What It’s Really Like to Be a Professional Burlesque Dancer
Mosh is kind of like the Gigi Hadid of the alternative model world. While you won’t see her walking the runway for Tommy Hilfiger or covering W, you’ll see Mosh on the cover of Bizarre Magazine (not to be confused with Bazaar) or starring in Pink’s video for “Blow Me (One Last Kiss).
But Mosh isn’t just a model, in fact, her success as a model lead her to enter into another art form that aligned perfectly with her pin-up style modeling persona: burlesque dancing.
We talked to Mosh about what burlesque dancing is really about, the makeup you need to nail the pin-up look, and where to buy the best lingerie.
How did you get into burlesque?
Accidentally. I started modeling first and I was starting to grow a fanbase and one of the fans asked if I could perform for his friend’s birthday party. I basically told him “yeah I can do the splits and take my clothes off, I don’t know what kind of show you want me to do?” And they were like “yeah, sounds great.” The only kind of shows that I thought of as stripping were pole dancers, which is not something that I was in the know about yet. So I started performing and I thought I was doing something crazy original, little did I know that it was over 100 years in the making of show girls and chorus line girls. So when I started doing research on costs and doing more shows, [I started] learning about the history of all these show girls and burlesque stars, all these fabulous performers.
If somebody wants to get into burlesque dancing, where should they start?
I think they should start by taking various dance classes. Try ballet, try jazz, try tap. If you have special skills of your own, like some kind of hobby of yours, I don’t know. Maybe your hobby is knitting. Brush up your knitting skills and go out on stage naked and knit yourself a little bikini or something [laughing], like that’s pretty cool. I think taking various forms of dance and applying them to the kind of low-down sexual exotic/erotic kind of dance style. There are burlesque courses that you can take, and those could be a good thing to check out as well. But I think it’s great to take other areas of the art to apply to your own little art form.
What’s a false stereotype about burlesque dancers?
Sometimes I’m asked to sign a confidentiality clause, like [the customers] don’t want people to know that a burlesque dancer is coming to the event. And there’s something that’s so stuck in the minds of Americans that nudity is overtly sexual and still a naughty no-no thing that you keep locked away and can’t be seen.
It’s interesting this taboo that still applies to these shows. You’ll go to the beach and see a bikini that’s smaller than the pasties and G-string that I wear. Although [burlesque] is sexual in nature, it has a lot of aspects in it that make it multi-dimensional, between the choreography and the costume and your stage concept and stage cues, it’s really a miniaturized Vegas-style show.
People think it’s this simple straightforward hyper-sexualized act that needs to be kept on the down low, but it’s a beautiful art form that celebrates the feminine form and the idea of glamorized beauty. There are some great female and male burlesque performers who have a comedic element to their routine and that’s an art in itself, I can’t do it [laughing], or at least I’ve never tried, but it doesn’t look easy.
What’s an average day of work look like for you?
Depends on the week. If I’m on showtime schedule where I’m performing a bunch of shows in a row, I’ll get up a little later in the day so I can be awake and not yawning at midnight. If my showtime schedule is midnight or 1 am, which it often is, I’ll start later and do some warmup exercises and then I have to keep my schedule. Start doing my hair and makeup at appropriate times.
Sometimes I’m traveling the day of. It’s all very glamorous [laughing]. You pull out your G-string and make sure everything is attached all well, make sure your pasties are clean, you clean off your costume with a windex wipe to make them sparkly because dropping them on the floor over and over can get them scuffed up and cloudy. There are little things like that that are funny…you’re checking your stockings for holes and making sure they’re all good.
You should see me going to the airport with some of my costumes, I’m pulled over every single time and they’re like, “what is this?” “Why do you have all these feathers in here?” “This is a lot of beading.” It’s funny to see the look on the TSA agent’s face when my suitcase goes through.
When did you fall into your signature look? Did you always have a certain look or did you hone in on it?
Oh goodness, that’s something I had to hone in on. When I started I did not know how to do hair, I’d just do a blunt-cut bang just under my eyebrows because I still didn’t know how to do my eyebrows very well. I used these beauty tricks to hide the things that I still didn’t know how to do very well. It’s a cool trick, if you cut your bangs under your eyebrows you don’t have to do them anymore and you don’t have to put foundation on your forehead. I loved the classic films, but I never thought I could produce that look. It takes years to produce, or you have to have a team produce that for you. I didn’t have that, so over the years I was learning tricks here and there. So now I’ve kind of acquired a nice big bag of tricks that I can apply to myself. But it definitely takes years of practice.
How long does it take you to get ready?
[On a] day to day basis I hit the snooze button all the time so I have the last 15 minutes to run out the door, so I have about six to seven minutes to put a face on. if you take care of your skin you don’t need a lot to get your face straightened out. But stage makeup is a little different. I definitely take my time and don’t rush through it. My face could take me an hour, maybe an hour and a half if I’m really trying to be careful with my liquid liner and not have to go and build up onto it. And then hair, setting it could take 20-40 minutes depending on the way I’m doing it. Could be up to three hours just to do properly…and then there’s the body makeup. One of my favorite parts is just getting up in there, all the crannies and crevices, setting that stuff in powder, sitting there looking like I don’t know what, butt naked in the dressing room putting on all that stuff. That’s another half hour. So it could be about three and a half to four hours until you’re really ready. Maybe two hours if I’m lucky.
What are five essential products to nail the pin-up look?
1. You need a good eyebrow pencil, if you’re not going to be doing the blunt cut bangs under the eyebrows [laughing].
2. Mascara is a great way to get a little definition and depth to your eyes if you don’t want to get involved with the whole eye shadow thing.
3. Liquid liner, eyeliner of any kind, a cate eye the way Monroe would’ve done it, or a 50’s style cat eye. It doesn’t have to be heavy, could just be a light flick to fake the illusion of bigger eyelashes. You could do a little flick on your waterline to do the shadow of an eyelash.
4. Colored lipstick, there were a lot of colors back in the day, could go anywhere from orange to a very faint peach. There’s a color called “Snow Peach” by Revlon that they recently re-released from the 50s. Of course a classic red.
5. I rely on a nude liner a lot, Bobbi Brown does a great nude pencil that you can use to fix little mistakes, like if your eyeliner is not quite even, you can do a little highlight underneath your eyebrows.
What are your favorite brands for lingerie?
I actually have my own collaboration line with a company called Dottie’s Delights, we put a line called Sheer Show together and we’ll actually be launching another collection together pretty soon. I definitely love Chantelle, they are constantly making really girly fun stuff that you can wear underneath. La Perla is another great one. La Perla and Jean Paul Gaultier did a collab once and that was pretty epic. And then I would recommend Secrets in Lace for stockings if you’re looking for actual fashion stockings, that’s where you’ve got to go. They’re one of a few companies based in the states and they import a bunch of stockings made on the same machine that they were made on in the fifties, so they’re very authentic.
Photos by Davis Factor