2010 Miss Burlesque Australia – In the beginning…
By Alyssa Kitt
In 2010, a burgeoning Australian burlesque scene was starting to gain traction and new performers were popping up enthusiastically around the country. Dance schools specialising in teaching burlesque had opened their doors and small communities of burlesque artists were thriving in their capital cities featuring a diverse array of sub-cultures from glamour girls recreating nostalgic pin up looks, to the tattooed Gorlesque scream queens and underground queer performance artists.
The days of the big touring burlesque variety shows were just beginning with shows like the Burlesque Ball in 2004, The Gangsters Ball in 2008 and with the establishment of The Australian Burlesque Festival in 2009. Burlesque was battling it’s way onto the big stages across Australia and becoming a more palatable form of legitimate high brow entertainment.
By the time the Miss Burlesque Australia competition began in 2010 nearly every single state and territory had a school. Australia was divided but with the rise of internet the previously separated burlesque communities were slowly beginning to connect to one another. The neo-revival was well underway when Miss Burlesque Australia announced that it would be holding State Finals in each major city in Australia to find who would be crowned Miss Burlesque Australia.
The first year was a blank slate, a clean palate for performers to carve their mark into. Produced by the newly formed Bijou Group, Miss Burlesque Australia was the brainchild of Australian strip veteran Cassandra Jane and in it’s two years was co-produced with Jac Bowie. The community reception to the competition was one of excitement and every state was full of performers eager to compete! The first year, the titles and crowns were new. There was not yet any prestige attached to them and none of the performers had any idea what kind of doors they might open up. The Burlesque Ball was another of the Bijou group’s big touring shows and a headlining spot was up as a prize, along with costumes sponsored by Flo Foxworthy, The Silk Bazaar and Cassandra Jane’s Showgirl Couture.
Before Miss Burlesque Australia, there had been small competitions held around different cities in Australia but nothing that gained something as large as gaining national recognition. There was excitement but also no references for what the judges were really looking for. There were 5 categories including a red carpet parade, a lingerie parade, and the three performance rounds – the classic, neo and unique categories. The entries were varied – from Miss Nude Australia stage veterans to performers traipsing the floorboards for the very first time.
The competition was the first of it’s kind but was largely modelled off scoring and structure from stripping competitions. The gown parade was foreign to all the performers and the show and ceremony of the section was vastly different to what it later became. The lingerie parade was hugely unpopular with performers, many of whom did not see the point of a burlesque competition if the audience had already seen us half naked. This section was removed by 2011.
The first round of Miss Burlesque Australia kicked off in Queensland, at Brisbane’s historic Old Museum. The first winners were crowned and the competitors caught their first glimpse of the beautiful spiked tiaras on the heads of Miss Burlesque Queensland, Ellashaye D’More and Miss Burlesque Brisbane, Amelie Lulu. In the first year, both the winner and runner up were awarded crowns, however, this was the only year that both received a crown. Other Queensland competitors in 2010 were The Dynamite Boom Boom, Tiara TheMerchGirl, Page La’Belle, Blue Velvet, Scarlett the Siren, Vivienne LaRouge and Alyssa Kitt.
The first NSW final was held at The Arthouse Hotel in the CBD and the Sydney competition was hot in 2010. Briana Bluebell was crowned Miss Burlesque NSW and Danica Lee took out the title of Miss Burlesque Sydney. Rita Fontaine was later awarded a wild card spot and went on to win the first year of Miss Burlesque Australia. NSW finalists included Ariana Star, Diamond Rose, Lara Love, Nikki Nouveau, Venus Vamp, Lucille Spielfuchs and Vanity Lee.
Lara Love, competed in the first four years of Miss Burlesque Australia and says that it created so many fond memories and ultimately made her into a better performer. “The first year was a smaller and more intimate stage and setting. But I guess it seemed smaller than it became even the following year – the stage at the Factory Theatre was so much better and it made it all the more prestigious. I remember Briana doing her Egyptian act – I was amazed and in awe!”
Miss Burlesque WA was held at the luxurious 1887 built Fremantle Town hall. The historic concert hall was filled to the rafters with fans of Perth burlesque who were there to cheer on the competitors. 2010 State finalists included Lola Cherry Cola, Ginger LaMinge, Lorelei Lita, Miss Mixi Mitosis, Layla Brulee, Sharee Amore (later named Cécile Mimieux), Foxy La Femme, Modesty Ev, Odile Devine. Miss Burlesque Perth was Ginger LaMinge and the winner of Miss Burlesque Western Australia was Clara Cupcakes – who’s comedic firestorm style of burlesque fused her impressive hula hoops with satire and just a touch of mania.
Claire Walliker was in the audience for the first WA show that year. “The Miss Burlesque competition was the first time the entire community had come together in one place, we were up in the balcony in this sold out event watching this parade of exciting performers do all types of amazing things in one three hour show. Clara did as her unique act stripping out of an actual Cupcake and it brought the house down! The cheer was deafening! For me, I became a fan of Clara to this day after watching Miss Burlesque.”
The Adelaide leg of MBA saw Miss Burlesque South Australia at the Star Theatre. Finalist included Flavella Lamour, Sapphire Snow, Luna Eclipse, Violet Deflower, Silla Black, Sapphire Demure, Miss Jane and Hedy Bella Nova. Flavella Lamour won Miss Burlesque South Australia performing wrapped by her snakes, while Luna Eclipse won Miss Burlesque Adelaide with her classic but masterful fusion of bellydance and strip.
Hailing from Perth, Miss Jane competed in South Australia for the first year of MBA. “When I entered the competition in 2010 there was very little expectation for what performers had to do or the kind of standard of acts. We all just entered because it was this fun thing and a great stage to perform on. That first year was an experience that opened my eyes to a possibility of a future I never thought I had.”
Miss Burlesque Victoria was held at Chasers Nightclub across from the old Red Bennies in South Yarra. With a background as a circus performer The Strawberry Siren took out the State title dangling from an aerial hoop for her unique routine. Miss Burlesque Melbourne was Peachy Dream. Finalists included Miss Kay Risque, Cherri Lamour, Michelle Hart, Ginger Leah Rye, Tiffany Rose, She She Velour and Ferri Maya.
Miss Burlesque Tasmania was Becky Lou and Miss Burlesque Hobart was Ruby Right. Finalists were Lucy Sky Diamond, Bebe Sparkle, Le Fay, Raven la Rouge, Lou Lou Smooch and Flame. Starting a new touring competition from scratch was no easy feat and not all the accounts for the first year of Miss Burlesque were glowing. Lucy Sky Diamond said that the competition was “held in a hotel on a shallow low stage that usually held bands. To get to and from the stage we had to walk through the audience, some of whom sat on the floor. The next time I competed was better, we performed in a theatre and there was no lingerie walk. I felt more confident in my abilities and decided basically to win the [TASMANIA] competition.”
The Grand Final was held at The Enmore Theatre in Sydney, In the Grand Final for 2010, it was not yet mandatory to perform the classic routine and many of the finalists chose to only perform their neo and unique acts. All the competitors were also in a choreographed group opening routine with the MC, comedian Cam Knight. Rita Fontaine was crowned the first Miss Burlesque Australia, separated by one point was first runner up Briana Bluebell and 2nd runner up Clara Cupcakes. There was no handover performance that first year but Imogen Kelly, Australia’s Queen of Burlesque performed an aerial burlesque routine where she transforms from a caterpillar to butterfly. The guest spot and standard of performance at the first Grand Final solidified the kind of expectations laid out for future competitors. You could see the ripple effect of the 2010 competition throughout each city’s community – crown fever set in and girls were hungry to win those crowns for 2011. With the prospect of bigger stages, performers began to craft bigger routines and invest more money into costumes.
After the first competition the state winners featured in a spread in Marie Claire magazine called, “Exotic Birds: Burlesque Queens of the Suburbs.” And the State winners began to tour and perform amidst their new network of performers. The competition created national exposure not just for the winner but provided a new way for performers to connect with one another around Australia.
State Winners for 2010:
Miss Burlesque Queensland 2010 Ellashaye D’More
Miss Burlesque Brisbane 2010 Amelie Lulu
Miss Burlesque NSW 2010 Briana Bluebell
Miss Burlesque Sydney 2010 Danica Lee
Miss Burlesque Victoria 2010 The Strawberry Siren
Miss Burlesque Melbourne 2010 Peachy Dream
Miss Burlesque Western Australia 2010 Clara Cupcakes
Miss Burlesque Perth 2010 Ginger LaMinge
Miss Burlesque South Australia 2010 Flavella Lamour
Miss Burlesque Adelaide 2010 Luna Eclipse
Miss Burlesque Tasmania 2010 Becky Lou
Miss Burlesque Hobart 2010 Ruby Right
Wildcard entries for grand final included Sapphire Demure and Rita Fontaine
National titles presented at the Grand Final included:
Miss Burlesque Australia 2010 Rita Fontaine
Miss Burlesque Australia 1st runner up Briana Bluebell
Miss Burlesque Australia 2nd runner up Clara Cupcakes
Entertainer of the Year – Strawberry Siren
Miss Classic – Danica Lee
Miss Congeniality – Ruby Right
Miss Elegance – Ginger LaMinge
Miss Revival – Ellashaye D’More
Miss Bunnylicious – Ellashaye D’More
Miss Fan Dance- Sapphire Demure
Miss Tassel Twirl – Luna Eclipse
Miss Bump and Grind – Amelie Lulu
Would you like to share your Miss Burlesque Australia memories with us? If you’re a past competitor or even an audience member for Miss Burlesque Australia get in touch and share your experiences with us!
Keep your eyes open for our next feature on Miss Burlesque Australia 2011 winner – Sina King.
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