's community based- everybody comes out. That helped me touch base with my Brazilian heritage, lineage.

LK: Cool, what formal education or training do you have just in general? What was your undergrad in? And then your grad school?

LC: I have two degrees as an undergrad. Political science and creative writing. 00:07:00Political science with Spanish and then creative writing. So languages were always a part of it. I have an MFA in creative writing. And I don't like to write about myself.

LK: And then dance and performance training? Classes? Or what have you done?

LC: I worked with several companies. Ballet, obviously that didn't last past age eighteen because my body just wasn't built for that. Hip-hop, Ballroom, Salsa, Merengue, Cha-Cha, Reggaeton, street dance. Being a musician also just taught me a lot about synchronicity and rhythm. I play several instruments and I was a performing recording musician by the time I was fifteen. I played in a Mariachi 00:08:00band. So, I guess that led me to the stage, let me know I wanted that instant interaction with people.

LK: Have you been to Burlycon?

LC: Only a couple of times. [laughs] No, I believe this is my sixth time, going.

LK: And then training? Can you talk about the education and the training there?

LC: Sure, it's a lot of workshops. A person can go there with all the years of experience or none. And you can get history classes and workshops and open sessions. [There are] conversations about producing, performing, filing your taxes, advanced floor work, how to market yourself, how to build your persona, how to work with different abilities, and disabilities, and different body types. You can also connect with other groups, such as the queer performers, which I am, with other performers of color, with other Latinx performers. 00:09:00There's so many different groups, so it is a great learning opportunity. It is also amazing because you do not have to be in Drag. Everybody is walking around with their yoga pants, running shoes and water bottles. Happy to be able to learn, be the student, and be on the same level as everybody else.

LK: What is the Drag that you're talking about?

LC: [Indicates her hair and makeup.] Face, putting on lashes, putting on your makeup, putting on hair, putting on- how you present yourself- how you present your persona onstage.

LK: You mentioned starting in Burlesque, what year, and how did you get started?

LC: It will actually be- today is January 19th, it will actually be February 7th, [that date] will be my ninth year mark performing. I started in Phoenix and I studied under a troupe called Va-Va-Voom. My first instructor is a wonderful 00:10:00performer, Maxi Millions, who was a big amazing performer and producer. She produces Spellbound in Phoenix, and I highly recommend anybody look her up, and her production. She's my first instructor, we were under a different director, and it was a group act. And I still hadn't learned the rest of the group number we were in classes learning, so I had a crash course in the last couple eight counts. They brought me on, and I guess that prepared me. To just be there. I got my start, just taking a class because my friend wanted to check something off her bucket list. She recommended that, and I had gone through a series of bad dating adventures, and I decided to do this for myself. To fuel myself, which is a very common reason people choose to pursue Burlesque. It took me two years before I could- I was performing, I was doing solos already- before I could look at myself in the mirror, intently, and make faces at myself. It 00:11:00wasn't until I started teaching that I felt more comfortable, because I had to be brave for other people, that I started really connecting with why I was doing Burlesque.

LK: Artistically, was there anyone who was an influence, or an inspiration to you?

LC: I remember watching, when I first started- the first Mexican performer that I saw had won the title at Viva Las Vegas, as Ruby Champaign. She, to this day, has been a good friend of mine, is still an inspiration, and she still- just trailblazing for everybody. So that was really amazing to see someone... She's very demure and shy, so I just went up to her and "hi, I'm a huge fan", and she's like "oh, my goodness." She's very dear. Other than that, just watching Michelle L'amour. If you look up "Buttoven," isolating your booty is just 00:12:00wonderful. Because everybody has a booty, so it's possible for everybody to do, but she's just ahead of her time. Of course Indigo Blue, Miss Indigo Blue, watching her documentary. I mean, it's just so inspiring. And then later once I started doing Burlesque circuits, meeting Legends. Meeting Burlesque Legends. It was at the Latin- it was at the first Latin Burlesque Festival, which was based in Dallas that I met Miss Kitten Natividad, who is also- she's a Burlesque Legend, meaning she has been doing this for a long time. She was also Miss Nude Universe in the '70s. Two years in a row, I believe. She was in a ton of movies pioneering the way for people to be able to express themselves in the art form. And being able to meet her, being excited to meet her, coming off stage with tears excited for me was just "I've seen you, I've seen you in movies, I've seen 00:13:00you in- oh my goodness." So, just meeting the Legends was just what solidified it.

LK: How did you develop your career after that beginning?

LC: I honestly almost- I almost quit in 2014. It was a very- beginning of 2014 there were a lot of changes. It was a very strange time in my life, and I wasn't the best person, so I almost quit. It's just several people found enough good in me, and my performance to [say] "Nope, we're bringing you to do this show; we're bringing you to do this act." And I kept doing it, but honestly, it was traveling outside of Arizona, meeting new people, and putting myself in a situation where I am the new person. I'm learning everything I can and meeting people who are already in the same position. There are so many dear friends of mine, we met as baby Burlesquers. So, that kept me going, and being inspired to 00:14:00do innovative things. Ivizia, performing with her puppet act at the first Oregon Burlesque Festival like..." what is this? This is amazing, we need this. And why is that not okay to be weird onstage?" It wasn't 'til I started leaving what I thought I knew- and I knew there was more to it, that it refueled my fire to do this, and to do it my way.

LK: Just for a minute here, what do you do outside of Burlesque? You mentioned some champagne and bubbles, what are all of the sorts of day jobs that you do to support your art?

LC: I work in the service industry, and the cost of living in Portland is much higher than living in Arizona. So I find myself working harder than I used to. Most of the time I do not have a social life. My social life revolves around, 00:15:00after I'm done performing, mingling and mixing with my cast mates and friends in shows. But I work in the service industry. I am very fortunate to be able to work for a business owned by women, run by women. Pioneers in their field, very fortunate in that knowledge and information. So, that fulfills my need in knowing more than just what I'm doing. I like to do several projects at once. A long time ago, I got my sommelier certification back in Arizona and I never thought I'd use it again. I probably should go retake the test, because there's so much knowledge. But I really enjoy working with a lot of kind, wonderful people who support my art. Other than that, I also offer legal translations as volunteer service, especially with Spanish. Because that's necessary. And I do odds and ends jobs as most artists do. Which would bore you to list them, so I'm 00:16:00not going to.

LK: You came from the South West, what's the Burlesque community like in Oregon?

LC: Wow, it's huge. First of all, Burlesque PDX is probably four times the size of the entire Burlesque community in the entire state of Arizona. So it's just Burlesque PDX, Burlesque proper, which includes Eugene, and Astoria. So it's just so many different types of Burlesque and there's a cross over from strip culture and strip clubs. So there's infinitely more performers, but there's so many more opportunities. You can catch a show almost every night of the week. Different things: gore, Nerdlesque, Drag- the Drag crossover is amazing. I perform with Portland Drag Queen Brunch. I'm a core cast member- I'm very fortunate, and I've learned so much- so much about performance. And changing my 00:17:00performance style to run around an entire restroo...restaurant, not restroom. And turn what we usually do in Burlesque, which is a four minute act, into a six minute act. So, Burlesque in Oregon is just wild. Not to say that Arizona doesn't have amazing Burlesque because the opportunities that have blossomed over the last couple of years are amazing. But, it's just so much more up here.

LK: Who's the audience that is typically drawn to Burlesque?

LC: Artists, weirdos, outcasts. Bankers, doctors, musicians, Anybody. Anybody that wants to be entertained, and has never been to one, they'll go. Yeah.

LK: You mentioned the Oregon Burlesque festival, and can you describe what that is? And then I'll ask you to tell us how you got involved in it.

LC: The Oregon Burlesque Festival started in 2014 with Holly Dai and Tana the 00:18:00Tattooed Lady. I do believe they had another producer and I do not remember their name, so I apologize for that, the first year. That started at Dante's downtown. It started at Dante's, and it is a two to three day festival showcasing talents from all over the United States and Canada. There have been other performers from Australia, I believe, and the UK. And [the intent] is "bring us your weird, bring us your unconventional art." And that venue [Dante's] allowed for some fire [performance] and some aerial [performance.] So we got to see, I got to see for the first time, fire and aerial incorporated in Burlesque in a way I hadn't seen it before. It's a really fun way to meet people here and to meet people from other places. Now we are now at the old Rose Theatre. I have, since last year, been invited to be a producer, with RiRi 00:19:00Syncyr and Holly Dai. We have a different venue, just a different feel. We cannot do fire [performance] at that venue, so it changes a little bit, but it makes us more creative in the ways we're going to showcase the types of Burlesque we're going to offer.

LK: You mentioned earlier that you performed in the Oregon Burlesque Festival?

LC: I've performed every single year. Every single year since 2014, and it kept me coming back. It's one of those festivals- there's another festival- there are two festivals I absolutely adore. I love a lot of them I've been to, but with these two, I almost moved to the other city because of this other festival. So yes, I've been performing at the Oregon Burlesque Festival since 2014.

LK: How is that show curated? How are the people chosen?

LC: There's an application process. For example, this year applications open March 1st, and we offer free applications to Performers of Color. Which is something other festivals have done, and we really encourage more festivals to do.


LK: And why is that?

LC: Because Performers of Color, or People of Color often don't have the same means, including finances. So to be able to offer a little advantage for them to be able to put their art out, including myself, it's given me opportunities. It's really vital to see that because then you get an entire- we got such an amazing response to that last year, we actually had almost fifty percent of our entire cast this last year, Performers Of Color. If not more. Including both our headliners, our Legend, and our headlining performer. All Performers of Color. That's something that's very important to me and RiRi, but also important to Holly, and it's important to showcase that. But the rest of the applications open up, and we have a three month window. The reason we have this is there are so many other festivals going on and it gives performers the opportunity to get 00:21:00their acts filmed. We're all artists, nobody is gonna- most of us are doing things last minute. Let's just be honest about that. It also gives us a window of opportunity for us to travel, to be able to network, and go to other events, and offer "hey, this is the festival, come out. It is a paid festival, we offer all of these other incentives, come and see what we're doing." And the last event we're going to be offering, this kind of networking, is at BHOF.

LK: What is that?

LC: It is the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender. It is a fundraiser to support the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. I am a Community Member of the BHOF Museum. We meet by conference, every odd month. The networking is necessary for us to be able to do applications. After that, we sit for a couple of weeks, and 00:22:00watch hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of videos. And we have a list of criteria: is it entertaining? is it curated well? is the lighting well lit? can I see your face? can I see your body? am I, in the first 30 to 60 seconds, already tantalized and teased? You do not have to take anything off, but something needs to happen. Something dramatic needs to happen, something funny needs to happen. This year, we received, I think the max amount of applications. They had submissions this year at 150, and we received 120. We narrowed it down within a few weeks. With what we wanted to do with the selection process, we specifically went through: Do we have this style of Burlesque? Do we have this color? Do we have- we wanna showcase every ability, performers of color, performers of size, performers of different- and we have post it notes, and we have this, this, and this. It was really fun to be able to see and curate, and 00:23:00see something come together. It just happens that the people selected just blended so well. Blended so well. We also have alternates, and we ended up pulling some alternates which we're very grateful for. It's a variety, we don't just take classic Burlesque. That's a misconception. We take everything, and group acts, and duets, and this year we incorporated Drag-lesque, which is very important.

LK: You mentioned something- that this is a paid festival. Is that unusual? How does that work?

LC: For the longest time since I have been involved in Burlesque festivals, they were not paid. There wasn't a stipend and some festivals still don't offer a stipend. They'll offer housing, room and board, someone will pick you up from the airport- which is a lot of money to spend. But two years ago, Oregon 00:24:00Burlesque Festival started offering a stipend. It's a fifty dollar honorarium. It's not a lot, but it's something to offer. In addition to that, you get a professional video and you get professional images. A lot of festivals will not offer the video, you have to pay for it. This was the first year we were able to offer that, and we will continue to offer that. Professional grade video and photos- you get a pass for the entire weekend, which, believe it or not, some festivals do not give the artists a pass for the entire weekend. So after traveling, you have to pay for that. We're not the only ones, there's other festivals that do that. So, it's nice to be able to offer recognition. You're doing this, you're giving us your art. You're able to do this, and show your community, you're giving us variety, let us give you something in return.

LK: So, finances with putting on a festival like that. All of those things you just cited take skill and time, and so forth. How do the finances work?


LC: Well, I will say, Holly Dai is a genius at expert record keeping; she's really good at her finances. I've learned so much from her. RiRi, her personal job involves a lot of fundraising. I will not go into more detail about that, but working with those two individuals who know a lot about financing, I just follow suit. So this year, we've been filing for grants. Which is very important, and we actually have the skill set to be able to do that this year. We have a budget. We have a budget meeting, and we sit down and [discuss] this is what we're spending on deposit for the venue, this is the money that we're giving towards the application piece- applications do cost money [for the performers who are applying.] That [money] goes straight to being able to pay the videographer, the photographer, being able to pay anybody else involved. We also do pay our Stage Manager. There are certain people who are helping out. We 00:26:00do have an amazing core group of volunteers that will help us out, but all that money goes back to the Legend. Paying the Legend, paying the Headliner. It just takes a lot of budget. The budgeting, sitting down and talking about the very dry material that is money that we don't like to talk about. And discipline.

LK: You mentioned traveling to perform at festivals, where do you go?

LC: The first festival I did was with my old troupe. It was ABQ in Albuquerque and it was really fun. We won first runner up for Best Troupe. We had ten troupe members. It was a giant troupe. But I've been to, lets see, Oregon Burlesque Festival, Colorado Burlesque Festival, the Show Me Burlesque festival which is one of my favorites, it's ridiculous. The Windy City, which is no longer around. The Latin Burlesque Festival in Dallas, and that was the International and Latin 00:27:00Burlesque Festival, which I headlined a couple years ago. The Hispanic Burlesque Showcase, which is a national Burlesque showcase in Cleveland. I know I'm missing so many more. I have performed as a scholarship recipient at the Australian Burlesque Festival in Melbourne a couple years ago. This year I have the honor of returning to the New Mexico Burlesque Festival, and going to the Panama Burlesque Festival to compete. There's another performer, a dear friend of mine, also from Portland, also competing, Lily Le Fauve. We get to share that experience together. Today I actually got my acceptance to the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival. I have applied four times, and with the same act, and I got in this year. I find the value of travel so much. It's very near to my core, so it's an investment. You do not-- unless you are headlining as the lead performer-- the likelihood of you getting paid, your air and travel, it's 00:28:00not existent. So, these are places I've wanted to go. It's an investment for me. It's a week, or weekend away, and it does require a lot of- a lot of pleading and begging for my poor boss to be able to accommodate that schedule. But it's important to network, and it's important for me to get out there and important for people to see me as a Burlesque performer, as a Burlesque Performer of Color, as a Burlesque performer who is Queer, Latinx, Hispanic, Mexican, out there. We are not interchangeable, we are not replaceable, this is our story. That's an investment for me. [All of these festivals were canceled in spring and summer of 2020, due to Covid 19. LK: 5/4/20.]

LK: Congratulations.

LC: Thank you. By the time this comes out, I will have legally accepted my acceptance, so we're good.

LK: You've won some titles and competitions. Tell us about that.

LC: Okay, I won a couple of group numbers with various different groups. I won 00:29:00the 2014 Best Representation of Culture, at the Latin Burlesque Festival. So that's obviously very near and dear, and that's where I met Miss Natividad. I've won Best Neo [Burlesque], Best Fusion. I also won Best Duet with Joy Coy, who is one of the producers of the Mexican Burlesque Festival based in Minneapolis. We did a Nerdlesque act, which has retired since then, but that was really fun to be able to do that together.

LK: Nerdlesque, what's that?

LC: So, Nerdlesque is taking any fandom, any nerdy culture, pop culture, Star Wars, cartoons, comic books, and turning that into a stripping teasing art form of Burlesque. I do a lot of characters including Daphne from Scooby Doo, which 00:30:00is where this piece [indicates her wig] is from. Yzma, from the Emperor's New Groove, who was my favorite villain, and probably gave me one of my favorite live photos of me performing on stage. I've also done Miss Argentina from Beetlejuice. Marge Simpson, head to toe body paint, to Metal [music] at Metalesque [Burlesque Festival.] Oh, X-men, I do the Dark Phoenix. [There are] two amazing producers that work in a lot of Nerdlesque here in town: Mad Marquis and Miss Pamela Voorhees. Miss Pamela Voorhees puts on Get Your Geek On, which is a semi-quarterly show, which features all Nerdoms. Nerdlesque and Drag.

LK: Great, so you are a producer with Kit. This is a separate job with the Oregon Burlesque Festival. Tell me how that came about?


LC: Kit Katastrophic is a Portland mover, shaker, innovator, and founder. She's amazing, obviously I have a lot of love for her. We met backstage and instantly became friends. We saw a need. There are amazing producers here in town; this is not to take away from what anyone is doing. Being a community that has so much Burlesque, and so many performers, there is sometimes a failure to do research [by] newer performers. And [they don't] do research in finding a name. Research that we used to, all of us that went through schools, different schools of Burlesque, know your research. Know the different acts out there. There's going to be five million Snow White- er, not really. At least several Snow White Burlesque acts, there's going to be several, obviously, Burlesque dances to [song] Pink Pussycat. There's going to be so many, so there's how you interpret it. We were finding that so many new Burlesque-ers here to Portland, that were new to performing, were just recycling ideas that have already been done by 00:32:00performers that founded Burlesque here. And it may have not been intentional, it's just them not doing research. So we came up with an idea: a "Signature Act" you don't create, it finds you. Right? That's what Signature Acts are. You have it, you marinate it, you're known for it. You don't just say "I'm going to go create a new Signature Act." That's not [how it's done]... that and taglines you don't create, they come to you. You're given them [by other performers/producers/public]. We decided to showcase the movers, shakers, and innovators in Portland, and beyond in the Pacific Northwest, with their Signature Acts that we have loved and have come to know them for. It came out of... I'm going to be honest, it came out of artistic pettiness. Also out of wanting to be inclusive and incorporating, and also really touching base with our roots- in order to grow you need to know where everything is coming from. 00:33:00Not to say you can't do an act to the same song I'm doing, just know- just know and give it your own flair. I believe Lacy [Knickers] and I dance to the same songs. I know Kit and I have danced to several of the same songs, but they're completely different. So, Signature, the first show that we had featured Isaiah Esquire, performing Chocolate. And it featured my jaguar act to Desolina. RiRi [Syncyr] is here with her hitchhiking act. Holly Dai with her pheasant feathers- which she's an amazing performer and costume designer, but she's known for her feather fan work. This next show is going to feature Angelique Devil, yes, doing one of her Signature Acts she's had around for ages. We're also bringing Jesus La Pinga from Seattle, who is an amazing Hispanic Mexican performer. And Lowa de 00:34:00Boom Boom, who- let's talk about shakers, movers, innovators, and founders of Pacific Northwest! She does so much with Burlycon, she helps out with Shuga Shaq, [performer and producer] Briq House's Shuga Shaq, she helps out with Shuga Shaq every single month. So, she's coming down from Olympia. These are both Performers of Color. Different abilities, different styles, and we're excited to be able to accomplish our mission, not just in Portland, but beyond. And it's not, I wanna make it clear, it's not us being discriminatory against any type of Burlesque, we just want people to see people have come before, and done it. There are people who have been performing just three years that have been invited, and people who have been performing for fifteen years that have been invited. If you have a wonderful single act that brings joy, and makes people feel something, we want to showcase that.

LK: Speaking of artistic aspects, what's your process for creating a new piece 00:35:00of Burlesque?

LC: On principle, most of the time I'm inspired by the music, probably from my music background. I'm inspired by bass and drum. However, sometimes I'm inspired by a character if I'm doing a Nerdlesque act. It has to be a character and I pick the music. Portland is known for a lot of "one and done" shows, so there's so many themed shows. So many themed shows, so many one-off acts. It's something that I'm trying to use acts that I have, so I'm not constantly creating something that I'm not attached to. That has changed my process a lot. My process completely changes for that. I'm doing the theme that I have been booked for, and then I work backwards to find a song, find a costume. My ideal way is to be inspired by the music, and then the costume comes to mind. And then I reach out to my professional costume makers such as Johnny Nuriel, and Holly Dai to help me make that happen. [there's some sound outside, off-camera at this moment.]


LK: How many acts do you currently have in your repertoire?

LC: My catalog probably has twenty-five acts that I have done several times, and probably ten that I travel with, quite a bit. I am working more on fine tuning a lot of the acts. So for example, a lot of acts that get into a lot of the festivals have been marinated. Have been around for a couple of years and are constantly getting upgrades. So, yeah, twenty-five.

[there's some sound outside, off-camera at this moment.]

LK: hmmm, that's a funny sound. I don't know what that is. [laughs] So, around putting together an act, a festival, or even a show, there's a good deal of 00:37:00conversation around cultural appropriation right now. What's your definition of that? And, how do you deal with it?

LC: Cultural appropriation is taking something from another culture that is not your own, and using it to your advantage without giving credit. That's the way I see it. When I started doing Burlesque, this was not a conversation. This was nine years ago, this was not a conversation. I was actually expected to be the sexy Latina, or the spicy Latina in that group. And I actually really, really fought that. Because that is not something someone else puts on you, that is something you own. It's the opposite. Now I'm able to say do not wear garments that are not of your culture. If you are not Mexican, or indigenous, or First Nations, or Latinx, do not wear the head pieces that do not belong to you. Do 00:38:00not. Dance moves, it's different because dance moves- its dance, but do not say that twerking is your thing if you are not a black POC. So, just being aware- and I think it really helps being with a lot of people in festivals, and just being aware. Portland is very, very aware, and is very into calling-in. The call-in culture. Like checking in: "What did you mean to do this?" So, if something is obviously offensive, reaching out to that individual, and pursuing that, and then addressing it from there. For [application] videos being - if the performers aren't Performers of Color, we can easily be like "mmm, that's not [appropriate]". And I'm very proud of my co producers who are not POC, being able to recognize "ooh, I feel uncomfortable with that. That's not okay. Let's have a conversation about it." I am very lucky to work with professionals who are proactive in calling in, and checking in. Do not demand the emotional labor. 00:39:00Emotional labor is putting someone to explain things for you, to do the work for you, instead of you doing it yourself. I feel very lucky to be in Portland, and in the Pacific Northwest where that conversation is a little more common sense. Don't do it. Do not use songs such as- if you are not a Black performer- I've heard this from several performers- if you are not a Black POC, do not dance to Formation by Beyoncé. There are certain Outkast songs that are intentionally Black anthems. You know, there's gonna be a crossover. For example, if there's a Selena tribute- who does not love the TexMex queen. Mexican American. There's gonna be a lot of cultures celebrating her, and I think that's a conversation to have at that time. As long as someone is doing it respectfully. For me, I'm a big fan, I welcome it, where's your intention with that? I cannot speak on 00:40:00behalf of other Mexican-American performers.

LK: You've talked a lot about diversity in Burlesque. What's your definition, and how do you promote it in your work?

LC: Diversity includes the variation from cis white thin blonde women. Anything of that. And that should not be the standard. We're saying that anything else is a mutation, which is ridiculous. Think about that from a socio-anthropological standpoint. However, diversity is including, not just people of Performance of Color, people of size, people of abilities, people of disabilities, age, styles. So, with Signature, Kit and I really strive for "do we have enough 00:41:00representation?" We don't want to tokenize anybody. We want it to be fluid, so that when they see the line they say "oh, there's queer representation, there's performers of color, there's performers of size, all ages, and abilities. We don't want people to point at someone and say they are the one special performer. That's not what we want, because I have been put in that spot several times in cast, and it's not a comfortable feeling. Likewise, I myself as a performer goer, as a performer seer, I myself do not go unless there are two or three performers of color. Or, a percentage. And it's- people will say "it's hard. It's the Pacific Northwest." It just requires research. It just requires you actually taking the time to branch out, and reach out.

LK: People in Burlesque say it empowers them. Can you speak to that?

LC: It's very empowering when you are given the license to be who you want to 00:42:00be. For me, it was owning myself as an essential being. But also, I am a goofy person. That is who I am. That is probably the most relatable thing about me in my personal life, and how I flirt with people. So, for me it's being able to do what I do, and being celebrated for it. But also to be able to empower other people, as I see their faces as I'm performing. And when I see the light in them, they come up to me, and say "I didn't know I had the license to love my body this way. I didn't know that it was okay to wear a g-string, and be proud, and feel myself, and take a selfie." So for me I myself have been multiple sizes and multiple body images, [I] know the differences, and know how people react to that. For example, Portland Drag, being able to perform so close to people, there isn't that five foot rule. And them not knowing that they have the license 00:43:00to do that for themselves. To just at least feel themselves, and wear lashes, and wear whatever they want, and not be ridiculed, and empower each other. Not just me- I get more power by seeing my friends "glow up." And seeing my friends feel themselves onstage, and get that fire back. Because I've seen so many of us- and this is why I like Portland Burlesque so much- we've all been through life, we've all seen each other go through some serious stuff, and to see that light reignited, that's empowered to me.

LK: The five foot rule that you referenced, is that a real law, or is that-

LC: It's a theatre suggestion I believe. If there's a little tiny stitch missing in your costume, from five feet away, you're not going to notice it and you're fine. You also want makeup that you'll be able to perform in an auditorium. 00:44:00Someone can see from far away, so very dramatic makeup sometimes. Much more than this, it's a lot of contouring. But, you can get away with little things, for example a snap being off, a rhinestone not being there- which of course if you're perfectionist, you're going to be bothered by it anyways.

LK: You've talked a little about how Burlesque can be a force for social change, is there anything more you'd like to add?

LC: We have so many platforms now, and especially social media- I mean people become social media celebrities overnight. Not to say that they don't put work into it, it is a lot of work. It's probably my least favorite thing about performance, you spend so much time on the computer. Now I have a different tool to be able to do that. I now am at a point where people- they say Lola Coquette, and they say "oh, I know her. I know of her." And other people that are maybe of 00:45:00my heritage, maybe of my body size, maybe- I am a curvy person with not a lot of boobs up here, so just being able to be and feel myself, and have that representation for someone else to be like "oh, we have the same body." Or "oh, I hear her talking about her mental health issues in a very public way. Maybe I'm not alone." Not being alone. Being able to use that for social change preventing someone from feeling so sad, or being so alone, is I think is the most personal part of Burlesque, or this art form. That's why social media is so powerful. It's not just about likes, it's about someone connecting. Because, for example, seeing your support for the Oregon Burlesque Festival, and what an amazing super fan you are, it's your life. But you're also a genuine fan. Before I ever met you. It was so wonderful; I felt such a love and encouragement from 00:46:00you. For not just us, but for every performer that we put out there on that stage. And that is very- that is a social change to be able to help each other. Build each other up instead of breaking each other down. There's a saying at Portland Drag Queen Brunch, "We need to stop building walls and build each other up." I believe that is where Burlesque comes in and it's why specifically Burlesque PDX is so special. And Oregon. Oregon Burlesque is so special. [gets a little emotional] Uh, I'm gonna drink a little more coffee.

LK: What are the challenges facing Burlesque today?

LC: Social media restrictions on bodies, specifically female-presenting bodies. Also body politics. For example, and I'll use myself, when I was a size six, and if I were wearing a G-string, nobody would bat an eye. Now with me [being not a 00:47:00size 6] wearing a G-string, my pictures are flagged more.

LK: By social media. The administrators and the logarithms.

LC: By administrators. Right, anything that's [considered] not "the norm" presents a threat. I felt it because I've seen it in myself, I've been all sizes. Also, body politics of colorism. Someone with a darker skin tone will be more regulated than someone who has a fair skin tone. I know my privilege is of being a lighter skin tone Person of Color. I see it and I see it side by side. Models- there's a huge campaign right now on Instagram. Why am I censored when that person is not? We're both people. We're both wearing the same thing. My body just happens to be a different shade, different size, different color. So, that presents the threat of specifically Facebook. Which is what we use for 00:48:00marketing, it's what we use for networking, [Facebook] won't let us pay for our own advertisements sometimes if we show too much skin. The Oregon Burlesque Festival logo is a hand-drawn graphic. A drawn, cartoon version that Holly Dai beautifully crafted for us- and it was, it took so much for us to be able to use that in our marketing. And it's a cartoon! A cartoon of us. So, there are other platforms that we're going to be trying out. I personally am going to be launching a Patreon so I can so I can share my art, and also make a sort of living from that. And be able to help sort of take care of my art. But also MeWe, or WeMe?, sorry, that is a brand new platform that I just signed up for in a group that I'm in, because that is less regulated. Fans only. I believe that is something else I will be researching in the future. But just being regulated for your body. A nipple is a nipple, and an areola an areola. If you put them 00:49:00side by side, it shouldn't matter, but it does. And so, not being able to promote our shows, not being able to talk about our art, not being able to sell our classes, our services, our events because of our bodies, is really frustrating. That's been happening to sex workers for way longer than it's been happening to Burlesque performers, so we also have a privilege in that, and I have to acknowledge that.

[there's some sound outside, off-camera at this moment.]

LK: So, final question, what do you wish the general public would know, or understand about Burlesque?

LC: Burlesque is not like Burlesque the movie. I mean that's amazing, Cher and Christina Aguilera, love them. The costuming, I wish we had the costuming and the budget for that. I wish we had a dinner club, I wish dinner clubs would come back in style. I would, in a heartbeat, buy one right now, make it happen. But it's not like the movie. There's gonna be everything, there's gonna be jiggle, 00:50:00and shake, and bodies. There's- It is political. Just being on that stage is political. There will be some serious acts. I have an act that is a social commentary on the colonization of Mexican Indigenous women in the United States. That's the act that I'm taking to Panama and Vancouver. That's been blessed by my dad's side of the family which is Yaqui. Though, it's not always cute, and bubbly, but it can be. It doesn't need a story, the only story is that you are an awesome person, a fabulous person feeling yourself onstage. And that's perfectly fine. So, just to go into Burlesque with an open mind, and look at it through the scope of childlike wonder. If we remove any preconceptions, any notions, then you will enjoy the art form. And then ask, if it- if it makes you feel a certain way, ask yourself why it makes you feel a certain way. Why are you disturbed, why are you frustrated, why you're aroused, why you're 00:51:00titillated. If something does happen that disturbs you, approach the performer, not directly after they perform- approach them in a private setting, send them an email, "Hey, I saw you perform, something happened during your act, may I converse with you?" Just be respectful, remember that we are humans. We are humans, we make mistakes, we are learning. We grow in the social scope, under the social eye of Facebook and social media, so we just ask that you treat us like you would your friends. Just be kind, respectful, and consent, consent, consent. Everything is consent, but Burlesque is more than the movie. That was simple.

LK: Thank you.

LC: Thank you for having me. Thank you for doing the research, and for doing this work. And making sure that our stories are heard and seen. And valued!