Blue Moose Tap House — Saturday, March 25 at 9 p.m.
Chicago sensation Jeez Loueez graces Iowa City tonight with a stop on the tour of Jeezy’s Juke Joint, an evening of burlesque celebrating black culture. The event kicks off at 9 p.m.; tickets are $10-25. Little Village caught up with her in this email interview, so she could tell us all what we have to look forward to.
How did you get into burlesque?
I started performing burlesque in 2009 when one of my friends was running a troupe and someone dropped out. I stepped in at the last minute in my Forever 21 homecoming dress and kitten heels, and I’ve been in burlesque ever since! Since then in addition to performing I now also teach classes and produce my own events.
How would you describe your performance style, and what inspires you?
I describe myself as “a lethal combination of drama, hilarity and killer kinetics!” I would definitely say I’m a riot and a comedian. Even when I’m trying to be “super sexy burlesque dancer” I always end up making some weird face to make everyone laugh. I’m inspired by Black culture, pop culture, but more so inspired by my own insecurities and fears.
What do you hope the audience will get out of this show?
Juke Joint strives to not only showcase the power and diversity of Black entertainers, but to also bring the beautiful and subversive art of burlesque to audiences of color. When we travel outside of Chicago we’re focused on places that may not have any PoC burlesque performers in an effort to help diversify their scene a bit. If people see themselves reflected on stage, perhaps they will become interested in performing themselves!
Who are the other performers in the show, and how did you get together?
Our main cast includes Po’Chop, Josephine Shaker, Switch the Boi Wonder, Cruel Valentine and Shea Coulee’. They’ve been there since the first show in 2011. There weren’t many Black performers in Chicago so we had to bring in some folks from neighboring cities. Since then we’ve expanded to include cast members from St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New York and a billion other places. We’re a mix of dancers who have been performing anywhere from two years to 10 years.
How will the show celebrate black culture?
We celebrate in a lot of different ways! We use music by Black artists, portray characters and icons from Black pop culture, tributes to Black burlesque legends. You may not normally see these characters or hear certain genres of music used in the average burlesque show or they’ll be used in an offensive and appropriative way. We want the audience to relate to our shared experiences!
Do you think black women experience the world of burlesque differently than other women, and if so, how?
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The common misconception is that somehow burlesque is magically immune to the issues that plague the rest of the world. The burlesque community absolutely experiences racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, misogyny and more. We often say that a Black woman getting up on stage is a political act in and of itself. Black women (and men and gender non-conforming folks) are often overlooked because of the style of acts we portray or because producers claim they don’t know how to diversify their shows. We are often told that our style of music or dancing isn’t “polished” or is in a different direction than what their show is about. Which is bullshit.
How can art be a vehicle for social change, and do you see your work that way?
Art is and has always been a vehicle for social change. In times when the social and political climate is at its worst is when some of the most life-changing and important art is made. Art and entertainment is not only used as an escape from the dark times in the world around us, but just look at music and movies and poetry. I truly believe that the art of burlesque can be used in the same way. I do not necessarily see my personal acts that way, but I do believe that Jeezy’s Juke Joint and similar PoC/queer focused productions can be and are used for change. No matter how small.
Craziest moment you’ve had on stage?
Whew lord! There have been so many! One of the moments that stands out was when I was doing my Whitney Houston parody act (you can already imagine what that’s like). I slipped on a bag of cocaine and busted my entire ass on the ground. My wig fell off and everything! I’m a tiny person so my hip bone just jammed itself into the floor and I was in a lot of pain so I just laid there for a bit. Because it’s a comedic act the audience was just cracking up! I decided to keep that mishap and now it’s one of the best parts of the act!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you to the Heartland Bombshells for bringing us out to Iowa for the first time! Come see us!