Known in nightlife by stage personas Mister Rawunchy and Mistress Wolverinna, the spiritual healer and radio talk show host known as Pythagoras Papi has a life story and philosophy that are equal parts complex, fascinating, tragic and inspirational. But his stage presence as both Mister and Mistress is nothing short of naughty, old school fun. Read his exclusive talk with Thotyssey here.
Thotyssey: Hello Pythagoras! Thanks for talking with us.
Pythagoras Papi: Thanks for having me!
As a performer with not one, but two burlesque alter egos, I’m wondering what your closet looks like. Who owns more gear, Mr. Rawunchy or Mistress Wolverinna?
I feel that both of my personas are more than an alter egos, since both of them are rooted as my divine energy: my feminine–or should I say, my feminist–divine energy, portrayed as Mistress Wolverinna, and my divine masculine energy that comes out to play as Mister Rawunchy.
As of now, Mistress Wolverinna has taken over the closet for years. From big props to all shades of burlesque: classical fans and about fifteen full costumes that are part of different acts. I like to keep my wardrobe organized. I like to keep costumes that I wear a lot out, and the rest stay in the closet. I keep the costumes for polished acts that I perform a lot outside at all times, since they usually need “costume surgery” after a busy week of shows .
Mister Rawunchy has about seven full costume / acts currently, and I mostly perform three of his signature polished acts on a regular basis–so those costumes stay out as well.
You design and construct a lot of these costumes, right?
I do! I do all the work behind it, so a new act can take time to be born. The creative design and process for creating a burlesque act starts with an inspiration, followed up with storytelling, and then the costume is tailored matching the act’s vibration and song.
Sounds like a very intense process!
Absolutely, it’s a fun and intense process.
And you make costumes for clients as well?
When I have open time, I do take orders for other burlesque performers.
Rawunchy and Wolverinna are, of course, your respective male and female burlesque personas (for lack of a better word). In what ways do you perform onstage differently when you’re one versus the other?
The difference between both are very simple math and science. Mistress Wolverinna is rooted in the reflection of vintage burlesque and pinup . She is more of a sassy, classical, bump-and-grind seductress on stage. On the other hand, Mister Rawunchy wears his bulge out and is also very classical in nature, inspired by 1950s – 70s, more of a playful and exotic character onstag,e and can be very animalistic in some of his acts.
By the way, where did you grow up?
I’m originally from Queens. New York. I’m a New Yorker.
And where did you get this vintage burlesque aesthetic from– what drew you to that world?
Ever since I was a little kid, in the mornings my grandmother would play her favorite Cuban classical music, from Xavier Cugat to Perez Prado. I grew up in a very welcoming creative environment. She taught me how to sew, and encouraged my queerness, spirituality and creative flow without judgment.
So to answer your question: music got me into this classical aesthetic. I’ve always felt like an older soul. I gravitate naturally to the classical world and arts. Music is the background layer, and one of the reasons I am still here on earth–as well as my spiritual, earthly missions.
So you were you always confidant in your sexuality?
I’ve been always open about my sexuality since I was a little kid. I was very mystical and queer in nature. Yes, I was that weird kid that wasn’t friends with his classmates, but best friends with his art teacher [laughs].
My sexuality has never been a big deal for me, to be honest. It’s not even the reason why I am burlesque dancer (or a “stripper” in a lot of people’s eyes). I take my clothes off because I am the owner of my human skin. When we go on stage, we are very open in nature. Not only open, but vulnerable, because we embrace and show the human skin for what it really is: just a suit that allows you to travel within this physical dimension. We get to open the audience to paradoxes–taboos–as well as creative, fun perspectives and stories.
And how much of your sexuality is defined by your sense of spirituality?
I consider myself a Healer Performer. I get to take an audience from their daily life routine, even if its just for five minutes, and put a smile or laugh on their face. The higher healing purpose, why I am a burlesque dancer, is that I get to inspire others to love their human bodies, to see themselves in a more positive way.
We in the burlesque community hold one of the highest vibrations of openness and body positive movements. It took me a long time to find my artistic home. I never felt embraced in any community, or even in a dance company. When burlesque and myself found each other, it was like a love at first sight. Everything about it made sense. Being able to tell a story, to entertain and pass a message to people, is one of the highest and most valuable spiritual practices I’ve ever done for myself and others.
A lot of people can see us [burlesquers] as overly sexual beings because we strip, but what if I told you that a lot of us are actually very shy in “real life,” or off-stage? I am.
My sexuality doesn’t dictate anything in my life whatsoever. Burlesque for me is a spiritual practice, indeed. Anything you do with love and passion is spiritual. Any practice of creation is spiritual.
So, when did you specifically create Rawunchy and Wolverinna? Who came first?
Mister Rawunchy came first, but back then I didn’t have a stage name yet. It just existed for what it was. People knew me and would just call me by my fashion costume brand, “MarkkoDonto.”
I was inspired by Marylin Manson, the fetish scene, dark wave,the industrial and gothic scene, when Mister Rawunchy was born. I was very androgynous in nature. I believe I was about 19 years young. A couple of years after that, I got my weekly event with over 300+ in audience. I was the producer and creative director of this event called The Wolf Party. It was a phenomenon of its own, with mixed crowds. I would have burlesque dancers, fire performers and variety act numbers throughout the night. And Mistress Wolverinna was then born, the highlight of the night, with a midnight show.
This event ran for over three years weekly, and after that I had to branch out and go where I wanted to go. And it wasn’t so easy, when audience members would contact me about it at all times. I still get people asking me to bring it back, but I have other inspirations and priorities that I am working on. It was inevitable for me to move on. Sometimes starting fresh is the best thing you can do, because you can focus on things you really want to work on.
Do you feel audiences’ energies responding differently between Mister & Mistress?
You have to have a very open communication with your audience in order to get a relevant response–and not only with an audience, but with anyone. I’ve notice that my audience responds to me more when I am showing playfulness, goofiness, and funny vibrations more than a serious act or emotional acts that trigger something in their subconscious. But regardless, I perform both, because I like to be open to both vibrations.
People respond differently in many ways to Mister Rawunchy’s queerness and sassy Mistress Wolverinna. A lot of them don’t know what to feel about it–and that’s okay, its a show. Regardless, they are always entertained.
Mistress Wolverinna was a contestant for this year’s NY’s Best in Drag pageant at FIT. What was that experience like for you?
Yes! I did my classical Cuban burlesque tease. It was a great, fun and long experience. We had weeks of rehearsals prior to that evening, due to our group numbers. The day of the event, we where at the venue from early morning to curtain call late evening. The experience was beautiful. I had the pleasure to share the dressing room with creative genius Machine Dazzle, had the pleasure to share the stage with Bobbie Sox (from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo), one of my favorite male ballet dancers that also has a female divine persona on stage.
For me, that evening was very personal. I wasn’t there for other reasons. NY’s Best in Drag raises awareness and donates its ticket sales to ASCNYC. This is a multi-service community organization that carries out its mission of “helping many, one by one” by building community, connection and stability for New Yorkers living with, and at risk for, HIV/AIDS.
I come from a family where my grandfather died of AIDS during the 80s, and my grandmother gave up on her HIV treatment when I was 18 years old. I am a extrasensory empath. I know what it feels like to have a life where you have no hope any longer, to wake up the next day seeing, feeling what my grandmother felt was definitely something that shaped me and made me who I am today.
My grandmother raised me, she was like my mother. She is very much reflected in my feminist female persona. So being part of an event that raises awareness and fights the stigma of AIDS / HIV is one of the reasons I chose to perform and donate my talent and time that evening.
If you don’t mind me asking, what do you mean by “she gave up on her treatment?”
I don’t mind at all. My grandmother was infected on purpose back then, during the late 80s, by her ex-husband. She was emotionally and physically abused by my grandfather during her life. He is the one that took her life, slowly.
My mother was young and carefree, and my dad was nonexistent. They both were never in the picture. They were always traveling and doing their own thing, and showing up during Christmas. So, I was raised and lived with my grandmother most of my life, until she died.
After seeing my sisters and I all grown up and doing good, I feel that she fulfilled her purpose of raising us and taking care of us, because no one was there for us but her. Then she slowly stop taking care of her well-being, and looking after herself. She no longer wanted to take her medications. She no longer wanted to be alive in this physical reality, and I can totally understand her reasons. And to this day, she still lives within me. I feel that she was ready for her next life. I learned so many beautiful things from her.
My grandmother taught me valuable life lessons. My spirituality comes from her. I learned from observation. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here now, doing what I love doing.
That sounds like a very enlightened way to see a tragic situation. It sounds like you do have a strong sense of spirituality.
There is always a lesson in any situation, we just have to be aware and receptive enough to get the awareness. When we don’t acknowledge the awareness, we manifest it again and again until we get it. Specially if its an awareness that is crucially important for our healing and expansion. So being receptive is the key.
You are also a spiritual adviser and counselor to others, correct?
As a spiritual guide, I’ve been trained intuitively. I am guided by specific vibrations that I channel. My spirit guides are always there for me, and my spiritual catalyst here on earth named Teal Swan has been a catalyst in my awareness as a spiritual teacher .
The story of my grandmother was indeed tragic from one perspective, but also beautiful from a higher perspective–because after that, I started doing some inner shadow work. I was no longer codependent to her. After her death, I was left depressed and uninspired. I also no longer wanted to be here on earth. Depression vibrates from victimhood. It’s a vicious cycle of self-harm that can last for a long time if not acknowledged.
Observation has been one of my tools in the spiritual world. There were days that I would question everything, from feeling depressed, from feeling ennui to staring into space in a dark room. Until one day I woke up and decided to heal my vibration, and learn the awareness of this situation and move on. That day everything changed. I learned to practice everyday self-love. I learned to take care of myself. I learned that self-love is the highest source of love you can ever possibly give. Your love isn’t outside of yourself or in someone’s hands, but in you, there within you, at all times.
Then, the practice of self-healing was crucially important in my spiritual rebirth. I learned that we can actually heal emotionally. We can heal childhood traumas. We can reprogram our subconscious and vibrations into healing with a climax of self-love. It’s been a long journey, but once again the love for life–and the gratitude that I have–won.
Both Mistress Wolverinna and Mr. Rawunchy make appearances at Outrage, the weekly Monday night party at the Rumpus Room in the East Village. Let’s talk about that party for a bit.
Yes, Outrage at Rumpus Room is low-key and intimate, but full of shenanigans spot on Mondays. We have Daddy Teddy Tarantula and Daddy Superstar DJ Keoki playing for us, and with my partner in shenanigans is Herra C! Audiences from my shows or online fans come and do meet-and-greet with Mister Rawunchy and Mistress Wolverinna in a nighlife environment fashion. I dance throughout the night, and also do a Burlesque number at some point during the evening. It’s a free entry for now, but rapidly growing.
I decided to get involved because a lot of the audience that comes to see my burlesque shows wants to hang out with me after I get off stage. In showbiz, we usually change after our act, pack, and go home to our pets [laughs]. So I decided to take this gig so my nightlife friends, followers and admires can come and hang out with me within this 3D physical dimension and dance with me!
But guess what? There is also another project launching next week!
Tell me about it.
Next week, we are premiering our own Radio Frequency Show, LECTAGORAS, with my space babe / telempath / queer femme and co-host Lecta g a l a c t i c a. This Radio Frequency show will climax many topics from Openness, Spirituality, Metaphysics, Psychology, Healing, Aliens, Vibrations, Divine energies, Meditation and more.
We are doing this for higher reasons, but mainly to connect with other alien babes on earth. Us talking and being open about all these topics can help someone’s life out there. Our silence contributes to someones else’s struggle. So we want to speak, so we all can be free and love, so we can all be liberated.
This show will also have DJ Blew Arc, who plays vibrations and music we like. This will be a weekly talk show, where we will invite guests over and merge realities with us for further expansion and connection of our universe.
Very intriguing! Anything else coming up?
I would like to give a shout out to my next big show, June 25 at Branded Saloon in Brooklyn. I will be doing two all boylesque Mister Rawunchy numbers, and reunite with the queer burlesque Switch-N-Play cast.
Excellent. Okay, thank you, Mr. Rawunchy! I’ll include a link to one of your previous performances as Mr. Rawunchy that has a narrative element.
Pythagoras Papi performs alternately as Mr. Rawunchy and Mistress Wolverinna for Outrage at Rumpus Room on Monday nights (10pm). He will guest perform as Mr. Rawunchy with Switch-N-Play at the Branded Saloon in Brooklyn on June 25th. You can soon listen to Pythagoras’ metaphysical / spiritual radio show LECTAGORAS here. He can be followed on Facebook, and Mr. Rawunchy and Mistress Wolverinna each have their own websites.