Miss Burlesque Victoria 2018 | Velma Vouloir
The Name is Vouloir
I was refreshing the Miss Burlesque Victoria Instagram feed every 5 minutes and keeping tabs on their live feed – Bella de Jac was hot on the social media spot for MBV but I need more updates – MWOAR I SAID! I’m not going to lie, when the Victoria lineup was announced for 2018 MBV I thought that it was one of the most intimidatingly talented group of performers I’d seen in some time. The standard was set for a battle royale – a top five that would’ve made any seasoned professional nervous. Emerging as the pre-eminent dark horse of the Victoria competition is one name you’re sure not to forget any time soon.
You’d be forgiven if you had a moment of “who’s this girl” when Velma Vouloir appeared with that trademark pointed MBA State crown atop her head. Covered from ear to ear with an ecstatic grin, Velma looked like a showgirl floating on cloud nine in her dreamy blue Coppelia Jane designed playsuit and tulle bustle. With only two years under that bustle, Vouloir has firmly pressed her stamp onto Australian burlesque’s radar as one to watch.
Alluringly sumptuous with a playful side eye, Velma’s stage presence commands attention, her natural elegance and curves for days scream one bad femme fatale. It all began in 2016 when Velma sheepishly walked into her first fan-dance lesson with Poppy Cherry and says she “waltzed out knowing life could never be the same again!”
Alyssa Kitt caught up with this rising star to talk about juggling burlesque and babies, the power of your burly support network and creating 80s inspired burlesque goof-ball realness.
You’re a relatively new performer – how long have you been doing burlesque (classes, making solos etc)?
I walked sheepishly into my first fan-dance private with Poppy Cherry just a little over two years ago… And I waltzed out knowing life could never be the same again!
I began with one on one lesson as juggling work and an 18 month old meant I could never get to class… But soon after I actually changed up my work schedule, and then job, just so I could make it to group classes. I knew I wanted to create some solo pieces straight away, and began choreographing bits and pieces throughout 2016. It took me months to work up the courage to actually perform my first burlesque solo though, which I did in May of 2017. Since then it’s a wild ride of learning, performing & experimenting!
What was your first experience of burlesque/striptease – how did you find yourself in this crazy world?
I feel like I’ve been peering over the fence into this crazy world almost my entire life, and I’m so happy I’ve finally climbed over and landed in burly wonderland. My mum always brings up that I knew the entire script of The Wizard Of Oz from the age of 3, and it was all because of those ruby slippers and Glinda’s phenomenal costume. My childhood hero was Rita Hayworth and I just had this adoration for beautiful, sexy, glamorous women & vintage aesthetics. I remember watching ‘Gyspy’ over and over and over just longing to be like Natalie Wood – I was just a kid so I had absolutely no concepts of sexuality, sex or what was risque or taboo… All i could see was uninhibited fun, playfulness, confidence and glamour.
When I was 16 or 17 I heard from some of my older friends that there was a ‘cabaret show’ on in the city. I managed to get in and found myself at Red Door Burlesque featuring none other than Dolores Daiquiri & Hi Ball Burlesque! I sat there all night with my friends having the most incredible night. I remember thinking ‘It’s real! It really exists!’ and from then on I spent countless hours seeing all the burlesque I could soak up across Melbourne for years and years after. All my spare money went towards Red Door, The 86, The Butterfly Club & Red Bennies.
Cut to many many years later, I found myself in a mental rut. I had stopped dancing and teaching during my pregnancy and hadn’t been able to get back into the swing of things. I was suffering from post-natal depression and felt like a stranger in my own body that now no longer looked or moved the way I had always expected it to. My technique, flexibility, strength were all suddenly gone & yet I still yearned to dance and move and express myself. A friend who knew my love of burlesque made the suggestion of going along to some classes to allow myself some ‘me time’. A burlesque class was something I didn’t even realise existed! I organised my first fan dance lessons, and soon burlesque became my entire world. It was such a fun, gentle, explorative way to creatively express myself, experience the joy of dance and connect to a whole network of wonderful people.
What have been some of the highlights of your performing career so far (both burlesque and other)?
Honestly, nothing compares to the experience of Miss Burlesque Victoria this year. To be seen and supported by such an incredible crowd and community that night was out of this world! I don’t think my feet have touched the ground yet! To be able to unleash those parts of myself and perform from the heart and connect with the audience was absolute magic.
What do you think is your most identifiable aspect to you as a performer? What is Velma Vouloir known for?
To be completely honest – I’m still not entirely sure! As a newer performer I’m definitely still exploring Velma’s character and playing with the ideas that come out. I adore all things classic and high glamour, but there’s definitely a big goof-ball side to my character too that I just know will not be contained!
You’re a teacher at Maison Burlesque in Melbourne – you must have an absolutely incredible network of supporters? What was some of the best burlesque advice given to you?
Oh absolutely! It’s just the most supportive and gorgeous place to work and create! I received so much love and kindness and wisdom from all the teachers & students and I 100% could have never got myself on that stage if it weren’t for them. One of my many favourite pieces of advice was to keep things simple. It seems so… simple, but for me it’s anything but. I naturally have a tendency to overcrowd my routines with too many ideas and too much choreography. I’m the kind of person that would try to fit the equivalent of War & Peace into a 4 minute routine, so working with simplicity and allowing breathing space in my routines has been so valuable.
It’s your first year competing in Miss Burlesque Australia – but you come from an extensive dance background (please describe) – you must be familiar with a good dance competition (compare MBA to a normal dance comp).
Oh I’ve been around many, many dance & performance comps in my life, but Miss Burlesque Australia is actually the first ever comp I’ve ever taken part in as a competitor. The reason for that is actually probably because I was so scarred from things I witnessed as a kid and teenager in the dance scene. I have been dancing since I was a kid, however I was always a total misfit and I always felt rejected from the ‘dance clique’. I didn’t have a ‘dance mom’, I was always too tall or too chubby (and then too ‘curvy’ as a teen), my legs were too long and I never really liked ballet (omg 12yr old dance school social suicide – gasp!) Seeing as I didn’t fit the mould of the prima ballerina and I didn’t have any pressure from teachers or parents I never pushed myself to compete in dance. But, some friends did, and I witnessed some of the darker sides of what can be involved. Intense training regimes, insane pressure, detailed fussing over how every inch of your body looks and moves and how it performs these specific movements. To me it was the opposite of dance should actually be about.
Competing in burlesque however is a completely different world. In burlesque your differences are your assets. It’s about performance, not ‘classic technique’, it’s about connecting with your audience and showing them a part of yourself not just through dance but through gaze, gesture, character, costume, theatrics, music and sensuality. When attending past Miss Burlesque Victoria events what I loved so much was simply seeing the diversity and wonderful talent of the people performing. I never really saw it as a competition, but more a showcase of creativity and a chance to have a great night out with the Victorian burlesque community.
What made you want to enter Miss Burlesque Australia this year?
After being an audience member for so many years, once I was actually performing burlesque myself it was an exciting goal to work towards to be given the opportunity to be on the Miss Burlesque stage! I wanted to push myself as a performer and have the deadline to create new acts that took me outside my comfort zone.
How did you prepare for the competition? What was your game plan/ goals?
Lots of coffee… And lots of gem-tac… And lots of hugs from the Maison Burlesque family! My goal for the competition was to basically unleash myself to people in the burly community and be like ‘Hey everyone, this is Velma nice to meet you!’ As a newer performer I wanted to work hard to push myself and take my burlesque to that next level, I wanted to create acts that showcased elements of my character that I hadn’t necessarily shown to audiences yet.
How did you feel in that moment when Miss Jane Doe announced your name as Miss Burlesque Victoria?
When I heard my name announced I think I just kind of stood there like a stunned mullet. I was just in total shock. The stage door opened and the first person I saw in the audience was my Mum who was crying and cheering, and that’s when it all became real and the tears just came flooding out. All the elation all the joy all the relief all the exhaustion just erupted into a hot mess!
Tell me about your routines:
Can you describe your Traditional for me?
It’s a sultry, heaving, vampy, gown-to-garment routine inspired by femme fatales of the 1940s. It’s definitely something that’s outside my comfort zone as it’s not a side to myself I’m used to showing
many people, but, well, vampy Velma wanted to come out and play!
What did you do for your unique and how do you think it will set you apart going into the Grand Final?
I created this act as a way to bundle up every dorky, insecure part of myself and literally throw it at the audience like ‘PS, THIS IS REALLY ME! It’s not all elegance and sparkles!’ It’s an 80s comedy act where I’m getting ready for my high school formal in my bedroom and waiting for my boyfriend Johnny to come pick me up. Look… Chaos ensues.
Did you enjoy competing in Miss Burlesque Victoria? Would you recommend entering this State Final?
Absolutely! I would 100% encourage anyone to enter their state final! The producers have been so incredibly supportive and put on such an exceptional show & the laughter and cups of tea (slash wine) and hugs from all the fellow competitors alone make it worth entering.
Lastly, how do you think you’ve grown as a performer entering the competition?
This competition really forced me to come face to face with so many insecurities and doubts I had about myself, and it pushed me to go bigger, bolder and be more unapologetic in my performing. I believe there’s always room for more growth and exploration, and through the support and mentoring from some fantastic people during this comp I feel like I have the confidence to continue to explore and develop Velma Vouloir indefinitely. She’s alive baby! ALIVE!