Season 5

#129. CrazySexyCool with Tito Bonito

1 hour, 40 minutes

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

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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. “

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