Miss Burlesque Queensland 2018 – Magnolia Knife
Fifth time’s the charm by Alyssa Kitt
Backstage with an almost sacred pink envelope tucked safely in my hand, the contents of which contained own handwritten announcement of the winners of Miss Burlesque Queensland for 2018. The girls lined up in their red carpet parade ensembles waiting for Aurora to call them back on for one final sashay of the stage in all their finery. The judges scores had been tallied and triple checked – the only problem that stood between the crown and the ordained head was a literal splay of knives fashioned into a headdress. I stared unintentional daggers at Magnolia’s towering cranial installation art.
“What? What are you looking at?” Mags said.
“Me – oh nothing. Just love your headdress. It’s amazing.” I responded, the second she walked away I leaned into the reigning Miss Burlesque Queensland Lenore Noire and whispered, “Can you make sure that’s off her head when I announce her name as the winner?” Lenore’s face turned to a comical shade of putty before she mimed a lips sealed face.
I could feel the tension from everyone as I went onstage to make the announcements that everyone was waiting for. After a comical moment announcing Lucy Luxe as 2nd runner up when she ran all over the stage and almost off the other side, Martini McFly was announced as Miss Burlesque Brisbane and then…
“The winner of Miss Burlesque Queensland for 2018 is *pause for dramatic applause as Martini McFly and Lucy Luxe exploded into smiles* … Magnolia Knife!” The second the words left my mouth the audience erupted from their seats screaming like a cheering stadium of rowdy footy fans. Many of these audience members have been coming to Miss Burlesque for years and have followed Magnolia’s relentlessly fierce competition journey for five years straight.
Magnolia jumped onto the burlesque stage in 2011 and I remember first seeing her at BB LeBuff’s Cabbaret – her style was fierce, dangerous and so enthralling even then. In 2013 she first entered Miss Burlesque Queensland and blew the Unique section out of the water with her astounding vocal skills. Fast forward to 2018 and she has amassed an enviable number of sashes but had not yet taken out the prize that had kept her applying each year.
With a derriere beyond compare and more notorious backstage stories than could fill a book, Magnolia Knife has been a force to be reckoned with the Brisbane burlesque scene for years, but she really hit her strides and found her unique style when she was up on the podium taking out the title of Miss Burlesque Brisbane in 2014. Since then she has performed at the Perth International Burlesque Festival, multiple Australian Burlesque Festivals, the Inaugural Congress of Undress and toured to the top end of QLD.
I caught up with Magnolia post competition to get the lowdown on the past five years of Miss Burlesque Queensland and what it feels like to finally wear that crown and sash.
You’re an incredibly well established performer – tell me how long you have been doing burlesque.
I started burlesque in 2011. I’m pretty sure my first solo was in early 2012 with a terrible alcoholic housewife act where I went crazy and ripped off all my clothes (a great example of how not to do a burlesque routine). I suppose it could only get better from there!
What was your first experience of burlesque/ striptease? How did you find yourself getting naked onstage?
Many years ago I went to an art exhibition for my BFF Raw Bones Photography, and as part of the evening I saw Red Devotchkin and Bertie Page do some burlesque. These women were literally getting their kits off within arm’s reach of me in an intimate cafe without a care in the world. It took guts… it was creative… I wanted in!
What have some of your career highlights been so far?
Aside from winning Miss Burlesque Queensland, a highlight has definitely been getting a Wild Card to the MBA grand final in 2015 and placing second runner up. While it was amazing to perform and place, I had loads of fun getting to know the other competitors and giggling in the dorms with them. After the show I rode my suitcase home down the main drag of Darwin and went to the after party where I split my skirt on the dance floor. YOLO.
What do you think is your most identifiable aspect to you as a performer? What is Magnolia Knife known for?
I think Magnolia Knife can be quite the Jill of all trades but generally I’m received as being more of a dark performer and having a fierceness about me. I am authentic and never put anything forward that isn’t true to who I am. I am also known for my butt, thanks for the good genes Mum.
You have an incredible network of supporters – what was some of the best burlesque advice given to you?
Never stop learning from others, whether they be world class performers or the students you’re teaching. There is always something you can learn from the creatives around you… And cut those fucking tags off your underwear before you get on stage.
You’re a Miss Burlesque Australia veteran – this is your fifth competition (not to mention the record of any performer competing nationally) – what drive and determination lead you to keep entering?
In previous years, I’ve been quite the hot mess. I haven’t put forward the best version of myself that I know I’m capable of. I have battled depression for more than half my life, and it has honestly slowed me down creatively and personally. In the lead up to the competition, I received a lot of encouragement and support from those around me reminding me that I needed nothing more than to be prepared, and that I already had the skills needed to develop interesting, engaging and award winning routines. So I really relied on the love and warmth from those around me to encourage the best version of myself. Plus, having a challenge in my life helps me get out of bed when at times I could stay there all day. And final plus, my Mum said she’d never sew another costume for me after this year – I think my Marie Antoinette skirt broke her 😀
With that experience – how did you feel entering with the new competition rules?
Very excited! I loved the notion of a red carpet parade as opposed to a gown parade (though I have rocked some pretty nice gowns in my time even if I do say so myself!). To be able to introduce your character wearing whatever you want is much more refreshing than trying to be ‘Hollywood glamour’. There are ridiculously talented and creative burlesque artists out there who don’t fit into the confines of traditional beauty or glamour as part of their persona, so I feel that change in the rules has really broadened horizons for non-conventional burlesque badasses and I loved the fact this year I could serve fetish feminine vibes in thigh high boots. I also think it’s more equitable and makes the competition more inviting now all performers get to showcase across three genres rather than only the top five doing their Unique.
How do you feel you approached 2018 say in comparison to your first year in 2013? What was your game plan/ goals?
When I first entered in 2013, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I made all my own costumes including my neo routine’s spider web back piece from a pool filter lid (haha). I also wore open toe stockings with no shoes (haha x2). I didn’t really have a solid sense of myself as a performer back then. Approaching the competition in 2018 I had much more experience under my belt. I’d performed countless routines of different genres across Australia which gave me the opportunity to identify how to showcase the best of my abilities in the competition. In the past, I have let myself down by not rehearsing, organising costumes or deciding on things at the last minute (I’m talking occasions where props or choreo were finished the day before the comp and I would be up until 3am the day of the competition finishing costumes). But my goals for 2018 were pretty much BE PREPARED and GIVE MY BEST without worrying what others were doing or what anyone would think of me.
Aside from having to remove your giant knived headdress – how did you feel in the moment that I announced your name as Miss Burlesque Queensland?
It was a mixture between wanting to puke, intense relief and total elation. I had so many friends and peers give me encouragement and love in the lead up to the comp, so seeing the ecstatic faces of those friends and strangers alike cheering me as I stood on stage was a beautiful feeling.
Let’s talk about your routines for 2018. Can you describe your Traditional for me?
It’s a soft, elegant ostrich feather fan routine paying homage to Faith Bacon, ‘America’s most beautiful dancer’. Having been known for more sultry routines and having a style that is more rough around the edges, I really pushed myself to create a dance that was more gentle and elegant than my usual style. Plus I LOVE fan dancing.
What did you do for your unique and how do you think it will set you apart going into the Grand Final?
I revisited and refined a routine I did for MBA 2014, ‘Madame Deficit’! The Marie Antoinette character lets me show my humorous side and is essentially about loving your body and doing whatever the f*ck you want with your life! I think it sets my apart because it draws together a lot of elements that make for a great burlesque routine- singing, comedy, dance and heart.
Did you enjoy competing in Miss Burlesque Queensland? Would you recommend entering the competition?
I loved it! It can be an intense ride at times but I’ve made so many gains from being a part of the competition. If anyone was considering entering I would always recommend taking the leap. It’s hard work putting yourself on show in front of your peers and industry professionals to be judged and ranked, but you can take their feedback and develop your capacity as a performer (and even win after five years!).
Lastly, how do you think you’ve grown as a performer entering the competition?
As I said before, I’ve been able to enter over a number of years and test out what my strengths are, and find out my areas of need – that can only be a great thing for a performer. The competition has developed my confidence and has forced me to explore my creativity more than I would usually when developing a routine. I also never knew I enjoyed classic routines so much. Without the competition, I would never have explored classic burlesque to the full extent that I have today and developed a love for the various traditional styles that you can see throughout the traditional section of the competition!
Follow Magnolia Knife’s journey to the Grand Final in Perth: