For D.D. DuPree, the art of burlesque is more than shedding clothes in front of an audience – it’s stripping away fear and learning to feel comfortable in her own skin, flaws and all.
When she isn’t exuding sensuality on the Vaudezilla stage, she is Draenna Jackson – wife, freelance video editor, receptionist and full-time graduate student, studying Human-Computer Interaction at DePaul. She spoke to me about the transformative power of performing and believing in herself regardless of naysayers.
Sadé – Tell me about the Vaudezilla Burlesque Troupe and how you got involved with it.
D.D. – They were looking for what they call vixens [stagehands]. They dress us up as cigarette girls in a corset and fluffy skirt and we are scenery at the show…I “vixened” with them for two years and the owner of the troupe, Red Hot Annie, asked if I would like to take advanced classes for free because they were putting together a JV squad.
Sadé – Before Red Hot Annie came to you about taking free classes, had you done any training for burlesque dancing?
D.D. – I never did any dance training. I did a lot of theater training when I was young.
Sadé – What kind of skills do you need to be a burlesque dancer?
D.D. – Well, having some rhythm helps (laughs). I think having a lot of confidence in yourself, your stage presence and the effect you can have on an audience…I think that’s what makes all the performers really something special.
Sadé – Are there only full-figured women in the troupe, or is it open to all sizes and shapes?
D.D. – It’s open to all sizes, all shapes, all sexes…we have two “boylesque” members of the troupe; they’re male dancers who are both incredible.
Sadé – When you Google “beautiful women,” the majority of the results show thin, white women. Is it difficult to be a full-figured woman of color in entertainment in a society that still seems to prefer the western ideal of beauty?
D.D. – No. I feel like any woman of color has to come to terms with the fact that she’s not blond and blue-eyed at a really young age, or she’s not going to be happy with herself…I perform for the people who don’t care what color I am.