I had the honor of performing in the year’s Jeezy’s Juke Joint in St. Louis, MO this year. The show is a stellar spectacular with an entirely black cast of burlesque performers. I got the opportunity to spend a little time chatting with the show’s creator, Jeez Loueez - The Powerhouse of the Midwest! Here’s just a little of what she had to say about the world of burlesque.
Q) What is it that makes you fall in love with burlesque like it was the first time you fell in love with burlesque?
A) There is something about the journey of traveling and touring that really fuels my love for performing. I've carved this ridiculous life for myself and have somehow started to become all of the insane things I wanted to be when I was a kid: Like a traveling stripper bum. The entire process of packing up the car, picking out snacks, finding a really good playlist and going to Cracker Barrel is already a bit of a magical experience for me. Add seeing friends I haven't seen in a long time (or friends I haven't met yet), slumber parties, amazing audiences, finding something cool about every city and it's heaven for me.
Q) If you had one wish what would you change about burlesque?
A) Oh my goodness this question is so hard!! I love so many things about burlesque. Yet, I know that everything evolves and changes naturally. I think the biggest thing I would change right *now* (and this is purely a personal perspective) is that I wish we would all place more value on what we are doing, get off the internet and start doing something about everything we complain about. Myself included! What do we need in burlesque? What do we need to survive as artists and as business owners? And what the hell can we do to make these things happen?
Q) What first made you produce Jeezy's Juke Joint? What keeps you producing it?
A) When I started performing burlesque in Chicago in 2009 there were literally only a handful of Black performers in town. Coming from musical theater it didn't exactly blow my mind, but it was still discouraging. As a budding burlesquer and former club dancer I was figuring out the stories I wanted to tell and the characters and sexuality I wanted to present. And unfortunately, there weren't very many people of color in the audiences either. There were times where I just didn't feel like folks were relating to some of my performances like I wanted them to. I started researching other burlesque performers of color and found out about neo burlesquers like Harlem Shake, Brown Girls of Burlesque, Foxy Tann and the Wham Bam Thank You Maam's, Perle Noire, and many more. I could not.stop.researching! I took it upon myself to make a blog that highlighted Black burlesque dancers, hosts, and entertainers and started interviewing people like Sydni Deveraux and Ray Gunn. The troupe I was with at the time, Vaudezilla Productions, suggested that I turn my Jeezy's Juke Joint blog into a show and I jumped at the chance. I had never produced before, but I had so many people that believed in Jeezy's Juke Joint and who wanted to see more African American stars and newcomers on stages in Chicago.
Each time we've had the event it's evoked so much emotion and gratitude in the cast and me. The audiences are filled with people from all walks of life who are filling the space up with love and appreciation. This show is near and dear to me for so many reasons, and the energy that transpires keeps me going. We have so much history to be proud of that needs to be SEEN and HEARD!
Q) Congrats on your titles over the past few years! For me, as a fan and Internet stalker of yours, it makes me feel great to see performers I admire winning titles. What do titles mean to you?
A) Thank you! I love competing! I think competitions are fun and silly and not meant to be taken too seriously. I view each competition mostly as a competition with myself. Though I wish I had the same type of drive and inspiration year round as I do when I'm prepping for a big event that's just not the case! Every time I've done the Shimmy Showdown or the Tournament of Tease I show up ready to do my best and give my all and I leave feeling inspired whether or not I take a prize with me. Actually winning a title to me just means that I kicked my own ass hard enough for other people to notice. And like it!
To keep up with all that Jeez Loueez is up to, check out her busy schedule and more Here On Her Website!!!