Dancing, rhinestones, feathers... sounds wonderful doesn't it? Burlesque is all of those things, but there is a lot of dedication required with maintaining this glamorous career. One of the hardest working women in burlesque is Catherine D'Lish. Some of you may know her from her erotic and captivating performances as a strip teaser, others may know her as a world class costumer, designing for fellow performers Dita Von Teese and Ava Garter. She is both and more! I have been fortunate enough to see her perform live and was wowed by her elegance and magnetism. Catherine was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for us about her life and times as a showgirl!
Why perform Burlesque... as opposed to being a Broadway performer or an actress? How did you start?
I started all of "this" purely by accident, it was as a joke-I was scanning help-wanted ads, looking for a part-time job. I saw an ad that said something like, "$$$NUDE$$$", with a downtown address. I thought that it would be very funny if I went down and applied for the job, never imagining that I would work there, much less become a stripper. I was right, it was very funny!
You have many titles to your name, do you have one that is dear to you?
The best parts of all of those competitions was learning how to win and the funny stories I took away from each experience. The titles don't mean too much to me, I just liked competing. It was pretty comical to me that I was "Miss Nude Whatever". If there was a contest that I thought was appropriate to enter, I would in a heartbeat! However, I'm not sure whatever happened to the boxes of trophies, tiaras, and sashes...
Do you allow room for improvisation while you are on stage?
I'm not proud to say that for the last several years, it has been pretty much complete "improvisation" on stage. It feels to me like I am just cruising around, taking stuff off, and hopping in the glass, or whatever prop is up there with me. Rehearsing is something that I used to do, hours and hours. I would like to spend some time rehearsing for what ever shows are upcoming- I could certainly use it!!! I know that time spent in the studio pays off with a much stronger show, and I have always recommended it. "Practice what you preach", isn't that how that goes?
Your shows are classy, decadent and alluring. How do you get in the mood before a performance?
Geez, thanks! There is no "getting-in-the-mood-ceremony" for me, the only time I need to be in the mood is from the moment I step onto the stage until I am finished. It doesn't, and shouldn't ( I believe) matter what I do before I go on. But I must admit that I enjoy a good private Ipod dance party in my dressing room before a show...
You have some pretty physical acts~ the Spiderweb, the Champagne Glass... any injuries or mishaps?
You mean like a terrible Spider injury? I really like the physical aspect of the shows, for me it's like playing on a funny jungle-gym. I've had a great time preparing those numbers, figuring out what the props should be like to accommodate my body, and what to do on them once the prop is built. Usually the rehearsals are pretty painful, but even the most uncomfortable things are magically ouch-less during a performance. Thank heavens.
Any helpful hints to those just starting out in the business?
Like all performers, I'm sure you have 'on' and 'off' shows. What do you tell yourself afterwards?
I learned a long time ago that nobody wants to hear about why you didn't think you were whatever you thought you were supposed to be- So, if I tell myself anything after a show, it's "shut up". It is true that you are only as good as your last show, to yourself anyway, so the sooner you have a chance to redeem yourself, the better-
a) practice, practice, practice (use a mirror)
b) do something that doesn't replicate something you have already seen, do something that suits you
c) find what truly flatters you and make the most of it
d) if there is something that you don't like about yourself, change it/ hide it/ don't talk about it
e) enjoy what you do
f) have good photos taken
g) make sure you have a way to support yourself and your new hobby
How did you get started making costumes~ was it out of necessity?
The costumes started just after I answered the help-wanted ad and was working in a very seedy strip club- I needed some fun things to wear. Shortly after that, I started making things for the other girls to wear, too...
How much pre production goes into making these costumes? Do you think about safety, movement etc... ?
Nobody will ever understand how much time goes into the most extravagant show projects-It is one of our favorite jokes around the work table, as we do miles of painstaking beadwork we laugh about how it will be seen on stage, and people will just say, "that's real shiny"...Every project has a different look, a different function, different way of movement- They are all "safe", and functional- none are practical!
You have been both on stage as a performer and off stage as a costume designer. Do you prefer one over the other?
Performing, costume work, "creative direction" and "consulting" are all fun for me- easy, but tons of work. There is soooooooooooooo much time put into every project...
The Dita costumes are definitely the most elaborate, the product of bigger budgets and my desire to top the last project every time. I am very happy that people seem to like them, mostly it just makes me want to do another one, to show them something better. Dita and I have had a great time doing her shows together, and she is always a good sport about wearing the garments- some of them weigh up to 40 pounds, and are more complicated than the average stage costume.
I imagine a large craft and sewing room in your house, with feathers, beads and fabric strewn all over... and a few naked showgirls. How correct am I?
Oh, yes- you bet. Hot naked girls sprawled all over the place! Right around a deadline, there is always a horrible mess, but otherwise we tidy up at the end of each day- I do have to live among the rhinestones. It is wonderfully convenient to "craft" here because if I am not sleeping, I am usually working on a project. I hope that I can always work from home, it is great to roll out of bed and spend the day with my beautiful team of girls, working in my pajamas.
You've been captured by famed contemporary pinup artist Oliva, what a thrill! What was it like working with her?
I am very lucky to know Olivia as a friend- she is a completely lovely person, couldn't be any nicer, and so talented! The painting of me came as a total surprise.
You certainly are D'Lish! Do you have a beauty routine that you swear by?
I know that I look my best when I get plenty of sleep and work out like a maniac.(and avoid sugar/alcohol/stress)I use the best skin-care products that I can get my hands on, and consume only things that are healthy 99.9% of the time.Water water water.
What does glamour mean to you?
Glamour is an interesting idea- one person can be parading around, feeling incredibly glamorous, while another person can find their appearance appalling. I say hooray for the the person really going for it.
Where did you go for your last vacation?
Dita invited me to join her at a fun spa last winter, we had a terrific time- it was like being at a funny, healthy camp, but with nice people rubbing you!
Are redheads really fiery?
I suppose that you are asking if I get fired up? I don't know too many redheads, and I am not sure if I even count as one-I am extremely rational, but definitely combustible.
What is your signature scent?
I wear a perfume by Jar (with a lightning bolt on their bottle), but sometimes if I need to wear something different, I also enjoy "Shadow" by Jar.
Do you make wishes~ the shooting star, throw a penny in a fountain, blow out candles kind?
I make wishes all day long.
Who or what inspires you?
I like beautiful things to work with- that is inspiring for me. I am also inspired by my wonderful team of girls that keep showing up to put their pretty noses to the rhinestones- they make me want to try to do the best work I can. They have burnt plenty of midnight oil with me, and long, crazy days. I would like to continue to produce projects that they are happy to have been a part of.
You have worked long and hard for your success~ what's next for Catherine D'Lish?
You're funny- hopefully, success is next for Catherine D'Lish...
Thank you Catherine! x
For more information on Catherine D'Lish, please visit http://www.cdlish.com/
photo credits: 1. Ramon Estrada 2. Sean McCall 3. Unknown 4. Ramon Estrada 5. Christophe Mourthe 6. Unknown 7. Sean McCall