6 Steps To Choosing Your Burlesque name
We’ve all done the generic…
“Take the name of your first pet,
…add the street you grew up on,
…plus the colour of the underwear you’re currently wearing…
…minus the number you first thought of…..”
Picking your burlesque name should be more than just a fun party game.
It’s your rite of passage as a burlesque performer, the rebirth of YOU, on YOUR terms!
What an amazing opportunity!!
To shed any labels or past connotations of the name you’ve had your entire life.
The name that SOMEONE ELSE gave you, before you had any specific personality traits or defining behavioral characteristics.
The name that other kids maybe made fun of at school, or no-one could ever pronounce correctly.
The name that connects you to a parent you’ve never met, a name that ties you to identities of who you used to be years ago…
…a prima donna,
…a control freak,
…a total fuck up…..
…or a name that just… generally… never felt quite right.
If you’re just starting out in burlesque, you may be wondering when’s the best time to start choosing your burlesque name?
I’d say START NOW!
The sooner you start thinking about it, to let it marinate, the better. The longer you’ll have to try it on and see if it fits!
Some may suggest to leave it until you’ve fully worked out your first act, so you know that your name truly fits your vibe, but you don’t want your name to be an afterthought, hurriedly selected the week leading up to your first show. Equally, I suggest you may not want to FINALISE the decision right away, buying your website domain name and having business cards printed up before you’ve even started developing your act…
…but start the PROCESS now.
Allow your name choice to develop as you gradually mould your first act, so the two can develop together in alignment, each informing the other.
CLAIM YOUR NAME!!!
A student recently sent me this article https://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-indian-names on Native American Indian names. I love how a baby name would change with adulthood, a person could have several names during their lifetime and how names were often chosen to mark major events in life and could change with new achievements, life experiences and accomplishments.
As a burlesque performer, your name is not only used to describe your persona on stage, it’s your branding, your logo. It’s the last thing the audience will hear announced before you enter the stage. It’s one of the reasons people will (or will not) remember you (or, indeed, remember to HIRE you).
I’ve talked before on how costume contributes to creating your character persona and attitude on stage – as you put on your costume, you immediately begin to feel more cutesy, more powerful, more feminine, more … whatever it is that your chosen costume does to you.
In the same way you need to LOVE how your chosen name makes you feel, and yes, you may need to try a few on before making your final decision.
You need to love saying your name out loud,
Love introducing yourself as that name AND love hearing others use it to introduce YOU.
STEP ONE – YOUR ESSENCE
Just as I advise to start developing your acts by having an idea of how you want to feel on stage and what you want to express, these starting points are also a great place to jump off from when developing your name. In fact, for anyone feeling lost and overwhelmed at developing an act, you may find the process of your name selection helpful in giving you inspiration and clarity with regards to your act development.
Start by writing a list of the essences and qualities you envisage your character to have.
When I was naming, ‘Vixen DeVille’, the characteristics that were coming through in my rehearsal were, ‘domineering’, ‘mischievous’, ‘powerful’, ‘magical’ etc.
Write down all of these words and then throw them into www.thesaurus.com (or dare to use a physical hard copy thesaurus!) and see what other words come up to describe those words and add them to your list.
To further explore your character’s essence, you can also ask the question, “What’s important to me?”. What does your character care about most? – Money, freedom, happiness, power? You can also put these into the thesaurus and see which words pop out.
STEP TWO – FOREIGN LANGUAGES
Now you have your list of various essence words, try looking up these words in different languages to discover other interesting words and phrases with the same meanings for inspiration.
For example, the French word for ‘mischievous’ is ‘Malicieux’ – this could inspire you to add the English word ‘Malice’ and maybe think that “Malice in Wonderland” is a good name. Maybe break down the French word into two so your name could be “Mally Cieux” or “Allie Cieux”. Maybe the word brings your attention to the English word “Malicious” and you can throw these words back into the thesaurus for more inspiration around this theme. What other words do they remind you off, what do these words rhyme with?.. maybe, “Malicious Delicious” becomes an option?
NOTE: If a name in a foreign language feels like it’s working for you DO MAKE SURE to check with a native speaker if the name makes sense to them!!!
It’s ok to use these words and phrases as inspiration, and then go ahead and play with spelling, grammar etc, to make it work for you, but make sure to do the research and KNOW that you’re straying from the original form. A horror film called “Silence of The Lambs” doesn’t have quite the same effect when inadvertently translated into “Sheep Can’t Talk”
STEP THREE – IF I WERE A….
Once you’ve exhausted the thesaurus and research into foreign languages, start looking up your essence words in relation to animals and inanimate objects.
ANIMAL: I would start with animals as they are directly related to movement and can easily be imagined in a personified form.
If your character were an animal what would you be? For me – the essence of ‘mischievous’ provided a word in the thesaurus ‘sly’ which related to the animal ‘Fox’ another word for ‘Fox’ is ‘Vixen’. Maybe you want a feeling of freedom on stage, so you start looking at bird names which will provide you a whole ton of research into how these relate to folk lore and superstition.
Once you come up with one animal name, explore all variations of the animal to get specific and find the one which suits you best. A connection to a Cat-like persona comes up with, ‘kitty’, ‘pussy’, ‘kitten’, ‘panther’, ‘lion’ etc. which all conjure up completely different images and vibes (and puns, which we’ll get on to later).
Continue this with:
IF I WERE A…. COCKTAIL, PLANT, FLOWER, GEMSTONE..
These are the more typical arenas but feel free to take this into your own area of interest, what car would you be, what greek goddess would you be, what piece of clothing, what sport, what kitchen appliance..? Take this wherever you want to go in order to get your inspiration.
STEP FOUR – FAMOUS NAMES AND PUNS
Write down the names of anyone real or fictional that has similar traits to your character. You can use these in two ways, by taking either their first or last name and adding it to one of your words above.
For Example: You like the vibe of ‘Marilyn Monroe’, and we have the word ‘Malicious’ from earlier so maybe we consider ‘Marilyn Malicious’, ‘Malicious Marilyn’, ‘Malicious Monroe’. Anything that feels good, add it to the list. “DeVille” for me was a blatant steal from “Cruella De Vil” with just a diﬀerent version of spelling.
A second way of using famous names is to use them as the basis of a pun – maybe Marilyn Monroe becomes Marilyn Death-Row.
A large number of burlesque names sit in the world of puns so spend some time looking at your list of words and see if any phonetic puns come to mind. Double check that they work both visually, (written down), since your visual name will be your branding and logo, as well as aurally, (said out loud) so that when the host announces you, the name makes sense.
STEP FIVE – PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Now you have your exhaustive list of words, try them out in all combinations of first names and second names. Keep in mind the use of alliteration, puns, and use of rhyme. Say them out loud, write them down, decide how they make you feel and what they look like written down in text. Collate a list of your favourite 5 to 10 names and connect with your fellow burlesque community either in person, or on social media to get feedback on which ones are the favourites and which really describe the persona you are expressing on stage.
STEP SIX – DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE
Before you 100% decide on a name make sure to do as much research into that name as possible. Throw it into a search engine and see what comes up, check social media profiles. You want to remove as much competition as possible, so that if anyone searches your name online it’s YOU that comes up, not some random film on IMDB or a clothing boutique in another city.
I’d had the name, ‘Vixen DeVille’ for a year or so and then randomly found out that she was a character in a very low profile porno graphic novel, which luckily, now, must have been buried in the depths of google search.
I was exiting stage after two years of performance when the host announced “if you liked that act you can catch VD at next week’s show…” oops!! (but still hilarious)
Even after I’d been learning German for 4 years and toured Germany for 4 months, it took an audience member over in Santa Monica, California (about 8 years into performing as ‘Vixen DeVille’) to tell me that ‘Vixen’ is the same phonetic sound as the German verb ‘Wichsen’ – I’ll let you guys go trawl the internet to ﬁnd out THAT meaning!
You’ll never know EVERYTHING about your name, but DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE!!
WORST CASE SCENARIO – Another burlesque performer already has that name!!
DO NOT USE IT!!!
Doesn’t matter if they just started out or are no longer working, that burlesque name has already been taken, end of story. It doesn’t do anyone any favours. Not only is it disrespectful to that already established performer, but it doesn’t help you out to be attempting to launch your career in someone else’s shadow. Much better to be unique and memorable than just a mediocre copy.
Remember this should be a fun time in your burlesque career, and if you start now you’ll give yourself the time to play, to try things out, do your due diligence and not have a stress-filled panic attack at the last minute.
For those of you signed up for class both in-person and online, remember to share your choices on the private Facebook group for some constructive criticism from both myself and fellow students.