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Happy Earth Day, Darlings!  At the Academy of Burlesque we try to live lightly upon the earth. Even our small decisions, like using recycled paper and LED bulbs in our dance studio, have an impact on our planet.  

In honor of Earth Day, we wanted to explore other ways of being conscious of nature.  I connected with some dedicated performers who care deeply for animals, and have reduced or eliminated their use of products that have negative impacts on animals.

In my conversation with Crystal Tassels about Burlesque and Ethics, our conversation spanned the gamete from luxury items to roadkill! And I was thrilled to see the incredible alternative-to-feathers feather fans that Burlesque Star Bettina May is working on.

Enjoy this special Earth Day Edition of our Blog!

MIB: How long have you been vegetarian?

CT: I’ve been a vegetarian cumulatively for 14 years. It’s actually been 16 years, but when I lived in East Asia I ate fish. It’s hard to avoid in Korea!

MIB: Was there a moment that enhanced your consciousness around vegetarianism?

CT: My grandmother’s father was a butcher. I watched her order a steak that was raw, bloody, and took up the entire plate. I was like, “I don’t think I can eat that”. I gave up beef, then pork. I never really liked fish. I remember eating a chicken leg and I looked at it and realized, “this is an animal’s leg!” I didn’t know where it came from and I didn’t feel good about it. I put it back down and never ate meat again.

MIB: What would be the most surprising thing of costuming that’s made as an animal product?

CT: Well, leather and feathers are very apparent to most folks. I think Silk is something that people are conscious of. Fur, of course is very polarizing. Most photographs are printed in Gelatin, unless they are printed at a laser printer.

MIB: How has being vegetarian impacted your costuming decisions in Burlesque?

CT: There are some performers who will not wear silk, leather, feathers, anything like that on stage. I can’t say I’ve never worn those things on stage… but for a long time I just bought second-hand everything because I felt if I wasn’t giving money directly to the companies that made [animal products], I didn’t feel quite as bad about it. But I’ve inherited a lot of fabric, including a lot of silk. I love using silk, nothing moves like it. So I do use it on stage.

But when I started thinking critically about my performance, the first thing I stopped using in costuming was feathers.

And then Sailor St Claire booked me to do an act celebrating National Chicken Month for a calendar girls themed show. I was a newer performer in town and, well…

So I had to figure out how to make a chicken costume, and what I wanted to say about chickens. I think meat is really over-consumed so I made a political statement about it.

So this chicken is plucking herself to death to “It’s A Man’s World”

I was like, “how do I make feathers?” I have an engineer friend, and he MacGyvered something with a piece of rubber tubing and some aluminum wire, it hooks onto a fishnet bodysuit so that I could pluck it off and still reattach it. It was such a pain to put all the feathers on… but it worked!

MIB: What have been some simple modifications you’ve done to stay within your personal and political ethics?

CT: Using tulle instead of feathers in a headdress for a poof. You can get millinery netting in all kinds of cool patterns and colors. It’s easy to make something with a lot of effect and pow that isn’t actually harming anything.

MIB: How do you feel about a natural discard, like shells that you found at a beach?

CT: I think if someone was making hair fascinators from snakeskin that has been molted off, that could be interesting. But what if you really want antlers for an act, real antlers, and you see a dead deer on the side of the road? Do you steal it’s antlers? Is that desecrating the corpse? Or is that using something that would otherwise go to waste? It depends on your relationship to animals. I, personally, would feel weird about it.

MIB: How have your cosmetics choices been impacted by your ethics?

I was using animal-free products & cruelty-free cosmetics for years before I started performing. I use mineral makeup, Atomic Cosmetics, and Tarte, which is a brand at Sephora.

MIB: What is your favorite lipstick right now?

CT: I want a Feel The Bern lipstick! My go-to is L’Amour by Atomic Cosmetics.

MIB: What would your recommend to those that are interested in making some changes?

CT: You have to pick your battles if you really want to be ethically conscious. Start small and see what little changes you can make. And think about it. Just experiment with changing things around a little bit at a time.

The Academy of Burlesque and Miss Indigo Blue are grateful to Crystal Tassels for taking the time to talk with us for this special Earth Day Edition of our Blog! 

It was super helpful to get the fantastic recommendations from International Burlesque Star Bettina May  – Bettina is an exquisite performer, photographer, and teacher, and you can find out more about her (and her soon-to-launch vegan ostrich feathers) at her Website:

Bettina said, “Being vegan has had a huge impact on my work in burlesque. I don’t use real fur, feathers, or leather in my costuming, and I teach others how to make glamorous costumes using vegan alternatives, which is also a lot cheaper and longer lasting!”

MIB: What would you recommend a budding Vegan Burlesquer (either Budding Vegan, or Budding Burlesquer) do to start integrating their Veganhood with their Burlesque-ness?

Bettina: “An easy first step is to look at the make-up that you use, and as it runs out, replace it with some of the great cruelty-free brands out there, like e.l.f. and Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics. My favourite make-up brushes are Ecotools, a line that uses synthetic hair, and their quality and price are both outstanding!”

MIB: What are some of the BEST resources you’ve found for Vegan Burlesque?

Custom vegan ballroom dance shoes:

Synthetic feathers:

Join the Vegan Burlesque group on Facebook to share resources:



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