FAQ You: Dealing with Gossip

“Malicious gossip is a bitter pill indeed – but it’s only poisonous if you swallow it.”

The irony is that it is not just the target who must avoid swallowing. For gossip to spread and be effective, it needs carriers. Those who spread it – gladly swallow it whole – and become embroiled in unnecessary unpleasantness. They don’t see it but they too are being poisoned.

Those who spread gossip become the (unwitting perhaps) apathetic foot soldiers of the offender. Offenders rely completely on the gullibility or neediness of apathetic people – to do the dirty work for them. It’s easy to make such people feel included in a ‘secret’ or that they themselves are important to have been shared the ‘information’. Their egos make them a target. They are being lied to and used – yet they they don’t see  it  perhaps not even until it’s too late and their own shame of participation is exposed. They don’t realise the irony that in spreading gossip, their leader does not respect them, in fact they are being used to target someone else of more significance.

It thus becomes easy to spot trouble makers – the initiators and the offenders –  as they form a ‘circle of sick’. A poisoned well, a murky pool of emotionally sickly people. Such people don’t even realise they are being deliberately poisoned. They are kept unaware as they are enjoying the toxin’s immediate emotional effect of social inclusion.


“truth will out to those who actually care”

If you are being bullied (because gossip is bullying),  my advice would firstly, to recognise that it’s not truthful and  that truth will out to those conscious/smart enough to care.

Secondly, to take all this effort as a back-handed (though back-stabbing) compliment which suggests that you are in fact perceived to be  worth the time and effort. You must  be a threat or, be holding enviable traits or, are feared to be in the way of some goal or other. i.e. for some reason, you matter more to your bully, than all of those muck spreaders put together.

Thirdly, move beyond any involvement – it’s poisonous. Don’t spend your time in it. Any retaliation or interaction you provide your bully with, will be seen as a success for them – and will encourage their behaviour. Instead simply share your truth with those who deserve your time.

*Remember* – bullies and stalkers want to possess your attention. Don’t give it. Don’t feed the trolls.

FAQ You! Imitation or Homage?

Is it acceptable to copy or imitate well known acts – even from long ago? Old or New?

Burlesque literally means to ‘parody’ but don’t forget that a parody is very different to straight imitation or copying. A parody must contain direct referencing of the intended subject and make a new point or original comment.  A direct imitation or copy of something historical differs greatly from something current.

Imitating or copying something from the past, is typically done in ‘homage to’ or in respect of the original artist and their work. If it is a parody then it is done with a sense of humour, pointing out flaws or obscurities.  Performers intending to do either, should be sure that they do justice (and give credit) to their original source of inspiration. A weak copy is anything but a tribute. A cruel parody can be anything but funny.

Imitating or copying anything which is recognized as a signature act of a current performer is generally felt to be taboo and should be avoided. Copying a modern day performer’s act could also lead to an infringement of their performing rights and lead in to legal issues surrounding their persona and intellectual property. Don’t forget, successful performers have worked hard in carving out their niche and rely on their image and signature pieces for their own income.

However, if a certain signature act is so well known that it invites parody or satire, then playful use of the routine is generally acceptable providing the intention of the parody is clear, is justified and that the original artist is given due credit. If in any doubt about the suitability of borrowing an idea from another artist, contact them before making any advance to ensure that you will not be treading on any toes.

FAQ You! Non-performing roles

I don’t perform – how else can I get involved in the Burlesque world?

The ever growing world of burlesque clubs and revues means that there is ever growing opportunity for stage managers, set designers, costume designers and technical people among many other things. Like most producers, we at MoB are always keen to find soubrettes – that’s the theatrical term for ‘pick up artists’, costumed stage-hands who help clear the stage of fallen items and garments shed during an act.

Burlesque is a form of theatre and any part of theatrical production is applicable here too. From artist liaison, DJ jobs, set design, costume making and flyer designing to event photography and music cuing, there is something for everyone.

Beyond the clubs and shows, creative people can get involved in running websites, groups and fan clubs. Some ambitious folks also try their hand at coordinating and promoting an event itself. This can be a very rewarding project to undertake but it involves a great deal of people management, a lot of investment – and a lot of risk. With so many people (not to mention expectant audiences) relying on you to represent their best interests, this role should not be undertaken lightly.

Why not ask on the community forums for local clubs and groups who might like some help or creative input?

FAQ You! Are you a professional?

When does a performer become a ‘Professional’?

Having a professional attitude or approach to a thing is not necessarily what makes it your ‘profession’. When something is your profession, it is implied that this is your main source of earning and what you have specifically dedicated your training to.

Those who perform as a hobby aren’t any less ‘professional’ in their conduct. It’s just that their ban balance isn’t reliant on the earnings. Those with valued vocations, who conduct themselves in an efficient, respectable manner are just as likely to be hired as those whose profession it is.

This is a complicated issue but it is essentially about being realistic in terms of the many different factors which contribute to ‘professionalism’. There are no exact black and white criteria and different professions require different factors.

Overall, we can generally agree that to be a professional anything, there are two key factors involved:

1-  Having the specialised knowledge or skill required.

As such, some professions are regulated or standardized in some way (i.e. accountancy, teaching and medicine) which makes it easy for us to identify and accredit professional labels to people. However, some industries (like burlesque, art or writing) are either too niche or defy a set of ‘rules’ to be obviously standardized in a meaningful way.

2- Being able to earn a living from it (and then paying appropriate taxes on those earnings).

To pursue something ‘professionally’ implies pursuit of financial gain and so to be a ‘professional’ you would need to first of all, be in a position to earn a meaningful income i.e. you get enough interest because of your ethic, attitude, reputation etc.

As a result, professionalism in the entertainment industries tends to be judged most heavily on income and personal reputation merits such as attitude and ability.

Amateur and Proud! Being an ‘amateur’ doesn’t imply a lower standard of work or a poor attitude. Not at all. The difference can simply be down to choice. The word amateur simply means that the person does not (or does not intend to) earn money from their pursuits.  After all, Sherlock Holmes (the greatest detective of all time..) classes himself as an ‘Amateur Detective’ and many of the greatest sportspeople are classed as amateur purely because they do not get paid for the actual playing of their sport. An ‘amateur artist’ may simply indicate the pursuit of a person of leisure and independent wealth, thus the title is in no way indicative of a lower level of talent. In fact, some people rightly use it with a sense of ‘pride’.

Being a professional anything doesn’t make a person an expert in any way. In fact often is the case that the amateur enthusiast is the one bagging the 10,000 hours of practice required to justify a claim to be ‘expert’. This is a general criteria which applies to all things, not just burlesque!

FAQ You! How to get ahead

I have a routine, how can I get ahead in Burlesque?

If you are indeed keen to pursue a fancy in burlesque artistry, cabaret or ‘pinup’ modeling yourself, be prepared to invest a lot of your own time, money and effort in pursuit of a good routine or model portfolio – they can be very expensive hobbies and even more expensive and competitive career paths to take. We are available for consultation and direction on photo-shoots, ensuring the best results are achieved. You can see our founder’s own model portfolio here – defying the norms, she was a magazine cover model, a sought after catwalk model, appeared on billboards at London Fashion Week, hung in the Paul Smith gallery in Tokyo among other accolades – despite being only 5′ 1″ and curvy.

Remember: it is your choice to invest in this personal pursuit and the financial cost of it is your own responsibility – not that of an audience or promoter.

Also, don’t forget that although there is a large and increasing hobbyist circuit, there is also a professional industry and a tiny one at that. Taking up the form does not equate to being a professional entertainer – at least, not without years of hard work, sacrifice and often disappointment first. It is important to respect that burlesque is a working business. Expecting remuneration for any novice pursuit is unrealistic. Having a pen and ideas does not make one a writer. Similarly, having a costume and ideas does not make one an entertainer. It is experience and ability which earns both reputation and wage.

The amateur or ‘hobbyist’ circuit is the best place to start performing as you will need to earn a good reputation through working with peers before larger promoters will start to book you. Take it slowly and learn the etiquette and skills needed backstage, onstage and online. The time will come when you will need to be able to ’sell’ your act too and here you will need excellent photographs and promotional material. Step by step, treading board by board…

Take advice from those who are successful and never be afraid to ask for advice, help or feedback. Why not attend one of the Ministry of Burlesque events and perform in their Battle of Burlesque? This is stage time given to newcomers seeking advice and feedback as well as exposure amidst a bill of seasoned pros.

FAQ You! Resolving stage name disputes

Someone else is using my stage-name! What should I do?

If you are a performer and you find that someone has begun using a name which is the same or very similar to yours, the best thing to do is get a second opinion on the matter.  Don’t wade in to unknown waters  – don’t ride in on a high horse shouting about copyright, theft and the like it’s a theatrical business but no-one likes a drama queen ;p What may sound similar in one mind, might not match in an others. Many performers have needlessly opened up arguments over rhyming couplets or semantic puns and looked foolish in the process. Few performers are in a position where their stage name is recognisable as trademark to the degree that it would stand up under legal scrutiny.

However, having said all that, protecting your identity is important and if need be you should take polite action to resolve the matter. Contacting your name-sake to explain the predicament rather than complaining about it publicly on Facebook etc, is the first step toward a peaceful and dignified resolution. They may be unaware of the problem. They may have been using it longer than you realise. Secondly you can ask if there is another option to consider. It is in everyone’s interest to get along and have unique identities so be prepared to consider some change on your part too. Common sense and an ability to deal in fairness will be required.

Certain names will naturally sound alike and no one can lay claims to ownership of sounds or double-meanings  but it is considered poor etiquette in the least, to ignore the effects of stepping on another’s toes. Aping an identity can be construed as ‘passing off’ which takes a person in to the legal mine fields of trademark infringement. Typically, registered trademarks have weight in these instances whereas unregistered marks often don’t. See the Intellectual Property Office for official guidelines and help on this matter.  Also, if your stage name and persona are not already well known it will be difficult to justify your sole use of the particular name. Rarely will a performer be so established as to warrant legal proceedings over branding issues.

FAQ You! Choosing a stage name

How do I choose a ‘burlesque name’ to perform under?

Choosing a name can be tricky and performers typically go through two or three versions of a name before settling. It’s a good idea to let it grow organically – try something which you feel suits you and then ask others to help tweak it.

Be careful what you pick as certain names will ‘pigeon hole’ you and once your name is established it is not advisable to change it. If there is any possibility that you might like to expand in to other genres, be sure your stage name allows for this.

Make sure your name is not misleading. Potential bookers need to understand what they will get when they book you – certain names will imply you have specialized skills or abilities i.e. ‘Trinny Trapeze’ would imply trapeze skills and ‘Lady Tease’ would imply strip-tease skills, etc. The most memorable names are often puns, alliterative or onomatopoeic, so take your time over it. In the spirit of burlesque, names which are puns or evoke double-entendre are highly appropriate and attractive.

It is also important to avoid choosing a name that could be confused with another already in use. Established performers can be upset by new performers using similar sounding, meaning or even the same name which is confusingly similar. This is understandable and should be avoided. It benefits no-one to have confusion between identities. You may also be infringing on a registered trademark in some cases, which can lead to criminal prosecution in extreme circumstances. To help avoid clashes, do be sure to do your research. Perhaps start with our Performer Directory – the MoB Speakeasy – to ensure that nobody else listed is already using it or a confusingly similar one; also perform a search on the internet of your intended name including variations in spelling and then perhaps also ask on our forums too.

Certain semantic and phonic clashes are inevitable but most can be avoided by not using obvious clichés and common place names and words which are frequently found in the genre’s lexicon. Marketing Tip: Using commonly used names and words would also make it difficult for internet search engines to pick your name out from all the other possible references too.

FAQ You! How do I start performing?

How do I get involved in performing Burlesque?

First of all, do a bit of research to find out what tickles you the most. Discover the variety and history of it all. The online forums host a plethora of magazine articles here which should help, and a short history of burlesque can be found here. Whether you fancy being a performer, muse, photographer, critic, artist, stage manager, costumer, stylist or all round enthusiast, the Ministry of Burlesque can help you get started and provide guidance along the way. Why not come to our acclaimed shows or check our local clubs and scene groups too?

Anyone wishing to join in the fun of the burlesque scene and make new friends should join the Ministry of Burlesque community . The MoB is a community set up to help new-comers get started, enthusiasts to meet and chat about their favourite things and to help professional performers and promoters network with one another. With over 20,000 unique visitors every day, the MoB Forums are the online hub of the burlesque world.

Choose your styles wisely to suit your personality (are you comfortable revealing your derriere or political persuasions to strangers?), body shape (do you feel good styled this way?) and lifestyle (do you have a job or career that might conflict with some styles?) and be sure to be loyal to what you want to do – not simply what others seem to be doing. Once you have some ideas, why not take up tuition  with the us? The MoB offer affordable, professional tuition from experienced and insured instructors who will teach you the essential burlesque basics, presentation skills and various style techniques – as well as specialist skills and promotional methods.


FAQ You! Hiring Talent

Where can I hire professional performers/producers?

Currently, there are only a handful of burlesque performers who are considered by the wider entertainment industry to be ‘professional  artists’ or genuine producers. These people are indeed few and are rare gems often with many imitators – but  there is a glorious ever-growing circuit of hobbyist and amateur performers, many of whom are gifted and extremely creative.  These people will be the stars of tomorrow.

Since modern burlesque is a niche and newly emerged industry it is wise to therefore be wary of people making grandiose claims to experience and industry knowledge. There are very few professional stars and even fewer professional producers and educators in this genre, world wide.

The rise in the genres’ popularity has led to a boom in new first-time performers taking to the stage as well as promoters and agencies looking to cash in, this is natural. Of course the growing popularity of burlesque has been wonderful boost of new life and energy to the genre but in tandem, there is also a bandwagon. With so many newcomers competing for status, opportunity and work, there has been increasing room for exploitation. The people who end up paying for this, are the customers (quite literally).

When choosing whom to work with, consider the following points:

How long have they really been operating? Burlesque is a specialized craft and a niche industry ( I keep saying this I know…). Whether it is an agency, teacher, promoter or a performer stating ‘ten years of business’, this might actually mean nine years and 10 months of operating in the adult industry and a few weeks under a new rebranded ‘burlesque’ image.

Ask for references from reputable clients and seek evidence from past press and media involvement. Have they produced any notable starlets or even stars? Have they produced anything at all beyond a webpage/self-advert?

 You get what you pay for. To perform burlesques well, it takes years of experience, natural aptitude and a professional attitude. To be considered ‘expert’ in anything it is estimated that ten thousand hours of practice must be acquired.  Burlesque is no different and few can make anywhere near this claim. I have 18 years experience as a model, nearly ten years performing in burlesque specifically and now five years of full time research and operation as a producer and agent – yet the term ‘expert’ is still something to strive for!

Those among the small professional set of burlesque artists command their high fees accordingly. Be wary of agencies or performers offering to undercut established entertainers. Decide what you want and then be sure to get it – not a  vague substitute. You can contact us for advice on booking (after all, I am the ‘cat who gets the cream of burlesque’) or visit our production company here.

FAQ You! Finding Teachers

Where can I find reputable teachers?

Taking up lessons from reputable teachers is an excellent way to start out, but do research your options – the person who happens to be most local or inexpensive may not be the best choice.  There is no ’standarisation’ or regulatory body to ensure safety and even basic skill. Be careful in choosing a class to attend as it’s not just you money that counts – it’s your quality of learning, fun, health and safety too. With the rise in popularity of burlesque, more and more people are looking to join in the on-stage fun. This has seen a concomitant increase in people offering to give ‘burlesque lessons’, not all of whom are in a position to honestly do so. MoB are available for consultation and direction and reputable teachers are available through our Coaching services.

Here are some pointers based on community feedback and experience. My hope is that you can learn from others’ mishaps:

The diversity of the genre. Burlesque is a diverse genre involving many skills, styles and should be available to everyone. Any teacher who seems to be selling their particular specialty (i.e. striptease) as burlesque, has misunderstood what they are purporting to teach. How are they going to address characterization? Prop comedy? Making satire accessible? If the title of the class is literally wrong, we can be confident that the content will fall short too.

 The importance of insured, experienced and qualified instructors cannot be emphasized enough. You are likely to be engaging in moderate to upbeat exercise and teachers must be properly trained, insured and knowledgeable about the possibility of injury or strain. Your specific needs and any limitations of movement are important in your learning – and must be considered by any instructor. Also, be wary of anyone who uses any kind of ‘self-confidence coaching’ psychobabble without appropriate certification or experience – they could be doing you more harm than good.

 How experienced are they – really? Make sure your prospective teacher also has adequate experience themselves in the burlesque world. You will want to ask for advice on putting your new skills in to action, and your first steps toward building a good reputation are crucial.

Ask any teacher about their own successful careers as Burlesque performers – i.e. how many years experience have they specifically in this genre? Have they travelled internationally? Whom do they work with? Which reputable agencies can provide corroboration of this? None? Oh dear…

 Burlesque is a craft – not an adjective applied to any random class featuring a feather boa or buzzwords. The importance of having both teaching experience and performing experience are not to be underestimated. How will a teacher provide you with direction and advice if they have none to give?

Do ask for specifics, don’t be shy. Any genuine instructor will be thrilled that you are taking your education seriously enough to ask.