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The Importance of Burlesque Mentorship

I am not gonna lie – I fangirl HARD over burlesque performers.


Like, really hard. I bookmark their websites and videos, read their blog posts, like and love all their social media posts, sing their praises to non-believers, etc. I value the opinions of burlesque performers I admire, and while they all come from different walks of life and have different performance styles, there’s something important that many of them advise in common:


GET A MENTOR, TAKE A CLASS, LEARN YOUR HISTORY


As polished and bad-ass as many legendary performers are, they didn’t get there overnight. Many of the performers we look up to come from very humble burly-baby beginnings. Before they got to where they are, they - somehow, some way - caught the attention of someone they admired who had some kinda hand in building them up to where they are today. None of us can do it alone!


When I did Burlypicks in Wisconsin this year, I met a performer that I had long admired. Her name is Egypt Blaque Knyle, and her reputation preceded her - with more titles than anyone else in burlesque and raw, incomparable sex appeal, she is currently one of the most electrifying and unique entertainers in burlesque. Like me, Egypt was active in pageants, and still loved doing them. To me, Egypt’s powerful performances transcended burlesque - I remember showing one of her performances to a non-burlesque friend, and she said “Now THAT’S an entertainer.” I literally shed a tear when I saw her perform the act below live – so much mf passion!! Egypt’s background included both formal dance and stripping, and her Burlypicks class promised to teach us the art of “fuckery”.

I was really fucking nervous when I met her at this class - more so, somehow, because she was WAY tinier than I imagined her to be!! I don’t know why I thought she would be 6′0, but she was petite and seemed shy. So throughout ALL my nervousness, I played it cool, paid attention in class, competed in front of her for the Burlypicks title (which I lost, but no biggie - more on that in another blog post), thanked her for being so amazing, and then left for home in D.C.


This is a pic of me tipsy and totally NOT playing it cool with Egypt at Burlypicks:

I felt deflated a bit after performing - my nerves took over, for sure - but I was shocked when she reached out to me afterwards. She saw something in me… something I didn’t even see in myself… and she took a chance and decided to help me grow not only as a performer, but as a woman. For that, I am forever grateful.


Since joining Egypt’s House of Knyle mentorship, I have re-discovered my burlesque persona, tapped into my sensuality, found a burlesque family of intelligent and compassionate sisters, and really focused on what type of burlesque legacy I want to create for myself. Egypt encourages us to write, write, write – I wouldn’t even be blogging if it weren’t for her encouragement! 


With Egypt’s gentle push, I dove deep and headfirst into burlesque history. Among other essays, she tasked the House of Knyle with writing about a legend, and I chose Miss Topsy (there will be another blog post about that research journey, as well). 

This led me to discover so much! Since she assigned us these essays, I have learned so much more about the history of the Burlesque Hall of Fame/Miss Exotic World and the history of black burlesque in this country. And I have so, so far to go!


Mentorship is incredibly beneficial, and having a good mentor is invaluable. I am so thankful for Egypt - she really is a selfless and loving person, very soft-spoken and somehow fierce and strong at the same time. Little known fact: while some mentorship programs can be out-the-wazoo expensive for some people, Egypt’s mentorship costs are reasonable. She just wants us to be better, know our history, and respect our burlesque legends. She’s gentle with us, but she can still be strict and harsh!!! Lol. I honestly think Egypt doesn’t have ENOUGH awards or accolades. Fight me.


There are other mentors and teachers as well - shout out to Gigi Holliday for teaching my very first burlesque class and *still* being around for advice and support, Eva Mystique and Brooke Jay for teaching us how to slay like them (or at least try, bc let’s be honest they are TALENTED AF), Martika for teaching me beginner hula hooping (holy hell it’s hard af), Perle Noire for having a Skype session with me on how to make moves in this industry while still staying positive and a blessing to yourself and others, Essence Revealed for being a phone call away and offering her services on how to be a standalone independent bad bitch. I’m so, so thankful.


Hopefully, there will be other mentors and teachers as well. I love to take burlesque classes and learn new things, and I plan on going to BurlyCon next year to learn even more! 


My mentorship with Egypt will technically be complete by January, but I will continue to use the lessons she has instilled in us and the exercises she has taught us to be strong in my burlesque brand and persona! I can’t wait to continue watching Egypt take the world by storm – even when not mentoring, she teaches us all how to be raw and unfiltered and unapologetic with our sensuality.

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