Here lies an enigma - by Mikki Michelle
This written piece was commissioned by Midsumma in April 2020 as a response to the mass loss of the Melbourne queer arts industry (due to COVID-19). This blog is part of a series of works from our LGBTQIA+ arts and culture community that gives Midsumma audiences an insight into the practice of the queer arts and helps to make queer arts and cultures more accessible to diverse audiences in this time of social distancing and uncertainty.
Mikki Michelle has built up a reputation as the Stripping Songstress. Her production company Cabaret Abnormal showcases obscure burlesque and circus artists that are a bit left of centre, and a safe space for anyone who goes against the societal “norm.”
Image: BonBon Bombay
Here lies an enigma. A contradiction of creepy and cute. A woman in dark clown makeup, yet appears to look somewhat innocent, with the doll-like buns on her head. Her stage look is startling in the best possible way. Often donning white face paint, heart-shaped red lips and coloured contact lenses playing a doll-like character or Circus Mistress. She is the person who has been a big part of my performance ambitions and who inspired me to get into burlesque in the first place. She is the whimsical entity BonBon Bombay, an award-winning performer and burlesque teacher.
My name is Mikki Michelle and I am the founder and boss lady of Cabaret Abnormal. I came up with the name of my company when I had a deadline to come up with the name of a show back in 2016. Although I came up with the name on a whim, it's perfect. It embodies everything I love about performing arts, with celebrating diversity, embracing all things that make you different and special, and, as I say, blending the weird with the wow.
But what, and more importantly WHO inspired this style of performance? I first saw BonBon Bombay when I was living in Montreal, Canada. To say I was blown away is an understatement. Her penchant for the macabre and love of all things dark and delicious struck a chord with my own tastes of mixing glam with circus and sideshow. She shows off her impressive ballet skills by floating around the stage and through the audience on her tippy toes. But perhaps her pièce de résistance is her notorious fire-twirling tassels, a feat she had to gain permission to use by burlesque legend Satan's Angel.
At the start of 2016, I took the plunge of sending off my deposit to Montreal's premier burlesque school, Arabesque Burlesque. I was ready to take on this art form as a new way to express myself and add to my performance repertoire. More than anything I was thrilled to have an opportunity to learn from BonBon Bombay, as she was the co-founder of the school and one of the teachers of the infamous Class B at the time.
Since taking classes with BonBon, I've performed in countless burlesque shows with a variety of acts, and, to this day, I credit her for the techniques I've learned that have stayed with me, even before I step on stage. She taught me that it's ok to be your own version of sexy, even if it means painting your face as something grotesque. I've developed my performance craft and my stage persona to where it is today because of BonBon Bombay.