“Actress, Burlesquer, Drag King & Producer : Lilly Loca – “Putting the Va-Va-VOOM into Vaudeville!”
As of yet I have not had the pleasure of seeing Lilly performing but have heard her shows are pristine. I am intrigued by her male persona’s as well and will be going to a show in the short term to check her out.
LL: Since April 2009! 7 years of peeling and teasing under my suspender belt 😉
BS: What got you started in burlesque
LL: I’m originally a theater actress, having performed in theater since I was a tiny tot. After graduating university, I found theater rehearsals and two week long show seasons hard going while trying to hold down a full time job. So I was looking for a performance style I could enter which was a lot more flexible with my lifestyle. Then, while browsing StarNow one day, I saw a casting call for a ‘Burlesque Idol’ show, held by Miss La Vida, who was keen on developing the NZ burlesque scene (as there was practically nothing at that stage). So I entered and the rest is history!
BS: How or why did you develop several persona’s
LL: Character acting is my strong point, and one of the main things I loved about performing in plays was delving into a character and creating their voice, physicality, personality, etc. So once I had been doing burlesque for a wee bit, I decided to combine both my love of characters and burlesque together, so started to create characters that I could perform in the burlesque realm. Lilly Loca (my stage name) is more of a persona if anything – she’s me heightened. My characters Gary Krumbert and Jethro Jenkins (I have a couple more but they’re not fully developed yet – watch this space) are 3 dimensional, have their own backstories, etc. I love putting on the mask of a character and letting loose!
BS: How did your performing names come about?
LL: Lilly Loca is meant to represent two juxtaposing parts of my personality. ‘Lilly’ represents my favourite flower (the calla lily) which represents peace, purity and innocence. It’s also the name of my favourite aunty and represent the more demure and emotive side of my personality. ‘Loca’ is in homage to my heritage (I’m part spanish) and in ode of my fiery (and slightly crazy) personality. All the woman on my mothers side are strong, feisty women and so is a testament to them and myself.
BS: How do you see the New Zealand burlesque scene developing – ie your thoughts on the future of burlesque in NZ?
LL: Hmm.. I think we’re in a bit of a time of change. The world around us, politics, etc is changing.. and the NZ burlesque industry is always in flux. Sometimes there is an influx of newbies and shows and then there is times where it is more stagnant. I hope that it continues to grow, that students and performers of burlesque continue to learn and develop, that NZ’ers continue to support burlesque shows by attending them and contracting performers to perform at events, functions, etc. At the present – I think the industry has been dealing with quite a bit of politics – so I’m hoping these matters get resolved and an outcome is reached where everyone is happy and we can continue to support one another.
Photographer: Bruce Jenkins Photography
BS: Do you think there is elitism in the NZ scene?
LL: Isn’t there is every scene? Workplaces? Schools? I think it’s impossible to escape. Yes I think there is, but those who have the “high and mighty” or “I’m better than you” attitude in NZ aren’t going to get anywhere fast. It’s not how NZ’ers work. There’s a fine line between being confident in your abilities and thinking your better than everyone (i.e. letting your ego take over).
BS: What satisfies you about performing
LL; It’s like an addiction. If I don’t perform, or even rehearse, for a while I get withdrawals. Performing allows me to indulge in my passion and to share it with others. I love performing, I love to dance and I love to push myself, and hopefully the audience can see that and like what I have to offer too.
BS: Your classes – how often are these run and how would a performer progress through the stages
LL: My classes have taken a bit of a back seat as I’ve been so busy, plus have had an immediate family member be very ill so I have only been doing one on ones or once-off weekend courses. However, hopefully from next year I’ll be able to delve into term classes again. With the term classes, there is the Bambina Bumpers (beginners) and Bambina Grinders (Int/Adv). The Bumpers is a 6 week course which teachers you the foundations of what you need to know as a beginner burlesquer, such as burlesque history, burlesque 101 (staple burlesque moves, glove peels and boas), props and costumes, how to develop a burlesque persona, basic character and stage presence, burlesque etiquette and how to put a burlesque routine together. The follow on course is Bambina Grinders – which is an 8 week course, with the 8th lesson being a performance in the Bambina Burlesque Graduation Showcase, usually held at Cassette Nine. With this course, you work with me and the other performers enrolled on creating your very own burlesque act. During the lessons you are constantly refining and adding to your act, getting constructive feedback and feed forward from myself and others, so by the end of the course you have a well developed act to then start pitching to burlesque producers.
Photographer: Clinton Cardozo
BS: You have been involved in international shows – what is the most positive thing you have gained and brought back to the New Zealand scene. If someone was to apply for an international show and you replied to be them by saying “go for it because………..” what would you say?
LL: Hmmm.. well, the thing I gained was that it was awesome to see that one of my acts could stand up next to international talent. It helped me feel confident in myself as a performer and curator. However, I’m a huge people person and the thing I absolutely loved the most was meeting a vast array of talented, amazing burlesquers from Australia as well as across the world. I remember meeting the ahhhhhmazing Medianoche and she was so sweet – I had a quick convo with her before I had to leave for my cab and I said “Sorry love, I’ve got to leave to catch my cab!” and she looked at me with her beautiful doe eyes, perked up with excitement and said “what!!?? You’ve got to go and catch your cat? Did you bring your cat?!” and started to look around all excited. The memory still makes me giggle. I guess it’s pretty humbling to see such big name stars and realise they’re normal people, just like you, but with extraordinary talent. It makes you feel like you’re part of an even bigger burly fam.
BS: How would you support a newbie to the scene
LL: If they come to me through my burlesque academy, I try and give them opportunities, like performing in shows, or if I have people asking for burlesque performers I’ll send them their way. It’s really hard for a newbie to start out in burlesque because their isn’t much opportunities to get yourself on stage. I love what Jayne is doing in Wellington with Burlesque Baby, same with Jasmine Tease with Starlets of Nelson – aimed at giving newbie burlesquers a platform. Miss Cherry Lashes at Hootchy Kootchy Burlesque is great too as she offers amateur shows to all her beginner students. I hope when I get back into my term courses I’ll be able to offer at least two graduating showcases.
Photographer: Rachel Sherlock Photography
BS: Who has influenced your style over time?
LL: My style really varies depending on my mood and character. Generally, if I’m performing burlesque, I tend to go for a more classic 1940’s look, i.e. Marilyn Monroe (I have her plastered all over my vanity) and I love Dita von Teese. But I can be inspired by a colour, a mood, a song.. Gary is inspired by 1980’s geek chic, Jethro is inspired by the stereotypical American redneck, and my own personal style goes anywhere from homeless “derelique” to dressing like Vivienne Westwood.
BS: If you could make a wish on a star, knowing it would come true what would you wish for.
LL: That the world was more compassionate and empathetic. I see so much hate, corruption and violence in the media and in life, and I wish everyone was a little bit more understanding, sensitive and caring of one another.
BS: What is your favorite colour
LL: It’s a tie between purple and blue