Put Your Time Where Your Tassels Are: Volunteer with BHoF
“Hit me! No wait, don’t say that to Sparkly [Devil]. I think she could take me down!”
That was how I agreed, in April of 2012, to become part of the Burlesque Hall of Fame team. I had just been notified that I was an alternate for Movers, Shakers and Innovators and for Best Debut–news that sent me over the moon–so my enthusiasm was at an all-time high. I’d been attending BHoF since 2006, but here was a chance to put my Master’s degree in PR and marketing to work for something I love.
Flash-forward to 2015. I’m sitting in The Orleans lobby with the soothing, calculated cacaphony of the slot machines, reviewing the list of press passes. Monitoring the BHoF and Weekend Facebook pages. Coordinating Instagram shooting schedules. Setting up tweets and posts (#BHoF) to keep attendees informed and to compel others to say, “Dammit, I have to go next year!”
And smiling. Smiling ear to ear.
I’m proud of how my contributions have helped BHoF. And I’m not gonna lie–it makes me feel special when Legends know me by name and want to give me a hug and say thanks. I get all gooey inside when I greet friends–some of whom are essentially family, now–that I met through BHoF. I puff up a little when a new person stops me to say they enjoyed something I posted on a BHoF page and when I thank them, a new connection is made.
They say you’ve got to give it away to keep it. And I want to give it to you.
Volunteer with BHoF. No matter where you are, no matter what your skills, you can help. You can make a difference. You can support not only the history of the art we love but be part of shaping its future. All it takes is a little time–however much you can give, so long as you give it with passion, commitment and sparkle.
An older gentlemen just approached me–a little rough around the edges, stooped over a bit, sans-a-belt pants hiked charmingly high: “You look happy!” he said. “Did you hit it big last night?”
Nope. It hit me. Three years ago, just like I’d invited it to.
Kay Sera: Not to be “Miss’d”
I recently started a discussion in social media about the use of the prefix “Miss” when introducing a performer. My request was, I thought, fairly straightforward: My stage name is Kay Sera. Not Miss Kay Sera. Don’t call me “Miss.”
My point was a branding and marketing one, not a sociopolitical point on etiquette or gender normatives. But as the discussion evolved, clearly, there was plenty to be said on several fronts.
Branding. Performers create their names with thought and care, and those stage names often communicate things implicitly about the character. One wouldn’t expect “The Lady Prissy D’Mure” to come out with a raging grinder act, and one might be surprised if “Crazy Bee Yotch” did a classic stroll-and-peel. Whether the performer chooses to be consistent with or conflict against implied miens is, of course, their decision. But when an emcee adds “Miss,” they have changed the performer’s stage name and, potentially, shifted expectations just as significantly as if they’d said, “The Lady Pussy D’Mure.” I am not Miss Kay Sera. I am Kay Sera. Don’t call me “Miss.”
So when an emcee calls me “Miss Kay Sera” and an audience member later Googles “Miss Kay Sera,” my site doesn’t even come up on the first page of results.
But oh, hey! There’s a page for an alpaca named Miss Kay Sera Sera. And although that is a cute effing alpaca, I’ve just potentially lost a new follower because they couldn’t find me in the five second attention span in which we operate online.
Trust me, I’ll be tweaking my SEO to fix that (update 3/27: It worked! Take that, alpaca!). And it’s always a good idea to consider ways that folks will get your name wrong in searches and bring that back to you. (For example, for my troupe, Bawdy Shop Burlesque, I also own the URL for Body Shop Burlesque.)
I shouldn’t have to tell someone not to change my stage name. The emcee should simply use my stage name, unadulterated.
Respect. While it’s easy to say that adding “Miss” is just a polite social convention and no harm is meant by it, that holds no more water than a guy on the street insisting that telling me to smile is just a friendly comment. It’s unsolicited, inappropriate and diminishing. And although I’m sure it does happen, I have never heard an emcee change a male performer’s name by adding a prefix.
Nunya. As in “none of your business.” Lili VonSchtupp, producer of LA’s longest-running weekly burlesque show “Monday Night Tease,” pointed out that, “Miss…and Mrs are used to describe the marital status of a woman and therefore totally inappropriate in an introduction, unless it’s part of a character. [An emcee’s] job is not to give the audience information they are not entitled to have, or wanted to shared by the performer. Coming from a man on stage it can come off [dis]respectful or condescending.” Also, nunya: Age. “Miss” typically refers to a young girl–a child, even. I am an adult and have been for quite some time now.
So it’s easy, really.
Don’t call me “Miss.”
Supporting Recovery in Burlesque (and Beyond)
Sometimes at AA meetings, people will introduce themselves as “grateful alcoholics.” Do they mean they’re grateful for the program? That they’re grateful to be a drunk? That they’re grateful to be sober?
Yes. They likely mean all those things. And more. We all have so much to be grateful for–and those of us in recovery, perhaps more so: We’re alive.
I recently had the honor of speaking with some of burlesque’s most well-known performers–Jo Boobs Weldon, The World Famous *BOB* and Bella Blue–all of whom were willing to step outside of anonymity and share their personal experiences with addiction and recovery as a means to help others. I’d like to offer my thanks again to them, and to 21st Century Burlesque. You can read their stories here.
If you or someone you know is in recovery, or might be struggling with an addiction, please understand this: You are not alone. Help is available, free of cost, free from judgment. Please reach out–it could save your life. And someone else’s.
I have many to thank for my sobriety: Everyone in the rooms of AA, the incredible support of both my husband and my mother, my sponsor, the love and patience of my good friends and my Higher Power.