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Sandria Dore Oral History Interview, May 13, 2022

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LAURIE KURUTZ: Today is May 13, 2022. My name is Laurie Kurutz, my pronouns are she/hers. Would you please introduce yourself, tell us your pronouns if you care to, and tell us all the things you do.

SANDRIA DORE: My name is Sandria Dore, for Alexandria, I don't mind if you know my [real] name. And my pronouns are she/her and sometimes they're fluid, but I would say 99% it's she/her. And I am a Burlesque performer.

LK: What is Burlesque?

SD: I would say Burlesque is... well, when we're thinking about... I think like the solid definition? If I just wanted to take out any of the Neo or nuance, 00:01:00etc. It's just form of striptease and sort of captures the particular era of time. We would call it more a vintage and retro means of striptease that can have satire, it can have all kinds of meaning or costuming or drama or theatrics. It's A very, very subjective experience because the performer can have a completely different idea of what it is that they want to share with you. But with the striptease involved, it could be taken totally out of context from what it is that the person is performing. So it's an interesting, interesting level of striptease, I think.

LK: When you've put together an act, have you had a reaction like that?

SD: Oh totally, oh my god, yeah. I'm thinking that I was...like I'd get onstage 00:02:00and I had rehearsed something, had the costume together, had this very particular view of how I wanted this number to go. And also how I wanted it to be taken and seen and perceived but that perception... I specifically remember one time doing a performance to a Ray Charles song. This was when I first started. This was my first fancy dress that made. Then I went out with some friends after the show and there was a man in the audience, he would come up to me and he was like "I couldn't stop staring at your pasty because like the point right when your nipple is, I just had to like, I couldn't stop staring at it, and I just loved it so much." and he just started to spill his guts. And in my mind I was like "I'm just gonna do this fun showgirl number!" And then it clicks 00:03:00like "oh yeah, yeah. I can't control that there are people who are going to be objectifying me one way or another." So part of it is that exchange that you might have an idea what it is you're doing, and how you feel about is very different from what an audience member might take from it. So that gets into so many other things, so many other areas of discussion.

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

SD: I would say my style of Burlesque is a contemporary take on a '40s and '50s style showgirl with our modern modern music. But really it's my version of what I remember growing up watching. Really it's kind of that sweet '50s era: the 00:04:00panel skirts and the make up and styling. I figured that I really enjoyed playing with those aesthetics from that time, from the strippers of then. I think that's sort of my baseline. But I get inspired by history, too, and I get inspired by everything. Especially music. Sometimes I want to do some thing it's not in that look or style.

LK: You referenced what you grew up watching. What were those references? What were those points?

SD: Oh, my goodness. Growing up watching a lot of the technicolor movies of the '50s. Especially, I know it might sound very cliché, but my mom was a huge Marilyn Monroe fan. So we watched a lot of Marilyn Monroe movies, and Niagara is with my favorites. But Gentlemen Prefer Blondes holds a very special place in my heart, and I love Jane Russell, too. I just would love the clothing, all of 00:05:00everything about it. It's kind of cool to see how the younger generation have been taking bits and pieces of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, their version of it, and really kind of enjoying the message of the characters. I just grew-up watching a lot of Cyd Charisse and Dorothy Dandridge. It was always very, very idealized version of this feminine goddess type to me. Lena Horne and Lana Turner. I love my old school glamour girls.

LK: Why do you do Burlesque? What does it give you that other forms of performance don't?

SD: I do Burlesque because, well... I feel like there's so many, there's so many reasons why. Aside from the very social and means of... reasons why I would do 00:06:00it. It's more I get to play with the side of myself that wants to be that fabulous showgirl. It's my own, it's my grown-up dress-up really. I just brought it to life as an adult. Going from tap dance recitals to here. So here I am in sparkly costumes, and I just really get to live my best Carmen Miranda impression life.

I love it so much and just gives me that freedom to be like a cheeky and silly and sexy and fun. Sometimes I'm pretty introverted and I can be really withdrawn and I don't always... when people see me as a performer and just when I get that energy out, it's something that I have to do. It's like I have to do it. If I 00:07:00just sat around in my sweat pants all day, I'd get depressed. Which is lovely. I teach all these other things where I'm in active wear all the time, I never really wear make up. It's really just my glamour time, it's kinda my "me time." It's evolved a lot.

LK: Some other performers have talked about how Burlesque falls on the spectrum of sex work and you just mention you know that particular audience members reaction. What's your view on that? Is it sex education? Is it... what's the relationship there?

SD: I would say, you know, I think it's under the umbrella because if we're looking at it from historical perspective, Burlesque is very much the word...because we use it now to talk about this theatrical way of striptease and 00:08:00fun and satire and commentary, whatever. And if we're looking at it from the past, it's really just the old-school strippers. And they were...that's, it's been, a lot of them were doing all kinds of things. I think it is under that umbrella. It's just one of the many things that are just there, like many branches and limbs of the tree, when we think about it.

Because some of the most famous performers, also turned tricks on the sides. So it's interesting because when you really dig into the lives of these people, you learn more about them and the things that they did to get where they wanted to be. I would say it's a part of it. It's there. There's some level of education. I think it's just more entertainment. But then that's subjective because there are people who do it and their whole thing is "we're gonna teach you something 00:09:00today." Hopefully that makes sense.

LK: That's great. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

SD: I am from Portland, Oregon and it is my home town. My a tagline or my little slogan is The Rose City Showgirl. I need to trademark that, so hopefully nobody takes that from me. That's my hometown. I grew up here, born and raised. My grandfather is from Oregon. My parents, they grew up here. My mother was born here. My dad and her met in high school. And we're just generations now. It's really, it's very special. So I love to rep my city when I'm out in the world, it's very important to me.

LK: What did you do in your formative years, whatever those were, that lead you 00:10:00to the creative arts, the creative fields?

SD: Let's see here. I've always been just a dancer and I've always been really just drawn to the arts. I used to paint and draw a lot. It's interesting when you're a child when people take notice of "Oh you like to draw and paint! OK, cute." But then when you really are... now I'm thinking about this for like a Brunelleschi, like a prospective thing. And I'm sitting here trying to paint this cathedral. Which, of course, he wasn't necessarily a painter but that's... when I think about perspective I think about that... part of my tangent but I think about just... I always wanted to have this very artistic and free life. When I was growing up, that was always about, just taking dance classes or reading about different artists. It was kind of it really for me.


LK: Are you from an artistic family?

SD: I don't know. They're kind of a mystery. My mother and my dad... my dad is definitely the mystery. I was thinking of that line in Mad Men, where he's like "nobody looks under that rock!" He could be Batman! My dad is kind of that guy, just very... everything is close to the vest.

But my mother is a very creative person and in her thought, in her curiosity about life. So I grew up with lots of music and art books and architecture and so I'm over here talking about Florentine Renaissance architects, but we just had this bevy of information that was constantly being given to us and it just really.. when I think about dancers, I think my grandmother, my Nan, was 00:12:00probably the only person that I knew of who really loved to dance. She said during the war time, she would go out and go dance with her girlfriends. Apparently she was a really good dancer. But that changed when she married my grandfather because he hated dancing, so they just never went dancing, unless it was at the Sherlock Holmes club.

LK: Then what formal education or training do you have, like college degree or community college or whatever?

SD: I just did some college but it was more just community college. But I really struggled with why did I want to go? and what did I want to do? So for years I really struggled with that because I thought OK I need to go to academia. I need to expand and continue my growth after high school. I tried a few times and I 00:13:00just hated it. So I went to trade school. I'm a licensed aesthetician, I did that. I've been doing teacher trainings for different things because now I teach mostly just fitness and dance.

But, I figured out I would've gone for library science or some kind of history degree, that's awesome! That's literally, that's really it and so if I had the means to go, without any horrendous amount of debt, I'd probably go back to college. Be like, whatever, I'll get my Masters when I'm in my 40s, whatever it's fine. I feel like it's finally clicked maybe at the year 30 for me. That's what I would've gone to college for... archaeology was just way too expensive and it terrified me to go into that much debt, so I just didn't pursue it. So, I 00:14:00had some college but didn't graduate. Long answer.

LK: So then Burlesque! In what year and how did you get started in Burlesque?

SD: OK, so I first noticed what it was in 2005, the Neo Burlesque movement. That was when, on dial-up internet, I saw Catherine D'Lish's website. There was this amazing photo of her with these big pink ostrich feather fans, she was in this just stunning, sickening pose with that red hair. I was like "What?!? I wanna do that!" So then I learned that she was a stripper, a modern-day stripper working in clubs and was doing feature dancing.

So I thought about it and then I thought maybe if I started work at a strip club 00:15:00then I could make the money to get into that kind of thing. So I ended up, let's see here, I was quiet for a few years. I had a cute little retail job and then stripping didn't necessarily work out for me. I was like 19. Then in 2009 was when I finally got into performing and that was through Raylene Courtney. She produced the Sin Savvy shows and that was my official introduction to the world of Burlesque. I was trash! I was so bad, but that's part of the magic, right? I had all these big ideas. But executing them was a whole other ball game! That was my beginning.

LK: Did you take any of the Burlesque classes at the Academies? Or did you 00:16:00already have your dance background?

SD: I think too I was very much an outsider. Because I didn't know anybody from the [Burlesque] community that way and they all kinda knew each other. I got back into dancing at clubs again. So when I did start doing Burlesque in 2009-10-ish, that's when I was the new kid on the block. Because people are like "who is this chick?" "She works over at this club and we don't really know her." I hadn't taken any of the classes and it was really just me doing my imitations of showgirls that I had seen in MGM movies. Just dancing in my living room and getting ideas and collecting books and reading about different showgirls.


LK: Was there a resistance to you...you talked about it like there was a small group and it was hard to break in?

SD: I think it was more just, I was so new and people just didn't really know me. Also I was so young. I think that it can be jarring, I mean somebody said to me not long ago... I had a performance that is actually probably one of the better things I did when I first started... but it was actually it was a whole disaster, like a costume malfunction. I was going through a lot at the time and it was sort of like the feather that broke the camel's back for me. I remember just having this ... I started crying, which is all right, it's already kind of embarrassing anyway because people think that that's the reason why you're crying, that I was so upset. And I realize I was just so stressed out about everything...

She had told me how, when she first met me, it was when that happened or 00:18:00something, it was around that time. And she was like "I just remember being like, who's this? like oooh." And then she's like "now that I realize you're actually really cool." and I was like "thanks, bitch!" Like, wow!

OK, so I realized... I know there are times where I probably didn't have the most...I didn't present myself in a way that probably was most becoming. I think some of those people thought I was a little off or... But it's so different now. I felt like there were moments where very much I was sitting on the outside. I didn't really know everybody as well. But they were... You start to ingratiate yourself a bit more, do shows more, and then people start to get an idea of who you are. I also got more in tune with who I am, and I think I chilled out a lot 00:19:00more. There's that.

LK: Your stage name, how did you choose that?

SD: Well, "Alexandria" and I cut it in half and then it was Xandria. And I thought OK, Xandria sounds a little bit like Xena, so I'm gonna just take the X and just put an S right there, so Sandria! But then people call me sangria sometimes and like, okay, that's annoying, but I didn't think about that at all! But "Dore" is like gilded in gold or golden, and I just really enjoyed the golden. It was also a play on my skin and I felt like that would be fun to play... and to use as an adjective as in Dore. Once in a blue moon people will 00:20:00approach me and ask me if I speak French, and I say "very poorly." I wish! So that's how the name came about.

LK: You mentioned breaking into this Portland Burlesque scene, and you mentioned Sin Savvy. What were other... what were those shows like at that time, around 2009-2010?

SD: They were very... it was a very intimate group of people. We had the regulars [audience] that would come. There were a couple of venues at the time where we would do shows at. One was the Hawthorne Theater Side Bar, which is a very intimate venue. Our dressing room was the arcade, like a little arcade section, which is like a closet basically.Then there was the Barracuda, which is a big night club and that was super fun because that was like the Rose Hips 00:21:00Revue kind of thing and they had the big stage. We had a blast. It was either the rather large space to really strike out in and then we had the smaller one. It was super fun. It's so funny to think about it now, reflect on it now, so different! I had such like strong ideas, that like I'm presenting myself this way and I need a fit this very rigid box. That was me being anxious and stressed out about... it needs to be done perfectly. Sin Savvy was great, the smaller shows were great, for breaking in a new act, that's for sure.

LK: How are those shows put together? Was there an overarching theme or did each person work a piece and then you just came together? How was that all organized?


SD: We would have our producer, who was Raylene at the time. She would contact different artists or different performers, and they would have their individual acts. Sometimes people would do group numbers but it was mostly just the lineup of the show. Each person would perform, they would figure out who would go where in the lineup. There'd be an intermission and then sometimes a big finale number. That usually was lots of people dancing. It was great. We had an MC, Laura Dean, who is fabulous. It was a really cool space, it was also a safe space for so many people and especially back in like 2009, very different.

LK: "A safe space." In what way?

SD: It was very LGBTQIA inclusive. We had this... for being in Portland at the 00:23:00time ... a rather diverse cast of performers, we had Queer people and non-binary people. All kinds of individuals who would go up and do their thing or have numbers together. It's just really...and the audience too, was really, it was cool. And it's nice that it's still like that, with most of the shows that I feel like have been in, have been inclusive and safe in that respect. But especially those ones back then.

LK: A safe space before we new safe spaces were needed.

SD: Bizarro world. Like The Upside Down occurred. I came back with a strange rebrand existence I guess.

LK: You mention the glamour and the costumes and the props and so forth. Where 00:24:00did you get your costumes and props?

SD: I would say most of my costuming I would just find randomly. Whether it was at a vintage shop, if I saw a dress I really liked. I had, The Serge Sisters were their name, and when they stopped working together, Tara would make my costumes for me. I would commission pieces and she would make really cool stuff. Most of my dresses were made by her. I would just give her ideas and photos. My intimates I usually just found at the regular old lingerie store. That's how I met the Oh Baby! ladies, too. I commissioned a corset to be made, it was made to measure. My relationship with them has been amazing. They're just always 00:25:00supplying the stockings for me.

LK: Are they Portland-based?

SD: They're on Northwest 23rd and they're a great local lingerie boutique. I just adore them, they're just such fabulous people.

LK: So, you didn't do Burlesque very long before you went to BHoF for the Weekender in 2013. Can you tell us what BHoF is? What the The Weekender is, and how that all came about?

SD: BHoF stands for Burlesque Hall of Fame. It is one of the large events that happened to also help raise money for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum, which.... Woah, this is gonna be a big one. There's a great museum there in 00:26:00Vegas. It's pretty small from what I understand but they might be expanding. They have tons of memorabilia of Burlesque performers, old-school strippers and Legends from many, many years ago. They hold this big event.

The Weekender is a combination of the icons or Legends' showcase. You get to see the old-school performers come out and do some of their favorite acts. They have awards that they'll present to some people who been performing for a long time, the Sassy Lassie award is one of them. Then they also have a competition, which is usually the biggest thing with a lot of folks who fly in from around the world. They come in, they compete for either Best Debut or Best Group, Best Duo, things like that. Then there's Queen of Burlesque, which many years ago it used 00:27:00to be Exotic World.

It was in the desert and that's how I remember it, when I was younger looking at the Exotic World show. They had like a makeshift stage and this sign "Exotic World Competition." Some thing like maybe some metal-made sign, I'm not sure exactly, but I just remember the great photos of it. People will go compete for that and now it's at The Orleans [hotel in Las Vegas] Now they've got the big theater space for that.

That year I got into the Best Duo category with Russell [Brunner.] We just knew each other from performing around and he reached out to me one day. He was like 00:28:00"hey do you wanna do like a number together? We could like put something fun together." So we did and we danced together for a minute. He really helped me hone in on some of classic dances, like the waltz and things like that. I pretty much... we're just kind of cooked up this idea with let's just do this fun dance together, strip tease but with tumbling. I was, you know what, I could do a split drop from your knees and he was like really OK cool. So we worked that out and... I don't know if I could even do that now! When I think about it, I think "oh, my god, do a split drop? I'd kill my hamstrings!" but so...That's how that came about.

We just connected and he asked me about performing. Then while we were sort of fine-tuning the act and had done a couple of gigs around Portland. And he said let's submit it to BHoF and just see what happens, cool! So we did and then we were accepted. Then we went and we performed it, and we won! Now I have the 00:29:00trophy in my house. Like "alright! We did that, cool!" So yeah, it's sort like, we did it, look at us do our thing and then see you later.

LK: Submitting and applying to BHoF. What was that process like in 2013?

SD: Back then it was... you would just send in a video to this email and I believe you paid the fee to apply. They have a little application process and they review the video. They will make their selection and they usually send... I believe they let you know ahead of time. Then they'll send out another email to let you know. Then you kinda get all the rundown, like what you need 00:30:00information-wise, about showing up, being there now, time etc.

I remember feeling that white-hot nervousness, 'cuz I always get nervous before I perform. Doesn't matter what I'm doing. I was like OK let's do this! I kinda just went into a fugue state, and just did it. I just got back from London as I remember I was flying home. I think I flew from London to Portland and then like a couple days later, I flew to Vegas. I think because in 2013 was when I was out in England for a minute. So yeah, that's a lot of traveling.

LK: So you did go to the London Burlesque Festival in 2013 right before BHoF and 00:31:00I saw that it was billed as your European debut. Tell us about that adventure.

SD: Thank you. I loved it. I went with my mother, or we went for a month actually, so we kinda got to do a mother/daughter trip. It was really special and we just had a lot of great times exploring. Because my grandmother is from Tottenham, so she's from up north. It was really cool to finally get over there and just explore, and do all of the touristy things. But also just revisit places with my own mother, who would go there a lot as a kid during summer time, when she was growing up.

I got into the festival and met with Betty [Rose Royal] who is just fabulous and we still keep in touch actually. When I think about how long it's been, like 00:32:00wow! They put me in the show and I had a blast. It was just really great to meet all of these people and also to for me it was the connection the audience was so different compared to what I had experienced back in Portland.

LK: How so?

SD: I feel like people just were so much more accepting and open to seeing me be up there. I remember feeling like I really was struggling with connecting with the audience in Portland the same... just really just connecting with them in a way. I'm like, I'm doing, I'm doing this. I believe in what I'm doing. I know that it's just gonna get better, if I just keep doing it. Because I was performing at Sinferno, which is that Dante's bar downtown, and sometimes I would do a number and just be like crickets! People just wouldn't respond. I 00:33:00never got that feeling from people [in Portland.] And then when I went over there [London] people were like "Whee-oooh!" I came out and it was like "Oh hi!" People were excited to see me. It was so different. It's so different and I just, I loved it. I fell in love with being over there and I miss it all the time actually.

LK: Do you think the... and I'm just making this up, you know... that England has the history of the Music Hall tradition and do you think audiences in Portland just needed to learn what Burlesque was?

SD: I think they kind of... I believe that they had an idea. Especially back then because we had the audience and we had people to show up and were really appreciative. But sometimes it just felt like... I mean also, too ... I'm a 00:34:00pretty heavily tattooed woman. I am a Black woman and here's this heavily tattooed Black woman walking out on stage that's being glamorous and over-the-top. I think that there are people that definitely felt very put off by that because they don't want to find me attractive.

The reason I say that is because I've had people say to me, specifically, that they weren't trying to find me -- me,as a darker-complected person especially- like in relation to Blackness and seeing glamour and beauty is something that, for them, is not, was not part of their perception of what was considered beautiful. And just hearing people say "I saw you and I couldn't help but stare." And the conflict that it brought [for them.] And I thought "why is that 00:35:00even a problem?" Which, of course, you know, racism and all these issues apply overseas as well.

There's just something different about it that is, that's what it felt like to me. I think too, maybe our city of Portland is so saturated with modern day strip clubs, that intersection of strippers, modern-day strippers and Burlesque performers and that theatricality hadn't really crossed over yet. Because some people had some issues with it, they were like "Oh if you're working at a club and then you're doing Burlesque?" Some people were like "how can that happen? Because we thought we weren't invited."

It was very... but nobody really outright said anything nasty in the Portland scene like that. But I would hear things from other people like "Oh yeah, they don't really like strippers because they don't really perform." There were a lot 00:36:00of things like that. I think, too, the customers were...if they showed up at a Burlesque show, some of them might have been expecting more nudity. Where there some Burlesque performers who do straight-up nude acts, so that's where it's very subjective of what somebody wants and how they feel about their performance. I think they were expecting like pole tricks and lucite heels and dance. And now we do see that, but there were people doing it back then too. But now it's really pinpoint what it was, but I think just for the general public it was... the expectation was a little differenct when they show up to a Burlesque show.

LK: Do you think, in the last 10 years since then, do you think the audience has 00:37:00caught up to ...?

SD: Oh my god, yeah yeah. When I see corporate Burlesque performers now, and they're sponsored that are getting these huge props made and they're doing these big corporate gigs, it's wild! It's so wild! It's like, who are these people? Where did they come from? It's interesting to see because it is so much more main stream. I see so many people were like "Oh I wanna get into it!" I see a lot of younger people who talk about it and want to get involved. But it's also... you're up there doin' your thing and you're struttin' your stuff. Some people, they have a very specific and interesting look that they're going for. They have style that might not be considered main stream sexy. They're maybe pulling a class [indistinguishable] sort of thing with Burlesque involved.


I see a lot of younger people who want the glamour. They want to put on the bumper bangs. They want the big hair, they want the pasties. It's becoming so mainstream now I feel. But it's also tough because the more I feel it's become mainstream, it's also becoming this only particular people are picked out to showcase a very specific look. The ethnically ambiguous women who are very thin with breast implants or if you have a lot of tattoos you need to be a hard body with breast implants. I feel like the boob job thing has blown up. It's so big. I got them done a long time ago because of specific... I wanted to break into this main stream thing but I was told I had too many tattoos and my look was just... and now I don't have breast implants anymore, I got them taken out, and it's so different! Should I have just stuck with it if I wanted to? But I 00:39:00realize it's just not me anymore. I just don't care about it in that way anymore.

LK: Do you think somethings gotten lost in the grittier, smaller scene with the DIY props and costumes to today. Is there's some thing that's gotten lost?

SD: No, I don't think so. I think a lot of people are still working really hard at honing their craft and it just never stops. I mean also earlier talking about having the boobs and all of that, I feel like a lot of people are investing in themselves whether it's mending their costumes, they're also working on themselves. This is what works for them. That's great. More power to you.

But it's when I hear people say that they feel like they're trapped in a look or 00:40:00style. Like they have a contract and they can't change anything. They're really struggling with finding that passion for why they started performing, that's where it gets really... I think that's where it gets tough for some.

I feel like the DIY factor is still very much there. So much of it is it's just the brain child of your ideas that come to you and what you bring to fruition on stage. And how you, how that evolves. I still have a rhinestone project I need to finish for tonight! Like it's only going to be half done, that's fine it's OK. Before I would've been like "I can't be out there with partially rhinestoned garters!" Now I'm like "what hell, that's fine. I'll be fine." They'll love it. I'll love it. That's all that matters.

LK: So you mentioned the BHoF Weekender and the Legends. You performed with a Legend at the Star Theater. You performed with Tempest Storm. Describe who the 00:41:00Legends are and why they matter to the Neo-Burlesque community, and then tell me about that experience.

SD: Well, I'll start with the Legends and why they matter. They literally are the living history of the strip. They have such a wealth of information, also technique and style, to how to execute certain things with striptease. Whether it's a glove peel or a stocking peel, there are so many cool things you can learn from these people. Also just their lived experience and hearing what it was like for them to go out there perform and tour. How to deal with a different laws and codes for bars at the time like venues with theaters.


I think it's very important to pay homage to them because they're just like these wild and free people at some point in history. Especially during a time, if we're talking about, wel,l Tempest died not too long ago. She was one of the last of the '40s performers, old school. It was cool to meet her and she's was incredibly quiet. She's so tiny, tiny, tiny woman. I didn't really get a conversation with her. It was just really cool to be in proximity with her and be in the show. She hosted the show. She didn't really perform so much, just did her thing. I mean it was cool to have lunch with her and hang out with like a 00:43:00small group of girlfriends. Just to listen to what she had to say. Yeah, she was extremely quiet.

I know that she, at times, can be a controversial figure. I know that there was a lot of drama when apparently she had supported [President #] 45 and a lot of people were just like "ah, boo, hiss!" That's also the other thing, we're talking about individuals with their personal politics and beliefs, so we don't necessarily know everything about everybody. Sometimes they'll drop some bombs on you. Some folks were not happy about that. It was an interesting experience but I didn't have the opportunity to really chat with her, but it was cool. But it's cool to say I did a show and she was there and she hosted it. That's cool.


LK: Then you went to Finland with Cirque Erotique? How did that happen?

SD: That was a time! Ivezia, she is just like another wild child, free magical babe.. she...

LK: And that's Ivezia Dakini?

SD: Yeah. They put together this competition. I was like "girl you don't need to do a competition!" But I guess they wanted to do something fun. So they did this competition. She hit me up. She's like "Hey, do you want to perform at this thing?" I was like "eeh, I'm not really into competing. Maybe. I don't know." "Just do a number and have fun. It's not like anything wild." I was like well "OK. Was there a theme? Should I...is there anything particular?"


"Just do whatever you want!" OK, so I was like "I'll do some pole [dancing] and Burlesque, and marry two things that I love to do."

So I brought feather fans. I had the idea that I was going to do some kind of gilding myself with gold leaf, but that just did not work out very well. I definitely needed somebody to help me with that. And I did this performance where I came out in a leather jacket and just this gold sparkly bikini. I just ripped it up on the pole and then I finished it with a big classic feather fan dance. I got runner-up for this competition, that was like OK sure whatever. So I didn't go because my friend Mandy she won and she ended up going, and deservedly so, she did this beautiful number.


Fast-forward a few years, the people from Turku Sex, the convention, they put on their show. They had shown up and they were looking for people to bring on this tour again. They saw me perform and Ivizia hit me up and "do you wanna come with?" I was like "sure!" It was those people we did the competition with a while ago. Sure all right. So I ended up part of the group. Then we had to figure out what we were doing, so we started to work on group numbers. We did a really fun group number with Isaiah Esquire and it just that was really cool.

We just showed up in Finland and it was quite the experience. There were all these different things were going on. There was more going on that they wanted us to do. I was apparently was supposed to teach some pole to these people in a 00:47:00nightclub. I have never taught pole before, so I just felt like, very like, "oh my god my doing? I feel so stupid and embarrassed." I kind of froze and then Manika, who is this incredible pole champion, he was also teaching people how to do things. It was very like... here we are doing this show and I didn't really know everything about how... what we were doing. I feel like we got relayed a lot of information and then we did it though, we worked it out. It's a very different place than Portland. I remember being like "all right, we are in Finland. We are in Turku, Finland." It was definitely an experience.

The convention was pretty big, from the big stage to our dressing room and 00:48:00running through the hallway and twists and turns. They had a feature porn star there who was performing. It was Jesse Jane, I believe it was her name, and she was very popular in like 2010's era of porn. This is my life, all right. That's what we were doing, so it was very, yeah, it's very...It's an experience.

LK: You said "we just showed up in Finland." Now I know that doesn't really just happen. I've traveled internationally, it doesn't just happen. For these international competitions, who pays the way? Do you have an agent? Who provides housing? Can you speak to the logistics of it?


SD: It was UC, I believe was his name? And then I can't remember the name of the other producer for the event, but he owns a tattoo and piercing shop. His partner at the time, Lucky Hell, was hosting. She knew Ivizia, and they're good friends. They had this big event, the Turku Sex thing, and I believe is marketed more towards like younger people like university age kids. You would show up and you could party and have drinks and watch people pole dance. It was a very grown-up and sexy fun time.

So they cultivated this thing and then they wanted entertainment. So they asked this rag-tag group of performers from Portland to come out. And it was a lot of 00:50:00airplanes, trains, planes, and automobiles. I don't sleep on planes very well, so I didn't sleep the entire flight from Portland to Finland. It was rough. I was so exhausted. But we got there and they handled all of our accommodations etc. it was very... just like exploring Turku, a very different space, but it was cool.

I had moments where I felt very stressed out. I'd sit in my dressing room and have a silent cry, like "what is happening? what are we doing today?" Just kind of adjusting and also just feeling like I really wanted to focus on the performance factor. Not so much on that you're a stripper and we want you to just show up and be sexy. There were times when there was a new thing we want 00:51:00you to do. There's a little side stage where you can strip and make money off of people. I was like "I don't really wanna do that." And they're like "Don't you want to make money?" I'm like "Yeah, you paid me to be here. That's my money." I had kind of a love-hate moment with it, but ultimately it was a really cool experience.

I think it taps into just exploring why that would frustrate me, and where does that tidbit of shame come from? But I honestly feel it's just my own personal boundaries of being a dancer and performing really just wanting to focus on that. More so than smiling at some dude who has a beard and he's really drunk and wants to grab my boots. I'm like "I don't wanna deal with that. I wanna do this other thing. I'm gonna focus on this!" I was a little bit of a brat and just didn't even do it. I was like "I'm not doing that. I'm going to wait for the next next stage time for our performance. It was pretty silly.


LK: I found your name on, well, many places. But also on the Black Burlesque Directory and you're listed in that? What is that? Who started it? Why is this important?

SD: Oh my goodness! I actually forgot who started it, which is terrible. I'm like wait a minute because I forgot that I had sent in my info to be included.

LK: Actually I already know the answer to this. It's Po' Chop.

SD: OK, yes, yeah, I OK yeah. It's been some time, I think, since I submitted my info.

LK: It was started in 2015 and you know we have had a pandemic, and you've had a child, so that's probably fine. But why is it important and why did you join it?


SD: Well, a big part of why I perform is because of representation. That was a huge one for me. I think just knowing that it needs to be there, because a lot of the Burlesque names that we see, the very popular and famous... the Lily St. Cyrs, the Tempest Storms, like these are people who are mostly white women. It's mostly white people. A lot of that speaks from segragaton that was happening at the time. You hear about Noel Toy, or you hear about about Jean Idelle, but they're not often seen in the forefront as as important because they didn't have that kind of main stream recognition. That doesn't mean that they were any less important and I think it's very vital... oh hi babe. My husband's home. Love you.


I think it's important to have that representation because we need to see that it's not this...There's more to it. There's always going to be more to the history of everything. We need the perspective, we need the experience... It's really so vital to just collect that information because we don't always see yourselves. Like how I said growing up watching old movies. Whether it's sitting in the theater watching Gone With the Wind and the only Black people I see are people who are enslaved. Just thinking about that now, I mean, like Wow. That's what a lot of people saw back then when they went to a big film.


Pardon me, on my tangent, but there is a very distinct thing that happened to me when I first started performing Burlesque. We did this parade with the Sin Savvy,i early Burlesque days, we did way back in the day. We sat in the back of a truck for Pride parade, for Portland Pride. All of us are there, super early in the morning. I just remember we were driving up the street. And as the parade is going, of course we're going less than five miles an hour. So we're all cruisin' around, and this group of kids - they're really young and they probably were like teenagers or some thing - And they all run up and say "That's Sandria! Oh, my God, we've seen you at the 'Cuda [Baracuda Lounge] And I'm like "You saw me? How did you get into a bar? Really am I tripping?"


But they were so young, these young Queer kids that were just out in the scene. And this was the escape, an underage Gay club and Queer club that I used to go to when I was 18. So it was cool to see very young Queer people that were out and about. And so for Pride, knowing that these kids saw me, but they were all these beautiful Black children and here I was just sitting in the back of a truck, like I ain't shit, but you know who I am? That's what really hit me. That was, it was really special.

I mean it's like for me that's how I felt when I saw [Burlesque performer] Perle Noire get a standing ovation at The Aladdin [Theatre] back in 2011, I think. I'm just seeing that she could do that in Portland? I was like...I was a literally...I lost it. I was just moved so deeply moved and sobbing. She was 00:57:00like "oh my God" and held my hand and was like "are you OK? Hi!" And this was so special because that representation... that's what I dream of. And that's what I dreamt of, and I saw it happen, and it was possible. I never forgot that and that's why I keep doing what I do. I hope that somebody sees me and is inspired.

Also too, it's like, here's this Black woman with all these tattoos that's doing this thing, and yeah, I'm, I'm beautiful. I think it makes up for the many years of having people tell me that I wasn't beautiful enough to do this, which might sound really trivial to some, but when you're a kid and people literally just don't treat you with that kind of kindness. And a lot of it is because of how you look and usually they directly say it's because of how you look, like "oh I 00:58:00thought you were a little boy, but you're not, you're a little girl, but you're not really that pretty."

It's weird when you start to understand that being pretty and being beautiful is power. But also it's bottom power because it only works for people that see you as worthy and it's also just a shitty, shitty thing. Everybody deals with it. So. There's so much, there's so many layers of... everything that I'm saying right now that ... It's like, let's have therapy time! Therapy with Sandria! It's rough! It's weird and so much... so that's a huge part of why... Because we are glamorous and beautiful. When so many people for years have been saying that we're not and we're trash, and we're garbage, and we're gross, and ugly and having a dark skin is bad...it just goes on and on. And it still happens. It still happens across cultures and different races of people. It's a mess, a mess... like yeah, so yes, it's very important.


LK: And you represented in a documentary. You were in a documentary called The Glitter Tribe. How did that come about?

SD: You know, Zora Van Pavonine had asked me about meeting with the Director. We met and it was all right, and I was like, you know, I kind of hemmed-and-hawed about doing the project. I felt like I would do it if I could share, I would out myself to the world as a stripper.... There are a bunch of people yelling outside, sorry. OK yeah... I feel like if I could talk about race, if I could talk about representation, if I could have that very real conversation, I would 01:00:00be willing to do it and out myself. So we did the interview. It was a pretty long interview and then I saw the film, and thought "well, it didn't really touch on the subjects that I had brought up." That's not to say that I expected my entire interview to be in it, it wasn't anything like that. I just felt like it was more of a project for my my friends and for my fellow co-stars, so that was... that happened! Right, well, you know, I had my feelings about it. I had my words about it. And then it is what it is, I guess.

LK: Then you toured around not only internationally but then within Oregon to 01:01:00small towns like Coos Bay and Astoria. What is it like doing Burlesque in small towns?

SD: Oh, my god, that was one of the best shows! That theater was beautiful! It's huge! That was such a fantastic show, or at least for my experience, it would like going out there and performing. They just lit up and I mean they got lit though! I was kinda like "Whoa! Is this the big thing happening this evening?" Yeah, people got drunk, they got rowdy, it was a wild-ass time! But I had a blast and the crew was just... the cast was fabulous and my friend, Jayla [Rose Sullivan,] is now on that show with Lizzo and is touring with Lizzo. It was such 01:02:00a cool show to do because I was actually... when I found out I was pregnant. She [Jayla] was the first person I told...yeah, I believe it was that Coos Bay show... I was like "I'm pregnant. I'm going to be a mom." And she was like "Bitch, really!" So it was really cool.

It's really great to go out to these small towns and perform. I feel like it really just brings the people that need it and need to be a part of it who aren't driving all the way out to Portland. They need that. It's, you know, they were in it and they were having a blast! If people didn't like it, I couldn't tell. It was really cool. I think too, some people thought that I was a Drag Queen because we did have a lot of Drag people that were part of the crew. So some folks were like "wow, you're really beautiful!" I loved it. I was like 01:03:00"that's fine. That's totally cool." I'm honored if anybody would associate me with a fierce Drag Queen. So many of the Queens I know are just phenomenal! Always a good time.

LK: I saw you in 2019 at the Oregon Burlesque festival. My take away from that was that it was a Cleopatra kind of look. What's your artistic processing developing an act? Is it music first? Costume? Message?

SD: Usually music. I think, ever since I was a kid, if I hear something that just strikes me, I can just envision myself moving to it and the choreography comes about for me. It's only been recently when I'll be in silence and be able 01:04:00to do different moves and work it out. But song will really inspire me the most. And back then, for that number in particular, the song is called Anubis and it's by a group called MONSTA X. It's either a group or an individual, they're kind of a mystery. I've tried to look them up but MONSTA X does the song. I could just... when I close my eyes I could see the movement. I just love that song so much.

And then I was I was reading this book about Cleopatra and I really loved the tale of her meeting with Cesar and how it could be somewhat, maybe possibly made up, we don't know. But how she's rolled up in the carpet and they rolled her out. So we actually did that for a show. Where they carried me out in a carpet and rolled me out, it's like "let's do it!""

And, too, her being Greek-Macedonian and not necessarily being of Egyptian 01:05:00origin, but she was one of first of the Ptolemaic people in her family that actually learned how to speak Egyptian, and really worked with the culture and people at the time. So she was quite popular, but she also knew how to spin things. She was very good, really good at... You could say at propaganda and getting herself out. I mean granted, she was a murderous queen, so there's that. There's probably a level of sociopathy going on there, like psychopathic behavior.

I just I was very inspired by history too, and just kind of took little pieces of that and incorporated it into the look. But, I am also a sucker for a bob [haircut/wig] I love the beautiful crisp bob, so I had that wig and "I have to 01:06:00wear this." I retired some pieces of it, of the look, because I don't wanna be disrespectful to ancient Egyptian culture, considering I'm not of ancient Egyptian or north African descent. So that was the last time I really wore that whole look and it was fun! And I think being rolled out of a carpet is always a great experience, but I don't think I did that at the Oregon [Burlesque Festival.] I did that at Boyeurism, and that was fun. It was great, it was very goddess-like... in my stinky carpet.

LK: That's funny! We are getting into more modern times here, so there's this little Covid pandemic. It shut down Oregon on March 19, 2020. Two years ago. How 01:07:00did that pandemic affect the Portland Burlesque scene?

SD: I think a lot of people were concerned about the venues and not being able to perform if they couldn't maintain space to do that anymore. Unfortunately capitalism kept rolling and a lot of people couldn't afford to keep their business open, while still having to pay rent for the space. So that was really difficult to to hear about how many businesses closed because they were still being charged, but then they couldn't operate. So it just didn't make any sense. A lot of people started to fund raise and try to gain funds to keep open the spaces, the venues open. I feel we're pretty lucky that we have some folks who were able to maintain a lot of the original venues, so we haven't really lost... 01:08:00I don't think we really lost too many, that were holding smaller shows. Even like the Star Theater is still there, so that's cool. But, it was very much a quiet time. Then people did virtual shows and so they were really...they were workin' it! People really got into their cam work. That all popped off!

LK: Now post Covid: what are the Covid protocols in place to protect performers and then backstage people and then audience?

SD: Well, this is where it gets tough, because, of course, people are still getting Covid and we're doing shows. They require the vaccination proof, but some places, I'm pretty sure, don't always ask. It is what it is. I got my vaccine card and we have our masks. I do see that people still perform with 01:09:00masks, they just accessorize it to fit with their costume, which is pretty cool. Some people don't, when they're on stage, they don't wear mask. So it's really just staying up on keeping your hands clean and making sure people are just feeling safe and respected in their space. But holding a Burlesque show, it's sometimes really difficult to stick to the protocols, when people are at the bar getting drinks, and everyone's lined up. I feel like a lot of people are just going about life as it was.

It's very interesting a lot of my friends who were working in strip clubs at the time were really struggling when things went into lockdown. That was rough. Friends were losing their apartments, they couldn't afford to stay and live where they were, and that was really rough. So clubs are now open, they're 01:10:00operating, it's just kinda a roll of the dice. You might get Covid, you might not. Most people I know are getting Covid from work and it was usually from a customer, and that just... that was... yeah, it was wild in the beginning especially.

LK: Did the pandemic affect your creativity at all?

SD: I actually really reveled in just sitting back and like taking pause. I feel very blessed and very, very grateful that I could. My husband and I still were able to work. That's when I ended up becoming a pole dance instructor because the space that... at Aerospace, where I teach, they were like "we're open! we are seeking teachers!" But we don't have a huge capacity and everybody's spaced out already, so it was great. I was able to work still and train for a new job. My husband works in... where he works on bikes and things, so he's pretty 01:11:00isolated in his space. Everybody was already spaced out to begin with. We were very fortunate that we can still operate, do our thing, business as usual, but I got to stay home a little bit more. Things really locked down, so my creativity wasn't really interrupted as much.... I think I was able to rest and recharge, yeah, it was good, in a bitter-sweet kind of a way. Because I know it wasn't so good for others.

LK: So people in Burlesque say it empowers them. What's your take on that?

SD: I think it's incredibly empowering to have any control over your image and how you present yourself, especially when it comes through creativity. It's only not empowering if you were doing something that you don't feel good about. Or if 01:12:00you're doing a gig or you're working and a venue or space with somebody that is not appreciative of you. I think it's incredibly empowering any time that you can take control over your image and what you want to do for yourself and present it. Like "I'm gonna go out there in a cowboy hat or whatever and a monocle! Going to shave my head! Or, I'm gonna do this thing and do political statement in my performance!" Go for it!

I think it's incredibly empowering to present this fun, artistic way with also the strip that's different from... if you were "all right! I'm on... I have to go to work at 10pm. I have to go to the club and make sure I'm on time, and go up onstage and dance and smile at people and sell drinks." It's very different, very different from that. So it's very... I think it's incredibly empowering I got away with things there that I don't think I ever would've been able to do 01:13:00when I worked in modern day strip clubs.

LK: And then people talk about Burlesque as a force for social change. What do you think about that?

SD: I think any time you have the expression and can give it to the general public, whether it's they pay admission to come to a show...you can create that change. You can comment on something the way that you choose to, and it can be very much part of what's happening. Whether it's like [Weimar cabaret star] Anita Berber peeing on a table in Berlin, or [Portland stripper] Viva Las Vegas when she wrote her book, I just I know that she spoke at TED[xPortland] which is really cool. It's a very unique and interesting woman right there.

I got to do a police number. It was a police cops number to a Dead Kennedys set 01:14:00and shotgun some beers. Which I don't drink beer, but... I had "know your rights" written on my back. It was very, it was a different take on what would be like my classic performance of showgirl. It said... it was something little bit different, talking about police brutality. Especially to that song, which is so interesting now, here we are and what's going on with police reform and what people are saying about cops. It's amazing how shit hasn't really changed. It's just come back around. It's a fantastic way of being able to share your thoughts and feelings and expression about what's going on with social, with a performance commentary. And you can fund raise for organizations that you believe in. There are so many opportunities to take this dance, this art performance, this strip fun and use it for good if you want. Or use it for evil! 01:15:00Some people do that too! So, yeah, absolutely.

LK: Final question: what do you wish the general public would understand about Burlesque?

SD: That the performer is going to feel how they're going to feel about strip. And just check what you're seeing and enjoy it. And if you have questions or are curious, be respectful and don't assume anything about anyone. I think that's the number one. I feel that people should do that in their daily life, but just don't assume things about people. And if you hate it, come back anyway. That's 01:16:00what I would tell people.

LK: Great, thank you, thank you so much.

SD: Thank you for having me.