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According to Kate’s bio: “Kate Nyx is a Philadelphia-based seamstress, songwriter, and showgirl. Raised in dressing rooms and sewing studios, Kate’s life long relationship with the stage in evident in her fierce and fiery performances. Since her debut in 2008, she’s performed her bombastic brand of bump and grind all over the continental US, and is happy to share her knowledge of burlesque with anyone willing to learn. Though she’s been performing her original music for over a decade, Kate didn’t find her feisty feminist folk style until 2011. Splicing storytelling and comedy in between her soulful and sometimes sorrowful songs, her naughtily nihilistic performances have enchanted audiences around the country. When she’s not doing either of those things, she’s making content for her Patreon with her luchador husband, Ophidian the Cobra, or running her costuming company, Closet Champion, and of course her own burlesque company she operates with business partner Liberty Rose, Broad St. Burlesque.”  With a few classes lined up in Michigan before heading back home to Philadelphia, we were able to get the “Stripologist” herself on the phone to discuss Burlesque, her other business ventures, professional regrets, and much more…

Toddstar: Kate, thank you for taking time out for me. I appreciate it.

Kate: Yeah, of course.

Toddstar: I used to follow you back in the day – back when you’d do the Theater Bizarre thing and so much more.  I was at Cliff Bell’s for a burlesque show and here was Kate Nyx who I hadn’t seen or heard from in quite a while. How did it come about that you were able to return to Detroit for that show?

Kate: Holly Hock brought me out. I guess she had been tangentially aware of my work here because she had started in Detroit when I was leaving Detroit so she had been kind of tangentially aware of me and she reached out and brought me out for the show.

Toddstar: Well, you were able to line some other things up while you were here and you’re doing some beginner classes in Grand Rapids. Is this something that when you are touring you are able to pick work like this and do special classes, special performances?

Kate: Actually, I’m teaching more classes than I am doing shows. I taught two classes in Ann Arbor last Friday before my show in Ann Arbor on Saturday. And this week, I taught two classes at Agora Art in Ferndale as well as the class I have this Sunday. So, yeah, I found that it was a lot, not that I thought it would be difficult, I guess I didn’t think there would be as much interest out there. I was excited to see so many people eager to learn about the way that I do burlesque and the things that I bring to burlesque.

Toddstar: You’ve got other things, you’ve done costumes for yourself, for other people – I think the business was called the Closet Champion at one point.

Kate: Yes. That’s my business that my husband and I run.

Toddstar: So, that’s something you still currently do in addition to the million other things that you do.

Kate: Yes. It is. I am still currently running my business through my husband back in Philadelphia while I am here.

Toddstar: You mentioned the classes – you threw a lot of dates out there. With the increased awareness and, as you attest to, the demand for the classes out there, do you see burlesque… people talk about cabaret and burlesque and the underground scene. Do you think this is actually climbing above ground now to where it’s becoming more socially acceptable?

Kate: I don’t know that it is. Burlesque is definitely gaining popularity and I won’t deny that it’s gaining popularity. I don’t necessarily know if it’s becoming more acceptable more so than people are becoming more aware of it. I think that burlesque has benefited right now from society’s over-arcing change of views towards sexuality and female empowerment. It just lines up pretty well right now with the current climate of our country and who is looking for representation and what kind of representation. We’re fortunate that that is lining up with the escalation of people understanding of what it is. We’re just fortunate that it is becoming a movement as well as just entertainment.

Toddstar: It’s interesting that you ended your phrase with the word entertainment because you’ve done so much. You’ve recorded music, you’ve done the burlesque, and you’ve done cabaret style shows. What is it about the entertainment industry as a whole that kind of drew you in?

Kate: I have always been, I guess kind of a show-off when I was a kid. I was always like the one that would put on little shows for their friends or their family at parties and I was in acting classes ever since I was small. I don’t remember a point in time where performing wasn’t a part of my life, whether it be dance or music or acting or improv comedy or working at the Renaissance Fair, any of that stuff. Entertaining has always been a part of my life and it’s partially how I can, it’s how I feel like most connected to people. Performing is the way that I feel the closest to the human experience because by portraying exaggerated emotion I can encourage emotions with others and that starts conversation and that is the most important thing to me.

Toddstar: Fair enough. You mentioned something and we made a quick side joke about it the other night. You mentioned the Renaissance Fair and I made a reference to you doing your “fairie thing”. But like you said, that’s an ongoing thing for you. What it is about that whole realm or ideology that you tend to draw into your persona?

Kate: Well, I’ve been around fairies by whole life. My mom taught be about fairies when I was a kid. I was always drawn to magic and mystical things in general. I was a big fan of Harry Potter when I was younger and just sort of fantasy in general. I’m a big nerd about that kind of thing. And fortunately, the Spoutwood Farms Fairy Festival that I am a part of and have been a part of since I was ten helped foster that part of my life and that interest in the mythic arts community, which is also sort of getting its own traction in its own way and becoming more popular and more accepted with the globalization of information. So, the mythic arts community is also seeing this boost as well. I’ve just have always loved that stuff, I’ve always been into fantasy and I have some issues with my mental health and part of that is hyper emotionality and there is a line about Tinkerbell in the original Peter Pan where Jan Barry says that Tinkerbell can only feel one emotion at a time because she’s so small and they talk about how fairies can only feel one feeling at a time because they’re not big enough to carry anything more. And sometimes my mental illness can kind of manifest as that feeling like I get taken aback by my emotions, which is what makes me a good creator and makes me a good musician ’cause I can channel it now but sometimes it can feel like I only have room in my body for one emotion at a time so I really relate to that aspect of modern literature and mythology.

Toddstar: Quite an insight. With your entertainment, again, you do so many different things, and we talked about what kind of drew you in. But who are some of your influences in the various types of entertaining you do? Like who are some of your influences with your music and / or your cabaret and then also with the burlesque?

Kate: As far as influences for my music, I guess the Dresden Dolls, which is a huge part of my formative music career. I desperately wanted to be Amanda Palmer and I wanted to play music with Brian Viglione and I’ve been blessed in that I got that opportunity with the last record. So they were a huge part of my formative musical influences as well as Emily Autumn and just like Broadway and old school jazz and the Clash and punk and I have drawn from so many different places to sort of make what I call my own and then developing a taste for folk music and things like that sort of later in life because my mom listens to country music and I have some of that in me and then all the various Renaissance Faire stuff I did instilled the love of American and Irish folk music. So, all those things kind of combined together to create my influences and the same goes with burlesque. Like, I’m just as influenced by my other performers like by my business partner, Liberty Rose, in Philadelphia as well as by my fellow community members in Philadelphia and in the over-arcing global burlesque community as I am by my favorite fantasy movies when I was a kid or by old classic, like show business. It’s hard to pull like from a direct … This is who I wanted to be when I grew up and I guess the closest person was Amanda Palmer or Emilie Autumn or those people like female icons or Kathleen Hannah, Ani DeFranco, those high-fem icons whether they be feminine in the punk rock way or the riot girl way or feminine in the Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell and Rita Hayworth way. Female icons were sort of my main influence for what I wanted to do. And that included anything from Lady Gaga to Gypsy Rose Lee.

Toddstar: So, you’ve gone through the gamut of entertainment. You don’t focus on the one genre or era.

Kate: No. My husband, who is in professional wrestling, always says that talent borrows and genius steals and if you steal from enough places, people think that it’s your own original work. My goal is just to draw from enough varied places that it seems like I’ve created something.

Toddstar: Well, I know, and can remember what made me first aware of you and I don’t remember what exact role you had in it but you had helped with a 2-CD set that Angel Bartolotta had put together under the name Team Cybergeist.

Kate: Oh, my gosh. Seriously, that’s crazy. That’s like old… I was a teenager. I was 17 when I made that record. I was so young. I was like, that was when I had been involved with Toxic Shock records because I had just put out my record, I was trying to find a label. And that was back when me having a label didn’t necessarily mean I had a label, it meant that I had someone that said they were my label. And the connections that I made through Christian is how I got connected to Angel and Team Cybergeist. And I wrote the lyrics and sang for that song. And yeah, that was like, and I like recorded it on like my laptop microphone in my bedroom and sent it to him. I was like, here’s what I can give you. God that’s so crazy.

Toddstar: Something else is interesting that I saw and I don’t know if you came up with it or as you said, the genius stole it, nerdlesque. What is nerdlesque?

Kate: Nerdlesque is a huge part of the modern burlesque community and nerdlesque is like … If you’d ever see nerdlesque, it’s satirizing, or burlesque, it’s satirizing a specific thing, like a Big Lebowski burlesque show or a Final Fantasy burlesque show, or, we did a Power Rangers burlesque show, that’s nerdlesque, whenever it’s directly referential to a pre-existing thing and people would make up burlesque numbers based on that material.

Toddstar: So, you’ve got Closet Champion, you’ve got your burlesque, you’ve got all of your classes that you teach whenever you go, and you’ve got your music. What else is still out there that Kate wants to achieve?

Kate: I really would like to try doing stand-up comedy. I’ve never done it before and I would like to try doing that. But right now, my main focus is the internship program for my company with my burlesque-producing partner, Liberty Rose, our company Broad St. Burlesque. We just chose the interns for our new internship program, or our refurbished internship program. We’ve done it before but this is, we’ve restructured it. So my focus is that, is teaching our interns and working on the upcoming Choose Your Own Adventure burlesque show that I’m producing, Towers and Tassels.

Toddstar: Now will those be Philadelphia-based or is it something that you’re hoping to be able to take on the road at some point?

Kate: The goal is obviously to take anything on the road. I love traveling, I love being a #travelingshowgirl but right now we’re building it in Philadelphia with the potential to bring it elsewhere in the future.

Toddstar: You said Holly Hock brought you back, but what is it about Detroit that rings true in your heart to come back and perform? You could have told her no.

Kate: Yeah. It was a hard decision. It really took me a lot of work to come back here. I was pretty, I went through a lot during my time here that you may or may not know about, but I have been open in my various ways about it but I was coming out of a really hard time when I left and a lot of crazy things have happened to me in the past couple of years that have affected me very deeply and it took a lot of work, a lot of therapy and effort and personal growth in order for me to be able to come back. It took a lot and I’ve wanted to come back and see my Theater Bizarre family and see my Detroit burlesque family and I’ve definitely missed this space. I don’t think that I should still live here but I’ve missed Detroit and I just finally was at the point where I felt well enough that I could come back to this place and be okay.

Toddstar: I’ll tell you, it was exciting for me because I’ve seen a couple burlesque shows, while at Cliff Bell’s for the Sunday Burlesque Show and when they said your name, I was excited because of my memory of you from the Team Cybergeist CD and knowing your Theatre Bizarre legacy.  To me it was like a piece of history coming back to blend with the new. Do you have any take on that where you see these burlesque performers that you may or may not know?  I know there was one performer that was very new that evening. Do you take pride in being able to perform and let them see you and all your experience up there?

Kate: I definitely don’t perform in a vacuum. When I make work, I make it to be enjoyed or inspired by or whatever. If I was doing this just for myself, I wouldn’t be doing in front of an audience. That’s sort of my feeling about everything I do. If I was gonna do it and it was just for me, I wouldn’t put it in front of people. Not to say that it’s not a huge part, like I don’t give everything and it’s not super important to me and it is for reasons that I have, but if it was just about what I wanted and just for myself, it wouldn’t be in public. And it’s sort of my, I don’t know. It’s hard to say I’m proud of my work because I live in a really weird bisection of existing as a person who does burlesque and existing as a person who uses their body to make content and there’s a lot of weird things about women accepting compliments and being proud of their work and there’s a lot of societal stuff I’ve got to deal with. But yeah, I would say that, I don’t know. I try to live by my best example and make work that inspires other dancers and make work that I’m proud of and that people can be entertained by and I hope that I have provided some people with an aspiration. I feel like I do. I mean, I teach and I think that people can learn from me. I’m just trying to come to terms with the fact that I’m doing what I want to and I’m good at it.

Toddstar: The biggest takeaway we had (friends we were with and my wife), none of them had ever seen burlesque and they were very happy to see that it was real women. It wasn’t the “stripper body”, it wasn’t a ton of plastic surgery. It was real women, real bodies out there, very proud of what they do. Is that something that you see a lot of where people are kind of taken aback, not in a bad way, but it’s not what they expected?

Kate: I don’t necessarily find that, yes people are surprised by burlesque, there are lots of things that surprise people about burlesque and it showcasing all types of bodies is just one of the things that makes it surprising and inviting and exciting that I love. The burlesque has a hard focus in the community on empowering everybody, no matter your gender, your age, your race, your size, any of it. If you want to make glamorous, beautiful, entertaining things through burlesque, then you are allowed and we will help you get there. I think that we are benefited by having a more diverse pool of people to pull from and we are constantly, at least my company is constantly working on trying to expand that diversity.

Toddstar: That’s awesome. It’s good to see. You’ve mentioned that you had some personal things going on in Detroit, things that drove you, not necessarily drove you out but drove you away. Looking at everything from more of a professional standpoint, is there anything you’ve done that you wish you had a do-over on, or that you just really consider a misstep professionally?

Kate: Yes and no. There are things that constantly I wish that I done differently or better or harder or tried more but I try really hard not to focus on the things I’ve done wrong. I could probably list hours for you all the things that I’ve done wrong in my career but if I get consumed by them I won’t move forward. I have a lot of anxiety and I have to worry about solving problems in the moment so that I can continue forward. I guess if I had to say anything that I really did wrong-wrong, was probably, I really botched my whole trying to make an adult pay site situation. I wasn’t prepared for that and I kind of regret it. But other than that, I don’t regret the photos that I took or the actions, I just didn’t know what I was getting into and I didn’t know how it would affect me and I should have probably been a little bit more careful what I came to, how much of myself I gave to my audience, be that in like an actual physical body thing and like how much emotional vulnerability I showed. It’s hard when you’re a social media marketer person and it’s just you and you have to be developing content all the time to not rely on your personal life to do that and that’s fine but you just have to find a way to do it healthfully and I just jumped in with both feet and went too hard and there were repercussions for it. So I guess that’s the only thing I wish I had done complete differently was how I approached social media at the beginning of my career and how I approached making content for an adult audience in the beginning of my career.

Toddstar: That’s about as real and raw an answer can get. You can’t hide behind nothing. Hopefully, Holly Hock leads into the Detroit contingent and brings you back for another show. We’d love to see you once again.

Kate: I’m looking into finding a way to make this at least a yearly occurrence, maybe twice a year. We’ll see. It depends on how much money I actually leave the state with, about whether or not I can justify taking time away from my day job, which is also this, to be here, if that makes any sense.

Toddstar: It certainly does. Kate, we wish you well in all your travels and everything you’re still doing through the weekend, you’re still teaching more classes and people can find out about them on your website and all your social media and again, I thank you for the time.

Kate: Thank you so much, Todd.

Toddstar: Thanks, Kate. And we’ll talk to you soon.

Kate: Talk to you soon.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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