I am a burlesque dancer, and except for rare cases like Dita von Teese, the overwhelming majority of us do not make a living at burlesque. It’s an expensive passion, with way more money going to costumes, studio and venue rentals, workshops, travel to festivals, etc. than the amount of income that comes in from doing shows. It’s akin to having a theatre troupe, where you basically do it because you love it and don’t expect it to be lucrative. Most of us have day jobs; a lot of us hate those day jobs and wish we could do our art full-time, much like any struggling artist. Some of us even joke about wishing for rich benefactors.
Others, on the other hand, actually try to put the “benefactor” wish into practice. Scrolling through my Facebook news feed this morning, I found a public event that a fellow dancer had created. Since it is a public event, I don’t think I’m violating anyone’s privacy by putting the link here: (I think I’ll edit that out – Admin). Here is the text describing the event, which I literally read with my mouth hanging open in horror:
“Friends & fans, here is your opportunity to contribute toward the success of Sweet LillyBee in her effort to shine in all corners of this continent & perhaps beyond! You can become a sponsor or a backer!!
I have created degrees of sponsorship for your ease.
… ”1) Sponsor Mavis: SLBee super-van/burlesque-mobile!! This is the train that brings me everywhere. It’s my luxury liner, with a complete set up for safe, sane travel that includes REAL coffee & food, a comfy place to sleep, plenty of room for passengers & gear and is pretty much cheaper than a plan ticket to wherever I may be going (and transports my personal attendant as well). Mavis is in good condition and her mechanic is prepared to keep her on the road for a long time coming. All current repairs/maintenance come to about $2000.
”2) Sponsor a trip: Help SLBee offset the expense of travel! St Louis- $200, Vegas- $600, Denver- $400, Philly- $450, Detroit- $350, Ohio-$150. These are my current trips. I may also be traveling to New Mexico, Arizona, California & Washington this year. If you want me in your town PM me to work out the details!
”3) Sponsor goods/services: Help keep SLBee looking good! You can either pay for or provide goods/services such as: nail salon, hair salon, depilation, massage, facials, pedicures, make up, hair prooduct, medical adhesive & remover, glitter, jewelry, shoes, costuming. PM me to aquire my preferred brands/salons or to arrange to personally provide said services.
”4) Sponsor technological/administrative goods/services: Website design. Tech support & maintenance. External hard drive. CD’s/DVD’s. Flash drives. Data entry. Press releases & web based marketing blasts. These are all neccesary things:)
”5) Sponser SLBee branding: Sponsor the launch of a line of collectible merchandise items!
Become a backer of Sweet LillyBee. You can send a private message to XXXXXX, include “backer” in the subject line and be sure to indicate your preferred area of sponsorship. Or let me know if you’d like to “subscribe” to an ongoing sponsorship (with/without a specific area of interest).
You can paypal to the above addy.”
I know that you have mentioned, in the past, sites like the one where the woman asked strangers to donate a dollar to her to help her get out of debt. I think that’s tacky enough on its own, but this to me is even worse, since she has many members of the burlesque community on her website, and we all struggle with expenses every day. The thing is, when you choose to practice any kind of art form, that is your choice. You are NOT a charity case. And the pampering services are just amazingly over the top – if I can’t afford my professional hair colour before a show, I’ll just do it myself, and I would never dream of considering something like a massage or facial to be a performance expense. I myself am pretty broke this year because I’m trying to make a go of freelancing as a day job, so guess what – I didn’t apply to any out-of-town festivals. That’s life. Not only is this woman throwing dignity out the window by begging and being extra-greedy by listing over the top expenses, but I also think in this case, the gimme factor is compounded by her making herself out to be a special case among performers. I am not easily shocked by human behaviour, and I was actually appalled by this. 0505-12
The Arts, imo, should be subject to the free market just as any other commodity is. That means the success or failure of an artist is dependent on people appreciating their talents enough to pay to see it or buy it. In other words, each ticket sale, every sale of artwork is a vote of appreciation and if there is little or no consumer interest in one’s art, it’s unlikely to be successful. As a former art major in college, I participated in juried gallery shows in which submitted pieces of art must pass approval by a jury of teachers. What is perceived as good art is highly subjective and those juries can get quite brutal. Just because you consider yourself an artist does not equate to being successful as an artist. (My gallery items which passed the jury were Raku pots and oil portraits.)
I have friends who make a decent living painting portraits. It’s not glamorous, artsy fartsy artwork but it keeps them fed and housed nicely. Their customers have voted with their dollars to support their talents. So when an artist must go begging for someone to fund their artwork, one has to why he/she would advertise the fact that they cannot make it commercially and must be funded through donations.