Stories about New Orleans burlesque performer Ruby Rage and Chicago performer Jeez Loueez’s experiences at the 7th annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival were the No. 1 and No. 2 most popular articles of 2015 for 21st Century Burlesque magazine.
The popular media outlet published three separate posts on the Ruby Rage controversy, which received heavy media attention in New Orleans as well at both NOLA.com and Fox8. There was the first article breaking the news, and then a response from performer Dirty Martini, followed by a response from New Orleans’ own Bella Blue, who produced the “Blue Book Cabaret” show at Lucky Pierre’s at the center of the Ruby Rage controversy:
If we learn anything from this, it has to be that communication is super, super important. The huge flaw is the actions of the individual speaking for the club online – and I don’t know who that is – but it was really difficult to watch. It seems clear that very little research was done, and people were referenced in their statement without being contacted or consulted. It demonstrated no real knowledge of the art form or the community. And then when whoever was speaking tried to pull it in a different direction – claiming dissatisfaction with Ruby’s performance – well, too late now. If that had been clearly communicated from the beginning we wouldn’t be here now.
Blue cut ties with Lucky Pierre’s, which closed later in 2015. Ruby Rage provided an official statement on the subject as well, which can be read here.
Jeez Loueez, who earlier in the year performed at Kali von Wunderkammer’s Storyville Rising show at Cafe Istanbul, raised several issues — many related to the use of hip-hop and the representation of performers of color — at Rick Delaup’s festival in a lengthy YouTube video. 21st Century Burlesque reported it here. Here’s the video:
Both articles clearly struck a nerve with a national audience and were not confined to New Orleans alone, and illustrated how what happens in the Crescent City’s burlesque scene can speak to larger issues, whether about how body image is perceived among burlesque audiences (and in this case, club management) or about race and burlesque. (I addressed this issue on the eve of both the New Orleans Burlesque Festival and seasonal The Roux: A Spicy Brown Burlesque Festival.)
21st Century Burlesque’s Top 50 poll is due out soon. I wonder what compelling stories might emanate from New Orleans in 2016. Stay tuned.