Miss Randi Lee is one of those fantastic performers who manages to nail the feeling of this magazine without even realising it.
Incorporating fetish, Catwoman, Madonna, and a whole host of other pop culture references into her act, Randi’s shows are becoming legendary in their own right.
Coming from Calgary, Canada, Randi’s got her own little story and her own little take on the art of burlesque and performance. And it’s an awesome one, too.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Randi Lee…
What attracted you to Burlesque and how/where did you first start performing?
Well, I grew up dancing competitively and after some very busy years of teaching dance, I took some time off and moved to London to have a “normal job”, ha ha. I started working as a hostess at Proud Cabaret Camden and spent my evenings seating customers in my corset, heels and feather headdress while getting to watch all the burlesque performances. What really attracted me to burlesque was all the wonderful performers I met. They were all so kind and welcoming and when I watched them perform I could see how much they loved it and how alive they were on stage. I would chat with them about how they got into burlesque and they encouraged me to just jump in and start creating an act in my free time. One night, like a hilarious movie cliche, a performer didn’t show up and I stepped in last minute to fill the slot. It was my birthday actually! And Miss Randi Lee was born.
Sum up you performances for those who haven’t seen them: (e.g Catwoman, Vogue, Alice)
Currently I have about 7 acts that I perform. All of them are very dance based. Some of them will feature things like flexibility, others are more graceful and elegant and some have more technical elements like pointe work or vogueing/waaking. I would also say that most of my acts have pop culture references. Catwoman being one of them obviously, but I also have an Alice in Wonderland act, a Madonna’s Vogue act and an act called Vamp which is a bit of a nod to True Blood. My performances are pretty varied but I would say they are always energetic, sultry, and powerful.
How do you go about developing your shows? (including your choice of music)
I find that inspiration for an act can come from almost anywhere. Sometimes it starts with a piece of music that I can’t help but move to or maybe it’s a costume idea that sparks a concept for a character. Some acts will brew in my mind for months or years before turning into anything while others can come together over a weekend. I find that it usually happens quite organically. Catwoman was the easiest, I have always loved that character and the song and when I realised I could bring the two together in an act it was like a dream come true!
How long does it take you to choreograph your dance moves once you have an idea?
The choreography tends to be pretty quick for me because of my dance background so I could choreograph a full act in just a few hours. What takes longer is getting those acts to a comfy place where the choreo feels right. I find it takes a few live performances for an act to really settle in and feel finished. Live interaction really changes things and I love that about burlesque. Acts continue to evolve every time I perform them. None of my acts are the same now as when I first choreographed them. Sometimes something just happens on stage and I think “oh yeah, I’m keeping that!”
Your performances are pretty lithe. How much yoga do you have to do in order to stay in great shape?
Ha ha! Why thank you! I do a range of activities, hot yoga being one of them, but I think that it mostly comes from years… and years of dance training. I continue to train as a dancer and in preparation for a new act, say, I would likely create my own routine of stretching and strengthening to develop the skills I need for that act.
How much of your costumes are bought? Do you create any of them by hand?
I love making costumes! It one of my favourite aspects of being a burlesque artist. I make or embellish the majority of my costumes. I do have some great pre-made pieces from Libidex latex and a wonderful skirt that was made for me as a prize from Burlesque Idol. But I do prefer to make everything myself. I will often buy bases and pull them apart and put them back together to create exactly what I want. I think making the costumes myself just adds so much more to my performance, I feel that added pride on stage and my acts have added uniqueness and originality. Plus, I get to live out even more of my catwoman fantasy sitting at the sewing machine stitching PVC with white thread!
How does it feel to be on stage? And how exciting is it to put on that outfit and perform Catwoman to a live audience?
It feels amazing! I love being on stage, it’s the place I feel the most alive. For those 5-7 minutes I am not myself, I am a goddess. I am the centre of attention and I am harnessing all my skills. It’s the climax and culmination of all the things I work for. Oh, Catwoman especially. I feel a shift in myself as soon as I get in the costume. It’s like I become her and I am so much braver, more aggressive and more sexual than I am in real life. I feel powerful and haughty. Sometimes that confidence bleeds over into my real life which is just fabulous.
You wore a lot of latex/leather/vinyl for the Catwoman performance. Are you looking to do more fetish related content in the future? Or perhaps even more comic book inspired burlesque?
Yes, I would love to do more of both. Comic book characters are such great inspirations because they are already so powerful and sexual. As with fetish, it has an inherent power and sexuality to it which lends perfectly to my style of burlesque. I’ve got both a new comic and fetish act in the works in fact!
What’s it like being a Burlesque performer in Alberta, Canada? Is there any difference between Burly in Canada than UK/Europe?
It’s hard for me to say just yet. I’ve only just started performing in Canada/Alberta so I don’t know that I can be an accurate judge. It’s also hard to compare anything to London for me because I think London is the heart of burlesque. The scene is so vibrant and thriving and the people in the industry are some of the loveliest, most talented, confident and inspiring people I’ve ever met. But I can definitely feel that there is a cultural difference between Canada and the UK that comes into play in this industry. Burlesque in Canada doesn’t have the same rich heritage that it does in England and so I think there are some current struggles here with overcoming misconceptions about what the art form is. As well, there are some legal boundaries because of the AGLC (Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission) dictating what performers can and can’t do…which is madness to me! It will be a very interesting transition for me, having moved back to Canada, but I am so excited to get involved in the scene here. There’s definitely lots happening in Calgary which is so nice to see.
You’ve previously lived and performed in London. How do you look back on your performances and time here in the UK?
London and the UK will always have a piece of my heart. I can’t wait to get back to be honest! My experience is coloured mainly by all the fabulous people I met in the cabaret world. I could go on and on about how much love I have for them. I spent almost half of my twenties living in London and though London is a hard city to live in, the experiences I had have made such an impact on my life. I’m so proud of all the shows I was able to be a part of and London really gave me the confidence to pursue my performance career. And oh my, just so much fun! So many laughs backstage at shows and so much debauchery! Ha ha! Performing in London has really been the best experience in my life so far.
What kind of performances are you looking to do in the future?
I’m always expanding my skill set and learning new things I can add into my acts. I’m currently working on some new circus skills like whip cracking and silks training to integrate into my burlesque. I’m also really keen to start work on producing my own show here in Canada. Obviously the scene is much different here and though I’m excited to experience more of it, I would also love to bring some of the wonderful elements of the London cabaret scene to Canada. At the end of the day, I just always want to be on that stage, performing as much as I can, so the more I can make that happen and the more I can contribute to growing the burlesque scene the better!