Full-figured burlesque dancer D.D. DuPree muses on self-love and female empowerment

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.

Burlesque dancer D.D. DuPree, whose husband came up with her stage name as a cheeky nod to her curvaceous figure. Photo: https://www.facebook.com/DuPree.DD
Burlesque dancer D.D. DuPree, whose husband came up with her stage name as a cheeky nod to her curvaceous figure./Photo: https://www.facebook.com/DuPree.DD

SadéTell 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.

http://vimeo.com/74244642

SadéAre 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.

SadéWhen 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.

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