One of New York’s most respected and recognizable burlesque and drag stars has just received her fourth GLAM nomination, and is about to star in a hybrid of two fan favorite shows. We’re all needy for Seedy Edie!
Thotyssey: Hello Edie, thanks for chatting with us today! How is November treating you so far?
Seedy Edie: Incredibly fast, to be honest. I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of the year.
I know, right!? And what a year–well, two years–it’s been! Lockdown forced us all to express our art and pay the bills in very unique ways. Are you relieved that digital burlesque is largely a thing of the past, or did you enjoy that process at all?
Oh, I’m more than happy to move on from that era. I think that some performers really showed up creatively to the digital challenge, which I appreciated getting to see! But I can’t say I enjoyed the process much personally. I didn’t really realize how much of what I love about burlesque and drag is wrapped up in the audience-performer energy exchange, until it went bye bye.
However, I did enjoy the task of thinking up little movie versions of my acts; I preferred participating in shows where you prerecorded, rather than the live ones. But yeah, so not the same. The magic of live performance is something very special, and I think we all were reminded of that.
When you first started performing to a live room again, did you snap back into the swing of things immediately, or was there a moment of “whoah, this is weird?”
You know, I thought it would be a slow reintroduction… but when the time came, it was really quite immediate! That first show in May was such a high; it felt like coming home, both onstage and in the dressing room. And I think we as performers were all really bolstered by the joy and enthusiasm of the post-lockdown crowds. Audiences in 2021 have been so hungry and appreciative, and there’s less of that over-saturation cynicism that sometimes seemed so prevalent in the Before Times.
So now is a good time for the origin story: where are you from originally, and what were your early creative interests that may have opened you up to draglesque?
Sure! I’m originally from Vancouver, Canada. I was a drama and choir kid in high school, and when I graduated I went to college at a small university called Bishops in Quebec. I completed a theatre and music degree there before moving to NYC in 2011 for an acting conservatory program, and I’ve been here since! In addition to nightlife, I also do on-camera acting, voiceover, and write plays and screenplays.
So I came into drag and burlesque via already being a performer, and a major part of the draw was the promise of total creative control. You know, it’s hard to get people to come see a two-hour play you’ve written! Or maybe you might be cast in a play, the narrative of which you do not care about. But here were these opportunities to have five minutes onstage to tell exactly the story that you want to tell, with very little structural boundaries to the way you tell it? I was hooked.
How might you describe an Edie performance today for the uninitiated, as far as aesthetic or the types of numbers you do?
Long story short: Female Empowerment. Or, “she seems sweet, but don’t fuck with her.” A major theme running through my work is the desire to revisit (and oftentimes rewrite) the classic narratives surrounding traditional female archetypes. I first meet the audience either as a specific character or more general “type” of girl–someone they can recognize–then tell a story with her as the main character, usually having her go through a transformation or trial of some kind that ends with her more empowered than when she began. Or, in acts with less narrative structure, the end will subvert the audience’s expectation in some way… and in doing so, cause them to (hopefully) question the baked-in and biased ideas they might have about what it means to be a woman.
I find that burlesque is an incredibly effective tool for this, because the sight of a naked body is powerful; it changes the energy in a room. It has the power to shock, to titillate, to make you giggle or to make you feel empowered. It can elicit any number of reactions, but no matter what it’s guaranteed to be just as much of a reveal of the audience’s own thoughts and opinions as it is a reveal of skin. A little public nudity can go a long way!
Did you have to get over any body insecurities when you were starting out?
I did. The promise of letting go of those insecurities was another factor drawing me towards the nightlife scene, actually. I was mesmerized by the first show I saw–the costumes, the glitter, the amazing mix of highbrow and lowbrow creating such fantastic stage magic–but also just the fact that these performers seemed so comfortable in their own skin.
There was a particular act I saw where the dancer grabbed her thighs and shook them–jiggled them for the audience, asking them to look at her thigh fat–on purpose! It blew my mind, and I immediately wanted to find that level of confidence for myself. I was a young woman who, you know, had spent ten years not-quite-sitting on chairs so that my thighs would appear smaller. I must add that I do speak from a place of skinny privilege here, and don’t mean to compare my lived experience with someone outside the societal standards of an acceptable body.
But burlesque changed my self-image dramatically. Burlesque taught me to love the parts of my body that I spent years of my life hating the most. You don’t even notice the toll of that daily hate until it’s no longer present. It’s like I was wearing a backpack full of rocks for most of my life, and then suddenly *poof* it was gone! And you think to yourself, “wow, that was so heavy. How was I carrying that every day?”
Unlike drag, burlesque is a performance art form that plays with pretty equal consistancy to both queer and straight audiences. Do you notice a difference between the two audience reactions, as far as how burlesque is received?
Yes, haha! They are both great, but quite different. The nice part about performing burlesque in heterosexual spaces is that the audiences there are less accustomed to it, and so it can be very rewarding to present the art form to someone who’s never seen it. Not that they haven’t seen female nudity, but just that they’ve never seen it packaged outside the male gaze. The post-show conversations with women who are seeing burlesque for the first time are so rewarding, because it also changes the way they feel about their own bodies.
Performing for queer audiences tends to be: 1. a much rowdier audience reaction from crowds that are used to throwing dollars and cheering! And 2. queer audiences tend to come into the experience with a more nuanced relationship to nudity and sexuality, by virtue of already living outside the lines a bit. It takes more to shock a queer audience. But also, it just feels safer… and there’s less worry about the audience not respecting boundaries. Because of that, I probably prefer a queer audience–it’s like a treat.
Have you had an all time favorite gig from your performing past, or a favorite venue or festival you still enjoy performing in?
Oh dang… so hard to narrow it down! I’ve really loved performing at Bushwig (this year and in 2019)–the Knockdown stage is epic, and the sense of queer community that weekend builds, along with the sheer volume of performers… it’s creative stimulation like no other.
I have also performed annually at Joe’s Pub since 2017 for Francine the Lucid Dream’s “Miss Twin Peaks” pageant (a title I won myself one of those years). The David Lynch fandom is hella passionate, and it is such a privilege to get to be a part of a show where you know the audience is going to get every tiny obscure reference you throw into the act.
Also, gotta shout out Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, which I was a part of in 2016 at St. Ann’s Warehouse. That was a turning point for me, because I was booked in that show as Seedy Edie. It made me think differently about the role burlesque could play in my acting career.
When a secret identity becomes your identity!
Truly! I’ve never needed to keep my real name and burlesque name separate (thankfully) since it’s kind of all performance, but yeah, that was the moment where I realized maybe Seedy Edie might overtake it all.
You’re going to be part of a cool show this Thursday at Brooklyn’s C’mon Everybody: “Sad Acting!” That combines two popular shows / parties: “Sad Songs,” where performers do only “emotional” numbers, and “Straight Acting,” Rify Royalty’s popular monthly!
I’m so excited! Patti Spliff’s “Sad Songs” at the Rosemont was so beloved, and made space for performers to explore not simply “sad” songs but also more emotionally complex work. It gave a stage to try something more vulnerable, more personal, less crowd-pleasing in the traditional sense… though people also really love sad shit!
I think that combining it with “Straight Acting” is going to bring the crowd, and also bring the party a bit! Like when you’re at a concert or a club, and everyone is singing along to a tragic break-up ballad–there’s sadness there, but also catharsis in the shared experience of it all. I’m imagining the vibe to be like when everyone is singing Robyn’s “Dancing on my Own” at the top of their lungs. Very “I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her” vibes. And I think everyone is even more ready to cry together after having survived the last year and a half.
Congrats on your recent GLAM award nomination!
Thank you! This is my fourth time nominated for Best Burlesque, and I’m truly honored to be recognized by my peers and the NYC nightlife community. This year is such a kickass group of nominees! Congrats on yours as well!
Thank you! Anything else to tell us?
Yes! As we are nearing year’s end and looking back on 2021, I feel like one of my biggest accomplishments this year was a short film called Becoming Bettie Page, for which I wrote the screenplay and also played Bettie. The project was an offshoot of a theatre play of the same name that I did in 2018, written by Chicava Roslyn Tate and Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA. It’s 18 minutes long, and I would love to share a link to it for anyone who’s interested!
Amazing! Okay, lastly: what do you want for Christmas this year?
Omg! Well the true gift of Xmas (Xtinamas) is that the borders are open, so I get to go home to Canada for the holidays and bring my American girlfriend! But what I want for Christmas is a Catherine D’Lish robe… or cash money for a Catherine D’Lish robe, if anyone out there’s got deep pockets and wants to donate to the cause! I mean, come on…