An Interview with Sugar Spanx

Image; Miss T Pinups

“a little bit cheeky, a little bit sassy and a whole lot of fun!”

I first met this little lady at the Rock n Roll Circus Aloha show …sometime in 2014 I think.  What struck me about this beauty was her beautiful eyes, cheeky smile and infectious laugh.  Oh… and she has a great booty as well!

I had a brilliant opportunity to interview Sugar in September 2016 and this is how it went.

BS:  How did you come up with your name?

SS: Gosh it was so long ago!  You know the Spanx sucky inny pant things and I like sugar – lots and lots of chocolate (BS – side note to get on the good side of Sugar Spanx shower her in chocolate).  Yeah I am a bit of glutton when it comes to chocolate and sweet things…and Spanx…well once you’ve eaten it all you gotta hold it in somehow! So that is how that came about – I’m  sweet and wobbly!

BS:  So what you do is eat up and drink all of the sweet stuff and when you’re feeling all wobbly you suck it all in!

SS:  Yes it’s the illusion – all an illusion

BS: How did you enter the stage that Burlesque presents?  How did you get into that?

SS: I actually started off managing bands and putting together events for them and kinda decided I didn’t like dealing with musicians anymore.  I had been to a few burlesque shows in Auckland and I guess saw a hole in the market and produced the Rock n Roll Circus (RnRC) for the first time.  One of our performers pulled out at the last minute and I didn’t know that many performers at that time and thought “holy crap we need another performer” and thought I would give it a crack and see what happens.  I had done a lot of theater in the past so was sure I could wing it somehow and had been to enough burlesque shows to get the gist of what it was all about – and that was how it started.

Q and A MBNZ photo Adam Baines

BS:  And how long ago was that?

SS: We are coming into our 5th year next year in March – so around 4 and a half years ago?

BS: Awesome so you’ll have a big birthday then because like 5 your moving from toddler to primary

SS: Yeah we are growing up!

BS: And over the 4 and a ½ years how has the RnRC grown up?

SS: I think from a producing perspective I have streamlined things a lot more and I have a marketing plan in place that I use.  In terms of the shows themselves, I think we have themed them a lot more to what we used to in the beginning – originally had bands at the first couple of shows so it was live music and burlesque which I would like to continue but it’s quite hard at times finding suitable venues to do that – as you need quite a big stage and a decent sound system – yeah the technical side of it can be a bit of a pain so we did scale back on the live music.

We have acoustic acts still come through – just not full bands.  So we have streamlined it to be a little bit more of a sit down show – as opposed to the wild party atmosphere it started out as.

BS:  So it’s aligning itself more with a Cabaret Style, rather than a party style?

SS: Yes, which, as much as I love cabaret shows, I still do miss, the wild rock-n-roll circus days at the start. When it was– we didn’t have seats, and everybody stood up and got loud and danced around and– it was definitely more of a relaxed party atmosphere. We still have the  crazy shenanigans that happen at these shows now, but it’s definitely more of a sit-down vibe – which is good I guess everyone can see better.

BS:  So what satisfies you the most about performing and producing these shows.

SS: Having everyone smiling and commenting that it was a good show – cast, crew and audience.  On the performing side – knowing you have nailed it; you have entertained the crowd and done yourself justice – it’s a really amazing feeling going “God  Dammit that was awesome” as you are walking off the stage.  It’s a really neat feeling and one I really try hard to do every time.  That feeling when you hit it on the head is such as rush – it’s phenomenal.

And producing-wise, I just love it when you’re out in the audience watching and the show all comes together, and people are enjoying themselves, both performers and the audience. I always have tried with the Rock and Roll Circus Shows, to make sure everybody has fun, because if the energy in the whole room is lively and happy, it’s really infectious. And the livelier you can keep it, the better. You want to keep that feeling going. So, for me, it’s just the end product. And same with performing, the end product of satisfying everyone.

Hamilton Fringe Festival Red Hot Rockabilly Tease O Rama – photo Adam Baines

BS:So where do you see the future of Burlesque in New Zealand, and perhaps maybe internationally as well? How do you see it heading? Because it’s only just packed up in the last few years.

SS: I hope that it continues to pick up, and I hope that there are more shows, especially in Auckland as it seems to be quite quiet in terms of what shows are available for people, especially newer performers.

In terms of community, Hamilton is absolutely amazing. It would be nice to see that grow further up in Auckland to get more of a community sort of vibe to it, and hopefully it does go that way. I know there are new producers coming through in Auckland, and hopefully they do use the opportunities that they have to give others a shot at performing and expand. I think in terms of internationally, we have a lot of amazing performers coming out of New Zealand and going overseas and doing really, really well. So, I definitely see that continuing because there are just such amazing performers coming through all the time. I think we have a really good basis for a really strong scene here.

BS:  And what do you think is the stronger of the different acts that you can have in the New Zealand scene, for example, Classic versus Neo?

SS: I think Neo seems to be quite popular at the moment, from what I’ve noticed, but I’m definitely a bit more skewed towards the Neo side anyway. I would like to see more of a balance between both classic and Neo. What I really enjoyed about the Grand Tease is that you have to do both. And I think that’s really good because I think learning both those different styles is beneficial to performers.

BS: You’ve been involved in international shows,  what was the most positive thing that you got out of that? And perhaps, what’s the most positive thing that you may have brought to that show?

SS: To have the opportunity to perform among it all in New York was amazing.  When I think of New York I think of Broadway and just amazingly talented actors, singers and dancers so it was quite shocking to me to even step foot on a stage in NYC.  I took away more confidence from performing there.  I believed in myself a little bit more after that because it’s a hard thing getting up on stage and baring your soul in various ways.   I definitely think that it helped me take my own performance to another level and I had great feedback. And what did I bring to the show?

BS: Yeah aside from the Kiwi accent…

Big Spender Act – Photo David Rowe

SS: Yeah. Well, they were in stitches because I did an act, which was basically poking fun at Donald Trump, and I wasn’t really sure how that would go down. They’d either love it or they’d hate it. So I think I brought a bit of comedy to the night that’s for sure.

BS: Was it primarily more classic?

SS: The night that I performed it was a little bit more slanted to classic so I actually I think I was the only person that night that brought humor, People thought it was hilarious.

BS: Well you’re taking a piss-take of Donald Trunk– Trump, Trump, Trump. Why would I say Trunk.

SS:  Oh, I’m not going there. Oh my god, bad mental images.

BS:  Okay, we’re going serious now,

SS: I’ve got to erase that image from my mind.

BS:  I was thinking Elephant trunk on his face….but nevermind..

SS: I wasn’t!  Oh God!!

Image from High Tea and Burlesque – Meteor Theatre, shot by David Rowe

BS: Okay. So, either in the performing world or in the non-performing world, do you have any idols that you have followed that have influenced your style, whether it be personal or whether it be your performance style? And why?

SS: I think for me, Calamity Chang who was the producer and performer that I worked for in New York, she’s phenomenal. She does all these shows in New York – she’s a really busy woman – performing all the time, producing all the time and she works as well, and I’m just like, “How does she do it all?” She’s like superwoman to me, and I think she’s a fantastic performer and a fantastic producer. She’s the whole package of amazing. And, locally, Ms Tittle Tattle, she’s been very supportive of me right since I floundered into the burlesque world [chuckles]. She’s given me the opportunity to teach at her burlesque academy and she’s just seen something in me which is really nice, and I love what she does for the burlesque community. She’s really supportive of everyone. She just encourages people to get out there and give it a whirl and get up on the stage.  in all aspects of it, she’s great to work with. We’ve produced together, we’ve performed together. She’s really inspiring. She just does it, she grabs the bull by the horns and owns it. There’s no mucking around. There’s no stress, there’s no bullshit.

BS: Yeah. Which is a good thing.

SS: Yes

BS: And just on the topic of your classes, say I was to rock up to one of your classes and I’ve never done burlesque ever in my life, and I’ve enrolled on your class and I want to learn all about burlesque. What’s one of the first things that you might say to a newbie who has very limited knowledge on what burlesque is about?

SS: I think first off please don’t be shy. Because I think burlesque can be a bit awkward if you’re shy. But it does take time for people to come out of their shell and I guess, get comfortable with the whole concept of it. But first off, yeah, don’t be shy, jump in and get involved and just give it your best shot. That’s the first thing I would say.

BS: And when they have to develop their own name, their performing name, what advice would you give somebody that needs to develop their own name?

SS: I usually get them to ask their friends for words to describe them, to think of their favorite things. Or the first thing that pops into their head when they think of themselves and get them to jot down some words and stuff. And then from there, if they still have a trouble, sometimes we’ll brainstorm together as a class. I think it gives you quite a different perspective too, when you start asking other people. If you were to think of a word to describe me, what would it be? The answers can sometimes be surprising.  It’s nice to have someone else’s perspective and sometimes they come up with some beauties that you mightn’t even thought of

BS: So how long have you been teaching burlesque?

SS: This has been my second year teaching.

BS: And you very obviously enjoy it.

SS: I love it. It’s actually probably one  of the most rewarding things I’ve done, because I think there’s lots of things that sometimes you don’t get taught in classes. And I have been trying to teach my students all those sort of little behind the scenes tips and tricks from the industry, things i’ve learnt backstage and from performing. I just want to share on what I’ve learned along the way, with them as soon as possible, because it might help you find your feet a lot quicker. And it’s just really cool seeing them from when they first start taking the class. And a lot of the students start at the beginning of the year and they do all the classes right through the year, because I am constantly change the class acts all the time. And it’s really cool seeing them at the end of the year, and you’re just like, “Wow. Look at you go. You’re just, wow. You’re just amazing.”

Living Dead Act photo by Peter Jennings:

BS:So the satisfaction is there from seeing their confidence and their ideas come to life?

SS Yeah. It just makes me really happy, because they’re happy and they get to express that creative side of them that they might not have otherwise had an outlet for. And it’s just great to see them either become a confident woman and be happy with themselves. It’s nice to see.

BS: Excellent. Now, I know you have a little boy. I’m going to ask you a really leftfield question. If your little boy was to come up to you and say, “Mummy, what do you do for a living?” What would you say to him?

SS:  I would tell him that Mummy produces and performs in burlesque shows, and I guess that essentially means running around on stage in various sorts of sparkly underwear.

I don’t want to hide any aspect of it from him, because I don’t think it needs to be hidden. I’ve always approached burlesque from a theatre perspective, because I come from a theatre background. I know people have interesting ideas about what burlesque might be in terms of stripping and all that kind of thing.  I think it’s nice to break down those misconceptions. Yes, we are taking clothes off but it is a slightly different context.

It’s not something I feel I need to hide from him when he grows up. And I think it’s a really cool art form for him to see when he’s old enough. Obviously, not at the moment because he’s two.

BS:  What’s your favorite color?

SS: Red

BS: Why

SS: I like the intensity of it. Red to me is love and passion, and those are things that are quite important to me. And I just think it looks pretty

BS: And finally if your young son was to come home in many years and say, “Mom, I want to be a boylesque performer” – what would you do?

SS: I would high five him. I would encourage it. I hope he grows up to be a boy who loves to run around on stage. If he doesn’t, that’s cool, too. I think it would be fabulous. Whatever he chooses to do on stage, off stage, whatever, I just want him to grow up to be a happy boy who’s well-rounded. And If he wants to run around and do boylesque, then so be it. I will be there to support him.

Thank you Miss Sugar Spanx for the fun interview!  You can follow Sugar Spanx on her face book page and the Rock n Roll Circus’s page

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