So, you may not know, but I won the Judges Choice at the 2019 Arizona Burlesque Festival. Am I excited? Yes. Am I happy? Yes. Do I rock? Yes.
But I am also conflicted. The act I won with was a simple act. (My shaving act.) An act I created probably over 8 years ago on a whim. An act that has what I now think of as a simple costume. An act that doesn’t take a lot of energy, that doesn’t leave me exhausted, out of breath, or emotionally drained. An act that I know very well. An act that doesn’t take me much time to practice and an act that is concise in its space requirements – I only need a space slightly larger than my chair to do the entire number.
I have created a lot of acts since I created this one. I mean – A LOT of acts. I have created more complicated acts, more detailed acts, acts that leave me physically and/or mentally exhausted, acts that run the gamut from happy to sexy to sad to determined to ridiculous to unstable to…. I think you get the point. I have acts where I kick high, do the splits, fuck the floor, do intricate dance moves, dance on pointe, sing, roll out of a chair, and do things that I physically have to practice or warm up for or my body is just not going to do them. I do choreographies that tax my brain that are difficult to learn and remember that are complicated and syncopated and vary in rhythm and beat using a variety of dance styles and techniques.
I have created much more elaborate costumes. Costumes with tremendous amounts of sewing and rhinestones, acts with fabulous feathers, and headdresses, and fans, and wings, and complicated or clever methods of costume removal, and so many layers of clothing and each piece is fabulous and intricate.
I am a better performer now than I was when I created this act. I am more confident, more sensual, I can do a slow burn on stage and hold an audience’s attention.
I have created whole shows, I have birthed acts that tell a complex emotional story and result in a naked body in 5 minutes or less. I have created entire act personas that may or may not be a little part of who I am but don’t embody my everyday self. I have created creatures, including imaginary creatures – like the one that lives on Trump’s head as his hair.
And yes, people still like this little 2 minute act. Two minutes. They tell me they love the act, I do it in festivals. I win competitions with this act (two of the three competitions where I have received an award have used this act.) And yet, I feel embarrassed. Like, even with my entire body of work, this is the best I have. This little two minute act. I have scratched and worked and obsessed about new acts and making them interesting with fantastic costumes and people want this little, simple two minute act. It makes me feel like a failure. Like, all this work, and this is as good as it gets? Like all this time, and I can’t come up with anything better than this? Why do I bother?
And sometimes, even the messages I receive from others is conflicted. After the show (and winning my award) at the Arizona Burlesque Festival an audience member came up to me and started the conversation with “I really loved your act.” In my head I think ‘Great.’ Then she said – “So, how long is your number, it is short, isn’t it?” Me – ‘yes. Two minutes.’ Her – “So, you are basically shaving the whole time. You are shaving on stage for two minutes.” Me – ‘yes.’ Her – “Where did you come from?” Me – ‘San Francisco.’ Her: “So you flew out from San Francisco to do a two minute number where you basically just shave on stage.” Me: – ‘yes.’ At that point, what I wanted to say was “…And win a fucking award you fucking bitch.” But, I didn’t…
And yet, I know that this number being inadequate and me being inadequate are lies that the evil part of my brain tells myself. Because, yes, it is a two minute act. But it is a brilliant two minute act. It came to me sitting in my hotel room in Washington, D.C. listening to Sweeney Todd. And I thought of this act. I don’t know why, I just did. And I thought, Nah – who would want to see that. Maybe it’s too risqué. And I asked a couple of my friends – and they said, “do it.” So I did. I made pasties and a puss-tie that I sculpted out of clay and then rhinestoned to look like real nipples and a real pussy, but sparkley, and I created this act. And the fact that it isn’t 5 minutes or it doesn’t physically exhaust me doesn’t make it less good. And it doesn’t make the acts I have created subsequent to this act less good. But this one, this act, it is particularly brilliant. And I need to remember to praise myself, to give myself credit for this brilliant little creation.
And maybe it is so good because it seems so simple. People (mostly women, but also a lot of men) relate to it. They see the humor in it. It has a point and it gets the point across. It doesn’t need to be longer than 2 minutes. It says everything it needs to say in this nice neat two minute package. It is funny. It is also sexy. And people get an unfettered view of my ass…. (You are welcome.)
So, instead of feeling like I am a failure because I haven’t created anything ‘better,’ I need to start appreciating my precious gem of an act, and just appreciate my act and appreciate myself for creating this act. It is MINE! Even if it is an older act, it is still good and that doesn’t decrease the act’s (or my own) value.
AND, I can continue to create more acts that resonate with me and make me happy and satisfied to create them. Every act is not going to be as popular as shaving. It doesn’t have to be. And just because other acts are not as popular and not performed at as many festivals doesn’t mean that I am not growing and expanding and improving as a performer. Both things can be true – it can be a brilliant act and I can be creating other great things.
So, what is the point of all this? 1) working through some things I have been thinking and trying to solidify them for myself, 2) sharing my thought process with you in case you have your own shaving (that success that feels unsuccessful now), and 3) letting you know that even winning sometimes comes with conflicted emotions and feelings of failure.