Canada's Burlesque Royalty: Roxi Dlite!

All performers want to leave a mark, an indelible impression of their talent. There can be the quick flash-in-the-pan or there can be the slow and development master. A performer can be lauded and praised and chased by the paparrazi. But perhaps the most enduring, albeit challenging, honour to be achieved is that of respect and admiration of one’s peers.

One name that is often mentioned in our frequent profiles of burlesque performers is a true Canadian treasure. Roxi DLite has been lighting up stages and teaching many performers. She is regularly cited as a significant influence. She is someone who well deserves the title legend.

Sexlife Canada caught up with Roxi before her appearances at the Toronto Burlesque Festival and her next show Boom Boom Burlesque in Windsor.

SLC: How did you get into burlesque?
RD: What first attracted me to burlesque was the freedom to express myself through music and dance and costume. I always wanted to be on stage as a child but never made it into any school plays so I thought it was such a long shot. I went to college for graphic design and started dancing in clubs to pay my tuition. It was then I realized I had a hidden talent—stripping. So I became a feature performer quite quickly, and through that I found burlesque. After I graduated I realized stripping was way more fun and I've been hooked ever since. Now I'm traveling the world, signing movie contracts and pretty much living on stage. I love what I do and feel so blessed.

SLC: What do you think explains burlesque's explosion in popularity?
RD: I suppose there's a whole number of possibilities: It's funny and people get naked; history repeats itself; people are bored of bars and want entertainment? People go to burlesque shows for many different reasons. Some people want the comedy and satire and others want to see somebody strip. I think deep down everybody wants to enjoy a show that's funny and even a little racy. But I also think it starts with the performers. The burlesque revival has been very do-it-yourself from the performance to the production. It's equally accessible and is still a reflection of the individual so long as it's original. Some people flat-out steal a performer's act and some people choose to pay a choreographer to come up with their 'solo' act. Either way it's a shame. Burlesque has succeeded because of the hard work of unique performers and artists will continue to succeed so long as original work is respected.

SLC: Who are your inspirations?
RD:
My inspiration comes from many things and each act is inspired by many different things. I couldn't pin it down to one specific thing or person. Somebody once called me a modern remix of a classic performer and I think that's a fair assessment.

SLC: When you envision a new act, what do you think of first? Music? Costume? Routine?
RD: It really varies from act to act. Sometimes it starts with just an idea for a theme and then I develop the parts or perhaps it starts with a costume. Sometimes I find a song I really want to build an act around and other times I can't find an appropriate song if my life depends on it. There is no set formula.

SLC: Do you think burlesque has officially moved into the 'mainstream'?
RD: There are more opportunities than ever for burlesque performers and I'm grateful for that. Burlesque is a buzzword and it's certainly popular but I wouldn't say it's mainstream. There are still many people who have never heard the word burlesque. In fact, I know performers who are still trying to figure out what burlesque is. Burlesque has always been a little underground or taboo and that's part of its appeal. For burlesque to be mainstream it would need to be watered down and appeal to everyone and that goes against everything it's supposed to be. Burlesque should push buttons and be counterculture. It should be arousing, shocking or satirical and it should mock the mainstream, not be part of it. But that doesn't mean a performer needs to keep it real by gigging in dive bars and drag clubs in exchange for a drink tab. More and more, great burlesque shows are filling theatres around the world and that shows there's an appetite for the art.

SLC: Is there a difference between stripping and burlesque?
RD: Burlesque performers get asked this question more often than they get asked to perform. The running joke is "the only difference between stripping and burlesque is that strippers make money." Stripping and burlesque are one and the same yet they are worlds apart. Being a feature performer in clubs and a burlesque professional I have a lot of experience in both fields. They're are a lot of similarities but there are also a lot of things that make them very different and not all performers can handle or would necessarily enjoy both jobs. I feel that the strip club industry has really gone south. I feel in a lot of ways the industry (agents, club owners and clients) takes advantage of many women because they can, and it's really changed things for the worst. Men tend to run the strip club industry whereas women run the burlesque world and in that respect the two industries couldn’t be any more different. One of my major concerns with the strip club industry is that I think the touching in clubs has ruined the business for good. Customers always want to get more for their money and some girls give it to them so they can make more money. But that lowers the standard and makes it tougher for girls who do not want people touching them. There are very few places left in Canada to work where the girls don't have to be touched, and that's a terrible shame. My thought on “strippers” or modern day exotic dancers is a generally positive one. I've met some great girls with really good heads on their shoulders that have families and invest their money. They're mothers and students and treat stripping as a career, not an excuse to party on the job. I've made many lasting friendships with these women. I've also met women who are the opposite and set a bad example for the others. To be honest, I've met way more professional, good girls, than not. What most people forget is that it’s all an act. When you see an actress in a love scene, you know she’s acting and not turning a trick. The same applies to strippers. However, I must say that I wish the art of tease would come back into some of the dancers’ stage performances. I feel the art of performing for an audience has been lost. A lot of dancers dislike stage-time and don't interact with the audience. They walk from pole to pole, forget to strut and never take their time removing clothing. A striptease should revolve around the dancer being engaging and there should also be an emphasis on the word strip, as well as tease. Both are words I think modern day 'strippers' overlook. A fundamental difference is that burleskers perform for audiences and strippers perform for customers. The act can be exactly the same but its interpretation will be polar opposites.

SLC: What did winning the title Reigning Queen of Burlesque mean to you?
RD: Winning the Miss Exotic World crown is one of the highest accomplishments a performer can achieve. It means you've reached a new level in your career and you're part of a pretty exclusive sorority. There are many stripping competitions around the world but none are as difficult to win as Miss Exotic World. I'm proud to be part of burlesque royalty and be an ambassador of the art form.

SLC: When did you start up your photography studio?
RD: I opened up my studio nearly 3 years ago. It started out of the desire to take self-portraits. I was working with different photographers and some were great and others weren't. I wanted to steer my own ship creatively and succeed gloriously or fail miserably. Either way, it would be at my own hand and I would be happy knowing I gave it my best. I love shooting and editing photos and I love being able to help other women be a pinup for a day.

SLC: What is the film you are working on?
RD: I starred in a film called Burlesque Assassins and it's due out in the new year. Shooting the film was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I'm excited for it's release. The film is an 1950s action-comdey-farce set in the Cold War. I play a character named Bourbon Sue, a drinkin', smokin', rockabilly delinquent recruited to a group of international assassins who double as burlesque performers. They seduce and destroy and it's up to them to save the world from total annihilation. Two years ago, I was a drinkin', smokin', delinquent recruited by a man named Jonathan Joffee, an award winning director from Calgary. Jon has been writing, researching, re-writing and recruiting for this film for a few years. I never acted before but I loved the idea so I was immediately sold. It was an amazing experience with a star-studded cast of actual burlesque performers from around the world. You can find out more about the film at as well as on Facebook and on Twitter.

Keep up with Roxi on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments

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