Miss Burlesque Tasmania 2019 | Shaan Valentine
My funny Valentine, the romantic moods and sweeping strings of Sinatra, Gleason or Fitzgerald. Whether it’s the impending date of February 14th or just Saturday night out at Burlesque After Dark in Hobart’s bustling burly scene, there is one name that makes the Tasmanian audiences smile with all their hearts. But don’t change a hair for me – not if you care for me, stay little Valentine… stay… each day is Valentine’s day with Shaan Valentine. Just like perfectly tempered chocolate or ornately carved fondant – consider it the most sumptuous feast for spoilt lovers when this Valentine takes to the stage.
This sparkling darling of the Hobart burlesque scene might seem like the ingenue of the Miss Burlesque Australia Grand Final lineup but Shaan Valentine has certainly battled through hell or high water navigating endometriosis, recent surgery, self-doubt and risen as one of the crowned sweethearts of the southernmost state.
Alyssa Kitt caught up with the newly crowned Miss Burlesque Tasmania – Shaan Valentine.
Alyssa: We’ve had a few brief chats on the Instagram but I would love to know a bit more about you! How long have you been performing for?
Shaan: I started out doing group routines with Grace’s student troupe, the Cherry Daiquiris, in 2015, and the Shaan Valentine was born at the start of 2017!
Alyssa: What was your background – did you grow up dancing?
Shaan: When I was a lot younger I did jazz ballet for a few years, but I’m definitely not a trained dancer! I feel like I’ve done some other performing-type things throughout my life – lots of public speaking and leadership roles in high school! I originally discovered burlesque when my mum and I went to Europe when I was 16, and we got to go to the Moulin Rouge! That was such a special moment for me, and I try and treat every show like my own little Moulin Rouge!
Alyssa: Now you only debuted as a soloist in 2017, tell me, what does burlesque mean to you?
Shaan: I once heard the phrase “keep burlesque weird” on Instagram. It really resonated with me, because as much as I love the glamour and glitz of burlesque, I love the weirdness too! At the end of the day, we’re all taking a stand in how we present ourselves to an audience, to the world. It’s a way of reclaiming our bodies, and showing everyone that no matter how we look, our health, our job, or anything else, we are fucking BEAUTIFUL. No matter what kind of act we put on a stage, there is some kind of political or social message in it, and I think it’s really important that we all share that, that we all normalise that. I love being a bit of a weirdo, and having a platform to share that with everyone!
Alyssa: We first started corresponding when you responded to a Feminist Fatale blog post that I had made and I just wanted to bring that quote up once more:
“Everything you do in one way or another makes you stronger. Every day you face, every challenge you conquer, every knock back you rise above. Don’t let anything knock you down so hard that you stop believing in yourself. Find what makes you feel strong and let that light lead the way.”
Alyssa: Now that the dust has settled on winning Miss Burlesque Tasmania how does this quote resonate with you and your competition preparation?
Shaan: There have been plenty of times where I’ve felt knocked down, especially in regards to my physical and mental health. When I started doing burlesque, it was a great way for me to get back in touch with my body and find a lot of love for myself, but after all of my health stuff came to a head I really lost touch with myself and my self image. The competition really pushed me to put myself out there again, in different ways than just a regular show. Although it was tricky, it made me find all the things I like about myself again, regardless of being sick.
Alyssa: What were some of the challenges you faced in the lead-up to the competition?
Shaan: This was my very first competition, so facing the mental hurdles of not just sharing a stage with other wonderful, established performers was quite scary! I’m also pretty vocal about having endometriosis, and that definitely reared its head during preparations!
Alyssa: Your endometriosis would have affected you a lot going into the competition. Were there other things that you had to overcome to get your acts on stage?
Shaan: I worked really hard on focusing on what I could do when my body wasn’t playing nice. I did a lot of mental prep work, lots of mapping out my acts and ideas on paper (which doesn’t always translate perfectly onto stage for me!), but it was a really good exercise in seeing where I wanted to take them, and letting them grow!
Alyssa: Tasmania has been known to have a beautiful but smaller burlesque scene – what do you love about the community there?
Shaan: Tasmania is a beautifully tight knit community! We’ve pretty much all learned from the wonderful Grace Cherry, but it’s so wonderful to see how each performer interprets her teachings. I think being such a close group we’re all extra supportive of each other, on and off the stage.
Alyssa: As it should be. There is nothing better than a supportive community! This is your first time in the Miss Burlesque Tas competition – what made you want to enter the competition for 2019?
Shaan: At first it was almost a bet with myself. Like, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it! After having surgery in November last year, I was feeling pretty disconnected from myself and from burlesque, so I feel like MBT was the perfect way to challenge myself, and to develop some really fun acts!
Alyssa: Oh gosh! After having surgery in November could you imagine yourself wearing that crown at the end of the night when you started your MBTAS journey?
Shaan: Absolutely no way! It was a complete surprise. I was going up against some really amazing performers, and I had spent the six months prior getting in the mindset of “it’s not a competition, just a huge fun show!” because I didn’t want to get too competitive with myself or ruin the fun of it I guess!
Alyssa: I think it’s always best not to think about the competition in terms of anyone else but more as a presentation of yourself as your complete burlesque artist… that being said how did it feel when they announced your name as Miss Burlesque Tasmania for 2019?
Shaan: I was in absolute shock. I think I was shaking for the rest of the night! Mama Valentine was front and centre, and I saw her shoot out of her seat, and that was such a special moment for me. She helped with all of my costuming and meltdowns all throughout my prep, so I think I was just as excited for her as I was for myself!
Alyssa: It’s a long-haul journey that’s for sure. After you had surgery in November how did you tackle preparing for the competition?
Shaan: At first I sat down and tried to plan out where I would be at the end of each month. It worked for maybe the first two, but then with how inconsistent my health was, it really forced me to just take it one step at a time. Like I mentioned before, my mum was there each step of the way, especially with costuming, so I definitely couldn’t have done it without her!
Alyssa: How would you describe your Red Carpet Parade? Give it to me in your own words.
Shaan: I wanted to go for a real “sweetheart” image. I don’t exactly know how I came up with all the different elements, but as each piece progressed I fell more and more in love with it! I wanted it to be really over the top and almost cutesy, but still have an element of that pinup/vintage glamour! I’m really excited to show you all the changes I’ve made for the Grand Final!
Alyssa: Are you a real sweetheart? Haha – don’t answer that – I like to be surprised! How did your Red Carpet look reflect your character?
Shaan: I felt like having the flowers everywhere was very true to the “Valentine” name. It wasn’t so in-your-face that it was like walking out in a big love heart or something, but still brings forth lots of imagery associated with love and romance! I feel like my burlesque persona is quite similar to my “real life” one – kinda cute, kinda glam, a bit over the top. I felt like “burlesque me” and “real life me” combined in this look, and it really set my mood for the night ahead.
Alyssa: I am intimately familiar with this! Oh and flowers and Valentine – that’s gorgeous!
Alyssa: Going into the traditional now – describe your routine for me.
Shaan: This was originally an act that I created specially for the 10th year anniversary of Miss Kitty’s Meow in Tassie, and I had really only planned to use it for that one show, but I loved it so much that I wanted to take it further. A lot of aspects have changed about it, but this is really how I imagined it in my head in a perfect world! It’s an act that makes me feel really sexy, and I have a lot of fun performing it.
Alyssa: So it’s a pretty classic styled number – did you research much for this routine?
Shaan: Honestly, I feel like it’s a bit of an amalgamation of all of the things I’ve learnt while learning from Grace Cherry. I feel like that might be a bit of a cop out answer, but for me there wasn’t really one specific performer or style I tried to emulate, it was just a mix of everything I really love about that 50s/60s bump and grind!
Alyssa: Your Instagram says that this act was one that you’d been dreaming of for years. Describe your unique to me.
Shaan: This was an act that popped into my head as soon as I heard the song “The Man” by The Killers. It was like a calling, I had to use it for a routine. It was like all these different aspects of the act popped into my head over time, and MBT was the perfect chance to bring it to life. Just like my Traditional made me feel sexy, this act made me feel powerful. It made me feel in control and in charge of my body, and made me want to give that same feeling to audiences watching it.
Alyssa: What made it different in the world of burlesque?
Shaan: I feel like it still had a lot of key aspects of burlesque and tease, but enough to make it it’s own. I think burlesque has the power to be whatever someone wants it to be – political, powerful, funny, sexy. This routine was the first time I’ve dipped my toes in the waters of anything mildly political/not strictly the classic idea of what burlesque is, and it was a bit scary, but really fun! At the end of the day, that’s what my burlesque is about, being a bit scared but doing it anyway and having some fun!
Alyssa: You sound like you had a really well rounded experience of the comp. Did you have a favourite section?
Honestly, I loved all the sections for different reasons. I felt like I really pushed pushed myself to create things that I loved and felt the most “me” in. The Red Carpet Parade was really fun, it was a different way of being on stage (in the way that it wasn’t really an act, just getting to soak up the spotlight!), and getting to share a different side of myself.
Alyssa: How did you represent the different facets of Shaan?
Shaan: I wanted to show a few different aspects of myself in each section. For the Red Carpet, it was more glam, cutesy and over the top, the Classic section was sexy and fiery, and the Unique was powerful, strong and political. Over the last few years, with all the ups and downs of my health, all of these different parts of me got a bit lost. It was really nice to bring them all together and get my mojo back!
Alyssa: What’s on your to do list in preparation for the Grand Final?
Some costume changes/upgrades (never enough sparkles!), as well as some changes to the routines themselves. I’ve had to change a couple of things about my Red Carpet look to make it a little more travel friendly, so that’s been a great learning opportunity too!
Alyssa: You’re sparkly enough but I’m sure a little extra razzle dazzle won’t go unnoticed in the back row at the Astor! Did you enjoy your MBA Journey in the State Finals?
Shaan: It was really great. There were definitely some low points and some times where I thought I was in over my head, and I probably was! I really jumped in the deep end with MBT, but I don’t regret it for a moment. It really pushed my limits, but in the best ways possible.
Alyssa: What did you love about the competition?
Shaan: I really loved the layout of the competition. I thought the three sections were really strong and let the performers take their ideas to the max, without overwhelming us with lots of different things. I know the comp has changed a lot over the years, so I can’t speak for how it used to be, but I thought it worked really well.
Oh it certainly has changed a lot. I think that the structure now really allows performers to excel their acts to a much higher standard! Quality over Quantity! Would you recommend other performers enter MBA?
Shaan: I would definitely recommend MBA to any performer who wants to push themselves and try out something different! Obviously every performer is different, as are the things they want to get out of a competition, but I think my one piece of advice for someone going into it for the first time would be to just have fun with it. I spent a lot of time working on a really uncompetitive mentality so that I would be proud of just getting out there and doing something that made me happy.
Alyssa: It sounds like you had a real uphill journey into the competition – did you have some important people in your support team?
Shaan: Oh 100% – my mum. She was my rock throughout this whole thing, she always is and always has been. Grace Cherry was so wonderful in checking in on all of us throughout the preparations and the night itself, and for always offering a place in her shows for us to perform!
Alyssa: Outside of being the proud new wearer of that sparkling Miss Burlesque TAS crown, what have some of your other career highlights been?
Shaan: Honestly, this is probably the biggest one! Prior to this, I had the honour of being one of four performers in A Decade Undressed, which was huge for me. I felt so loved and so valued in this community.
Alyssa: Oh the Moulin Rouge would be a real inspiration to any budding showgirl! What would you say that your overall style of burlesque is?
I love a bit of old style vintage glamour, and that real cheesecake showgirl sparkle! After developing my Traditional act though, I’m really starting to love a more dirty bump and grind vibe!
We look forward to seeing Shaan Valentine represent Tasmania on the Miss Burlesque Australia Grand Final stage at the Astor Theatre in Perth August 24th!