For those of you who don't know me, my stage name is Sue Meringue (rhymes with boomerang) and just after my 43rd birthday, I will have performed burlesque for one year. I became addicted to the idea of burlesque right away, but never thought I would have the courage to actually perform. My very best friend encouraged me to learn more and once I watched a documentary about the academy in Seattle and talked to someone about Deb's school in Asheville, I was in. I suppose at the time I was concerned about my body image, but there's something you go through after a certain age where it's more important to be true to what you feel in your heart than to give a rat's ass what anyone else thinks. I'm really glad I embraced that sentiment, because I quickly learned that burlesque is basically the essence of that idea. Once you're on stage you do learn to respond to the audience, but the biggest revelation for me was how much I was in control. You tell people how much they want to see you and they reward you greatly.
I remember getting the jitters when my character was about to be called for the first time. Something happened in that moment. It was like "Sue" was being called to the stage from within me somewhere and she was saying, "don't worry, I've got this". I threw myself right in, jumping at every class, every show, chance to perform, watching every related documentary, checking out YouTube videos, you name it! Then around Christmas, the most exciting news came up that we were going to have weekly shows!! I was so excited, it was worth waiting a few months to perform again. Then three days into this new year, I tripped and fell and my whole life changed.
The fall was seemingly minor, I did have slight fractures in both my wrist and spine, but the miraculous thing was that during the CT scan they found an irregularity in my right kidney and I had to have an emergency surgery to save my life. It turned out I had a cancerous tumor on my kidney for the past 3-5 years and didn't know it until it was removed. I didn't know this until two days after the surgery and performing was the last thing on my mind. I had signed up prior to the accident to audition for the local troupe that two of my teachers and many of my favorite fellow performers were members of. At this point I could barely move and had a huge slice down my entire torso from the surgery that had just been stapled shut. I assumed that I had done my last reveal.
Then, while I was still in the trauma ward, trying to convince my body that I was back in control, I got the most uplifting message from Deb. She basically told me (aside from hoping I was getting better) that if I still wanted the spot in the audition show, she would help me glitter-fy a wheelchair if need be. So not only did I audition for a troupe (and make it!) right after the hospital, I added a layer to my performance style that wasn't there before, because, well, I almost wasn't going to still be here. You just don't understand how fragile life really is until it nearly slips away from you.
Now that I've started performing again I've heard people being inspired by my scar. I had thought of covering it up, but it's so beautiful because it's my re-birth mark. It makes me feel like I have a world full of new "first times" to experience things. I couldn't be happier to be alive. I've been welcomed into the culture of our local burlesque scene, I've found an outlet for my passion, and I have the strength and support of a sparkly, naked family.
Burlesque, for me, is a chance to express myself safely and give energy back to my audience and fellow performers. When I picked my stage name, it was just intended to be a clever play on words. It turns out, it's a definitive explanation of who I am. I'm glad I could swing back around to share this with you.