3 Minutes with Brandy Montmartre
It’s that time again ladies and gentlemen where we interview the UK’s top burlesque performers/producers to find out what really makes them tick and how ‘saucy’ they really are.
Today we are bringing you the fantastic Brandy Montmartre. Brandy is fresh from the London Burlesque Festival, performing at The Burlesque Ball with our Principal Enchantress Trixie! Want to find out more about this burlesque firecracker? then look no further…
HOTB – How did you get into burlesque?
BM – Just over a year ago I started going to Chaz Royal’s Burlesque Ball every time it came to Edinburgh. I’ve been into all things vintage since I was 17 and have a healthy collection of vintage dresses. I wore these outfits to the shows, which I think helped me stand out. I was the profile photo for the Burlesque Ball on Facebook last year, and from there I started chatting to the producers, but never pushed to perform because I wasn’t a performer and I figured they would get requests like that all the time.
In November I created the artwork for the London Burlesque Festival winter sale and soon after took an opportunity to perform in a charity burlesque show in Dundee. That week Chaz invited me to perform in Glasgow and my burlesque career went from there.
I’ve always had the performing/costuming bug so burlesque is a perfect fit.. My mum tells me that I went to Granada Studios as a kid, walked into the costume department and declared determinedly, “This is what I want to do.” Up until now I’ve not followed that path, and there has always been a bit of me frustrated by that decision. This year I thought “It’s now or never” – so here I am! It’s brilliant to be fulfilling all that frustrated creativity, and I’m much happier for it.
HOTB – Who is your inspiration?
BM – Ooh that’s a difficult one. Okay, where to begin? I’m always on the lookout for inspiring artists. I love Perle Noire and the energy she brings to her performances – and her attitude too. I’ve not met her, but I’ve heard she usually goes into the audience after a show and meets people, taking the time to get to know them and hang out. I love that personable approach. There can be a real ‘us and them’ mentality about the audience backstage and that doesn’t sit right with me – I like the audience to be close to the stage and I don’t mind meeting them afterwards. I’m careful and lookout for myself, but after all I’m able to do what I love because I’m entertaining them and a bit of feedback is always welcome.
I also like to watch old burlesque movies when I can for inspiration. I watched Teaserama (1955) the other day (We love burlesque film at HOTB) and I was drawn to the acrobatics of Twinnie Wallen, as well as the classic tease of Trudy Wayne – and of course there are always old school performers such as Sally Rand, Tempest Storm, Gypsy Rose Lee and Tura Satana.
Going back to more modern performers, Bonnie Fox’s superb dancing skills are always inspiring, as are the smooth performances of Eliza DeLite… Add to that list Catherine D’Lish, Michelle L’Amour, Cyd Charisse and my burlesque teacher Gypsy Charms too – oh and finally Kiki DeVille – she is a very inspiring woman with a knockout voice and a brilliant personality. I have many inspiring people on my list; I could be here for days, so I’ll stop there!
HOTB – What is your favourite music to perform to?
BM – I keep a really open mind when it comes to music for my acts. I like to create an act that nods to the vintage roots of burlesque, but then shifts into something more modern. If a modern song inspires me then I go with it, I don’t tend to search for a vintage swing version. I remember being an audience member and it would be the more modern songs that stuck with me (like ‘Dollar’ for Ebony Silk’s ‘Caribbean Princess’ Act for example) and not the big band music of other acts – though I know that won’t be the case for everybody. If you remember the song, you’re more likely to remember the act and it helps if it’s catchy.
I’m currently choreographing a routine to ‘Habanera’ from the opera Carmen, although I have used music ranging from The Ink Spots to Pitbull for my routines. Habanera couldn’t be further away from Pitbull in terms of genre, but that song is just as catchy. I love it. So to answer your question (finally haha) my favourite music to perform to is something catchy and high-energy, like Pitbull – Fireball.
HOTB – Do you have a favourite act? and why?
BM – I love Whisky Falls’ act ‘Eyes on Me’. Whisky’s persona for that act is smouldering hot and her choreography and costume are beautiful, not to mention how skilled she is at gymnastics. She commits to her character 110% and is consistently brilliant. She’s also a lovely person backstage to boot!
I also have a lot of love for Cece Sinclair’s ‘Classy but Sassy’ routine. The contrast between her initial slow, classic choreography and the later high energy, shimmy-packed moves full of attitude is superb. Cece is also wonderful to work with and I can’t wait to get some one-on-one time with her in July. Other favourites include Bonnie Fox’s ‘Great Gatsby’ act – her costumes are dazzling and my goodness, she can move!
In terms of my own acts, my current favourite is ‘Fireball’ as it always gets a good response from the audience and is a lot of fun to perform. I love watching the audience react to this one, and the look of wonder on some people’s faces when they see my costume is great as I know I did a good job!
HOTB – What is your favourite costume piece?
BM – That would have to be my huge ostrich feather showgirl headdress for my Fireball act, I feel like a carnival queen when I wear it. It took me a month to make it and it’s worth it. It’s embellished with Swarovski crystals and adorned with 12 ostrich feathers in red, yellow and orange. There are also rooster feathers and hand dyed peacock feathers in there. I dyed the peacock feathers myself and had to give them all a blow dry – I felt like a feather hairdresser!
HOTB– Tomato Sauce or Brown Sauce?
BM – Tomato every time!
HOTB – If you had a movie made about your life, who would play you?
BM – Probably Jennifer Lawrence. She stands up for herself and what she thinks is right.
HOTB – Is there any advice you would give to fledging performers?
BM – Well, the main piece of advice I can give to new performers is to work out why you want to do burlesque, as this will keep you going. I do it because I love entertaining people and celebrating my body for what it is. I think there’s a myth about burlesque being a cure for all body issues, and in my experience this sadly isn’t the case (I wish it was!).
Performers who are insecure about themselves already may find those issues exaggerated by the sometimes bitchy and competitive attitudes that can exist amongst performers (who are often insecure themselves), particularly in the early stages of your burlesque career. This is a real shame, but it is unfortunately also a reality.
Burlesque could and can be great if we, as a community, could lose the resentment and jealousy of other performers for their successes. It’s a pity, but there will be people who intimidate and bitch so it’s best if new performers go into this with their eyes open hopefully without being drawn into it.
My advice comes down to this: be the change you wish to see in the burlesque world from the get go, not just to get ahead. Be kind. Don’t be a diva, work hard and believe in yourself. As much as I would love to sugar coat it, burlesque can be very competitive and you will need a thick skin at times. It can also be wonderful, supportive and a brilliant experience so hold on to the good and work hard to surpass the bad. As long as you keep going, growing and doing what you love none of the more ruthless attitudes matter. Keep applying for shows, going to shows, taking lessons, watching films and looking for inspiration and take no notice of those who would love to bring you down. You get back what you put in so invest in yourself (your costumes, choreography and character development) and you’ll do well.
A huge thank you to Brandy for taking part. It has been a real pleasure to have you.
Thank you all for reading.
Love & Shimmies
House of Trixie Blue
Image credit: Loraine Ross Photography
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