Bettie Bombshell – Miss Burlesque Australia 2019 – Winner’s Interview
Through the smoky haze, a devilishly delicious silhouette emerges. The tip of a top hat and a Marlene Dietrich cut profile leans on a banister and takes a deep drag on a cigarette. The opening horns of St James Infirmary rise and to the tsk of a drum, a flick of the finger drops smoken ash to the ground. Red lights rise and amber hues warm the eyes like an easy swig of a triple whisky sour that warms the back of the throat. The sultry figure’s face remains in shadows, but their fingers come to life. The smell of the grog-soaked streets of New Orleans almost stings the nostrils. It is in this opening moment of the Traditional Section of the Miss Burlesque Australia Grand Finale that the audience knew they were in for more than just a show – but that a bombshell was about to drop on top of everyone and shatter their hearts.
With sharp black bangs and a drop-dead dangerous derriere with all the force of an atomic weapon, this bombshell packs ten-tonnes of devastatingly destructive ass-smacking capacity that leaves a red hand printed crater for days. Bombshell by name and bombshell by nature – There is only one Bettie Bombshell and she has been crowned Miss Burlesque Australia 2019.
Bettie is one whisky soaked dame that is no stranger to the stage. With a background in ballet, acrobatics, comedy, music theatre, and over 20 years of dance, Bettie brings a veritable smorgasbord of disciplines to the stage.
She has toured the world showcasing her unique brand of burlesque, and accrued quite a list of achievements including recently being voted the #13 most influential burlesque performer in the world; winning Miss Burlesque Australia 2019 & Miss Burlesque Victoria 2019; producing the 5 star show The After Hours Cabaret Club; headlining the Australian Burlesque Festival in 2017 and just casually competing at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas three times! She’s headlined shows throughout Australia, America and the UK.
Alyssa Kitt caught up with Miss Burlesque Australia 2019, Bettie Bombshell to talk all things MBA.
Alyssa: Well – you’re off to a flying start to 2020 following your win of Miss Burlesque Australia. Congratulations on the #13 spot on 21st Century Burlesque Magazines’s Top 50!!! How did that feel to wake up to???
Bettie: I honestly didn’t know what to do. I woke up for work and realised there was an unusual amount of notifications on my phone. I read the news and immediately work up my girlfriend! I have never had the pleasure of being on that list before, and to be voted luck number 13, in between icons such as Chris Oh and Zelia Rose, what an honour!
Alyssa: You’re a champ!!! You worked so SOOOOO very hard in 2019 – you truly deserve it. I squealed when I saw your name up there so bloody high. Let’s go back all the way to your preparation for the MBA Grand Final. You were the first cab off the rank to win the State Title last year and it seemed like AGES between MBVIC and the GF. How did you use the time to prepare?
Bettie: It was FOREVER between the Vic final and the Aus final! I did actually really love the break though. It allowed me to reassess my acts, really read through the judges critiques from the Vic final, level up the costumes and make the necessary changes to my chorey. I think it’s always good to put something on stage, then realise everything that you need to fix in order to make it better! Also it was nice to just have a bit of a sit down!
Alyssa: Did you see the other winners and weigh yourself up against them, or did you just focus on yourself?
Bettie: I just focussed on myself and my process. Having done lots of competition in the past through other styles of dance, I know what I need to do to be comp ready! It was so fabulous seeing everyone’s unique take on the competition and there really is no way you can compare yourself! In a competition you really just need to knuckle down and present the best product you can.
Alyssa: You’re no stranger to a very big stage and some high stakes comps (hi two-time Miss Exotic World competitor). Were you nervous going into the Grand Final?
Bettie: As I mentioned I am really used to competing. I have been on stage since the age of 2, and competing since about 3. I was nervous, but I was the ‘good’ nervous for the right reasons. I knew I had put the work in and done everything I possibly could to prepare. I really just wanted to represent Victoria the best I could, and I wanted to make sure I smashed my acts while having fun. I have always said, the day you stop being nervous is the day you’ve stopped caring.
4) You’re a seasoned competitor – taking on not just a lot of dance comps in calisthenics etc… but also as a two-time competitor of Queen of Burlesque, Miss Exotic World. What are your tips on comp prep in general.
Bettie: PREPARE FOR THE COMP. Give yourself enough time and space to enjoy the process and get everything done. Make sure you are allowing yourself to do the best possible job! There is nothing worse than going on stage knowing you aren’t fully ready, wishing you had done more, or knowing you aren’t presenting your best work. Something else I would say is key, is knowing your support system. I could not have done any of this without my partner at the time. She was there to talk over the ideas, the stresses, the ridiculous plans! Not to mention hire a ute to pickup and drop off all my props in WA.
Alyssa: Do you approach competitions differently to a usual show?
Bettie: I would say yes, only because with these types of comps you are generally presenting new work. New work takes time to sink in, and it takes time to figure out and it takes a while to finish everything!
Alyssa: How did you feel your performances on the night went?
Bettie: I had the absolute best time. I was first up to perform and that was tricky, but I just really drew on my years of experience and I honestly wouldn’t have changed anything. I received a standing ovation for my unique act & win or not that was enough for me.
Alyssa: How did it feel when you were standing in the wings listening to the announcements?
Bettie: I have been in that situation a few times in my life, and I know how I handle these feelings now. I stood quietly, with my hands clasped, head down and just listened. The feeling was kind of a paused feeling, I was just in the moment listening to the announcements.
Alyssa: Let’s talk about your shows. You really REALLY brought the house down with your traditional tribute to New Orleans. There was a lot of hype around this act after MBVIC, how did you up the anti for the Grand Final?
Bettie: Was there?! Oh god I am glad you didn’t tell me that before the finals! I had a few tricks up my sleeve by adding a prop, refining the choreography & costume, and I was genuinely just so excited to perform the number again! But again, I just made sure I was prepared to perform the best traditional routine I possibly could.
Alyssa: You’re essentially a classic queen and when I think of you I really do think of Bourbon (cough cough) Street, Bourbon Street… New Orleans… You’ve smashed the stage at the notorious House of Blues and the iconic Bustout Burlesque before and seem to take a lot of power from New Orleans as a place – tell me about how it inspired your traditional.
Bettie: Well, all I will say is there is the place you live, and the place you call home. New Orleans is my home. I was lucky enough to visit NOLA with my wifey Kelly Ann Doll a few years ago, and as soon as I stepped out of the airport I knew it was meant to be. Maaaaany memories (some forgotten ones), too many incredible stories, such rich history, and some of the best people I have ever met. The place just bring me joy and that is what I was trying to communicate in my act.
Alyssa: Your opening tableau smoking a cigar through the misty streetlights made just about everyone weak at the knees, topped off by some truly killer threads, who made your amazing costume? Where did the design inspiration come from?
Bettie: THAT COSTUME! It was created from scratch by the incredible Shimmery Costumes, and it was inspired by Thierry Mugler along with some other bits and pieces… If you don’t know who that is, Google it. The cigar was purchased at 1am from a sketchy ‘smoke shop’ on Bourke St from a Russian man with a parrot. I ended up playing dominoes with him for an hour, before stumbling home. True story.
Alyssa: Classic Queen aside, you showed some incredible diversity with your unique, some might even call it comedy gold (I know I sure do), tell us about your unique?
Bettie: My unique act was literally just my life, compressed into a 5 minute number. I originally had another act ready to go, but changed it with 4 weeks before the Vic final. I was a ballet dancer, contemporary dancer, jazz dancer, calisthenics dancer from the age of 2. Unfortunately looking the way I do, I was always told I was good enough but I would never be a dancer. These pesky short legs of mine you see. So instead I found the freaks and weirdos and joined the circus! I worked for months getting myself back on pointe, because there was NO way I was going to be that burlesque dancer trying to do ballet, and almost gets there. I wanted to show the fact I really do have these skills, and I wanted to showcase things that people had never seen me do. The ‘comedy gold’ is really just my goofy, bratty self in real life!
Alyssa: You were joined onstage by the marvellous Miss Burlesque Australia 1st Runner Up Sugar Du Joure as your dance mum, tell us about your inspiration for bringing in this character.
Bettie: And what a bloody dream she was! To be honest that is just my mother. Sugar saw the character I was after and absolutely made it her own, slide with socks and all. There was almost no chat about the character as she knew instantly what we were going for. I think I said “hey babe, do you want to b…” and she replied with FUCK YES GOOD. We actually spoke more about the costume! But to be fair, my mother would never be caught dead in slides.
Alyssa: You brought some incredible pointe-work to the stage, what did your training look like for this?
Bettie: I trained for many years as a ballet dancer, but it has been a while since I got up on the old tip toes! I went old school, and put my points on every night in my lounge room and did my exercises for about 30/ 40 minutes. After a few weeks, I felt strong enough to head into the studio and re train myself to safely dance! You can’t really rush things like that, so you just have to go back to basics and work hard. Not a lot of people know, but I have a few really bad old dance injuries, they are so bad sometimes I struggle to walk. This made my training pretty hard, and it pushed me to my limit. but you better believe I was determined to get back up there! After all they do say, slow and steady wins the race.
Alyssa: What does wearing that big crown mean to you?
Bettie: Wearing the crown is wild. I remember getting into burlesque thinking, I want one of those one day. It really is a symbol of a lot of hard work & wonderful experiences. I worked harder than I ever have to win this title, and I feel a real sense of responsibility to make sure Australian burlesque is thriving and positively represented. It’s an honour to be in this club made up of such iconic performer, and I am so grateful to be able to do what I do.
Alyssa: Did you enjoy the competition experience? Would you recommend other performers enter?
Bettie: Absolutely loved it! We all know I love a good comp. There are always going to be issues and things that don’t go your way, but that is a part of working in a team setting. You just have to accept it and make the best of it all. All in the experience was wonderful and I really enjoyed the process.
I created two award winning, brand new acts, and I think the best part was being able to collaborate/ work with/ meet so many new people. Not only did I get to experience the journey with the wonderful competitors & producers, I had the opportunity to work with costumiers Shimmery Costumes, Ruby Slippers and Megs Akimbo, the pleasure of collaborating with the AMAZING Miss Friby for my Unique act, Gemma Sheree made my two wigs, Skull Stylist whipped up my half mask for the grand final gown parade and so many others helped me along the way. I wanted to make sure I was investing money back into our community.
Alyssa: What advice do you have for future entrants of MBA?
Enter the competition when you are ready. Be very prepared to work. Have fun with creating acts you love. Plan out your expenses & make sure you set yourself a timeline. At the end of the day this is supposed to be fun, so let yourself have the best possible time!
Alyssa: What do you plan to do with your winning year?
Bettie: Well if I told you now it would ruin the surprise.
Alyssa: Always such a tease! Follow Bettie’s adventures if you don’t already on Instagram @missbettiebombshell and on Facebook.