WHAT A KNOCKOUT
INTERVIEW WITH MISS BRAWLING BEAUTY
by Bradford Scobie
Miss Brawling Beauty is a multi-talented, award-winning performer and pioneer of the Utah Burlesque movement. As a dancer, she got her start in strip clubs before shimmying her way into burlesque. As a circus performer, she is a ringleader, a clown, she eats fire, lies on beds of nails and walks on broken glass. Oh, and she’s a former kick boxer. She has produced such shows as Vaudeville Avante Garde, Candy Cabinet Burlesque and Men of Obsession. Brawling Beauty is a proud advocate for performers with disabilities, alongside her service animal Althea, an adorable American Bully who has developed a fanbase all her own.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Miss Brawling Beauty from her home in Las Vegas. I would throw a subject at her and let her just go with it, in what we are calling: GOIN’ THE ROUNDS WITH MISS BRAWLING BEAUTY (Ding!)
ROUND 1: CHILDHOOD
MBB: I have definitely had an interesting childhood. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah: Home of the Mormons of Latter-Day Saints. My dad was a clown. He held three Guinness Book of World Records until he passed away a few years back of cancer. He did wonderful, amazing things. All children’s charities. He never charged a dime, which I loved. It all came straight from the heart.
BT: What did he hold records for?
MBB: For blowing up balloons. The most balloons tied up in an hour and the most balloons blown up in an hour. There was a third one I can’t quite remember. Two of them were in the regular Guinness Book of World Records. The third one, believe it or not, was in the Mormon Book or World Records.
BT: My goodness, that’s wholesome.
MBB: I was born into a family that converted into Mormonism. Of course, I have always been a sassy mouth and I’ve always lived who I truly was from the moment I was born, with no regrets. With that being said, at the age of 13 I told my bishop that I was queer. Which is something I think my family has known since I was born. Needless to say, I was excommunicated, which was probably the best thing that happened in my life. But unfortunately, because of the Mormonism, I was married at a really early age. I was married at 16. I had my first child at 18. And having no education, I really didn’t know how to provide for my kids. So that led me into dancing. With which came the shame from my childhood. Of not being the typical “good Mormon” that went to church and had a “normal job”. I definitely went off the rails and decided to be who I truly was. I’m really blessed that the first half of my life was really hard, the second half was so much better, and this part right now is fan-freakin’-tastic. Because I can truly live who I am.
BT: The third half is always the best.
MBB: I’m a stripper. I may not be able to count. Except for the dolla’ dolla’ bills!
ROUND 2: STRIP CLUBS
MBB: I loved working in the strip clubs. As I said, I didn’t have much of an education, so the best way for me to provide for my two young children at that time was to do something I already knew, which was to dance. So at the age of 19 I auditioned for a totally nude club and peep show in Salt Lake City, Utah.
BT: What exactly is a peep show?
MBB: I was one of the last peep show dancers in Utah. In the nude clubs they had private rooms that you could go into that were separated by glass. The men could pay to have a private dance with you for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or 90 minutes. So, we would go in there and get completely naked. Now the funny thing about Utah blue law was that if you were completely naked and a man happens to pull out a private part, you are not allowed to move. You have to stop. You cannot move. A lot of times you were left upside down in very weird positions while this guy’s doing what he’s doing. Very interesting blue laws we have there.
BT: They should call them blue balls laws.
MBB: When I turned 21, I decided to move out of the nude clubs and go into the “shaker clubs” as I like to call them. I started at the Million Dollar Saloon in Utah. Loved it there. It was my first time seeing features come through the clubs. I was just a house girl for several years. But I wanted to travel, so I decided to be a feature myself. I started booking myself out of state and travelled with a few of my friends, which was a lot of fun. At that time, I would go out of state for a week and stay home with my kids for three weeks. So it was great. They put us up in a hotel with per diem. It was pretty nice. A lot of the girls I travelled with, I am still friends with to this day. I am blessed that my stripper friends that I met along the line are still in my life. And they’ve been my biggest support to be honest with you. I’m really lucky that I worked with mostly good people in the strip clubs. I’ve seen a lot of things, done a lot of things and pulled a lot of secrets for people.
ROUND 3: FAVORITE BURLESQUE PERFORMER
MBB: Dee Milo, The Venus of Dance. My home state’s burlesque legend. She is by far my favorite burlesque dancer in the world, and there’s so many reasons why. Not only was she the OG pioneer of Utah burlesque, but she did so many wonderful things for her community and for her family.
In the ‘40’s when she started dancing, most of the money that she made was sent back home and then her mother would send that to Germany and then bring all her family over from Nazi occupied Germany. A lot of people don’t know this about Dee.
In the ‘60’s she decided to retire and move back home to Utah. Her mother told her if she was going to retire then she was going to have to repent. And they burned all of her stuff. All of it. All of her magazines, videos, and costumes. Many years later her daughter found a trunk in the attic and opened it and found this amazing red gown. Only thing that survived the burning. It’s such a blessing to have that one piece of her history survive.
We had a lot of the same issues growing up with being Mormon and being shamed for being strippers. Especially from our mothers. So I think that clicks a lot. I’m very fortunate to have mentored under her all these years. She has given me such strength to continue and to keep being a pioneer in the revival of Utah burlesque and to keep encouraging people. She is absolutely one of the most kind, genuine, loving human beings you will ever meet.
ROUND 4: DISABILITIES
MBB: I was able bodied most of my life. But in 2016 I had a succession of three heart attacks. I was incredibly lucky to survive. The cardiologist told me I wouldn’t be dancing again due to the damage that was done to my heart. I couldn’t accept that. My whole life I couldn’t be told what to do. The doctor ain’t gonna tell me what to do! And I said, I’ll just have to do it myself. At that time, I was not only dancing, but I was tattooing and I didn’t have any insurance. So I didn’t have cardio rehab. Didn’t have the money for it. So I had to do it on my own, and it took a lot. A lot of crying. A lot of pain. A lot of stress. A lot of mourning. But each time I was able to go longer to the point where I was able to complete one act. And that was a huge moment for me when I was able to go back to stripping.
About a year after my heart attacks, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease which has wreaked havoc on my body as well. Not just my muscles, my nerves, and my joints but emotionally it wreaked havoc on me.
Outside of that, a few months ago, I was having issues with my memory. I used to crack jokes about it to make myself feel better. And then finally I said, I need to go and find out what’s going on with me. I went in and had an MRI and they discovered pretty severe traumatic brain injury. That’s pretty normal considering I was a fighter for many years, and I’ve had numerous concussions. Just one of the downfalls of being in a really violent sport.
And then just about six weeks ago, I had a full hip replacement.
But the thing is, I love the fact that there’s so many performers now that have more visibility than they did before, because of things like the Disabili-Tease Festival. Being a disabled performer, that was huge. Having someone else in the community start this amazing festival is fantastic. It is so hard to find accessibility for most of us. So, to have people in our community be very positive advocates for all of us has been wonderful. That’s my history of my disability and I’m going to keep going. I’m going to keep doing this and just be me and show everybody that we are all beautiful, no matter the ability.
BT: That’s the beauty of burlesque. It’s all-inclusive. It shows that you cannot put beauty in a box. Nor sexuality.
MBB: Absolutely. We are all beautiful, sexual creatures and we have to praise that.
ROUND 5: BEING A PIONEER
MBB: I love being one of the pioneers of the Utah burlesque revival. It was a lot of work. It was not easy for us to convince club owners to allow burlesque inside their clubs. Especially with the stigma of being strippers. We were trying to show them that burlesque is a show. A beautiful, theatrical performance. It’s comedic, it’s political, it’s all of it. It took a while, but we worked our butts off and we got into those clubs. And then we started teaching. And then our babies started teaching. And then their babies started teaching. And I look at the Utah burlesque revival now, and I am so very proud of how far it’s come.
BT: At what point did these clubs see the light?
MBB: I will tell you what showed them the light. The Slippery Kittens Burlesque. We were accepted to compete in America’s Got Talent in 2008. That one moment is what convinced most of the club owners in Utah to allow burlesque shows into their venues. Because, hey, if it’s on NBC, it has to be okay, right?
You know, the funny thing about America’s Got Talent? I think that was the first time in my life that my bio-mom was proud of me. It is a little bittersweet. But I’m happy we had that opportunity to make our mark. And I will forever be grateful for the experience I had with The Slippery Kittens Burlesque, but I’m so happy I left and chose to do my own thing.
BT: I imagine part of the challenge was convincing club owners that your audience wasn’t going to be a bunch of sleazy guys sweating into their beers.
MBB: They saw that more than half our audience is female. And they realized that if you bring in the females, all the men will follow. And honestly, the show was making women comfortable with themselves. When a person is insecure and may not feel sexy sees someone who looks like them onstage, it has a huge impact. That’s what I love about burlesque. You don’t know what you’re going to see next. You don’t. You can see everything and everybody. And there’s somebody out there for everyone. We all desire something different. To have that diversity is so important because, I’ll tell ya, I loves me some diversity.
For More on Miss Brawling Beauty visit PERFORMER DIRECTORY
To watch the interview visit our LUSTY LIBRARY
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