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

Burlesque isnt very sexy at all, not for the performers anyway - it's just an illusion.
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Burlesque isnt very sexy at all, not for the performers anyway - it's just an illusion.

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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.