6 Real Life Tips: How To Be a Performer for a Living

So you want to be a performer for a living?

I woke up this morning surrounded by colorful boas and opera length satin gloves
because I’m teaching Spellbinding Burlesque for the first time in 2014
on Saturday, May 24th in New York City.
(Yes, there are four spaces left, so get over here, YOU!)

And my mind was full of secrets
and new things to teach in class…
and it got me thinking about the things I want to share with the world about performing that have helped me,
not just burlesque, but I think these rules apply to all performing arts.

1. Know The History of Your Craft

Whatever genre you want to perform in – be it circus arts, fire performance, dance, or music…dig deep into its wild past. The internet is your friend!

Knowing the history behind the origins of what you are so passionate about is going to make you have a better connection with it and respect the art form more.

Trust me on this one.
In New York City at Houston Street and 2nd avenue, once stood the original Minsky’s Burlesque.
In 1916 and 90 years later, I was performing 10 blocks away in the Lower East Side at The Slipper Room.

Knowing the ghosts of my godmothers of burlesque got their start just a short walk away made it even more special for me.
I imagined them passing on the torch of seduction and shimmy….
and took them up on the dare to be bold.


The Incredible Jo “Boobs” Weldon

2. Go See As Many Shows as Possible (Jo Weldon’s Advice) and Have The Courage To Approach Your Performing Idols.

I originally wandered into the Slipper Room by accident and was blown away by what I saw.
I came back every weekend and took in the shows.
I watched the different styles, the different costumes and different performers interpret burlesque in their own way.
I originally saw Jo Weldon and World Famous Bob there.
Even though I was afraid to approach them originally, I pushed myself to talk to them and tell them how much I loved their shows.
World Famous Bob saw how much I wanted to do burlesque and dared me to perform at her New Revue.
I hesitated and she said, “GREAT! You are booked next month. See you at 7pm!”
She walked away before I could say no.
I showed up the next month at 7pm and got addicted.

Jo Weldon later asked me to perform in her show and got me hooked up with The Slipper Room which enabled me to quit my day job.
My burlesque idols not only inspired my love of the art,
but also were architects of my dream.

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In heaven on stage at The Slipper Room

3. Practice, Practice, Practice!

Once you book your first gig – practice, practice, PRACTICE.
Know every move backwards and forwards.
Remember that you’ll probably be nervous when the big moment arrives –
and if you are prepared – you’ll be less likely to forget your moves.
When working on a new number –
my headphones are on constantly
so that I can get the song into my body and my mind.

Don’t think – I’m going to just get up there and wing it!
Seriously, no.
It doesn’t work that way, even though all of us would like to think it does.
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4. Treat It Like A “Real” Job (because it WILL be if you do)

Show up on time.
Be where you say you are going to be.
Follow the rules of the venue.
Be professional and respectful.

5. Don’t Kill The Magic.

When I first started burlesque, I had imagined my “character” to be this glamourous and dangerous femme fatale.
In real life, I was awkward, nervous and had one nice dress to my name.
I needed to do the transformation at home.
I’d swipe on the drugstore red lipstick.
Curl my hair and slip on that dress.
From the moment I walked in the door at the Slipper Room,
I was the “Veronica Varlow” I wanted to be and project out into the world
both on-stage and off.
Each person is different,
but for me, I couldn’t show up in jeans and a t-shirt from my regular day job
and create the magic in the dressing room.
Living the whole fantasy of my burlesque persona from the moment I waltzed in the door
helped me gain my own self confidence and made others see me as the person I wanted to be.
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6. Fuck Competition. Encourage and Support Other Performers.

Of all these tips – THIS tip is the most important.
I cannot stress this enough.
There is only one you, and nobody can be that BUT you.
Be confident in who you are and what you can rock and
also appreciate what others are doing.

I love what I do because not only do I get to express myself,
I get to watch my talented burlesque brothers and sisters alongside me express themselves.

Over the years, I have gone through my own weird confidence/jealousy issues as I blogged about before,
but one thing I know about me is that I have alwaysalwaysalways supported and encouraged others –
no matter how shitty that I’ve felt
or what self-confidence issue I was battling.

Man, we are all in this together.
And there is room for us all to be successful.
Having a positive and encouraging attitude towards your performing family is JUST as important as your act.

Jo Weldon wrote “How To Get Into New York Burlesque Shows” for performers and her incredible book is The Burlesque Handbook, which is THE burlesque bible in my opinion.

Also, here is a very well-written and inspiring blog post about a performer starting out burlesque and her own journey….rock it OUT, Emmy Midnightingale!

Did these tips help you?
Are you a performer and would like to add tips that have helped you that I might have missed in the comments? Please DO!

Together we can create the amazing lives that we have always dreamed of living.

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5 Tips To Keep Fighting For Your Dreams When You Want To Give Up


Dear Danger,
How do I keep fighting for my dreams when I feel like giving up?
Love, L

I know what it’s like….
I’ve felt the odds against me.
I’ve felt like I couldn’t get it right no matter how hard I tried.
But I keep swinging because all of my greatest heroes were once failures who didn’t give up.
Time to knock out the obstacles and the odds.
I’m here in your corner.
Cheering you on.
You. Have. GOT. This.

Fight Tip #1:  When You Want To Give UP – KEEP GOING and you will push yourself through. 

This is going to seem like fucked up logic, but if you are feeling like a failure right now, it means that you’re attempting something that you’ve never done before, something wilder and harder than you have imagined.

Burke and I have been putting together our film, Revolver for 10 years.  We felt like we tried everything.  Last year, we were almost ready to give up.  We called out to the community in a last ditch attempt to make our dream happen on Kickstarter.  The odds were almost insurmountable, and in that month we pushed harder than we ever had in our lifetime.  All of us were able to achieve it together.  Don’t give up.  Tell everyone.  Keep pushing.

I’m crying tears of joy in this video because I knew how close I was to giving up on this dream…..

Fight Tip #2:  Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down.

People that haven’t done it before love to tell you that it’s impossible or that it can’t be done.  Unfortunately, also some people who we look up to or people in positions of power will tell us – we can’t do it.

I was told by my ballet teacher when I was 6 that I had “clouds behind my eyeballs and didn’t have the grace to dance”.
I left crying and never went back.
I quit.
In fact, for years afterward, I would tell people I was a horrible dancer, because that was what I was told by a ballerina.

Eventually, a full decade later, I gravitated back to dance because it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do .

Now I make my living as an international burlesque performer dancing with feather fans.

Oh, and Miss Ballet Teacher when I was 6…..?

…You can suck it.

Photo taken by Jacklyn Shields-McGregor

Photo taken by Jacklyn Shields-McGregor

Fight Tip #3: Find Your Co-Conspirators.

Success is contagious.
Surround yourself with people you admire and who also believe in you.

Seek out people who are doing the things that you want to do and be inspired and encouraged by them.

One of the first burlesque shows I ever saw featured Jo Weldon.
I was struck by how she controlled the stage, captivated the audience and performed powerful and sensual burlesque.

I had to be her friend.

One day I was bold enough to ask her out for tea and we spent the whole time excitedly bouncing ideas off of each other about our wildest dreams.

Jo gave me my first teaching gig at The New York School of Burlesque and got me my audition at the Slipper Room which has since become my burlesque home. We lovingly support each other’s dreams….and in Jo, I found a dear sister, personal heroine and kick ass co-conspirator.

Jo Weldon - My Hero!

Jo Weldon – My Hero!

Remember:  Your co-conspirators might not always be in person. You might live far away from some of the people you admire. Luckily, the internet gives us access to everything! Reach out. Ask questions. Make it happen.

Also, don’t forget to create your own Circle of Seven.

Fight Tip #4: Our Biggest Heroes Were Failures. Remind Yourself of People Who Have Overcome The Odds and Kept Going.

FACT:  When google searching “unlikely success” – over 96 million results come up.  Remember that when you are feeling like a failure, you are among the greats.  Everyone feels like success is unlikely at one point or another!

  JK Rowling was on welfare, was contemplating suicide and had been rejected by major publishing houses before one of them decided to take a chance on her story of “Harry Potter”.

♥  Walt Disney was told he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas” as he was being fired by a newspaper editor. Later he was told Mickey Mouse would fail because women would be afraid of a gigantic mouse.

♥  In 1954, Elvis Presley played one show at the Grand Ole Opry. Jimmy Denny, the manager of the Opry said, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere… son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

♥  Albert Einstein’s teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” He was turned down by the schools he most hoped to get into.

Fight Tip #5:  When You Do The Thing You Love The Most, You Give a Gift Back To The World.

See the people listed above?

What would have happened if they let those things get in their way of success?

What would have happened if they just threw their hands up in defeat? We would have lost out on their gifts!

Most of the greatest music, science, stories, and art came from people that were told they couldn’t make it, had been rejected and felt like giving up themselves.

What would have happened if Jo Weldon didn’t push herself to do burlesque, inspire others and then go on to open a burlesque school?  Perhaps the course of my life would have been changed, too.

If you are giving up on your dream…not only are you taking that gift away from yourself – you’re taking that gift away from the world.

Don’t you dare take your gift away from me.

I believe in you.
Now stop reading this blog and go kick some ass.

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How To Throw A Burlesque Themed Party – 5 Easy Tips!

I am living for wild nights out with my girlfriends lately.

This is what 2am this morning looked like:

Me, Kim Boekbinder, Maria Dahvana Headley, Cynthia Von Buhler, and Katelan Foisy in the gutter.

Me, Kim Boekbinder, Maria Dahvana Headley, Cynthia Von Buhler, and Katelan Foisy in the gutter.

This was AFTER the “Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History” Spring Gala at PS 122. Perhaps Cynthia Von Buhler and Kim Boekbinder invited me because they know that I am rarely well behaved.

That’s called “ON THEME”, Hun-nay!

Speaking of being badly behaved, themes and girl nights out (lucky boys are invited to girls’ nights out, too, you know you who are *ahem*)….

My bad girl brain brings you: How To Throw a Burlesque Themed Party!

The best parties will simmer your five senses…. sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.

Simmering Sense #1 Hearing:  Mood Music.

There are few things that move me like music. Burlesque music is like voodoo…it puts me under its spell every single time. I remember my very first burlesque class back in 2006 with my burlesque hero and one of my BFFs, Jo “Boobs” Weldon. I had no idea what I was doing, but she put on the music and instantly my hips knew the way. Hit play on this mix I cooked up and tell me what it does to you…..

Burlesque from veronicavarlow on 8tracks Radio.

Simmering Sense #2 Sight: Get the Burlesque Vibe Going With Eye Candy Galore.

Backstage at one of my favorite underground parties in the world, Shanghai Mermaid.

Backstage at one of my favorite underground parties in the world, Shanghai Mermaid.

  • Drape vintage looking globe string lights around your mirrors to give it that “burlesque backstage” vibe like the above pic.
  • Switch out your regular light bulbs for red bulbs and see a regular room go to va-va-voom in 5 seconds flat.
  • Pick up a gold mylar curtain to put over doorways for grand burlesque entrances!
Dirty Martini rocking it out in front of the gold mylar curtain of Starshine Burlesque

Dirty Martini rocking it out in front of the gold mylar curtain of Starshine Burlesque

Simmering Sense #3 Taste: Make Your Treats Mouth-Watering!

It’s burlesque. I want sexy foods to nibble and lick and feed to my friends. I’m talking chocolate covered strawberries and luscious cherries in a glass bowl so we can dare each other to tie the stems with our tongues. Decorate little cupcakes with sprinkles and luscious frosting. Burlesque Opera Star Vivi Le Voix of Nipples of Venus Cakeriemakes delicate seductions like this….

Picture 54

Yum. Yum. Yum. Made by Vivi LeVoix

Simmering Sense #4 Scent: Sultry and Spicy

I love exotic, deeply intoxicating scents. My newest scent crush is Miss Anastasia perfume. I also love Lush’s Karma and Gucci Rush. Spritz your perfume onto your curtains or bedspread and iron the fabric to create a saucy burlesque den of intriguing scent. Vanilla, Peppermint, Jasmine or Ylang Ylang candles are instant sexy scents to introduce to your party.

Simmering Sense #5 Touch: Tease, Tease, Tease!
Make your burlesque party aim to tease! Have everyone bring one item to strip out of. One of my favorite things to strip out of is a pair of gloves. People see my bare arms every single day on the street, yet there’s something tantalizing about putting on a satin glove and slowly taking it off, fingertip by fingertip with my teeth, to reveal a bare wrist.

Before you strip out of an item, draw attention to it, by running your fingertips over it. Let the people watching think about what you are about to do. Imagination is gorgeous. Then very, very, very slowly….strip out of it.

Jo "Boobs" Weldon shows you how it's done.

Jo “Boobs” Weldon shows you how it’s done.

Want more secrets, moves and ideas for costumes for your party?

Snag a copy of Jo Weldon’s The Burlesque Handbook.
Jo is a rock and roll burlesque badass and her book is full of must-have burlesque tips, backstage stories and step-by-step instructions. It’s my bible in the temple of burlesque. It’s great for performers, but also for people who want to add an extra little wiggle to their walk for the everyday confidence.

Step into that party with some sass!

Dancing in my underwear on a rainy NYC day….

How To Rock Red Glitter Lips

Step right up for Glamour Glitter Secrets…..REVEALED!!!!

My Sassy Glitter Red Lips!

Take notes, Danger Dames……Welcome to Show Girl 101!

The #1 question I get asked by women after I do my shows is…”Where did you get your glitter lipstick?”

Ah, yes.  It’s a magical concoction of sorts.  A little bit of this, a little bit of that.  I mistakenly bought tons of “glitter lipstick” in the past that never did the trick.  I learned the secret formula backstage from my burlesque sisters at The Slipper Room(pssst!  I’ll be performing there Saturday night if you wanna see this trick up close!)

This is how it’s DONE!  One of my Besties, Burlesque Queen Jo “Boobs” Weldon sizzles in red glitter from Lip to Hip!  Photo by Allen Lee.

Step #1:  Always fill in your lips completely with liner first!   Not just the outline of your lip, but every inch of your luscious lips!  This is the secret to keeping those lips ON and staying in place until the last beat of the burlesque band at 4am.  Confession:  I cheat.  Hard.  I always line my lips slightly over their natural line to give them a fuller look. 

Step #2:  Slide some creamy red lipstick on, then top with red gloss.  This is the secret to helping the glitter stick to your lips.  There are lots of great brands out there you can try.  I suggest trying some from Hard Candy, Lush Cosmetics, Two Faced Cosmetics and other great lines that are on the Cruelty Free List.  One of the ones I’ve been loving lately is Stila’s long wear lip color creme in Phenomenal.  It’s a two in one gloss and lipstick and they are cruelty free as well!

Step #3:  It’s Glitter Time!  You can experiment with all kinds of glitter – from fine to chunky and see what you like the look of best.  I adore Manic Panic’s Ruby Slippers.  Just dab your finger in the glitter pot and softly dab onto your lips until they’re completely covered with sparkle and shine!

Step #4:  Put your matching party dress on and paint the town RED!

Want even more sparkle ideas to match those luscious lips?  Check out this awesome article by my gorgeous gal pal, Gala Darling. 

Have a great first glittery week of December! Leave your glitter tips in the comments or better yet, post your pictures after you’ve done the trick.