I've been performing as Honey LeFleur for about 10 years and I cannot imagine doing this without Bold Hilaire as a mentor. I was beginning to solidify so much of who I was as a performer and once I took a class in burlesque I was hooked! Bold's approach is help students discover their character and tap into why they're on stage. There is always a story and the most compelling performers are able to share a narrative with their audience. Bold was always ready to help me workshop acts and find the story my body was telling. One thing that was always important to me as a queer feminist woman was that I got to present MY work in a show with a producer who is transparent and equitable in how they treat and compensate their performers. I looked to her when I began to navigate the community and seek out opportunities to perform. Bold was always honest about how she ran her shows and even allowed me to observe her production process.
I've since become a producer myself and currently co-produce Pink Hanky, Portland's own stage for queers who want to share their story. We aim to better our community through arts visibility. Watching Bold Hilaire create such a safe, inspirational, and fun space for both performers and audience very much contributes to the creation of Pink Hanky. I now call PDX home, co-produce shows, including Beylesque, co-host a podcast, Femmesplaining, and believe that the body on stage is an act of radical political resistance.
Left: Honey LeFleur, Kittening for the Girlie-Q Variety Hour at the Naked July Festival in Chicago. Center and Right: Honey performing in Portland, today.
I took my first burlesque class as a joke. My best friend and I signed up together thinking it would be a one time thing. We were both clumsy, young tomboys who didn't know how to apply basic makeup, nor had ever owned a pair of heels. A decade later, I've performed on stages across the US, created my own sideshow performance troupe and traveled performing with body art conventions and tattoo festivals. From fire-eating to angle-grinding- I've continued to add on more skills to my repertoire every year. Who knew one series of burlesque classes would have taken me here?
Bold Hilaire took me and a bunch of other budding performers in under her wing, teaching us the basics of bump and grind for a whole summer. She helped us pick our burlesque name, come up with a 'shtick' and encouraged us each to be unique. At the end of her class, we knew how to make our own pasties, apply stage makeup, where to procure the best costume pieces, bedazzle the hell out of them and walk with confidence in 6" heels. We all had a solid routine or two under our belts and rocked the stage during our student showcase. She helped us get bookings and encouraged us to attend other shows to support and see what other performers were doing. Most of the women who took her class became established performers and are still dancing today.
Images: Left, Queerella's Student Show Photo by Bold Hilaire. Right, Queerella today
Bold Hilaire gave me my first burlesque lesson in 2008. I sought her out because she had many years of experience and I felt that she would understand the neo-burlesque style I was going for as well as the queer and feminist spaces I had planned to perform in. I had been performing with the Chicago Boi & Gurl Toiz for several years prior, but rarely took my top off or got very naked in public, let alone did my own choreography. We did 1-on-1 lessons that were very comfortable and worked on things like timing, costuming, order of clothing removal and reveals, as well as working the audience. She helped me feel more confident in my curves and become more disciplined in my practicing. I went on to be a part of her Girlie-Q shows, performing multiple times a week/month for many years. After, I went on to create Ties & Tassels, a monthly queer burlesque/drag and variety show and a yearly event called Queerpocalypse
I took classes with Bold Hilaire in 2010. I've been performing since my graduation show, up until Sept of 2017. I am currently on a year hiatus while temporarily living in Florida
Without those classes, I would have never become a burlesque performer. I learned to come out of my shell, to be more confident, & brave! I received 1 on 1 attention with choreography, character development, technique, costuming, music selection, & not just the creative side but the business aspect. Had it not been for Ms. B, I would have taken gigs that were shady or did not pay fair (or at all) I've carried the advice that was given to me by her throughout my burlesque career. I've heard her voice in my head giving specific advice in every show--for example, "Millie! Keep your head up! Don't look down."---alongside her boosts of encouragement! It was beyond helpful to me. She believed in me and pushed me to do my first show, even though I didn't think I was ready. She said, "You are ready! You don't need another class. I'm not taking any more of your money!"
My first performance was one of my best moments in my life. I will never forget it! So to her, I am truly grateful. Taking her class was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It was truly life-changing. I was introduced to a whole new, wonderful community that is dear to my heart and I have made lifelong friends.
Images: Left, Millie's Student Show Photo by Bold Hilaire. Center and right, Millie today
Lula Houp-Garou (Nee, Petite Moll)
Bold Hilaire encouraged me to pursue and develop my own aesthetic, rather than teaching me to replicate her style/choreography. She checked in with me as I developed my first act, and offered constructive criticism and enthusiastic encouragement. What truly set her apart as a teacher was her academic and queer feminist approach to burlesque.
Above: Coo D'Twat and Petite Moll (in their student showcase) with Bold Hilaire, 2008. Photo by G. Thomas Ward Photography.