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Dahlia Kash Oral History Interview, January 18, 2020

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LAURIE KURUTZ: Today is January 18th, 2020. My name is Laurie Kurutz, pronouns she/hers. Would you please introduce yourself? Say your pronouns if you care to and tell us all the things you do.

DAHLIA KASH: My name is Dahlia Kash. My pronouns are they/them, sometimes they're she/ her, sometimes they're he/him. It all depends on what character I happen to be playing on stage. I am a Burlesque performer and that persona is Dahlia Kash. As a Drag King, my name is Javier Miguel. As a femme Drag Queen, my name is Daizelle Marie Lou'Viere D'Ho. I am the producer of Mélange: A Queer and POC Variety Show, Crown Me: the Show for Kings, Queens, and All the Sexy Things, and also the producer of Your Turn, which is an open mic that's set to start next month. So, those are the things that I do. Oh, also a photographer 00:01:00with Cheremar Photography, which is my photography company.

LK: So, what is Burlesque?

DK: Burlesque is a form of art. I see it as a form of performance art that can pretty much be all encompassing. It can be anything as far as I'm concerned. Some people like to only view it as exclusive to stripping only, but Burlesque is a term that, in the Classic sense, is all encompassing. So, it's any sort of political satire, whether that be circus, whether that be any type of cheeky form of stripping. It's also... Drag is a part of it. Drag is a part of Burlesque and I think that's one thing that people forget. And it's meant to be 00:02:00something that pulls the community together, especially our tight-knit community. Burlesque means even more than that to me now, being involved with it for so long. But at its core, that's what Burlesque is.

LK: And what's the difference between stripping in clubs and Burlesque stripping?

DK: Considering I've done both, I do consider Burlesque... First of all, there's a financial difference. Actually, most of the time, you're getting paid a little bit better when you're club stripping. Your hours are a heck of a lot longer, that's for sure. And being onstage as a Burlesque performer, there's a different expectation. Your expectation within costuming, your expectation within the 00:03:00style of what you're doing is completely different. I think the two of them mesh together in some ways. And I actually am one of the people who would like to end the stigma of club stripping and Burlesque stripping not being on the same plain. At the end of the day, we're all taking our clothes off for money and obviously that's not the only thing that both of those roles fulfill. But at the end of the day, we need to be there for our siblings who are in club stripping as much as we are for our siblings in Burlesque. The only difference is the different amount of glitter that we're using, as far as I'm concerned.

LK: And so, describe what kind of Burlesque you do.

DK: So, the type of Burlesque I do varies. I would be classified under 00:04:00Neo-Burlesque. Neo-Burlesque means that it is actually geared more towards sort of what's going on currently within our society. It tends to be a lot more political, it tends to ask a lot more questions and provoke the audience as opposed to Classical. And of course, Classical has its place. Without Classical, we wouldn't have what we have today. It's different in comparison because what I do just varies.

In my personal roles, I explore gender fuckery, I explore what it means to be a Goth person in a Black body, what it means to be a fat person, and just decide 00:05:00in the middle of the number, "I'm tired, I just want to eat." What it means to be Queer. My performance art changes with every single number, so I could be on that stage giving something completely militant. I could be on stage one day giving something completely delicate. I could be on stage one day just scratching my crotch. I'm gonna put on stage whatever I feel like I wanna put on stage, really, at this point.

LK: That's great. So, at the beginning, where were you born and where did you grow up?

DK: So, I was born in San Francisco, California. I grew up pretty much all around the Bay Area, the San Francisco Bay Area. My roots were specifically in Vallejo, California. That is where I did most of my elementary, high school, middle school growing up, and then quickly left after that.


LK: Where did you go?

DK: My first stop was actually Houston, Texas. Stayed there for a while, did the house-wife thing. That didn't work out. Came back because I had to take care of my mom, came back to the Bay Area. And then, once she had passed, which she passed in 2014, and then I, after a while, tried to get my stuff together because once you get into the Bay Area, you have to dig yourself out. So by that time, I think I got here to Portland in 2017, officially... 2016, yes. 2016. Yeah, so I've been here for four years now.

LK: What brought you here?

DK: I just wanted a change in pace, I wanted cleaner air, and I'm okay with the rain. So I said, "I'm moving to the PNW." I always wanted to be up here, so.


LK: And in your formative years, what led you to performance?

DK: Oh, I have been on stage for a very long time. I started doing children's theatre when I was in catholic school, so like first grade. And we had small productions we would put on there. And then gradually got into dance, and I was dancing, I was doing tumbling, and so I've been on stage my whole life pretty much.

LK: And what formal education or training do you have?

DK: So, my formal education is in dance. My dance specialty was at one time ballet. I don't have the ankles for ballet and I definitely don't have the form 00:08:00for ballet. So, then I slowly developed into jazz and hip hop classes, and then moved my way into teaching jazz and hip hop for a while and choreographed a few minor music videos. And then the other thing that's helped me out in Burlesque is... Wait, I lost my train of thought... Okay...

LK: Formal training and education...

DK: Formal training and education...

LK: College degree?

DK: Okay, sorry. And went through the ranks at the drama department. I haven't gotten into college training for that because I was kind of discouraged from my family to go into the arts in that way, even though I've received three scholarships. But you know, when you don't have funding for the housing, you lose your scholarship. So, there isn't anything I can do, but my scholarships 00:09:00were actually originally in both acting and music and, sadly, didn't have the funding.

LK: In those formative years, was there anyone who was an influence or an inspiration to you?

DK: My mother, definitely. My mother was the epitome of femininity in any way, shape, or form you can think about it. Her legs were always crossed, always make-up on, hair always done, but not in the way of giving off this air of perfection, but in the way of, "This is me, and this is my femininity, and I have to project that." My mother was a model, she was an actress, she was a belly dancer, and she also, of course, learned her aesthetic from being what they would call back then "an airline stewardess." That's what she was. She was 00:10:00not a flight attendant, she was an airline stewardess. That's a totally different ball game there.

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

DK: I got started in Burlesque in 2013 through some inspiration from a few of my schoolmates and a relative of mine, actually. Burlesque is actually something that is heavily involved in my family. So, my grandfather was actually a Burlesque performer, which I found out a while ago. He performed for the USO and that's what he did while he was in the military, so everyone kind of shoved that under the rug. One of my cousins who introduced me to Burlesque was Elyse Elaine. She's a Burlesque performer who now lives in Vegas. And my best friend, 00:11:00like my childhood best friend, Sgt. Die Wies, who is based in San Francisco. One of my really good friends, we grew up together. And it's really funny, we like to say we've been there from band to Burlesque. So, it's been interesting to watch both of our transformations. And then also going through age and things like that. All those experiences.

LK: That's great. So, what does your family think about your performance art?

DK: Ugh, okay. So, obviously my cousins are like "Go, Go, Go!" I have a few cousins that, because of their religious backgrounds, it becomes an issue, a problem, and those I just have to ignore. I'm grown. I'm not going to concede to 00:12:00what anyone else has to say about what I do because they're not paying my bills. So, that's how that works. My father kind of tends to pretty much ignore it when I try to show him, you know, "Hey, look. This is this cool thing that I did. This is a really cool video with like Muppets, and I thought it was awesome." And he's, "I'll watch that later." And it's just, for him, it's a thing of he's very fat phobic. So, the idea of me being onstage is just not one that he's okay with. I think if my mother was still here, she would've been very... I mean, she was for a while, she was rooting for me. And I am always wearing something of hers on me. Right now, I have on her bracelet. So, anytime I'm doing... Trying 00:13:00not to cry. So, anytime that I'm doing Burlesque, I have her with me. I can't not. She's the reason I do what I do, so. God, I knew this was going to happen. I'm okay.

LK: All right, so you started in Burlesque about seven or so years ago. How did you develop your career?

DK: The way I developed my career was just networking. Before I started doing Burlesque, I had been watching for years. I started watching in 2011. I was still in a marriage that was very abusive, but I would find this time to kind of 00:14:00sneak off to go to Burlesque shows and go to my friend's shows. Sgt. Die Wies has a show called Womanopoly, and that's a show I had been going to since I was younger because that was in my hometown. That show started and blossomed in Vallejo and I would go to our neighborhood gay bar and be like, "I'm gonna just watch some Burlesque. I'm gonna watch my friends dance."

And yeah, I sat and watched for a while. And then finally talked to my cousin who was also the co-producer, Elyse Elaine. I talked to both her and Sarge, and asked like, "I wanna do this. How do I get into this?" And they said, "Well, we already know your history as a dancer, just go do it. What do you mean? Just go do it." And I'm like, "That's how it works? I didn't know that that's how it works! I wanna do this." Elyse invites me over and goes, "Just come up with a routine, find a song you like, and just do it." So, when I'm talking to other 00:15:00people who say, "Oh my god, I wanna do what you do," I'm the same. "Just do it. If you're ready, you let me know, I'll invite you over, we'll talk about it, what your plans are. You gotta have a stage name, you gotta have all of this stuff together." I do think that people should have headshots together, which I'm not seeing enough of. Like I just want... I found my way into Burlesque out of happenstance and out of having connections, so I keep those connections going for myself and for other people.

LK: So, what do you do outside of performing? Other work?

DK: So, outside of performing I am what most would consider a hustler. It could be considered that in many different ways. So, I am a massage therapist, 00:16:00primarily. That is what I went to school for. I also went to school for photography, so I'm also a photographer. And I am also a nanny, in any sort of spare time that I have. So, how that works with what I do is I will often offer my services to people within the community. So, you hurt yourself? I would be the massage therapist you go see. If you need a headshot or you need pictures, you need publicity, I'm here to take your picture. And I do these things at a discounted rate for people so that... I want it to be attainable. Most of us are starving artists. I want to make sure we can all afford these things that we actually need. And when it comes to nannying, if I have someone who is like, "Hey Dahlia, I have this gig tonight and I can't find anybody to watch my kids." I gotcha.

LK: That's great. So, speaking of finances, how do Burlesque performers break 00:17:00even financially doing Burlesque? Or do they?

DK: They don't. There's no way to break even doing this. A lot of people do it with a lot of different things: sugar daddies, sugar mamas, sex work, working your regular 9-5, whatever that might be. Me, personally, I am funded through a couple of different wonderful donors that have put aside their money and their time and also their education in order to keep me going and keep me supported, along with doing my jobs. Because they are mostly art based, I don't make as much as I'd like, but I think that we're all pretty much in that path of... It's a money pit. We all know it going into it, it's a money pit.

LK: Why is that?


DK: Costuming is expensive. I know you know this. Costuming is expensive and in order for you to get booked on certain stages, you have to have these high-quality costumes. And it's not like in other theatre productions where you have somebody there making your costuming and all you have to do is get fitted and slip yourself into it. We're paying for that or we're the ones who are assembling those costumes that are going onto our bodies. All of the scraps, that's what we use to make the other costumes that we have to do. It's a lot of money, but being on stage and doing Burlesque is such a wonderful form of therapy that a lot of people don't get a chance to see what they're looking at. The audience doesn't always see that we are literally putting our hearts out there. And we get to develop those acts.


LK: Great. I've lost my train of thought.

DK: I know how that is.

LK: I found online that in 2014 you were the Queen of Hearts for a fundraising organization. Tell us about that.

DK: Yes, I was the Queen of Hearts for the Ducal Council of Alameda and Contra Costa County, for the reigning year of 2014. Within that year, both me and my King of Hearts at that time, Tiko Suave, we were able to raise I believe upwards of seven thousand dollars within our fundraising year. We used our platforms to create change within the community and try to get shows to be a little bit more 00:20:00inclusive, especially within that particular organization. There was a lot of ageism. There was a lot of racism involved. A little less, being that we were from the Bay Area and dealing with the Oakland community, but it was still there. So, we used a lot of our year. We said specifically, "We are going to break down walls and we're going to piss people off." And I haven't stopped trying to break down walls and piss people off since then. It's in me now. So, that's what I do. That's what started me on this path.

LK: I understand there's a lot of fundraising and benefit shows and so forth within the Burlesque community, although Burlesque people don't get paid much. Describe that.

DK: With stuff like that, you have to watch who you're willing to be involved 00:21:00with because there are people that will say that something is a fundraiser show and you're like, "Wait, where does this money go?" I'm working with a 503(c), with the Ducal Council. Different story. It's like I know that money's going to a reputable charity. When I see something come up as a Burlesque benefit or a Drag benefit, I just want to know. And even if that money's just going to another performer because we'll have benefits within the year that goes to somebody's top surgery or bottom surgery, or whatever's happening. And I'm okay with that, I just want people to be clear with me about where that's going. And also so that I can make an educated decision about where I want my money going, and where I want my art to be donated. So, it's not often that I do fundraising events anymore, unless I know exactly what that organization is.


LK: What is the range of pay for a Burlesque performance?

DK: Oh god, it can go anywhere from absolutely nothing, to... I guess it would depend on a person's personal want, but I've seen people get paid thousands of dollars for doing one number. It just depends on what the person is willing to put their price at because you are selling yourself at the end of the day. And I know that when I do fundraisers, obviously, I'm like "Yeah, it's okay, you can have that money," which is why I don't do a lot of fundraisers right now. I'm too broke for that. I wish I could, but this is also my work.

LK: So, the old stereotype of Burlesque is of male producers and exploited female performers. What's the Burlesque community like in Portland?


DK: I'm gonna say that it doesn't mean that doesn't still happen. It does still happen within communities, both here and far. But what I am seeing and what I'd like to see more of, are marginalized producers taking the reigns and creating the change they wanna see within the community. It's funny, I had this conversation with another Burlesque performer who is also my roommate. So, we had a conversation a little while ago about how many male producers are in this town and how many female producers are in this town or how many AFAB producers, or Queer producers, or even trans producers. And within the Burlesque community 00:24:00specifically, the biggest shows are run by men.

And then there's my show. And then, she's [Dahlia's friend] also a producer so she has another show as well, but we kinda looked around and said, "You know what, we might need to do something about that." It's not that the male producers are exploiting us. I have never felt that way with either one of them. I love the producers that I see out here, I adore them. But I just like to see more female representation because I think what happens sometimes is that you don't get the variance of performance styles that are within the community if we're just booking the same people over and over and over again, which tends to happen a lot here.


LK: As a producer and performer, tell me about the audiences. Who is typically drawn to the Burlesque performances?

DK: I tend to see a predominantly female audience, and that's at most shows that I'm at. Very rarely do I see men in the audience unless, you know, their girlfriends have dragged them there. At least within the straight Burlesque world. Within the Queer Burlesque world it's, obviously, variance of everybody. Yeah, it depends on the mood, it depends on the establishment, and it depends on the producers. Everything changes as that goes.

LK: So, you are the co-founder and producer of "Mélange: A Queer and POC Variety Show." Tell me how that came about.

DK: That also makes me cry, only because we just celebrated our second year. We 00:26:00just had our show in... It's making me emotional just thinking about it because I'm proud of us. Me and my co-producer, Destiny Smokez, we started that show specifically out of audacity because of things we weren't particularly seeing within this Burlesque community. I am seeing a massive amount of just white, normative bodies on stage here, and I don't want to be the specialty act. I want to be seen as something that is supposed to be here, and my show is full of what the rest of this community calls a specialty act, and my show is completely, literally what it is: It's Queer, it's trans, it's POC.

We are in people's faces, basically showing people that we are here because what 00:27:00I did get before I started this show was a lot of complaints of, "Well there's no way you're going to be able to put this show on because there's just not enough POC in the area." I'm like, "Okay, let me just go ahead and do this show, and get up in your face about it, and show you just how many POC are in this area that you're missing out on, that I've had the pleasure of going throughout the entire state and meeting." Whether I'm doing a show in Eugene, whether or not I'm doing a show in Astoria, I'm doing something in Salem, if I'm doing something back in the Bay Area, if I do something in Seattle, Olympia, anywhere. I will bring those people that I come in contact with to Portland because I get so tired of them saying that these people don't exist. I'm like, "No, stop sweeping us under the rug. We're artists, too. We've been in this just as long and honestly, we're a huge part of history that has been erased." So, if I can 00:28:00be something that represents that and, like I said, I am here to push things. I'm here to push the envelope. I will challenge this community. That's what I'm here for.

LK: And so, what about the other shows that you produce. Crown Me. How did that come about?

DK: So, Crown Me. After we had started Mélange, because Mélange started in January of 2018, after we started Mélange we decided, "We should have a show that's a little bit more geared towards Drag, but we don't want it to be completely Drag." So, we were like, "Oh, lets..." literally we were deciding this in Northwest Cannabis Club; most of our ideas that we come up with are definitely marijuana-based. It's Oregon, I can say that. So, we're sitting there 00:29:00and we're thinking about it, and we're like "Oh, we should start this show that's just based on lip-syncing." So people will sometimes go to a show and be like "Oh, this is a Drag show." "No, no, no, no." We have Drag performers here, we also have Burlesque performers, we have poets, we have musicians. My only thing to ask is that you remember your lines. That's all I want to know. Can you lip-sync the words while you're doing Burlesque or belly dancing or anything that you are doing on the stage? So, core variety. That's what I want.

LK: And then this open mic, Your Turn. How did that come about?

DK: Your Turn also came about through a good smoke session, obviously. But that came about because I felt like we need a place for people who are just beginning 00:30:00to work out their performances because we don't really have it in this community. They just expect everybody to just either be polished or just sit there and twiddle their thumbs and wait until they've been doing it for long enough. And because of the fact that we have a lot of shows here, but we don't have a lot going on for beginners. And we don't have a lot going on for people to just kind of like, "I'm just going to jump in here because I need to work out this number because I have to do it again on Saturday."

So, our show will be every first Sunday, which is usually a day where a lot of performers will either be resting or they just got done doing something else, like Drag performers may have done one of the five-thousand different brunches we have in town. So when they get done there, if they have a number they want to work out, or they just want to hang out, or show a variance of what kind of performers they are. For me, I'm also a poet and I also sing, so it's gonna be nice to have a place where if I feel like I wanna throw something on stage, I 00:31:00can. It's not going to be about money, it's gonna be one of those things that, you know, you're doing it for tips, you're just gonna hang out and enjoy yourself, get your friend to come along, get onstage. You know, you could even scream for five minutes, I don't care. Just don't break the audio equipment.

Because I want Your Turn to be an artistic outlet for everyone in this town, and I've already got some people getting ready to submit things and it looks like it's gonna be great. And I'm happy to see a lot of the newer Burlesque performers deciding they want to bring something new to the stage, and newer Drag performers. And one Drag performer just debuted at Crown Me, and I'm really excited that they're going to be doing something else and kinda working it out on the Your Turn stage. And that's what we want this to be for. So, I think 00:32:00having three different shows: So, having Mélange is more for like, that's the big sister, that's the one that... What I love hearing now is it's a show that there are a lot of performers that are aspiring to be in that show. "Crown Me" is more of polished Drag performers, but if a baby Drag performer can work it out and get on that stage and get some exposure, it's fantastic. And I want "Your Turn" to be where they can start and have a workshop. That's what I want. So for me, that's what I've always wanted, something where everybody has a level to be at.

LK: That's great. And then, what's Mischief, and how does that fit into it?

DK: So, Mischief is a melanated Burlesque and variety show in Olympia, Washington. I do that with my co-producer Perlita Picante, an amazing Burlesque performer who has been in the field for a good amount of time. So, it's nice to 00:33:00work with someone who... She's used to doing really big productions. She did a production called Azucar, which is an all-Latin review. I am just in awe working with her to bring something that's kind of an extension of Mélange, because even though its a completely different production, completely different vibe. But it's an extension to where we are bringing Black and brown bodies to our stage so that people can see them, so that they can be visible, so that they don't have to be in Seattle or Portland. They can be in Olympia, right smack-dab in the middle.

It actually kind of seals up a tour for people, too. So if you have somebody like Caramel Knowledge... Caramel Knowledge went on tour with us. She can go from Mélange, come up and do Mischief either the week before or the week after, 00:34:00go up to Seattle and do Shuga Shaq, which is what we all aspire to be. Every POC aspires to do Shuga Shaq because it's just an amazing, well-oiled machine, but of course it's also been going on for five years now. But yeah, that's... Mischief is that middle point, and it's so important to have that in a town where it's otherwise devoid of seeing POCs. Not that they're not there, just not seen on stages.

LK: You mentioned you're a Portland-based performer, but you also mentioned Astoria. What's it like to go to Astoria? What's the venue like and is the Burlesque different? What's the vibe?

DK: I've only been one time and that was a while ago. I don't even quite remember. I don't go there too often. I'm in Eugene more often than not. I'm 00:35:00actually in Eugene next week. So, I spend a lot more time in Eugene. I actually had a... Well, Mélange was actually in Eugene at one point, and that was interesting for the amount of time we had it. We were at Spectrum, which is an awesome bar and I'm always thankful for them housing us for all the time that they did. It just didn't work because we didn't get enough visibility and we had problems with promotion. And of course, when you're an out-of-town performer, I can't be there to physically promote. But I couldn't get much help from the venue. Nothing against Spectrum. I think they're a great bar, it just didn't work out.

LK: Do you travel to perform at festivals or other shows?

DK: Very rarely, only because of money. It's a little tight for me to be able to travel, but I have done What the Funk?!? Festival, which is in Seattle. I have 00:36:00participated in the Hollywood Burlesque Festival as a group performer in the group with Rubenesque Burlesque. Those experiences were awesome. I have a point of contention with festivals though. I just don't think they showcase everything and I think one of the reasons why is it tends to get a little bit elitist. If I don't have this thing on my costume, if I don't have the money to just build this act completely up, if I don't know the right people, I'm not considered a part of that particular festival part of the community.

So when I'm in those situations, I kind of tend to meet people, which is awesome. I think they're great for networking. I think with me actually doing 00:37:00this as a job, it's a little difficult for me to wager in going to those events. So, if I find a festival that's more marginalized and centers POC, or if it's a festival that centers Queer people. I have my eye on a festival for people with disabilities. That is a festival that I am absolutely interested in being a part of, but for me to be a part of that, it has to be something that I feel like it's going to be an inclusive environment. Otherwise, I'm not interested anymore. It's a thing.

LK: So, you mentioned that this is your job. Just paint us a picture: Describe a week or a day in the life of... Just all the skills, all the job, all of the juggling.

DK: Okay, so I guess I'll just describe my week last week since that was going 00:38:00into one of our biggest productions in Mélange. So on my end, because we try to split up duties, my job is partially helping with casting the show. So, reaching out to different performers and saying, "Hey, would you l be interested in being a part of the show?" There are some other shows in town that like to use the application process. In my art, I'm a little picky. So if I see somebody, I like them, I go, "Hey, I like you. You wanna be a part of my show?" And they're like, "That's it?" And I'm like, "Yeah, I like what you did there. You can do other stuff similar to that? Cool, bring it to the stage."

And selecting our themes, which we just had to do recently. So we'll sit down and talk about what are our themes going to be for the year. The normal administrative part of it, I take care of most of it. So it's organizing all of 00:39:00the files, making sure that we have been in contact with everyone we need to be in contact with, so that means staff. So that's a Kitten for my shows, particularly. There's a Kitten, there's a tip Kitten...

LK: And what do they do?

DK: So, Kittens are the backbone- the backbone of any Burlesque show. I don't care what anyone wants to say, I think they're underpaid, I think they deserve more accolades. I was a Kitten at one time. They are the Stage Managers. They are the people who make sure that that little bit of fringe that's stuck in your butt crack gets out. They are the ones who make sure your shoes are buckled. They are the ones picking up what we call the glitter droppings, or the Drag droppings at the end of the night. So they're picking up the clothes, they are 00:40:00collecting our tips, they are doing all of the things that you don't see that makes everyone else's performance seem seamless. That's what they do.

So, I have to make sure that if I'm going to pick someone to do that, they have to be reliable. And I have to know that I can trust them to do what they need to do because it's a big job. My Kittens from Mélange also have to do the raffle. So, they also have to look... And they have to do this really cute, they have to be as cute as possible and still go out there and get money from people and hand out raffle prizes. Anything I need from them: get me some water, get somebody a drink. Yeah, they do all that.

So the Kittens, the door person, we like to make sure what security is going to 00:41:00look like because we do have to think about that with our events because we've had buzz from [white supremacy group] Proud Boys. So, that's been fun. So, we have to watch out for our people and make sure that they're going to be safe. Of course, talking with the venue and making sure that they get our fliers and our promo. Creating the events on social media, boosting those events on social media, getting on the cast to make sure they are boosting the events on social media because sometimes they just let things sit there. We don't tend to do a lot of outside promotion, mainly because it's raining and okay, I'm going to put it out. What's it going to do? It's just going to get soggy. And somebody's just going to write "I love Proud Boys" on our stuff like they have before. So, I'm good. I don't want to put my stuff out there like that. But making sure that we have Instagram presence, making sure we have Facebook presence, making sure I'm 00:42:00sending messages to specific people who I know are fans of the show and talking to them.

And then at the end of it, because I also host my shows, I have to make sure that my cue cards are together. So, I need everyone to send me their bios, and a lot of people don't send them on time which makes me crazy, and makes me pull my hair out. But I've gotten to a point now in my second year of going, "Look, if you don't send me a bio, I'm going to say whatever I want onstage. And if you don't like it, then just send me a bio next time." But there's all of that beforehand. The preshow is just, it's constant, it's sporadic, it's something I'm doing in whatever free time I have. So if I have to do a massage, after I get done with a massage I'm working on this or I'm doing editing for photos, and then I start working on it. So it's just sporadic throughout the day, but I know that by the time show time comes, it has to be all done. Yeah, I wish I had 00:43:00dates and times for these, but I'm a Pisces and I just work better sporadically.

LK: Shifting to artistic aspects, what's your process for creating a new piece of Burlesque for yourself?

DK: For me, because I am a musician to my core: music. Music starts me out and then, because a lot of my numbers I do especially with Burlesque I still lip sync a lot of the time, so making sure that I can get the words down. Usually I try to give myself about a month to plan out an act. The least amount of time I've given myself is like a week because I panic sometimes. Tribute shows are hard for me when I do my own tribute shows because obviously I fell in love with that artist which is why I chose the theme. So I go, "Oh god, what am I going to 00:44:00do? I'm not sure." The Janet Jackson show, the Beyoncé show we just did last week, I was like, "There's four songs. I don't know what I want to do." So it starts with the music. The rest of it just kind of flows. I am one of those Burlesque performers who tries not to be too rehearsed on stage. I have a couple of different kind of spots within a song, like if I'm hearing a crescendo, or if I'm hearing a beat, or a drop, then that's where I'm putting a move in, and kind of knowing that this lyric is being said. Sometimes in the lyrics, I'll find something that says take off your clothes, I'm like "Take off your clothes," you know? Normally when I'm creating an act, it always starts with music and I can go from there. If it's a lip sync number, it's music, lip sync, dance. If it's 00:45:00just that, then it's just music and dance, and just figure it out.

LK: So, you perform as different personas. How do you choose which persona gets which act?

DK: Sometimes it depends on the show, the theme. If I'm in a show that's usually Burlesque, it will be Dahlia Kash. If I'm in a variety show it could be anybody. You never know. It just depends on how I feel. And being in specifically Drag King shows, I will bring Javier. The thing about being a King though is the other level of visibility because there's still people who, "What's a Drag king?" Well, you know what a Drag Queen is. Think about it. And we're starting 00:46:00to get more visibility which is great, but I'd like to see more, and the only way that I can see more sometimes, and especially here, is to do it myself. So, I try to make Javier as visible as possible which is one of the reasons why yesterday when I did the Burly Night Live show, at first the producer asked... They had me under Dahlia Kash, but I was supposed to be representing the "Westminster Daddy Show." And I said, "Well, no. I think that should be Javier, that's Javier's turn. That's not something that Dahlia does." I do consider myself a Daddy within the kink world, but this is something that specifically needed to be Javier. It's something I had been working out for a while anyway, so it was like, "Okay, well I have a reason to put this together."

Dahlia will come out if I'm doing some sort of... I like funky stuff now, like I 00:47:00like to do '70s funk and bring back that era, and like soul music and put that on stage. Daizelle is much more "pop-ie," so my Queen does a lot of like Jenifer Lopez and Beyoncé, and tries to either stay as pop as possible or super Goth and alternative. It's one or the other. Yeah, I go all over the place. I go all over the place. I'm from one end to the other. Javier can be Goth sometimes, too, but Javier's mainly like '90s R&B.

LK: That's great. So, you've already talked a little bit about diversity in Burlesque in Portland, is there anything more you want to add to that?

DK: I want to see producers do better. And I know that we have people within 00:48:00this town, within this state, and within this area that are highly talented, that are just not getting booked. I love Isaiah. Isaiah is not the only Black person in town that's doing Burlesque. I love Sandria. She's not the only Black person in town doing Burlesque. I don't get to see very many people that look like me in this town performing Burlesque, and I know that there are at least four on my radar that exist. So what I will do is keep putting them on my stages, and pray that other producers go to these shows and say, "They were great. I need to book you." Just don't book one of us at a time. It's better to 00:49:00have more than one of us in a show. It's okay to have more than one of us in a show. And believe me, your show would be better if you put more of us in your show. So yeah, my biggest thing is I want visibility. I want visibility and I will fight for it. I will continue to fight tooth and nail because I need to see more people like myself. That's how I feel.

LK: You said earlier... You didn't say Burlesque empowered you, but it's like your therapy, it's like your personal expression. Other people have said Burlesque empowers them. What's your take on that?

DK: Oh, it's definitely been empowering. Yeah. I was a lot quieter and a lot more to myself before I started doing Burlesque. Like I said, I had just got out 00:50:00of an abusive relationship, so I tend to shell in a lot, and Burlesque brought that out of me. There was no way I would go anywhere without having sleeves. Like I said, my father's fat phobic, and growing up in an environment where you are told to cover everything up, and just taking that and dismantling it. Every year there's a new challenge with that, even in my seventh year of going. Starting out on stage I was like, "Okay, I'm going to wear these cute little bloomers." And it's gone to, "You're lucky if I'm onstage in a thong and I'm going to host the show that way." And getting myself into my body, and knowing that from looking at all of these other people within the community, that if I 00:51:00think that body's beautiful, my body's beautiful, too.

And that's the other thing that keeps me going in representation. I want somebody to see my fat, Black, Queer body on a stage, with all of my stretch marks and all of my rolls and the floppy titties, and know that yeah, you're still beautiful and you can do this, too. And Burlesque is not for one body type. I've heard so much, different people saying, "Oh, I'm just gonna wait until I lose weight." And that was my thought process when I started. "I'm just going to wait until I lose weight because I'm not ready." But then I started going to shows, and saw Rubenesque Burlesque [gasps]. "Wait, I can do this." So, I tapped my fat, Black mentor Juicy Delight and I said, "Hey, how do I do this?" 00:52:00"Baby, come do this!" So, seeing people like me is what empowers me to keep going and seeing people keep on. And at this point it's more of like, "Okay, how many people can I find at this point who are pushing forty and still rocking it?" And so many. So many gorgeous beauties.

LK: That dovetails into how Burlesque can be a force for social change. Can you talk about that some more?

DK: In my art, specifically, I like to make people think. I want people to ponder every time they leave either my show or see a performance of mine. I want people to get into this whole view of: fat is sexy, melanin is sexy, and 00:53:00disabilities are sexy. I'll get on that stage sometimes in my wheelchair. I'll get onstage sometimes with my cane. I'm just gonna be me and at the end of the day people are just gonna be like "damn!" If I have the ability to change somebody's opinion, I'm there for it. I think it's important, I mean everybody's Burlesque is going to be different in that way, but I think it's important if you have that platform to use it for political reasons, to use it for social justice, and use it for change because we have the ability to affect an entire nation, honestly. Depending on how big or small the Burlesque show is, it being in a small town. When I go out to do shows in Eugene or in Astoria, or when I go do shows in Olympia or Tacoma, and pick those smaller places, if I can bring 00:54:00them something that they're not seeing on a daily basis, that inspires another person to want to be a part of it and want to know more about it. And doing that creates change. Doing that in turn empowers other people to see somebody that either looks like them, or somebody who we didn't find to see in that light before. So, if I have the ability to do that, then my body in itself is political. I'm fat, Black, I'm disabled. My body is political by itself. I'll just get on stage and go. I'll give you more of a show, but...

LK: What are the challenges facing Burlesque today?

DK: The challenges are inclusivity and a lot of people fighting that. Another challenge that we face is the lack of being able to deal with social media 00:55:00presence, when that was something that we depended on a lot. The laws of FOSTA-SESTA have made that very difficult for us to keep going. But we're still kicking, and we're trying everything that we possibly can. Social media is the biggest way to reach people, so to have that shut down periodically is super frustrating, especially because some of us will be like, "Hey, I'm going to go ahead and pay Facebook this money for a promo." And you don't find out until the day of [your performance/show] that you never got the promo, but they took the money.

So it's difficult and the only way to do it now, because we can't go grass roots like they did before social media was a big thing, because it's not an option anymore. Because it would be nice to be like, "I'm just going to mail this thing to you." Or, "I'm gonna send you an email." I don't check my emails unless I 00:56:00have a show, so I know other people aren't checking their emails. I just have to purposefully reach out to people and go, "Hi, I'm doing this show, I would love for you to come, here's my event." There will be people in the community that don't realize, that didn't even know a lot of the time, and go, "Wait. Mélange? I thought you guys had stopped." No, no, we're still going strong for the last, you know, two years. Every single month we're there. But Facebook algorithms and Instagram algorithms have just messed us all up.

LK: Are there ways around that?

DK: We're all putting our heads together to try and figure that out. We don't know. We really don't know. We're all asking each other like, "What's your secret?" You know, we're all trying to figure it out. Yeah, it comes back down to networking and who you know, and who you can know who can create that revenue 00:57:00and create those promotions to keep things going.

LK: So, final question: What would you like the general public to know about Burlesque?

DK: Burlesque is not one thing. Burlesque is not just stripping. Burlesque is not just sparkly costumes. Burlesque is not just tiny white bodies. Burlesque is not only female. Burlesque is not only hetero. Burlesque is an all-encompassing thing, an all-inclusive thing, and if you can't find something in your town that looks like me, whether that be skin tone, whether that be size, whether that be 00:58:00Queerness, or whatever, seek us out. Because I guarantee you if it's not in your hometown, it's somewhere nearby. We're everywhere.

LK: Great. Thank you.

DK: Thank you for having me.