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Tana the Tattooed Lady Oral History Interview

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Tana the Tattooed Lady Oral History Interview


Tana the Tattooed Lady introduces herself as a Burlesque entertainer and a Burlesque producer. She explains that Burlesque is a place where she can use all her skills and training in one art form. For her it involves singing, wig construction, makeup artistry, costume craft, dance and all the aspects of theater that she trained for. She feels that her style of Burlesque is always changing as she grows as an artist, as she incorporates new styles of dance and artistry.

Tana was born in Amarillo, Texas and attended a magnet school for gifted and talented students, which fed into a high school for the performing and visual arts. She was always very involved with the Theatre arts community and the dance community and had started working as a go-go dancer. When attending college at Chico State University she was instrumental in creating the musical theater nature, writing curriculum and helping shape that program. She was very inspired by the starlets and pin ups of old Hollywood, and by the “Something Weird” videos that showed old footage of Burlesque entertainers from the 1950s and 60s. She began to study and incorporate that Burlesque dance vocabulary into her choreography.

Tana tells about being recruited by Burlesque performer and designer Jamie Von Stratton and was hired as a member of the Atomic Bombshells Burlesque troupe in Seattle around 2004 or 2005. With the Atomic Bombshells, she traveled to perform at the New York Burlesque Festival and went on to perform a summer at The Vixen in Provincetown. She began to perform with the band, El Vez, traveling to Spain. One booking led to another and soon she had a career. Tana details all the logistics involved in keeping a performance career going.

Tana moved from Seattle to Portland in 2007, when there wasn’t much of a Burlesque scene in Portland yet. Tana describes how she started producing Burlesque and variety shows. Dancing in the strip clubs and also in the Burlesque community, Tana worked to break down the stigma and barriers regarding stripping. She incorporated the glamourous costumes of the old-style Burlesque into her club stripping routines. She also taught at the Rose City School of Burlesque that Burlesque is not just about the nudity, it’s more about the confidence and the self-confidence.

Tenant explains how Burlesque is open to performers of all sizes, shapes, and physical abilities. She describes how a lot of people who are marginalized can find a place for themselves in the Burlesque scene. She notes that there are places where Burlesque dancers are very cookie-cutter looking in terms of size and shape, and that they have corporate sponsors who require a certain physical look and body type. Tana states she is not interested in any of those limitations when she’s producing her shows.

Tana goes on to explain the logistics and considerations in traveling to perform in shows and at Burlesque Festivals. She tells about being one of the original cofounders of the Oregon Burlesque Festival. She describes how it was important to her that the guest performers be paid, housed, and treated well.

Tana explores her artistic process in creating a piece of Burlesque performance art. She tells about the challenge she issued herself of creating a new act every week for a year. She feels that inspiration can come from anywhere and sometimes her acts get “real weird.” She cites Julie Atlas Muz a mentor and inspiration. She describes the very improvisational way she works with her colleague, Ray Gunn, to create Burlesque ballet.

In terms of Burlesque being a force for social change, Tana tends to stay away from using Burlesque to bombard people with social messages. She believes that Burlesque started as a parody using humor and that’s what it’s best used for. She does feel that Burlesque is a feminist movement in that women are in charge of showing whatever sexuality they want to. Tana notes that navigating the social media-marketing field has pitfalls for women more than for men. She cites instances where women’s social media marketing will get flagged and removed, but man who are posting the exact same material are allowed to do so. She cites this as discrimination against women’s bodies and their ability to earn a livelihood. She wishes that the general public would set aside their preconceived notions of what this art form is, and, actually experience the magic that Burlesque is about.


Tana the Tattooed Lady


Oregon Burlesque Performers Oral History Collection (OH 49)


Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries


December 13, 2019


Laurie Kurutz


Born Digital Video




Oral History



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Laurie Kurutz


Tana the Tattooed Lady


Portland, Oregon

Original Format

Born Digital Video



OHMS Object

Interview Format


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