Interview: Missy Suicide of SuicideGirls and Blackheart Burlesque

I talk with Missy Suicide of SuicideGirls.com to talk about the SuicideGirls Blackheart Burlesque show.
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On a rainy afternoon here in Southern California, I had a chance to talk to Missy Suicide, founder of SuicideGirls.com. SuicideGirls is the online community that was started over thirteen years ago as a way to celebrate alternative forms of beauty while embracing pin-up aesthetics.

The interview is an easy conversation as we chat about the current SuicideGirls Blackheart Burlesque tour. I tell Missy I am excited to hear about the SG burlesque show since I hosted a burlesque show for two years. Missy’s sweet and supportive response makes it easy to understand why so many women have trusted her with their bodies and their images for so many years.

Missy, am I correct that the last SG burlesque tour was in 2005?

It was the end of 2006, we opened for Guns N’ Roses. It was super fun and amazing. We had a run of the burlesque show from 2002, 2003 through 2006 and it was tons of fun, but it was so much work. I’m sure since your been involved in a burlesque show you know how crazy it is to put it on and organize all of the performers and the routing and just everything.

It is so much work.  People come to a show and see the final polished performance, but they don’t know how much sweat and headaches go into getting that polished performance out there.

Totally. It was a lot of work. And after the Guns N’ Roses tour, we thought we’re just going to take a year or a season off because we wanted to do a book. So we put out the book and it took a little longer than a season, it took like two or three. Then we were like, let’s make a movie, and the burlesque tour just kept getting put on hold and put on hold and put on hold. Then we put out our book Hard Girls, Soft Light two years ago and we sent two girls on a book signing tour up and down the West Coast where they were just signing books at comic book shops and there were 500-750 people outside the comic book shop in Santa Cruz waiting to get their book signed and we were like, clearly people want a live experience and we know we can do better than having two girls at a comic book shop.

So we knew it was time to reimagine the burlesque show. We had done pop culture related acts in our burlesque show before, but this one we knew we wanted to do a fully pop culture, immersive themed-out show. So we just started coming up with ideas for different numbers and different routines. My favorite part was coming up with the soundtrack. Just listening to all of the songs that I thought were sexy or super awesome and pairing them to theme ideas.

I have worked with Manwe Sauls-Addison on a television thing that didn’t end up going; he and I really clicked though. So when it was time to do this show I was like okay so I’ve got this idea for a burlesque show and I don’t know if you’re going to be into it or not and if you’re not it’s okay, but I want you to come up with a routine to Planet of the Apes number with girls in silver bikinis and monkey masks to Disclosure’s “Fire Starts to Burn”, but instead of the part where the man starts talking we are going to put in The Simpsons, Planet of The Apes opera and he was like, "ummm ok". And I was like just come out to L.A., we’re gonna hold auditions and I don’t know if we’re gonna get anybody who is awesome and maybe it will be good or maybe it won’t be. We’ll see.

How was this group of girls cast for Blackheart Burlesque? You have 2,668 active Suicide Girls on the site, which is a lot of people. Did you look inside the SuicideGirls ranks or outside, or both?

It’s both. We held auditions and people come out before each tour and they audition and we rehearse them. The girl, Sunny, who is hosting the show this time was actually an audience member at the show in New York City last year. She had always wanted to be a SuicideGirl but didn’t think she had enough tattoos she didn’t feel like she would be accepted or stand out or anything. She went to the burlesque show and she got called up on the stage during one of the audience-participation numbers and loved it and killed it and had so much fun that she flew out when we had our auditions for our Australian tour this spring and she killed it. She joined the tour, she has shot stuff for the site, she’s amazing and beautiful and talented and awesome. She went as a dancer on the Australian tour and then he ended up hosting this tour, the Fall U.S. run. So on Halloween she was performing as the host and star of the show in New York City to the Crowd she had been a part of last year.

That is so cool. When I hosted the burlesque show I was in, my producer wanted someone the girls would always be comfortable with. She felt there was a different sexiness that came across when there was a female introducing other females as opposed to a male introducing females which could make for a strip-club atmosphere. Were there any thoughts like that for you about having a female host over a male host?

It’s just simply, we’re all girls, all the time, and that was kind of in a similar fashion to your producer. My inspiration for SuicideGirls was Bunny Yeager’s Betty Page photos. There was just something so sexy about a woman being sexy in front on another woman as opposed to putting on airs for men and what not.

I agree I think there is something different about women around women as opposed to men around women. We do put airs on around guys a lot of times.

You just behave different. In a slightly different manner.

I have to ask since I am a curvy girl, where are the curvy girls in this cast?

There’s a few different girls on the roster and throughout the tour different girls come onto the roster and so there are different girls.

Who are the girls on this tour?

Sunny is the host, but on each show the lineup is slightly different depending on who is available.

What is the difference between stripping between burlesque? What do you think takes women from taking their clothes off for an audience as strippers into the art of burlesque?

The show is a highly choreographed, highly rehearsed, whole entertainment experience. There are elements of humor and teasing, sexuality and sensuality. There’s also badass dance moves. And some strippers have badass dance moves, don’t get me wrong, but these are fully choreographed routines that have scenes and costumes and are entertainment. They are more on par with a Broadway show than…

Going out and pole dancing?

Exactly.

Have you considered dancing yourself?

I have two left feet. I sometimes attempt to do the choreography for the show and the girls make fun of me. Our show is super choreography intense. I know that a lot of burlesque shows are less on the dancing intensity scale. But our choreographer has worked with everybody from Beyonce to Lady Gaga to Michael Jackson. It’s hard, there are a lot of quick steps and everything in time. It’s a show, a spectacle, and it’s well-rehearsed. And that is a talent and a skill set that I do not have.

I cannot do what the girls do.

You know your limits and you respect them.

Yes! I know where my talents lie and where they do not. I have no ego in that race.

SuicideGirls has been around for thirteen-plus years and obviously the community has grown and changed. What are you proudest about Suicide Girls?

I’m proudest about the fact that I have folder in my email inbox where I collect all the nice email notes that people send to me. I have one with creepy ones as well. But the nice ones, I have 787 from people around the world, from women mostly, who say they never felt beautiful until they found SuicideGirls. Until they saw girls who looked like them being celebrated as being beautiful and confident. Those stories and meeting those people and hearing that is what I am the most proud of.

Also we have a fairly respectful and drama-free community and I’m pretty proud of that too. On the internet where people say the worst things ever, people here are respectful and nice and pretty swell on the site. To have fostered a community where people are nice to each other and get along. 

What should people know about Blackheart Burlesque?

The show is unlike anything you have ever seen. It’s not like other burlesque shows they may have seen. Its’ tongue and cheek, it’s sexy, it’s fun, it’s silly. It’s impossible to leave without a smile.

Folks, you still have a few more chances to see this leg of the Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque Show. There are four 2014 dates remaining:

Dec 3 - Portland, OR - Roseland Theatre

Dec 4 - San Francisco, CA - The Regency Ballroom

Dec 5 - West Hollywood, CA - House of Blues

Dec 7 - San Diego, CA - House of Blues

Get your tickets at blackheartburlesque.com 

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