We got the chance to interview Sistah Don, black femme burlesque dancer from Buffalo, NY as we talk about the art of burlesque, the sexual liberation of women/femmes, self care, and rock and roll.
So when did you decide that you wanted to do Burlesque Performing and why?
I started performing burlesque around 5 years ago. I was in a dancer and trying to find a style that made me feel more complete and actualized. A friend of mine suggested burlesque because of the glitz and glamour, next thing I joined a troupe and never looked back.
Where does your stage name come from?
Currently I have two. The first, MaDamn Noire, was inspired by the looks and response I received from the people in the audience or at least my ideal response. The second was given to me by a close friend of mine and means much more. Sistah Don came from my inner being who is grounded and doesn’t live off the applause but thrives off invoking feeling.
What should people expect from you as a performer?
My pieces are very intelligent and carefully constructed. I do my best to leave my audience with something to think about,even if It’s as simple as “that was beautiful.” Also, expectation of flirting even when I’m angry.
How does Rock and Roll tie into what you do?
As a performer, I wear the attitude of rock and roll really well. I give negative one fucks. I decided to take a lot of the rules
I learned in burlesque and flip them to work however I wanted. As a genre, I’ve choreographed to some really old cool ass rock.
Was Rock something that you grew up with in your household or something you discovered on your own?
I grew up with a variety of rock genres. My grandfather loved the blues and played it constantly. My parents listened to a lo t of Prince and my mom loved Nirvana and Billy Idol.
How has Punk/Rock Inspire you?
I started my own troupe based off a lot of bullshit I was dealing with as a broke black girl. I decide to use DIY aspects of punk to build Femme Noire, we all make our own costumes and we practice pretty much anywhere. Along with the good old fashioned fuck-you-pay-me attitude.
If you could come up with a personal concert line up, who would be performing?
Co-headliners- Jimi Hendrix and Prince. Followed by Etta James (this was the hardest question!)
Do you want to stay in Buffalo and continue pursuing modeling and burlesque? What are your dreams and goals with this?
Buffalo has become home to me, the community I’ve grown around is filled with super talented artists, however, this city isn’t dishing out living wages for artists. Our art is recognized, but not patronized ,and that forces me to think about continuing else where. I’m really enjoying performing so I’d like to keep being able to do feature and guest performances. One day, I’d like to tour Femme Noire’s show and offer workshops. I want to be a traveling artist.
What has been your favorite performance that you’ve done thus far?
The closing night of Free agent (James Bondage 3),This was the piece titled “Barbie eater” I had been waiting to perform. It was incredibly powerful and I was able to say so much, the energy that night was undeniable. I was greeted after with tears of pride joy and liberation.
What is your stance on the sexual liberation of women?
All Womxn deserve to feel sexy/comfortable at all times. The double standard that shames femme folx for being sexual or Asexual is extremely oppressive and I can’t stand it.
How do you get in tune with your sexual/sensual energy?
Lots of candles, and incense. I set the tone with slowermusic that makes me feel loved and sensual. I’m intentionally barefoot so I can feel closer to the earth . Then I’ll start like I’m dancing for myself. How do you practice self care? I usually will take myself out to get hair or nails done professionally when I get the extra money. I love baths and I take intentional alone time. Along with a whole bunch of other junk.
Do you have any advice to fellow black femmes who may want to get into Burlesque Performing?
Take a class! If you like the movement consider performing, it’s a really liberating feeling barring all onstage under bright lights. It’s nice as a black femme to for once have control over how sexual you want to be. Above everything be comfortable, you don’t have to be naked to perform burlesque.
If you could give the teenage version of yourself any advice, what would you say?
All your “boyfriends” are trash leave the mall and never look back!
For more on Sistah Don, follow on Instagram @sistah_don and also her burlesque troupe page at @femmenoireburlesque for more information and where you can catch her performances!