One unique aspect of Burlesque that you don’t find in most other performing arts styles is the Burlesque Stage Name. Sure, many actors, comedians, and musicians use stage names, but in Burlesque pretty much everyone has a stage name and unlike Hollywood, which tends to simplify names, Burlesque stage names are intended to stand out.
Burlesque stage names are often tongue-in-cheek. They are cheeky, punny, and overfloweth with double-entendres. One of the highlights of becoming a burlesque performer is picking out your name.
In my opinion, the purpose of the burlesque name is twofold: to give the performer some anonymity and to create a persona. It’s in a similar vein to both strip club names and drag names; which makes sense since the lines between the three (strippers-burlesque-drag) are very blurred.
In our work producing burlesque on Maui, we’ve often had to work to grow the burlesque community and have, on many occasions, helped performers with their Burlesque names. Some have gone through a few before finding the right one, some have several different names they use depending on what they are doing.
While I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules about Burlesque Names, I do have some guidelines:
- Make sure it’s easy to pronounce. Sometimes the puns/double-entendre’s get a little crazy and it might be hard for audience members or hosts to figure out what you were going for. French names can sound extra glamorous, but French pronunciation is a bitch. That’s not to say that you can never be punny or French, just be careful and be prepared to provide phonetic breakdowns if needed.
- Be unique! There are definitely some overused names in Burlesque. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use them, just make sure it’s paired with something that makes you stand out from the other Kittens.
- Make sure you’re being original. Please do a cursory google search for your name – you may not be the only Sweetpea out there, and you definitely don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.
- Be true to yourself and your Burlesque Persona.
That last one is the most important since it is one of the main goals of the Burlesque Name. It’s how you present yourself on stage and to the world. It should represent you, but in a way that empowers you. Who are you on stage? Who do YOU want to be?
Are you demure like a flower? Powerful like a jungle cat? Exotic like an Italian race car? Classic like a Hollywood star?
Do you want to draw attention to your legs? Your smile? Your yabos?
Or do you want to be funny? Cheeky? Silly?
There’s lots of inspiration to use when coming up with a name – your favorite foods, activities, pop culture references. Just make sure it feels good to you and that it works with who you are onstage.
It might also help to take inspiration from your own name – you are a big part of your burlesque persona, and it is how you will represent yourself offstage in certain situations as well so make sure it is personal to you.
But the opposite can be true as well. Burlesque can be an escape and it might help you to be someone entirely new and different when performing. Even Beyonce has Sasha Fierce.
When you’ve got a name figured out, you should also check that it works as a whole and in parts. If you are referred to as only your first name, does that feel ok? What about just your last name with Miss/Mr. in front of it – does that feel weird? If you are using a middle initial, do things fall apart if it’s accidentally dropped? What is it like to write and sign that name? You may have to sign autographs. How does that work for you?
If you’re stuck and don’t know where to start, there’s a fun Burlesque Name generator that might help you with some ideas: http://burlesque.name/. Just make sure it suits you and your Burlesque Persona.