Let This Sexy Red Herring Distract You!

Most times, in literature and film, the red herring is something of momentary distraction not to be considered for long. It takes your eyes off the prize. But Toronto’s Red Herring, burlesque performer and producer is one distraction that will keep you mesmerized. Whatever is happening elsewhere can just keep on happening. You can get back to it once she’s done with you.

Sexlife Canada caught up with Red Herring on the eve of Canadiana-Rama, the Toronto Burlesque Festival where she will be performing.

SLC: How did you get into burlesque?
RH: I was dragged into the scene by surprise. I found myself unknowingly attending a Christmas burlesque show, where I was introduced to two of the women who've helped shape who I am as a performer today: Roxi DLite (Miss Exotic World 2011, from Windsor), and Coco Framboise (Toronto), who runs the Coco Framboise school of burlesque. Both were incredibly supportive, and Roxi was amazingly down to Earth with me from the beginning. It was their attitude towards me, a 'nobody' at the time, that really encouraged me to go for it. I took classes with Coco for about a year before I was pulled into a show with about a weeks' notice. I hadn't actually planned to debut at all. Everything steamrolled from there, and I soon found myself being booked on a regular basis.

SLC: What is your performance style: classic, modern, a mix, entirely different?
RH: I perform a pretty modern style of burlesque. I find the classical styles intimidating, and more difficult, so I've been pushing my limits as a performer and trying to see what I can do with a classical routine. I believe I'll always be a more 'modern' performer, with influences like rock music, and a geeky side. However, I really like to challenge myself on stage, so classical or off the wall acts might just become more common from me!

SLC: What is your favourite routine to perform?
RH: Depending on my mood, I go between my Welcome to the Circus routine and my Oh Sheep! routine. The former is to an alternative rock song, and embodies the freaky carnival, crazy circus ringmaster, with a tophat and cane. The latter is much softer, and plays on the 'wolf in sheeps' clothing' story, so I end up with a fuzzy wolf tail and pasties at the end.

SLC: If you could perform that routine for a table of 3 people, who would they be?
RH: Rich, Generous and Gullible. I've heard they're wonderful people.

SLC: Who are your burlesque inspirations?
RH: Roxi DLite and Coco Framboise, as mentioned above, for various reasons. Roxi is magical on stage, and her musicality comes through no matter what she's performing. Her aerial hoop act has inspired me to try aerial, in the form of trapeze. Coco has been an amazing mentor from the start, and not only is she an inspiration on stage, but she's an amazing business woman, and one of the few people I'd describe as a true Class Act. Michelle L'amour (Chicago) was the first burlesque I saw, on her America's Got Talent appearance, and she's stuck with me ever since. She's very languid and sexual onstage, and another example of a wonderful business woman. Lastly, Julie Atlas Muz (New York), who can not only produce and discuss spreadsheets, but can go from rear-end lip-synching one night, to a beautiful, classical balloon act the next. Her versatility as a performer amazes me.

SLC: What are your nerdy interests?
RH: I grew up immersed in sci-fi TV, fantasy novels, and a ton of comics and when the internet popped up, I was an immediate convert. For many years I was a steady fixture in a bevy of online role-playing games. Many of my more quirky interests have stemmed from those obsessions (from Jack the Ripper to genetic manipulation). I produce a Star Trek vs Star Wars burlesque show annually called Babes in Space. This year we will be taking over August 28th and September 1st at Revival night club, and I've gathered some of Toronto's nerdiest and geekiest babes to battle it out for the side of their choice. We have girls, boy, something in between, and circus acts to amaze and amuse.

SLC: Would you or have you ever considered moving beyond burlesque into other adult entertainment?
RH: Many of the most famous burlesque dancers in the industry have been, or currently, work as exotic dancers. I believe burlesque and stripping are cut from the same cloth, but the details set them apart. I did a stint in the strip club scene while I was in University, and though the money was definitely a perk, I wasn't much of a fan of the audience I found there. I think the audience I've found through burlesque is much more my taste, even if they don't tip on stage!

SLC: Has burlesque gone 'mainstream'?
RH: I think so, to a certain degree. That term's been in the media for at least two years now, that I know of, and maybe much longer. I think that it's definitely gaining more of a place in pop culture, as evidenced by such things as the Burlesque movie, but I'm not sure if the pop culture/mainstream idea of burlesque is burlesque's idea of burlesque. If nothing else, I think it'll definitely be mainstream when the question stops coming up.

SLC: What other projects are you working on?
RH: I have a cabaret in the works, that's more of a theatre show than variety night. Beyond that, I am my own project. I have my classes and lessons I take, from aerial to dance to whatever else I think may help me grow as a performer.

SLC: What are your future plans, in burlesque and otherwise?
RH: My goal is to go to at least one American festival in the next year, and to make serious steps to going overseas. I would like to see my work as a performer and producer recognized on a larger scale, and to do that I need to keep working harder. As for non-burlesque related plans...I'm in dire need of a vacation from all of this 'working hard' I've been doing. Maybe I can squeeze in a performance wherever I go?