Burlesque caught my eye a while back; gorgeous outfits intertwined with skits that merged unequivocal sexiness with humor? Yes, please. It was one of those art forms that could mesmerize an entire stadium of people. It captures the actor’s ability to make the audience feel connected with the stage. It’s hard not to admire. With that in mind, I’ve been following Saffron Soleil’s burlesque page for a while now on FB, and I’m so happy to have been able to receive an interview with them for a little more insight on the Burlesque community. They were able to expand on their creative process as well as what they can do to increase the number of Asian performers in the burlesque scene. Please do enjoy!
Black Nerd Problems: First things first: What’s the nerdiest thing about you?
Saffron: Sometimes I forget what’s most nerdy about me because it’s like my normal! I think the biggest nerdy thing about me is that I LOVE cartoons. Cartoons are my most favorite thing! They’ve been influencing me since I was young! I grew up in the age of Toonami and Cartoon Cartoon Fridays on Cartoon Network and I have always loved finding new shows to watch. Or even just binging old nostalgic ones! Cartoons got me into cosplay and crafting! My top faves are Avatar: The Last Airbender (I used to cosplay as Toph Bei Fong a while back!), Steven Universe (I cosplay as Amethyst now!), Gravity Falls, Rick and Morty, and Samurai Jack, to name just a few.
BNP: Please tell us a bit about yourself. What does your day-to-day look like?
Saffron: Well, I still work a day time muggle job, but it grants me time to do a lot of my creative projects. I usually have one to three different burlesque performance ideas brewing in my head at a time, and I’ll set aside time to do designing and sewing projects. I really love adding sparkle to the things I wear and I get really into adding rhinestones to things. I have some amazing creative friends and I also spend a lot of time with them talking through my plans and brainstorming solutions for difficult props or ideas I want to bring to the stage. I think my strongest creative work is wearable art (burlesque is like my super fun public stage for me to show it off), so I also brainstorm a lot with making cool or interesting jewelry and clothes I’d like to wear. Sometimes you can catch me tabling at different nerdy conventions selling the stuff I make! Most of my sense of fashion and creativity comes from inspiration from nature, space, with a little bit of a spooky factor. I really enjoy wearing and making things by hand and having cool eye-catching pieces that I can say I made myself. Most of the time when I’m getting ready for an upcoming show, I come home and pin, sew, and bedazzle the hell out of some costumes and doodle some kind of hair pin or necklace that I think I can get away with wearing it my muggle job.
BNP: Do you find yourself becoming political in your burlesque acts?
Saffron: Yes! Most times in a subtle or poignant way. I consider the act of performing burlesque a political act by default. For me, burlesque is a very empowering way to take back autonomy of my body, while also giving me a creative outlet. And over time I’ve noticed most of my routines have some strong aspect of storytelling or reveals that make audiences think or elicit an emotion. I’m thinking of one particular performance: I was part of a Mad Max: Fury Road tribute in Richmond, VA a few years ago and I still perform the routine I made. I did an act about one of Immortan Joe’s wives escaping a chained chastity belt. When I do that act, it always gets a really strong response. The stage I usually perform on ends up with me writing “WE ARE NOT THINGS” on it, and I think that says so much, especially given the antics of the current Administration.
BNP: What would you like to see evolve in the burlesque community?
Saffron: I’d love to see more representation of performers of color of all shapes and sizes on stage. As far as I know, I am one of the very few Asian performers in my area of Richmond, VA. I’m currently working on doing acts that represent my Filipino American identity and I hope it inspires others to do the same. I want more performers of color to tell their stories and take up space on the stage in my area and all over the world. Representation matters!
BNP: What are your plans for the future?
Saffron: My main goal for the year 2018 and beyond is to travel further away from my home state to perform and to make more acts! I am quietly working towards performing in burlesque shows and festivals across the United States next year. I’ve set my sights on AwesomeCon and DragonCon as conventions I should check out even if I don’t get accepted as a performer in their shows. I’ve toured a little bit before and I just want to do more of it!
Ashley Loth / Sound Snap Photography
Heather Addley Photography