Fierce: A Queer Burlesque Festival Comes to Pittsburgh

For the 5th year in a row, the FIERCE! queer burlesque festival will celebrate sexy queer bodies through creative dance, featuring hot performers diverse in age, race, ethnicity, class, body type, access/ability, and gender expression. This year, the festival returns to Pittsburgh, and Viva Valezz, along with her steadfast team, are raising funds to make it one of the most exciting queer events around. QueerPGH sat down with Viva to see how it’s going.

QueerPGH: What is special about this event?

Valezz: There are many, many other burlesque festivals throughout the world. However, FIERCE! is the only festival dedicated specifically to honoring queers that travels to different cities, in order to allow queers across the U.S. and Canada to participate when the festival comes to their neck of the woods. I understand that queers don’t typically have a ton of expendable funds, so I try to take the festival “to them” to try to make it a little more affordable and accessible.

QueerPGH: Why is this event important?

Valezz: FIERCE! is the first of its kind… FIERCE! is the first festival to honor and celebrate the talents and uniqueness of burlesque performers around the globe who identify as queer (and the allies who love them). Especially right now, when the current “administration” seems to be poised to take more and more rights away from women and queers (and 99.9% of burlesque performers are women and queers), this is somewhat of a political statement… to claim space that is ours and CELEBRATE our existence. The FIERCE! casts over the years have become like a family. We are here to support each other, celebrate each other, acknowledge each other. Plus, it’s “the biggest naked queer party on the planet!”

QueerPGH: What do you want people to know about this event?

Valezz: First and foremost, I want FIERCE! weekend to be a celebration! I want Every Pittsburgher to be a part of the party: men, women, queer, straight, EVERYONE. I want people to just come and discover all of the different styles of burlesque from all over the country (and Canada), to experience the showmanship, the spectacle, the talent. If you’ve never been to a FIERCE! show, and especially if you’re new to burlesque, you will be moved and shocked by the experience. And these performers are ALL HERE IN PITTSBURGH AT ONE TIME! You don’t see THIS amount of talent in one weekend! I mean, 150 of THE BEST burlesque acts in the world! You may never experience this again. It’s really quite amazing.

QueerPGH: Who are some of the acts we can see this year?

Valezz: We have some really exciting headliners this year: Indigo Blue from Seattle, Egypt Blaque Knyle (an award-winning queer performer from Los Angeles), Nina LaVoix from NYC (an up and coming starlet who started her career in my troupe in Ohio), Red Hot Annie from Chicago, The Incredible, Edible, Akynos from New York City, and Tito Bonito (the only male headliner) from LA.

QueerPGH: Why do you need to raise funds?   

Valezz: We cover as many of our expenses as possible with ticket sales, however, there are lots of different moving parts involved with producing six shows in 4 days: paying travel and other costs for VIPs, paying emcees and feature performers, plus a token payment of thanks for each of the performers. We are looking for sponsors. We have a few additional expenses since this is our 5th Anniversary year, extra equipment, purchasing a new backdrop since our first one (that lasted 4 years) was pretty beat up from being shipped from state to state, and bringing in a few extra VIPs, like Indigo Blue, the first openly gay Miss Exotic World 2011 (the highest honor that a burlesque performer can win each year).

QueerPGH: What do sponsors receive for being sponsors?

Valezz: We’re very flexible. If we encounter someone who is interested in sponsoring, and wants to suggest their own benefits, we will consider any ideas they have. There are lots of fun things that can be done. However, if there are businesses/patrons who want to help, I would LOVE for them to jump on the train SOON because we’d like to include their logos/names on all of the promotions – to really get the most bang for their sponsorship bucks.

QueerPGH: What else are you doing to raise funds?

Valezz: We additionally have three fundraiser shows specifically to help raise money for the festival: NOIR, a burlesque whodunit (where the audience guesses who the ‘bad guy’ is). There will be two shows: June 9th in Pittsburgh in the James Street ballroom and June 10 in Columbus at AWOL Bar. We are also presenting something different and yummy, 3) HARDER: SSC, a private kink and burlesque event happening in a secret location (email fiercequeerburlesque@gmail.com to be put on the invitation list).

Additionally regarding fundraising, in my experience over the past five years of producing this festival, it has been very difficult to get sponsors. I’m not sure if businesses are worried about supporting an event with “Queer” in its title? But! I’m not yet willing to stop producing FIERCE!, no matter how stressful it can be at times. I just wish that the businesses that we approach could see what an amazing event it is.

QueerPGH: We wish you a lot of luck!

You can support FIERCE! in a variety of ways. Businesses can advertise in the program, donate items to the raffle, or have their logos featured on promotional materials. Donations by individuals are also welcome. Let’s make this happen, Pittsburgh! Visit the website: http://www.fiercequeerburlesquefest.com/advertising-sponsorships/

This article originally appeared on QueerPgh.com. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.