Burlesque star Raven Noir
Raven Noir, a burlesque icon and a powerful creative force in the UK art scene, sits with Letty today to discuss her inspiration behind her legendary annual show Burlesque Noir and her influence on modern burlesque
L: Good afternoon Raven Noir. We are really honoured to have you with us today.
RN: Good afternoon Letty. Thank you for having me.
L: You are one of the most powerful creative forces in the UK burlesque scene and beyond. What is the secret to your success?
RN: If I have to describe it in three words: passion, consistency and a great dose of hard work has helped me become who I am today.
L: What inspired you to take on such an unconventional creative career?
RN: When I started to perform, I knew burlesque would become, by some strange hand of fate, something I was incredibly passionate about and had immense respect for. I visited my beloved mum and was sure she would somehow dismiss my new passion but to my surprise she told me that my great grandmother was also a burlesque performer who had performed in 1910/20s. After marrying, she was told that not only could she no longer perform but she was never to speak of it.
My great grandmother kept to her word, apart from stories she secretly told my mother, and my mum regaled me with these and told me of the fan she would play with when my granddad was out of the house.
The incredible story of my great grandmother Lilly was an inspirational catalyst that started a thirst for knowledge about burlesque and its history.
L: Which are your favourite burlesque icons?
RN: Some of our bygone legends like Gypsy Rose Lee, Zorita, Little Egypt, Josephine Baker, and of course our living legend Tempest Storm .
L: You are famous for your incredible stage costumes embodying an extravaganza of opulence, glamour and gothic mysticism. Can you tell us more about the inspiration and influences behind those?
RN: I take influence from all manner of things, places, people and cultures. I love the Gothic Movement. Everything from the architecture to the clothing, the Victorian and Edwardian era and old world circus sideshow heavily influence me. Other influences come from places such as Las Vegas and its multitude of showgirls who are, to say the least, visually stunning.
On a stranger note, other worldly beings influence me; folklore, the supernatural and my very pagan roots!
L: What is burlesque to you? How does an artist really go deep down to its essence and master it to perfection?
RN: To me, burlesque is about entertaining your audience, both visually and with the power of suggestion. Costuming is paramount; to walk onstage and to visually captivate your audience at first sight before movement has even begun is a very powerful tool. I feel the character that I am on stage manifests as slow and elegant and this feels organic as my stage persona.
I have been who I am and hoped audiences would like what I do, and have honestly never truly thought of where I would fit into the UK scene.
I have found my place and hopefully I can inspire other performers to be themselves and not try to fill a slot or place within the community.
I found what naturally felt right, and I accept that my style of performance is not going to be to everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s ok. If I tried to cover all bases I think it would in some way dilute who Raven Noir is. There is a place for everyone in the scene, ice cream comes in all flavours and everyone has a different favourite.
L: Which are the most powerful tools for a burlesque performer?
RN: The lighting, the costumes, the lingerie and accessories that help you build on the magic.
L: What is your message to other burlesque artists who are inspired by you?
RN: Not to try to fit in but rather to show your own unique potential.
L: Tell us more about your incredible annual show Burlesque Noir. How does it feel to create true magic in this legendary venue- Blackpool Tower Ballroom?
RN: I always wanted to run a show of my own, where everyone felt included and could see some of the best acts from around the world. I was inspired by the old music halls, the Victorian vaudevillian magnificence, or at least what these places were in my imagination!
I had envisioned a show of grandeur where people could relax and be themselves, whether that was expressed through dressing up to the nines or arriving in jeans and a jumper. A non-judgmental space where everyone could be themselves and watch a fantastic show.
It was really important to me that my shows are affordable, I’d like everyone to be able to come see an amazing show in an amazing venue at an amazing price – and I do my absolute utmost to keep ticket prices as low as possible. I also give a platform for up and coming performers to perform on stage, and as part of this I run a competition once a year called Rising Stars, the winner of which gets to perform at the ballroom.
The experience for performers is also very important to me. I run a no bullying policy that includes passive aggressive behaviour. I haven’t needed it so far but I would like all performers, stage managers, assistants and crew to feel comfortable and on even pegging. In my eyes we are all equal – we all have different skill sets and strengths.
L: How do you envision Burlesque Noir’s future expansion and success on the global scene?
RN: I hope to be able to do shows in LA and Paris in the future and nurture the best international talent in burlesque in the future.