#130. This Is The Reset with Mia the MVP

1 hour, 27 minutes

Released: May 31, 2021
Recorded: March 23, 2021

listen

patreon-5

Formerly known as Delysia La Chatte, and the woman behind the Big Heart Bag, Mia the MVP took some time to reset her performance career after several highlights, including appearing on the TV series Gotham, featured roles in seminal NYC immersive plays Speakeasy Dollhouse and The Illuminati Ball; producing multiple shows of her own, and starring as Josephine Baker in Midnight Frolic at the historic Times Square Liberty Theater.

On this week’s edition of WEBurlesque The Podcast, Viktor talks to performer, artist, and entrepreneur, Mia The MVP.

For Mia, her love of burlesque is very much tied to the image and aesthetics of performance. This focus comes not only from a love of dance and theatrics, but a lifetime of dedication to the visual arts:

M: (3:38) “I have been an artist my whole life for as long as I can remember….I went to City College and I started to pursue visual art. And while I was pursuing visual art I discovered the theater department. And in the theater department I became interested in burlesque. I started a burlesque troupe and this was before I had ever seen burlesque in my life.”

Much of her creative inspiration comes from classic films and the glamour of Old Hollywood. While Josephine Baker is a big influence, Mia has a mental rolodex of movies she likes to reference in her burlesque acts:

M: (14:27) “I have seen so many movies in my lifetime and I am like a sponge. I pick out and I remember things. I remember costumes or mannerisms and I try to incorporate all of those things into what I do and make it my own. “

Rather than try to fit into someone else’s vision of what a production should look like, Mia is all about telling her own stories through burlesque and getting others to join her for the adventure. It was through this method she managed to put on a number of high production shows and create connections with others in the NYC scene:

M: (20:37) “The way I got my foot into burlesque is by creating a show. I have always been the kind of person who hasn’t been comfortable with approaching people to hire me. So I like to create my own world and then bring people to see me. So I started creating my shows with my friends who were open to burlesque and then inviting in a seasoned performer to work with me.”

Formerly known as Delysia La Chatte, Mia has also developed quite a following through La Chatte’s Meow, her online store dedicated to the creation of her signature vinyl heart bags. What started as a quest for the perfect bag of her own eventually turned into a fully functioning small business:

M: (42:10) “La Chatte’s Meow was inspired by a heart bag that I had dreamed about which was a big heart bag that was black. Heart bags have been around since the beginning of time as we all know, but I was having difficulty finding that particular bag. It seemed like it did not exist. I ended up finding something close that was a tote bag. It came from the Philippines and it took over a month to get to me and when it came it was kinda busted. And I was like, welp, it could still be the beginning. And I just kept designing it and drawing it until I found a manufacturer years later. Almost like 10 years. And I got the first one made in black and it was like magic.”

While changing her stage name was something Mia felt she should do to move forward in her career and self acceptance, she is still thankful for how the name Delysia helped her become the person she is today:

M: (51:40) “I think that she helped me to feel safe with being sexy. I think that she taught me how to appreciate myself. My physical self. I’ve struggled ever since I was a preteen with body dysmorphia and feeling ugly and having all of these thoughts and when I was Delysia I wasn’t so concerned with those things. I was more confident.”

Though Mia is very happy to get back on live stages again, she ultimately is grateful for what the digital platform has taught her about herself and how you can’t get caught up in the anxiety around your work if you want to succeed. You need mental space and activities that are just for you only:

M: (64:00) “It’s not like being on stage. You have to work with the whole environment. It’s all going to show up. And if you are persnickety, and you see one little thing in the background after you do your whole video it’s like you are destroying yourself. And I’m like, ya know what, let me take a step back. I think I’m being very hard on myself. And I need to do something that has nothing to do with what I look like for a bit. And that felt really good. And I think everyday I have to remember to do stuff like that.”

#129. CrazySexyCool with Tito Bonito

1 hour, 40 minutes

Released: May 24, 2021
Recorded: March 19, 2021

listen

patreon-5

Cuban Missile Crisis of Burlesque, Tito Bonito is a dancer, emcee, and instructor currently living in Los Angeles. With many accolades to his credit, he is further noted as “Most Comedic” at the 2017 Burlesque Hall of Fame and has appeared in film, television, and music videos.

On this edition of WEBurlesque The Podcast, Viktor has a discussion with LA-based performer and producer Tito Bonito.

While some stumble upon burlesque through word of mouth or a random show, Tito has his friend to thank for helping him find his calling in nightlife:

TB (5:38-7:20) “I was studying theater in Chicago…and I was horrible at acting. I didn’t know how to live through a character. So, I quit college and just started living life and going to parties and meeting as many people as possible. And Jeez Loueez was one of the people I met in college who I stayed friends with after and she showed me (burlesque)…once I saw (the male performers) I turned to her and said ‘Are you kidding? I could have been doing this this whole time?’ “

Now known for his comedic performance and artistic takes on gay male sexuality, Tito had only just come out a few years prior when he started getting into nightlife. As someone who had grown up in a conservative Cuban community in Miami, coming out felt like something you just weren’t supposed to do. Ultimately though, it gave him the freedom to be the most honest version of himself:

TB (17:32- 19:45) “My energy is still the same, I just think that coming out and acknowledging that I’m gay…has made me even more outgoing…(In highschool) I was very much like I’m never gonna come out I’m gonna keep it to the grave and all this shit…I didn’t have the best examples of (being out) growing up because people were a little more closeted…The minute I realized (gay men) were just regular fucking people…it just really opened my eyes up…The minute I came out this weight lifted off my shoulders and I just remember understanding I could do whatever I wanted…”

Though Tito has a reputation as an advocate for bringing burlesque to queer spaces, he says he simply wants to open the door so that others have the opportunity to continue the work he started. He would rather focus on performing then having to hold the reigns of a show’s production:

TB (40:25) “My hope was to develop these shows to the point that other people could take them. Because I do not enjoy producing. I appreciate producers so much because I know how much shit you’ll have to deal with on the regular…I just wanted to put burlesque in spaces that were queer and didn’t have burlesque before for the most part.”

For Tito, what makes burlesque important is developing your artistry and enjoying yourself.  Accolades may come with that, but focusing too much on a prize can also be your downfall and discourage further development:

TB (65:40) “I love the Burlesque Hall Of Fame with every fiber of my being, but the only thing that is unbearable about it is the competition aspect of it. I understand the idea of it,  but I just don’t think it’s the best thing for burlesque in the sense of keeping people invested in it who give so much of their life to it…When people allow the competition aspect to hurt them so much, it breaks my heart.”

Rather than give into the media’s assumptions of what burlesque is, Titio believes there has to be an outlet that shows the “true” objective of the artform:

TB (76:55) “I think people need to understand that burlesque isn’t a bunch of white men paying women nothing to strip… the idea of women reclaiming (this concept) and queer people taking this art form and creating something vastly different even though it’s similar. I think that the heart needs to be sold to people more. And there just needs to be one really successful documentary…that can hopefully push that forward…”

The pandemic may have changed the type of venues Tito has performed in in the past year, but his dedication to burlesque and to its place in queer culture has remained unwavering. He looks forward to his next projects and remains thankful for all that he has already been able to accomplish:

TB (96:50) “I do believe that following my dreams and being my authentic self has allowed me these opportunities that I never would have been able to experience. “

#128. TBA with The Amazing Brettzo

1 hour, 55 minutes

Released: May 17, 2021
Recorded: March 10, 2021

listen

patreon-5

On this episode of WEBurlesque The Podcast, Viktor talks to Philadelphia’s own producer, performer, and all around production expert The Amazing Brettzo.

As a performer, Brettzo’s style has always differed from the norm. While he did try out for his highschool’s production of The Wizard of Oz, the feedback he received for his audition as the Scarecrow was less than positive:

AB: (25:50) “I got feedback from the director…he couldn’t figure out exactly how to describe me at first, so he said ‘You there, scarecrow! You remind me of somebody! I don’t know the name of the actor but he was in Back To The Future. You remind me of George Mcfly….you have a Crispin Glover quality to you.’ And I’m like oh awesome…that’s what I was going for!.. my face brightened up and even at thirty feet away he could tell, and he said ‘No, that’s not a good thing.’”

While this sort of critique kept him out of the spotlight, he did develop a background in stage production before going to college for film. Once he moved to Philadelphia, he eventually met burlesque performer and producer Liberty Rose who hired him to do stage tech for her shows. As he continued to do lighting and sound, Brettzo spent the next few years developing his acts and stage persona in the local scene. Though hesitant to start producing himself, he gained encouragement through the people he had worked for:

AB: (34:32) “I wanted to do certain performances that I didn’t have a stage for at which point the two producers (I worked with) said ‘You know how to do these things, you’ve seen us do it. Just reach out to a venue, get your money straight, hire your cast, do promotion, and let’s put on a show!’ That whole mentality of if you don’t have a stage for yourself, build one.”

His first production was TBA Con, an art and burlesque tribute to the show Arrested Development. From there, he produced nerdlesque shows for properties such as Archer, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and The Venture Bros. For Brettzo, it matters less if a burlesque show is based off of a hip fandom or has big name performers, but that the people involved genuinely care about the work they are creating:

AB: (50:25) “That’s the style of art I enjoy: when you can tell the person creating it has an affinity for what they are doing. It rings hollow to me if it’s just a coat of paint on a balloon and the balloon pops so the shell is left there…I want to bring that authenticity.”

Once he started producing, Brettzo quickly became a name in the Philly scene and also a mentor to other up and coming performers. Eventually he met his future fiancee, AmericaOnline@Aol.com, who has gone on to be a great performer in her own right:

AB: (89:00) “She eventually started realizing what it took for me to make a number. It seemed like she realized she had an affinity for being on stage…it was amazing to sit in the audience wide eyed and watch someone who is ostensibly way more skilled than I am off the bat just click and go with it.”

While the pandemic has obviously put live performances on hold, the move to the digital medium has created a great opportunity for Brettzo to put his filming and editing skills to use. Along with getting to fulfill his dream of being part of a D20 Burlesque show, he has also featured in numerous online shows across the country. Rather than simply go back to a totally live format, Brettzo believes we should take the video making skills we have learned from the past year and put them to use on our in person stages:

AB: (109:55-111:25) “I really hope in our new normal we don’t forget these lessons. The majority of venues that I’ve performed in had screens everywhere….I’d like to see shows that have live performances and also to the same weight and merit, somebody pre recording something and sending it in.”

The Amazing Brettzo is a delightful entertainer from Philadelphia, and we’re talking nerdlesque, geekery, and multiple pairs of underwear.

#127. Fresh in Montreal w/ Zyra Lee Vanity

66 minutes

Released: May 10, 2021
Recorded: March 17, 2021

listen

patreon-5

On this episode of WEBurlesque The Podcast, Viktor talks to Canadian artist, producer, and performer Zyra Lee Vanity.

Like many of us, Zyra originally believed lockdown would only last a few short weeks which would give her the opportunity to work on projects at home which she hadn’t gotten to yet. As the past year has shown, that was obviously not the case:

ZLV: (7:00) “I was super productive. This was my chance to work on costumes and get these things done and catch up on this. And then, you know, the two weeks turned into two months and that turned into a year and as the time went by I found myself being just less and less productive and just started being more leisurely. Or just depressed.”

Still, while Zyra may consider herself to have been unproductive during the pandemic, she has so far managed to feature in over 50 online shows over the course of the past year thanks to her unique and captivating style of burlesque that follows her personal philosophy:

ZLV: (21:55) “It’s not about me simply existing but it’s me existing in this way that’s very glamorous and very in your face and very unapologetic…I want to not only show you I exist, but that black women can be all of these things at the same time.”

Perhaps the act she is most known for is a tribute to 90’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In the piece, the signature garment of the act is a luxe Catherine D’Lish robe which she actually painted over in the style of graffiti art from that era:

ZLV: (38:45) “For starters, the fabric itself is actually a mixture of spray paint and hand painting. As I mentioned before, I went to a visual arts highschool where I did a lot of street art and painting and then I rested it for a bit. When it came time to do that act I was asking around seeing if I can get some professionals to do the painting for me but it just wasn’t in my budget so I said screw it I’m just gonna do it myself.”

It is this kind of aesthetic and attention to detail that is truly the cornerstone of Zyra’s work. For her, it’s not just the music that matters or the story she is trying to tell, ultimately it comes down to the overall image and giving the audience a moving piece of art they can feast upon with their eyes:

ZLV: (50:00) “When I was a little kid I used to draw and scribble on everything and so one day my mom said ‘I’m putting you in a special visual arts highschool’ and that was that….and now visual arts in a sense has influenced my work because I care so much about the visual…and what visuals I’m bringing to the stage…although the visuals don’t always come first, it’s still the thing I tend to put the most focus on in the end.”

Zyra Lee Vanity joins Viktor Devonne for this episode after winning the Triple Crown Clothes Horse Award at the Silver Tusks 2021, in honor of her extraordinary fashion.  A visual artist, Zyra Lee struggled during the pandemic without stages but inevitably triumphed while rebranding for the digital age.  We go over her start in burlesque, inspirations, and her signature Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Mother Africa acts. They headlined the Panama Burlesque Festival in May of 2021.

#126. Activating GoGo Gadget

1 hour, 53 minutes

Released: May 3, 2021
Recorded: March 13, 2021

listen

patreon-5

GoGo Gadget is a triple threat entertainer based out of NYC known for his thrilling striptease, spinning floor fillers, and featured performances in immersive theatre w/ Third Rail Projects (“Then She Fell,” “The Grand Paradise”).  He has been seen in Vienna, Paris, London–and Bushwick, and is produces Freaky Follies w/ Jack Barrow at The Liberty NYC.

On this episode of WEBurlesque the Podcast, Viktor chats with burlesque performer, dancer, and producer GoGo Gadget.

While dance is a truly integral part of his life now, Gadget didn’t actually start dancing seriously until his freshman year of college:

GG (10:45): “In college, dance was the beginning of ‘Who are you?’ ‘Who are you really?’ and someone actually giving two shits to ask me or want me to express it.To bring it out of me or to provide an environment for me to explore that for myself since I didn’t know who I was…that was the best and most glorious gift college gave me.”

It was because of this gift of self understanding that Gadget was able to come out and recognize his queerness. Something that was very hard to do in the 90’s when positive gay representation was in short supply:

GG (17:48): “I graduated highschool in 1992 and I just didn’t have a concept really of gay homosexual other than an intense fear of other, AIDS, (and) basically what society had shoved into our faces.”

Though finding a job in the arts after college proved to be a struggle, Gadget eventually found his calling in New York where he still lives to this day:

GG (48:45): “ I literally thought I was just gonna scope out New York for like a week….I told my mom and dad ‘Listen, I’m gonna drive down to see Tia (my aunt) and just hang out for a couple of days and check out New York…(they) were convinced I’d be back in a few days and I just never came home.”

Surprisingly, while Gadget has been a professional dancer ever since his move to NYC, it wasn’t his dance connections that introduced him to burlesque, but a coworker at his part time gig at the Apple store:

GG (64:50-67:51): “I got a phone call from a colleague, one of the lesbians at Apple, she said ‘Hey what are you doing tonight?…you need to meet up with the girls, they are going to this show called Meaner Harder Leather, it’s over at this place called Big 27 and you should check it out, I think you’ll love it…. Little did I know my whole world was going to be transformed that night…they were a hot mess, but the coolest, most spectacular fucking fantastic hot mess ever…that was the first second that I thought this burlesque thing, I should look into burlesque some more.”

As a dancer actively working on a variety of projects and jobs at any given time, Gadget doesn’t have the luxury of performing burlesque as much as he’d like, but he is still thankful to name the NYC burlesque scene as a community he is a part of:

GG (79:07) “I’m so grateful…that I am in fact a part of this community and yet I recognize that because of the way that my life is organized, I haven’t dedicated my entire life to a career in burlesque. However, I hold it in such high esteem…I have to make sure I belong here.”

Like many others during the pandemic, Gadget has turned to the online platforms to create both dance and burlesque. Despite live and digital performance being very different mediums, he believes that both have their merits and deserve to be recognized for what they bring to the artform:

GG (100:20-104:00) “(Digital burlesque) has its own value. I think it’s shortsighted to only compare it to what we had and will have again. That’s not very fair…There are so many audiences yet to be uncovered or discovered for all of us.”

No matter the circumstances, Gadget continues to live his life as he most enjoys it: busy at all times. While others saw the past year to slow down and take a break from the arts, he shows no sign of stopping:

GG (111:30) “I’m honestly sort of observing myself and going how the hell (am i doing this)? So apparently we could stick me on the international space station and I’d find a way to still get hustle…There is a part of me that is envious of some colleagues who are like ‘I do nothing. This is my time to rest’…I don’t know that lesson. I might need to learn that someday.”

– twitter @Gadgetgogoboy

– instagram @gogo_gadget_burlesque

credits