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We Shit Glitter: The 9 Unsexiest Secrets Of Being A Burlesque Dancer - Sabotage Times

P 25 December 2013 U Chocolat The Extraordinaire

It’s not all glamour

Any burlesque performer who tells you that it’s a glamorous life all of the time is either one of two things A) a fantasist  or B) Dita Von Teese. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely has dream like moments, but it consists largely of dragging heavy suitcases around and getting ready in cold damp changing rooms. To this day I’m still haunted by an incident 5 years ago, whereby I was forced to change into my costume in a disabled toilet (one step up from a regular toilet merely due to square footage). I stumbled and dropped my beautiful red feather fans in a puddle of fresh piss, does that sound glamorous to you?

The majority of our time spent on trains and buses

We basically live on the national rail network, infact I’m writing this on a slow train from Stockport to Euston right now, nothing but the lavish life for me! When travelling to Europe we fly almost exclusively on easyjet, with the occasional outsource to Ryanair. Travelling home from a show in London is largely a nightbus affair – stiletto heel clutched tightly in hand should we need to draw quickly for a weapon. And of course, there’s the occasional alcohol induced splurge on a black taxi home after a show, all the while reassuring ourselves that if Beyonce (patron saint of all showgirls) was a burlesque dancer, she’d definitely spend the last of her wages on a cab home.

We are mostly broke

This is more to do with poor money management than lack of funds. Any burlesque dancer with a few years under her belt and a strong hustle commands an impressive fee for a show. Where that money goes however is a different matter. 90% of our income is allocated to sparkly things – rhinestones, jewellery, crystals, glitter, gemstones; all of life’s essentials. The other 10% of our income is spent on luxuries such as rent and food.


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We shit glitter

I’m speaking in literal terms – sometimes I cough and a clump of reconstituted glitter will fly out of my mouth. If I empty my shoe and shake it, glitter falls out. I comb my hair in the mornings and flecks of glitter cascade from my scalp. One time I had a cold, blew my nose, looked inside the tissue (standard behaviour) and it was full of glitter. And yes, I have previously shat glitter. That actually happened in real life. Sorry mum.

We are covered in bruises

Glitter bowel isn’t the only ailment from which we suffer – unfortunately the most common injury amongst us is something we refer to fondly as “stripper knee”. This is basically a severe bruising around the kneecap and upper shin caused by flinging ourselves onto the floor mid routine. Although easily avoided by refraining from this particular dance move, we continue to damage our knee joints on a regular basis.

It will not boost your self esteem

Contrary to popular belief, it won’t boost your self esteem. Infact if you have low self esteem and try burlesque, chances are you’ll come away from it feeling even worse than you did before. The truth is that most burlesque dancers are natural attention seekers and already had very high self esteem and body confidence. Apparently at the age of 3 I jumped on the kitchen table in front of a room full of people, head high and hands on hips, and declared that I wanted to be a gogo dancer when I grew up – I’d call it precocious, you’d probably call it obnoxious. But the point remains that shrinking violets, we are not.

Ripping off nipple tassels really hurts

I hate people who say that getting a tattoo doesn’t hurt, because they’re lying. I feel the same towards burlesque dancers who say that pulling off nipple tassels doesn’t hurt – it absolutely does. You’re basically sticking a big sparkly thing to your most sensitive area with double sided carpet tape or prosthetic glue, then ripping it off your poor tender nipple half an hour later. And because you have two nipples, you’re doing it twice. It hurts, so I suggest you try your best to get very sweaty before taking them off – this definitely helps. Pulling off a merkin is even worse, but that’s another subject entirely.

My costumes are filthy

I’m speaking only for myself with this one – I don’t wash my costumes enough. Honestly, I probably wash them once a year at best – save the occasional crotch scrub with a dab of shampoo and regular sprays of febreze. They’re rancid and musty. With so many jewels and tassels and fringing I cant exactly throw them in the washing machine, and I spend all my money on crystals (see my previous confession) so I don’t want to pay for the dry cleaners. As a result they fester and ferment in the bottom of my suitcase, which I never really ever unpack – just repack over and over again. Yes I am ashamed, but not ashamed enough to change. And clearly not ashamed enough to spare the internet my confession. Again, really sorry mum.

We all run around naked backstage kissing and fondling each other

No wait sorry, my mistake; wrong industry. Although to an outsider the burlesque world may seem like a giant glittering orgy filled with hyper-sexual women in various states of arousal, the reality is much less exciting. If only we were actually seducing politicans and rockstars with mere glances from onstage and taking them back to our dressing rooms to roll around on a bed of feathers. If only! The sad truth is that most of us don’t even get approached by admirers after a show, and I mean almost never. I’m not sure if it’s that there’s a lack of eligible audience members or that they find us intimidating, but it just doesn’t happen – not for me anyway. 

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Minus what little glamour, money, and attention you get. Minus the sparkles and awesome costumes. Add in dealing with divas, stitching girls into costumes five minutes before they go on stage, finding performers five minutes before they go on stage, dragging props on and off stage, and being on the go for an entire two hour production (at the least), and you have your stage kittens (stage hands and assistants).

Wouldn’t quit for the world, though.


Gosh!! Is everything so true!!! Each point!!!! applause applause applause <3


I love this. And I agree with Lilly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


These confessions are so true they hurt to read!
It was only last Sunday when we had to get changed in a freezing cold corridor!


I haven’t performed in 18 months, and I still have two pairs of shoes that leave my feet covered in glitter whenever I wear them…however reading this has reminded me that although not glamorous performing burlesque was definitely fun and I may even consider giving it another go!


Practical suggestion for the nipple tassle thing – medical adhesive remover – you can buy it in spray form from amazon. If it can deal with colostomy bags, it should be able to deal with nipple tassles!!!


This is all so true.

I really need to start a dry cleaning fund.


This was such a fun, honest read.


HAHAHA great read, loved it xx, God I have always wanted to do Burlesque but I think at age 31 and not ever owning a pair of nipple tassels to call my own, that dream ship may have passed x


If you costumes are getting a bit ripe, try this old theater trick for cleaning garments that can not be washed (including corsets). Mix a 50/50 solution of vodka and water (preferably filtered) and to mist it with a spray bottle on the inside of the costume. This will kill the stinky bacteria. Huzzah!


We know, but we WANT TO BELIEVE!


There’s also the time when I got chemical burns on my nipples from using ‘emergency’ glue when the tit-tape ran out.



The General Lee….I didn’t start performing until I was 33 years old and have had two of the best years of my life since then. I have also shat glitter, and am proud of it!


It isn’t any different for the men in burlesque either. try ripping a nipple tassel off a hairy nipple….


Also, for General Lee…. I started burlesque at 31. It is never too late.


I freaking love this so true too.


I have cleaned my ears and found glitter…. pastie tape after you take the pastie off… looks like many bandaids have been on your boobs!!


Chocolat The Extraordinaire – this is hilarious! Excellent point on the self esteem aspect. X


Personally, the reason I don’t go up to performers after a show is that I don’t want to come off as a creep. It’s not for lack of admiring, it’s that frankly, I figure you’re at your most vulnerable and the last thing you want is some guy to come up and invade your personal space.


yes Yes YES!!! All spot on. And if you’re lucky enough, you get to do multiple pastie changes per show. OUCH! 5 changes in one night.. never again!

However, everything else was totally worth it in the long run.


So true! Except for me it really doesn’t hurt when I take off my pasties. I know for others that this is a big problem! Also only for 10 seconds of a 4 hour tattoo did it hurt–I have a high pain tolerance all around, but especially there.


Omfg! Every word is true! Down to the lack of admirers. Thank you. Finally the truth. I love you more now than ever!


All of this is true. Also our significant others and pets are covered in glitter.


You forgot “When it’s time to do your snake routine. The python is either sick, or in a the mood to bite you.” (Usually on stage)


This read was nothing but the truth just this past weekend the whole troupe plus a few extras, went off on a road tour for st. patty’s day. Loads of fun but cramming in and out of that small bus was hectic. The “BACKSTAGE” area was a joke all in it’s self. Still love being a part of the scene I help do sound and build props for the girls. Would never give this up


i will love to see what you carry in your suitcase for each show burlesque. good article


So true. I get approached by other burlesque performers who came to see the show, than audience members. I am an attention whore, please come talk to me! lol.


Girl–wash you damn costumes! It’s a quick rinse in cold water with a little ivory dish detergent, rinse under cold running water, lay flat to dry. Trust me, not only will they last longer (they won’t get crotch rot), but you’ll be able to sell them when you’ve retired. And you never know when you’ll end up posing with a celeb or two at a show.


I also started at 32, best year of my life so far! Never to old to follow your dreams!


The General Lee: I performed for the first time at 36!


Very awkward for the otherwise-lucky significant other to open their laptop at a high-level project finance meeting and have glitter fly out. Sorry, darling!


Sew a “base” pastie (that you’ll put on at the beginning of the night)–add velcro to the outside of it. Then sew multiple pastie “covers” to velcro onto the base. That way you can do lots of pastie color/style changes without removing the base pastie until the night is over.


Seriously, pretty much all of this is true, but c’mon girls, wash those panty crotches. I don’t care how many beads, or frilly things are on them. Not washing crotches of the panties is just bad hygiene. It’s not hard to soak or scrub the area, you don’t have to wash the entire item, but for fucks sake, at least wash the crotch.


Haha! This is fantastic! And for my two cents worth – I have some hand shaped pasties that leave full on hand marks once they’re removed! Ouch.
Oh, and a stinky giant cupcake…don’t ask.


hillariarse and true from little ive seen from escourting /manageing. my wife. great fun tho..xxxxthanks


I’m mostly broke and that’s my own damn fault…. that’s about it. I don’t deal with glitter at all. I do hear all the other girl saying this stuff though.


So So true to all of the above! My poor dad has glitter on him when I visit the next day!he hasn’t even been near the venue night before ha ha xx


I actually had my very first performance this year right after my 36th birthday. It is never too late to start. I so far have only one performance under my belt (it has only been a month though) and I still am finding glitter everywhere. I wouldn’t change it for the world though.


Funny thing. I’m a drag queen…and its exactly the same for us. Definatly the same woes.


Full truth, except there’s a certain amount of fondling in backstages. Maybe this is a regional thing? It’s cold in Canada, we stay close :P


Funny, in Canada (or what I’ve seen so far) we tend to get very touchy-feely backstage. Note that I didn’t say “aroused”!


*applause* Love this! @General Lee – I started when I was 32, I am now 34 and still going strong! Add late nights making your costumes, props, and accessories and HOURS of choreography and practice, too! We don’t just come out of a box looking and moving like that. And, as a note, tassel twirling is a fine practiced art haha!


General Lee: I didn’t start til I was 49! I’m now turning 55….and I’m thrilled I took the plunge. Did more for me than therapy. That being said, my cat always has sequins stuck to him, glitter doesn’t go away even after days of showers (always finding it on me) and the fact that we have to be booking and press agents, music mixers, seamstresses, computer whizzes, wig stylists, designers, prop builders, media experts and and stage managers. One of my colleagues ( I’m sorry I can’t remember who) had a great answer to those who look down their noses at those of us who don’t work jobs outside the home. Her brilliant answer was “I have 14 jobs, u only have one?”……really puts perspective on how good we are at multi-tasking!….oh, and who else’s cat shits glitter?….


Mucho respect for the Burlesque world. To me its a great sense of fun and enjoyment as a viewer, but usually where there is glam, there is a sad truth laying underneath so this is no surprise.

For the record, I would and have approached dancers, to share a laugh, as they are people too… but its seen as a bit low to then ask someone whos shaken their tassles at you, for a date after… but id love a date with someone like that :)


totally agree wth this fantastic read, ive had some harowing experiences, getting changed behind a sheet with little room etc, i dont use glitter much but somehow managed to get it on me from others in my shoes etc,:-)


Hahahahahaaaa I had fun reading all of these comments and not much has change over the years in backstage dressing rooms or lack there of :) But Ladies you got to wash your costumes it does not take long if I can wash a full length gown stoned from top to bottom with a train and it still looks good ! Here are my Tips on washing ! large garments Fill tub with cold water just enough to cover add mild soap ! dresses with trains you know they get so darn yuck on the bottom before placing in the water spray with any thing like shout ! Or you can mix 20 Mule Team Borax with a little water and rub on stains plus it is great on white costumes as it has a Booster and Neutralizes odors ! Also I wear a nude skin color G.String with nude very thin elastic under my Showgirl costume thong that way you can wash the G String after every show and wash your thong every week !


Great read. But I have to say that burlesque has empowered me as a woman, despite all of the things we go through, I have great friend performers that I share this moments with. NO ONE Makes us do this…Its not the money or the GLAM, so there is some MAGIC to it.


WOW!!!! Thanks so much for the confidence boost everyone :) xxx I’m going to sign up for a beginners class Tomorrow that starts in May. EXCITED! X


Well the big reason I didn’t come up and talk with any of the performers at first is because I didn’t know if it was considered appropriate to do so. Even though Mimi Le Yu was going around introducing herself to everyone after the big halloween/christmas shows (at Plush) what really did it was Priscilla Pincushion’s reply to one of my FB comments saying that I should come over and say hi next time so I did.


Costumiers have a certain … er … biological relationship with glitter too. I also sometimes find sequins in the bottom of the bath. Fabulous article!


This is great – really funny and well-written as well as interesting. Just the right length too.


ahahhaah I feel your pain! It certainly isn’t as glam as one might think, I could tell many many many stories! x


In our troupe we always scream ‘Nipple F%$K!’ when we pull our pasties off!! Sooo painful!!!


Turned up for a Pap smear with glitter residue. Doctor (who I have a great relationship with) joked that I shouldn’t have got dressed up specially for the occasion. Couldn’t figure it out for a moment!


Thank you, Gabriella! I wash my costumes, too! I just won a round of laundry lottery this week. I wash thrift store finds in the washing machine before getting attached to them. I wear a pair of cotton panties under my show panties to avoid wedgies and keep the show panties cleaner.
This article is making me even more grateful for my dressing room at the Red Light Cafe. We have couches and storage!


Gotta agree with everything except #6. My entry into burlesque was the final step in conquering my self-esteem issues. I only perform very rarely, but knowing that I am not afraid to do it after 10+ years of being overweight and ashamed has helped me grow in leaps and bounds. I’m still shy in my personal life, just not on stage. :)


So true I hate to say that I have put my wonderful performers through back stage hell! Stone cold steps with puddles and spider’s!!! Eeek!


Indeed. And it never WAS glamorous.
I tell a true story every day on the
site “True Burlesque” just to dispel the romantic notions!


Although it has its drawbacks, I am happy to be apart of such an amazing part of history. The beauty in what we do is ‘we sell a fantasy’ and if millions of people think that we poop golden eggs and have diamonds falling out of our crotches then ladies, we’ve done one hell of a job.


When I am in costume mode I think of washing it before making it. A steamer is a great help and making the fringing on pants detachable with hooks etc means straight in the wash.
As for the Pasties, I use individual eyelashes and the remover also brings those pasties and tassels right off with no ouch!
I am just mid editing a backstage burlesque video with examples of all the above in it and it was poor chantilly lace who was screaming as she’d borrowed some ridiculously strong tape! It shows a range of lovely dressing rooms too and my dirty knees showing how disgustingly dirty the stage must have been and a few fun road trip escapades!!


It’s funny how true this article is. Being part of an all male burlesque (Boylesque) troupe here in san diego ca we don’t use glitter in our shows but some how or other its always there. Ive shown up to work (the day job) the next day after a show and a good 30 min shower still sporting evidence from last nights show lol. And, as far as the touchy feely part backstage is concerned with 12 gay guys crammed into a small space it’s kind of expected. I’ve also seen some of the things our sister troupe the Caburlesque kittens ( we are the boylesque tomcats) have to go through; wardrobe changes, wig changes, makeup, etc etc all in the blink of an eye… But the audience only sees glitz, seduction, and what they consider taboo… I love it and wouldn’t change it for the world.


Seducing politicians, are you sure?


Darling, this gives amazing depth and insight into this career. Most don’t care to realize, the life of any artist, is often less than glamorous. Still, the performance high would be worth everything else. Besides, I’m an exhibitionist, so I could definitely see myself living this.


THIS reminds me of a SWEETIE …who danced in 60s and 70s ,B4 I MET HER….SOME OF THE STORIES , I THINK I REMEMBER….ON THE” Southern CIrcuit ” and the Victorian Follies in SAN FRAN…………….


“I hate people who say that getting a tattoo doesn’t hurt, because they’re lying.”

Or, they aren’t you. All people aren’t the same. Thanks for just assuming people are liars though.


Nailed it!! This is my life, especially…well, all of it.


Absolutely love this! Hit the nail right on the head! I was literally saying this to a couple of the girls I was performing with last week that burlesque babes are the sort of girls men fantasise about but not the ones they want to date because behind closed doors is a completely different, non-glamorous scene haha!


Please don’t forget:
1) if you have a boyfriend (or girlfriend) he probably go to office with some glitter on his face
2) if some friends sit on your sofa then they get up with a glitter dress

However is the best job in the world!


This is a very good article to read for a lady like me that is interested in beginning Burlesque. I always want to know the Cons before the Pros but it seems like being a part of the Burlesque “experience” is too thrilling to focus on the non-glamorous side. I am 25 years old and I’m originally from San Fransico but now live in Georgia for school. If any of you ladies have anymore tips for a beginner, please feel free to message me on an app called KIK. You can find me under “Chantelly808″ and I appreciate any advice given. Thanks Sweethearts


This may scare some away, but im in love. Im 25 and have always dreamed of being a Burlesque Dancer, though i dont have the slightest idea in how or where to begin. I honestly loved reading all of your posts, it made my heart flutter wondering what a day would be like in you shoes. Wish i knew where to began this magical world you walk though every day. Keep smiling your all beautiful in my eyes.


Loved reading that artical! And to hear a differnt side to burlesque
Im 35 and have thought about starting beginer classes for a long time , this has not put me of ,
I just dont know where to start , can anyone recomend some where good to start ?
I need to shimmy and wiggle !!


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Brilliant article, so true and I laughed all the way through. I love when performers are fixing costumes backstage, it’s incredible to see glue, cardboard everything, it’s like blue peter, and it always looks amazing in the end. Getting ready in a tent in the dark was a highlight for my year, got to club together girls :-D xx


Started at 36. Tardy to the party..thanks Dame Cuchifrita for that quote. I wash my costumes, but inknow people who don’t. Glitter rhinestones, feathers. ..cost..I won’t be leaving this life anytime soon.


Adorable and will add lack of privacy when changing – sometimes we sport exhibitionist behavior just to get ready. ;)


Wow its lovely to see so many of you starting at an older age (gives a girl hope):) wonderful artical made my day ♡


Great fun reading this, all so true and got a few laughs too! Wonderful work!
Must start saving up and dry clean my costumes too, come to think of it!
PS: I live on an island, so it’s all flights, flights, flights for me!


Perfect, should be read by all “stars to be” and burlesque critics. It is damn hard work! Kisses!


You know I couldn’t have found this article at a better time. Still fresh to performing 5 shows in after a year of graft learning and rehearsing.

My 5th and most resent show saw me accidentally inhale a substantial quantity of glitter in the middle of my last act! By the time I was off stage I actually coughed out a cloud of sliver glitter! And yes it was in my mouth my nose, even got a load in my pants (after glittering on the floor of the toilet between acts earlier in the night). Seriously reading that I am not the only one having glitter tissue after blowing my nose or glitter clumps in place of bogies, not to mention shitting and pissing glitter as a result of my last show; really pleases me :)
I actually ended up in A & E as a result of the effect on my breathing.

I have however come up with a plan for future performances of said act – cotton wool bungs up my nose! lol. I suppose thats what I get for creating an act that involves the appearance of snorting lines of glitter.

However like I said this has been read at the right time. The reply posts have given me so many tips and ideas it’s great. Thanks girls and guys x


I myself can relate to this, but I go through everything you go through and a little more. hahaha! Im a professional female impersonator…going on 9 years now. Ive done it all, and still do at times. Some of the best clubs and venues have some of the worst changing rooms and traveling situations. The glitz and glamour you see on stage, is just that…ON STAGE! But just you, I wouldnt change it for the world! The few good moments outweigh the bad a million to one!


fabulous article, and I can agree with it all, As others have added I would not want to do anything else, the feeling I get on stage more than compensates for all the sewing,a job initself which never seems to have an end insight to it.
I would like to add a 10th though:
Without fail, if you are rehearsing at home, someone straight or officious will always choose that time to knock on the door. The poor census man on his last visit when we were mid rehearsal, runaway like he had fell into a David Lychian adaptation of Wicker Man. I never did make it onto the 2011 census.


I’ve hear that while breast implants and plastic surgery are considered tax deductible business expenses, the aforementioned tinsel, glitter, beads, baubles, lingerie, ostrich fans, petticoats, corsets, etc., are NOT?!


Ha! I love this so much truth! I remember snot covered pink boa feathers in my tissue. The only thing different for me is I started burlesque a shy wallflower wanting something to pull me from my social anxiety ridden world, and now Im a fiery vixen who shys away from nothing on stage.


wow! so true!!! I can just add the lack of mirrors backstage sometimes, resulting in an effort of imagination trying to figure out if your costume is properly worn or your make up is nicely done. And talking about pasties and nipples, mine don’t hurt when I take pasties off but when I use glue it’ll stay for at least three days, no matter how hard I try to remove it, scratching and putting warm water, with the only result of making my nipples larger and redder (and knowing that I don’t have big boobs the image you get is not the most pleasant :)


How about what I call sparkly blackfoot? This is when the bottom of your feet and all of your stockings are so covered in a thick layer of glitter and floor stickings you could scribe your name into… Also FYI get a small spray bottle with vodka, spray that in the stinky areas of costumes (always check colorfastness first)- works well.


Stripping sluts, get a real job.


What line of work would you recommend MST? Serial killer?


First show at 48 – maybe late to the party, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE this world. It’s the perfect excuse to satisfy my compulsive attraction to crystal and glitter!

(and, mr. MST…I’m a college professor, so HAVE a “real job,” and an amazing avocation.Seriously, lighten up!)


This made me pee! ♡♡♡


I find glitter on my children everyday…they are never too impressed, boys ae :)


Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and
the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not
balanced by sadness. What will it take to really allow you to
just sit back and enjoy the moment. Spend time having friendship fun and look
for new territories to conquer together.


These are so true. I knew NOTHING about burlesque when I auditioned for the troupe I’m in. I just wanted to sing. It’s a lot more work, time and money than I anticipated but it’s completely worth it. I’ve met some of the most amazing, talented, inspirational men and women doing this. 3 years ago I would have never imagined, in my wildest dreams, that I would be doing this but I’m so in love with it now. The good and the bad. Totally worth it <3


Lol all the above is very true! Add in the not so glam venues and smelly dive bars too!
I realized with burlesque its not a glam life and I have evolved into other arts and talents now but I AM SO grateful to have been a burlesque dancer and to have experienced it!! It taught me SO much and now I’m great on stage as a singer because of all my burlesque experience! It’s truly ” living” ! I’ve had such awesome experiences in burlesque! I feel lucky that its been apart of my life! Ill always be a burlesque dancer on some level! No one can express themselves like us!!


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