THE INTERVIEW: Revealed Burlesque’s GiGi La Femme
GiGi La Femme sounds like the name of a naughty French schoolgirl only she’s not afraid to go all the way on stage, that is. Not only is she one of city’s reigning burlesque performers, but she’s also the co-producer of Revealed, the monthly striptease extravaganza where your favorite dancers make fantasies come true. At Revealed, which is held every third Wednesday of each month at Manhattan’s St. Mark’s Theater, you can have a beer and watch as each entertainer, either new or a regular, makes going naked one of the sexiest acts one could ever witness front row center. Yet it’s La Femme who always ends the evening with a breathtaking number. Whether she’s becoming a Technicolor fantasy or simply a seductress in heat, the charming brunette knows how to make even the coldest New York night feel like a tropical heat wave. La Femme speaks with us about becoming one of neo-burlesque’s leading ladies, how Revealed became so revealing, and why waiting to see these sizzling sexpots every month is always worth it.
In a past interview, you mentioned that it was a trip to The Slipper Room with your cousin Scarlet Sinclair that inspired you to become a burlesque performer. How did this experience make you want to take it off on stage for a living?
I was completely in awe of who I saw that night: performers like Scotty the Blue Bunny, Julie Atlas Muz, and Lady Ace. I adored how off the wall the acts were and how each one was glamorous in its own way. I definitely didn’t think I was ready to perform the next day or anything, but after Scotty pulled me up on stage and forced me to do a little strip teasing of my own, the gears certainly started to spin in the right direction.
How did you get your start as a burlesque performer?
Admittedly, I did have a lot of guidance from Scarlet Sinclair when I first got in the scene. She helped me get in touch with Wasabassco Burlesque where I stage kittened and did a non-striptease act playing the love interest of ukulele player Michael Levitton, who becomes entranced by a seductive mermaid played by Julie Atlas Muz. However, months before that, I spent my time going to shows and meeting people. Through Scarlet, I met The World Famous *BOB* and her pink poodle Movie Star. After a puppy sitting date, *BOB* asked me if I would like to debut as GiGi La Femme at The World Famous *BOB* Presents, held at Galapagos (currently Public Assembly) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This was in March 2005.
Where did the concept of Revealed come from?
Doc Wasabassco and I were trying to come up with an idea for a different show and we had very specific criteria. Besides trying to think of ideas that would set the show apart from others, we wanted it to be close to home (Brooklyn) and something a little more decadent along the lines of a speakeasy. We were walking along Park Slope’s 5th Avenue, hashing out ideas and I suddenly blurted out, ‘What if the girls just got naked?’ That was it: a burlesque show where the result was to simply have a reason to be in the buff. We were off and running!
Revealed made its debut on July 14th, 2007 at a space called Lemurplex in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn-two blocks from our house to be exact. Bastard Keith hosted with Amber Ray, Creamy Stevens, Jo Boobs, Kobyashi Maru, Maiiah (aka Nikki le Villain), Peekaboo Pointe, and I performing. Doc and I had a lot of work ahead of us. We had a small stage put in, we brought in seating as well as lighting, and the venue set up a makeshift bar for the evening. Amping up the ambiance for a showcase of naked ladies was important to the both of us especially because the venue was located underneath the F train overpass. As producers, Doc and I really wanted the show-goer to feel like they stumbled in on burlesque’s best kept secret.
We screened our audiences early on in the same way as swinger events, but that was to ensure a safe, comfortable, and sexy environment for performers and audience members alike. We still have a strict no photography policy for the same reasons. And besides, if we’re requesting a $20 ticket price to see an extra special performance, we’d like you to actually SEE what was happening on stage. We had a few scattered shows the first few months and then lost our venue. We took a few months off until finding Horse Trade’s Under St. Marks Theatre. By March 2008, we packed up and moved Revealed to The Big Apple and thankfully, we’ve been there ever since. Not much has changed in terms of the structure of the show, but we are having more fun with themes and monthly debuts. It’s been super exciting to see who’s willing to get naked next!
What were the challenges that you faced in making this idea come to life?
Finding an appropriate venue was one of the biggest hurdles. Because we were asking performers to get completely nude, we couldn’t do the show in a bar. Seeing that a lot of burlesque happens in bars, well…I think you understand the problem. Our next stop was looking into theatres, but without a financial backer, Doc and I weren’t able to pay rental fees. Luckily, Horse Trade stepped in with a great offer and we’ve been happily attached ever since.
Another teensy issue was actually finding girls who would be willing to go all the way. I have to say, I was nervous as all hell and I couldn’t believe how many of the other girls had butterflies for the first show. It sounds so silly now, but that’s why I love Revealed. I love how it challenged all of us to do something different and that something had to have a purpose. That first show was a magical one. I have never felt more proud.
Burlesque is often associated with striptease and not going fully nude. Why do you and the other performers go all the way?
The first thought was that by having the girls go all the way was that it would make the show completely different. We wanted to encourage class, not crass. The intent was to curate an entire evening showcasing the talent and beauty of the best burlesque performers in New York City and beyond.
Describe your first experience in going nude at a Revealed performance. How did this impact you as a burlesque performer?
I don’t recall going completely nude before Revealed. In fact, I remember years prior where I was afraid to grace the stage without dance grade fishnets! We all have our security blankets, but with everyone in the show getting naked together, the idea didn’t seem as terrifying. Again, it seems so silly to say this now because I love performing in my birthday suit (and sometimes prefer it), but I like to think of that first time as group therapy. We were all in it together.
Society has always had a say in how a woman should look, but in Revealed, audiences are introduced to women of all shapes and sizes. Was this a conscious choice? Do you believe that Revealed is empowering for female audiences?
I think audiences are introduced to all body types not only at Revealed, but at most burlesque shows. It’s not a concern we have on the front burner, by any means. It just happens to work out that way.
Out of all the venues in New York City, why have you chosen Under St. Mark’s Theatre as Revealed‘s home?
After losing our first venue, we were extremely lucky that Horse Trade was on board to house Revealed. We looked at other spaces, but ultimately Doc and I loved that Under St. Marks was so intimate. It’s a small house fitting approximately 60 seats, but the bottoms filling those seats are very lucky ones indeed.
How has working with Doc Wasabassco helped shape what Revealed is today? When did you begin collaborating with him?
Doc plays a very integral part in Revealed. Not only is he my right hand to bounce ideas off of, but I pretty much leave the night-of-producing duties to him so I can have a clear head for performing. Of course, we trust each other to make decisions for the show as a whole, but we constantly keep each other in the loop and work closely together when it comes to who we ask to perform, setting up photo shoots, writing press releases, etc. This show would not exist without the two of us and I reckon that won’t be changing anytime soon.
After my debut with World Famous *BOB* in 2004, Doc booked me in Wasabassco shows and a few years later, I started to host the monthlies held at Living Room Lounge in Brooklyn. We also helped form and co-produced events under The Burlesque Alliance, which is a collective of some of the best production teams out there. There has been a lot we’ve done together over the last five years, but through it all, Doc and I have managed to persevere. I trust we’ll continue working together as long as people want to be entertained.
What are some of your upcoming plans for Revealed?
We’ve got some fantastic debut performances coming up in the next few months. Also, this July marks the third anniversary of Revealed and we’re hoping to do a bigger show with our beloved Bastard Keith, stage kitten Madame Rosebud, as well as house favorites like Kobyashi Maru, Sapphire Jones, and more!
First off, people seem to have a thing for the female form since the beginning of time and I doubt that’s going to change anytime soon. Secondly, even during tough financial times, people need an escape. They want to be entertained. Now, you can either pay $150 to see a Broadway play or you can pay $20 to see a charming host, seven brilliant nude women, and still get to bed before you turn into a pumpkin. The choice is up to you.
To learn more about Revealed Burlesque click here. Photos courtesy of Luke Ratray.