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Introducing Bebe Bardot: OFFICIAL "Amateur" Burly Historian!

I missed BHoF this year, but guess what? Apparently, this happened:

I'm pretty honored, because I feel like this places an oddly-hilarious bit of validation on to what I like to write about. There's the Queen of BHoF, Miss Exotic World... there's her Court... there's all the higher-ups and volunteers... there's people who are lucky enough to attend the event... and then there's "BEBE, MENTIONED ONSTAGE AT BHoF THAT ONE TIME"!! Revel in my glory. Do I get a tiny little plastic crown and scepter?!

Look, all jokes aside -- I know this isn't a big deal to some, but it was for me! In an industry that often struggles to legitimize itself to the mainstream world, it's even harder to legitimize writing about that industry. I think this is a perfect time to introduce myself to the world as a budding "amateur" burlesque historian. I say amateur because there are, of course, professionals out there (see: Jo Boobs Weldon, Chicava Honeychild, Leslie Zemeckis, Neil Kendall, Rachel Shteir, Scott Ewalt, Jaye MacAskill, and the list goes on and on). I would not consider myself a professional until I've completed my first scholarly work on burlesque, which I'm happy to say I'm working on! I do scholarly legal research ALL THE TIME for work, so researching burlesque-related history is incredibly exciting to me.

Being mentioned on BHoF's stage has really got me in my feelings. As I walk around my house, dangling a glass of cheap wine and letting my old ass robe drag on the floor like an imaginary silk taffeta gown-and-train, I thought this would be a great time to share a bit about my motivations as a writer and amateur historian. Shall we begin? (I'm totally Billy Porter in my head, y'all.)

Let's go back to the Summer of '93.

I was 7 years old, growing up in Texas on Lucky Street (I couldn't make that up if I tried), living in a house with three rowdy brothers. Because I was always surrounded and engulfed in male energy, I was incredibly attracted to all-things-femme. As the only girl, I had my own room that I painted pink. My beloved Granny Barbie (God rest her soul) let me start collecting vintage bras and corsets when I was around 6. She caught me many times parading around my room playing dress-up, but she barely scolded me for it ("Don't be fast, now," she'd warn). She always said as long as I made good grades and stayed out of trouble, I could do whatever I pleased! So I made good grades, and in return she always took me to the flea markets with her so I could spend my little .50 or a dollar on wrinkled and worn-out vintage lingerie. I couldn't fit anything, but I was in love with the shapes - the diamond cone of the bras, the hourglass of the corsets, the silky satin material. They took my breath away, even when old and torn.

One day that summer, my brothers and my dude cousins roasted me for being high-femme. (You get roasted for everything in my family.) "Who you s'posed to be, the black Marilyn Monroe?! Like you Bettie Page or something? Oh nah, she must be Elizabeth Taylor!"

They definitely laughed at me. I was the darkest little girl in my class and had no real "shape" compared to the curvaceous women my brothers idolized, but I never stopped carrying myself like the sexiest piece of jail-bait that side of the Mississippi.

Propelled by their jokes and my grandma's insistence that everything in my life have an "academic" slant, I went to the library and found as many books as I could on Page and Monroe. I studied their feet and hands, their smiles, their eyes. I remember summer days in the library, sitting by a window, spread out with a snow-cone and giant books full of photographs and bios of those two. They were my beacons of femininity and sexiness.

Those summers in the library taught me that I loved reading and discovering new information on Page and Monroe, just as much as I loved dressing up like them. They also taught me that I love libraries. The librarians that summer saw that I was interested in pinup culture and introduced me to other stars (Jayne Mansfield, Betty Grable), including women who looked like me, at least a little bit (Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt).

I would get lost in there, and it quickly became my happy place. I would rollerskate to the library, spend all day there reading about pinups and Hollywood starlets and Warhol's warehouse and Grace Jones and Studio 54, and then skate back home with my checked out books to practice my walk and write and just f sashay by myself all night long.

The summer of 1993 was a great summer. And looking back, it was pivotal to who I am today: a proud stripping pinup librarian. That summer was my first foray into researching the type of history that I love. The type that isn't really taught in school, but is still incredibly important to who I am as a woman.

Now, 26 years later, I am still driven by researching and studying all-things-high-femme. Sure, my librarian muggle job is incredibly dry -- most of my days are spent researching legal cases, statutes, and regulations -- but I love it, and I love research no matter the topic. I honestly don't think I would've become a librarian had it not been for that summer. Maybe I would've never even become a burlesque performer!

Just reminiscing about what brought me here. I often get asked how I juggle a 9-to-5 librarian gig and a burlesque career, but I just think of it as being two different sides to who I am as a complete and whole person. I am really thrilled I get to merge my two worlds through research and history, and I am really thrilled people are appreciating my work so far!

Until next time,

xoxo Bebe

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