How to become a burlesque performer

mermaid burlesque costume


See how to become a burlesque performer with Miss Roxy Velvet, who shares her experiences of the highs, the lows and things to consider when doing burlesque for a living.

This alternative job fits the bill for:

  • Part time jobs
  • Most exciting jobs in the world
  • Unusual jobs
  • Student jobs
  • Jobs that let you have piercings
  • Jobs that let you have dyed hair


Career title:

Cabaret Performer / Artist / Pervert / Heroine

Full-time/part time:

Once a week

How did you find yourself doing this?

It was a natural progression for me, the people I met and parties I ended up at.. but since first encountering real live performers backstage at Glastonbury ’97 I’ve wanted to be doing this. The Velvet Tipped Saloon was my first real step from performance into Cabaret.

Qualifications and/or training duration:

Everything I know I’ve learned as I go along .. either from friends or self taught from sewing to singing. It depends on your will to learn. I studied BA Fine Art and took acting lessons at school which have given me a practical foundation to build on. Some things you can’t practise .. you only learn them when you’re onstage mid-show.

Work experience:

Loitering in dressing rooms and assisting performers and going to shows.


Being a cabaret performer is what you make of it. It encompasses so many weird and wonderful talents and skills. Essentially it’ll help if you can sing, dance and act. A natural exhibitionistic flair of confidence is essential. Also the ability to creatively visualise so that you even if you lack the neccessary skill to make a costume or edit a backing track you’ll be able to delegate. I do the following things… some better than others

  • Piercing
  • Singing
  • Fan Dancing
  • Pole Dancing
  • Tailoring and Sewing
  • Graphic Design
  • Choreography
  • Striptease

I also travel  a lot and need to be organised to liaise with lighting, sound, stage managers, agents, photographers, press etc and keep my own books.


Around 200-250 quid per show

Do you have to put any of your own money towards your job? If so what’s the damage financially?

Initially I had to work to small budgets and all the money I made went back into the shows. I had to support myself in salubrious gentlemen’s clubs and the like – haha. Now I only have to fork out for a new show which will pay itself off eventually. My Million Dollar Mermaid costume cost around £500 in materials. I work to accumulate glitter and accumulate glitter to work.

Job perks:

The glamour, the fame, the jewels… and the fantastic people I work with. It’s a very creative and quirky industry full of eccentrics. Oh and you’re always at a party.

What made you want to go into this profession:

Boredom… and parties.

How physically or mentally demanding is performing burlesque?

Doing burlesque is as hard as you make it. The harder you work the better the results

Long hours?

Yes… Although on stage for only 15 mins, I have to prepare and travel. Sometimes I’ll have a stage call for 3.30 am.

A flexible/bunk-off early job?

Very flexible and plenty of time in the early week for snoozing.

Highlight of the job/training:

Learning to please an audience .. fantastic.

Downside of the job/training:

It’s self motivated .. and if you mess up you’re being watched by 300 people.

Most hideous career/training moment to date:

Smashing a glass fish bowl in someones swimming pool and lacerating my arm mid – show…. then losing my pasties.

Discovering the assistant had put all the props onstage backward and laughing so hard my partner fell off the stage ..

My knickers breaking … again

Do you meet interesting people and if so, who was the most interesting?

I’ve met some dodgy characters, yes. To me the people who have made big things happen are the most interesting. People who’ve had the courage to make their ideas a reality. And the people who do really weird stuff everyday like it’s normal and just get on with it. Then there’s a whole catalogue of alternativeists I’ve met, stepped over, slipped past….

Danger factor:

Knive throwing, Nudity, 15ft poles, Fire, Needles .. yeah its quite safe. I have personal liability insurance.

What’s the potential for dressing up or down?

It’s best to dress up and then take it all off .. and bring a silk wraparound and a powder puff for the dressing room

Opportunities for travel/work abroad with your career?

Plenty there .. it’s an international thing.

Do you meet fit, clever, and/or solvent people in your line of work?

Yes .. but they are all terrified. I’m still hanging out ….

Can you still see yourself doing this in 20 years time?

No .. I’m putting together a collection of artwork influenced by my experiences in the sex industry at the moment. Hopefully that will kickstart a new career for me .. but I’ll never be far away.

What advice would you give young women who are interested in this career path?

Try it. Enjoy It. Don’t count on it and don’t be disappointed .. if you really want it it’ll happen for you.