I grew up in a two parent household, both of my parents are devout Christians. My daddy is a minister and my mom spent most of my childhood in college, going at night, studying to be a Dental Hygienist. I would attend classes with her when I didn’t have my own extracurricular activities. They kept me active, especially in church! I was in three choirs, on the liturgical dance team, the women’s and youth ministries. I was pretty well know in my church. My great grandmother caught me imitating the Asian lady with the long hair on Soul Train when I was 5. She was my favorite!
My grandmother had my mama enroll me in dance school and she paid my tuition for that entire first year. I fell in love with the stage at my first recital, I was 6 years old. I couldn’t wait to do it again and again. Soon, I was performing at family functions, church, and I landed a little gig in the kids tent at Jazz Fest. When I got to college I was told I could major in dance, so I auditioned for Tulane’s Newcomb College for dance and got accepted. Because Tulane was so expensive, I applied for the program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and because I was accepted into Tulane’s program I didn’t need to audition. There I received my BFA in Performing Arts with a concentration in Dance and a minor in Theater.
I first saw Burlesque displayed as a teen on the show Real Sex on HBO. As a PK (preacher’s kid) I felt like I could never do it because, what would my parents think.
In 2008, my director Ms. Dollie Rivas-Eaglin, a former Vegas Showgirl introduced me to Bustout Burlesque and invited me to audition. I landed the audition but soon found out I was pregnant with my son. In 2015, I was asked to perform in a showcase but I didn’t feel like i was ready body wise but I lost a few pounds and did it anyway and fell in love with how liberating it made me feel. From there I was asked to perform in another showcase called Sex Live Nola produced by John L and got raving reviews from women who felt like body wise I looked like them and that gave me a ton of confidence but I put it on hold and only performed occasionally because I was still worrying how my parents would feel about it.
In 2018, I was training to work lighting and sound at All Ways Lounge where Drag and Burlesque were performed weekly, I realized the burlesque group had no black performers, so I took to Facebook asking how many black women would be interested in being burlesque performers and so many women were interested, that’s when I decided to start my own group.
My sister Laurita Marie and I finally decided to start the production company we had been fantasizing about since 2008, Sweet Storm Productions. We used burlesque for our first production “Quartier Rouge Noir: A Burlesque Experience.” Quartier Rouge Noir was loosely based on a brothel called Mahogany Hall here in New Orleans Red Light District back in the Storyville days. Mahogany Hall was owned by an Octaroon woman named LuLu White. From there we produced Burlesque shows under “Belles Femmes Noir” as fundraisers for our future productions. Our Performers include myself (@joiedevivre_310), Hiya Heights (@hiya_heights), Bri (@bri_withan_i), Ebene (@trashyglory) Sunshine (@sunshinethesultry), Sapphyre (@sapphyrehoney), IO Moon (@moon_i.o), Masterpiece (@imizpolancojonesjr), Nomi Naked (@ritapearlartistry), Riga Ruby (@rigaruby), with appearances by Genevieve, Tantrix, Kristina Hicks, The Hottentot Venus, and Synamin Vixen.
Because I don’t fit the stereotype. Most black women/dancers don’t. Costumes look like stripper attire on us. Most of the women in my troupe including myself have to make or order pasties because our breasts and areolas are too big for the ones they sell in the store. We don’t have the typical dancer bodies and our followers appreciate seeing women on stage who look like them or the women they desire. So, I started a troupe for POC and women who are confident in the skin they are in!
When I initially started, I received a lot of backlash from black folk claiming it to be boring because they’ve only seen white folks doing it or they want to know how it is different from stripping. But once they experience one of my shows the reviews are raving. Our sensuality is different from theirs, our sexuality is different from theirs. Belles Femmes Noir is different because we look more like the ladies in the stiletto classes on social media as opposed to the big band, theatrical style of burlesque. Don’t get me wrong, we can be theatrical as well, we just chose a slightly different route with it. It’s more Zane than 50 Shades, if that makes sense.
A friend of mine was hosting a showcase and asked me to perform. She mentioned Tank would be performing as well.She asked me what my favorite Tank and the Bangas song was and at the time it was “Rhythm of Life,” not knowing I would be the one dancer chosen to perform along side her. It was an honor and she wasn’t even world known like she is now. Even then it was such a dope experience.
It’s important to have a spouse that’s comfortable with your lifestyle. Mine is at EVERY show!!! If he isn’t working the door, he is running drinks and water back to us in the dressing room, or he is our security, or he is front and center enjoying the show. To be with me is to know that this comes with the territory. He also gets a kick out of being able to live out the fantasy I create on stage! Sisterhood amongst my troupe is also important. Being able to be as free as we can be with like minded individuals is beautiful. Plus, I have known my dancers prior to this and we spend time together. We are sisters! They are there for me when I need them and we go above and beyond for each other.
Covid-19 definitely through a loop in my plans. I spent the bulk of the time resting because I am constantly on the move. I learned a lot about myself and have been able to nurture Joie DeVivre, which is where the hustle came in. I wrote down what I wanted and needed to push myself and my dancers to the next level, and we are currently moving on that and I’ve been able to have more time with my Prince and Princess.
In the next three years, I’m hoping to have a space of my own to rehearse and perform, weekly shows and a season line-up of productions and classes, lots of classes. I am in the process now of putting together a list of prices to teach classes virtually. We have a Virtual show on August 15th via zoom and twitch, bringing back our Zodiac series “Retour Solaire” kicking it off with Leo!!!! Follow us at @sweetstormproductions on Instagram to stay in the know on upcoming shows and classes.