Vocation: Bartender, Burlesque Show Producer, Costume Designer (shop here: CherrySwanDesigns)
Location: Park Slope, Brooklyn
1. What do you currently do now and how did you end up here? Any pit stops along the way and did those pit stops help you get to the career and woman you are now?
I currently survive as a bartender, producer of the burlesque show Naughty Noir and costume designer for Cherry Swan Designs (available at Artist & Fleas Brooklyn!). There have been numerous pit stops along the way. I have been bartending for 16 years. For about 10 of this I also worked as a fashion and visual stylist. First in Miami then NYC. I created and produced a few fashion and live music shows in Miami then got caught up in the styling. Every few years I would change careers. From bartender to stylist to visual work, back and forth. I'm a jack of many trades and enjoy changing my environment and routine. I think all of the different careers has opened my eyes to what I really want and enjoy on work. Which is basically to fill my time creating, be it shows or clothing or a visual piece. The bartending I do enjoy but at this point it's just to pay the bills.
2. What are your current gaps, barriers, facilitators, or motivators? Any of those in particular that helped you along the way?
My biggest barrier right now is the money. It's sad to say but if I had/made more money I could afford the more elaborate supplies with my costumes or I could produce even bigger shows. I have big ideas on a small budget, which I still always make work. I'm very resourceful. But It all costs money and living in NYC does not afford you the extra cash a lot of the time. My main motivation is my passion for creating beauty and the reactions I get from it. Whether it's a show or clothing, I want the customer/audience to be so excited about what they're seeing. I love when someone tries on a costume and it fits perfectly and they get so excited to wear it and feel beautiful. Same with the shows. I love seeing the happiness of my audience when the shows are happening and they can't take their eyes off the stage. The positive feedback I get from customers and audience members is what reassures me I must be doing something right. I'm my biggest critic and usually hate everything I do out of self doubt. Which motivates me to be even bigger and better next time. No one psyches me out more than me and no one motivates me more than me. I am also really motivated by the people I surround myself with. They are mainly artists and creatives of some sort and all talented. I want to be as good as them and make them proud of me. I also try to utilize my friends talents and help them showcase it by having them dance in the show, use their music, create a costume inspired by them etc. I have always wanted to be in a creative field and my parents always encouraged me to work for myself if at all possible.
3. What is your ideal state / dream state of being as a woman in your career and a woman in this world? How will you get there?
My ideal state as a woman, or a person in this world, is to challenge myself daily. I say as a person because being a woman does not hinder my success in my fields. To find a way to survive off my creations and doing what I love and make my life and those around me more beautiful. Money is not my goal, happiness is. As long as I have enough to survive and take care of my responsibilities and enough to create my projects with I'm good. Creating the shows and costumes gives me a high money could never do for me.
4. What common misconceptions do you find about your field, your life, about women in general?
It's 2015 and all over the world women are abused and condemned just for being born women. We are still fighting for equal rights and equal pay. I am very fortunate that the fields I have ended up in being a woman is an advantage. In the bars most people are more receptive to a woman. The men want to flirt and the girls feel comfortable having a woman "in charge" of their environment. Especially while intoxicated. A lot of men may see me as eye candy or an object behind the bar but it doesn't bother me. I've been doing this a long time and create an environment that makes it very clear harassment of any sort, against me or anyone else, will have dire consequences. One of the things I love the most about the burlesque community is the self confidence and control these women exude. There is every size, shape and color of woman in burlesque. And they are all celebrated equally. There are always the exceptions but for the most part it is a very tolerant and accepting community. These girls are on stage taking their clothes off with a crowd screaming and you will never once feel like they aren't in control. Of the crowd, of their performance and their sexuality. I see these girls own a room and take control of everyone in there. Demanding the admiration and respect of that audience. And they always get it. My show is about diversity. We just want confident self aware women. We don't care where you're from or what your size is. Show us a confident sexy performer and we will show you our stage. I know many burlesque dancers that started because they wanted to boost their confidence and regardless of their looks or body type they now have the confidence and sex appeal most women dream of.
5. Any advice or tips & tricks you want to give to a younger you? Whether it be how to apt hunt on craigslist to getting your shoes cobbled to getting a work mentor etc
The advice I would give my younger self would be to take risks, which I have already always done. Now more than ever. Be smart and never afraid. Listen to your gut. And your heart. Pain and disappointment and loss is an unfortunate part of life but I've still always just thrown myself into it. Whether it's a relationship, a business venture, a trip, anything. Take those risks because regardless of what happens those choices will always get you to where you need to be. Be honest. Never be afraid of the truth. I have no regrets but I'd maybe advise myself to focus more on one thing than so many at once. But even if old me told young me that I don't know if I would've listened. Every decision I've made has led me to where I am. And I love what I'm doing. The people I've met. The places I've been. And knowing younger me I probably would've told older me to mind my business and let me figure it out on my own. Not much has changed!
BONUS QUESTION: What should lead your life: passion or pragmatism? (general thoughts, could be a convergence, could be one or the other!)
I am both passionate and pragmatic. Passion definitely rules over the two though. Whether it's in love, life, friends or art. I feel things very strongly and I become very passionate about following those feelings. There is just no other way for me. I am pragmatic enough to know right from wrong and be reasonable and sensible when necessary. But I follow my passion and my feelings. It's the driving force inside of me that makes my decisions. No regrets yet!!!
BONUS BONUS QUESTION: What are you most proud of?
I guess I would say I am most proud of the relationships I've cultivated over the course of my life. I am so fortunate to have a large group of friends I consider family. Some I have known since childhood, some more recently. All very special people. I believe that's a huge reason I am such a risk taker and don't care if I mess up or fail. I have an amazing support system. I have a very small family, 2 parents and 2 brothers, who I am very close to and are very supportive. Between them and the friends I have turned into family there is no reason to be afraid of anything. I am very aware of how fortunate I am and am thankful every day. I believe the love and support I have surrounded myself with helps fuel my passion to create the things this family would be proud of.