Season 5

#123. Just Between 2 Mr Hollywoods feat. Kirby LaBrea

61 minutes

Released: April 12, 2021
Recorded: March 12, 2021

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Kirby LaBrea is a stunning entertainer in the Los Angeles area, having won Mr Hollywood Burlesque in 2015 (and the one who placed the crown on Viktor Devonne’s head at his win in 2019).  An extraordinary dancer, Kirby regularly incorporates flamenco into his boylesque and can been shimmying and singing at the Babylon Cabaret. 

For this episode of WEBurlesque The Podcast, Viktor chats with Kirby LaBrea: singer, dancer,  and Mr. Hollywood Burlesque 2015.

Some people have to struggle to get their families to accept that they want a career in the arts. For Kirby, it was more an expectation than anything else:

KLB (3:45) “Singing was first. My whole dad’s side of my family are professional singers and recording artists. Singing was the thing I felt was gonna be my family obligation…dance found me only because I thought singers are supposed to dance so I got to learn how to dance and when I learned it spoke a whole new language to me and enveloped me and consumed me.”

After years of working as a professional dancer, decided he wanted to get involved with burlesque as well. Though being a queer black man meant paving a trail for himself in the Californian scene, he saw it as way to make a niche in the industry specifically for himself:

KLB (13:40) “I knew that there was room for me. At that point I had to make my space in LA…I saw black female burlesquers, I saw black drag queens, but I didn’t see black boylesquers and honestly that made me think I can create an example of myself.”

This drive lead Kirby to a very successful career and he was eventually crowned Mr. Hollywood Burlesque in 2015. While others would see that as a pinnacle, Kirby saw his title as just the beginning:

KLB (15:45) “Even after being Mr. Hollywood, I still felt like I was climbing and searching for the confirmation I was relevant….just that I’m up there with the other people before me. I’ve always been a little insecure because I came into burlesque as a professional dancer and I didn’t want to look like I’m just a dancer trying to do burlesque….I want to get to the point of education in it that I’m educated in all my other forms of dance.”

Along with a need to always strive for more in the art form, Kirby admits that burlesque helped him express his queer identity in ways other forms of dance didn’t:

KLB (34:40) “Finding the strength to dance in heels was the first aspect of me kind of unleashing queerness whenever I step on stage. Because up to that point, I was performing my numbers to mostly straight audiences. So already I’m going to be the gayest thing in any show I’m in…once I got past the point of I can dance in heels…and being secure in my body and feeling sexy, that sort of challenged me to embrace every way I feel sexy.”

Even with the crossover to digital stages during the quarantine, Kirby has been doing his best to create the burlesque music videos of his dreams. Though it is an unfamiliar medium for many, Kirby believes digital shows are what is going to keep the spirit of performance art alive during this pandemic: 

KLB (43:55) “I was really excited that so many virtual opportunities came up because at the beginning I had gigs just weeks away at the time….Immediately my thoughts were what are performances gonna be like or am I gonna perform at all? And then I got a virtual opportunity…When I did it, I saw that this was a possibility to keep the energy of live entertainment.”

It is no secret that both the pandemic and the non-stop public documentation of police violence has taken its toll on the black community through this past year. But rather than be disheartened, Kirby sees the response of BIPOC communities as a reason to work even harder to have his work shine as bright and as visible as it can:

KLB (57:45) “Most of the time I’m just showing that I’m black queer and confident and you can’t take that. I feel a very deep responsibility with (my life and art) that not only do black lives matter, but all black lives matter.”

– recorded on March 12, 2021 | call hook: @seraphinawilder

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