How to Set up a Magical Altar

Setting up an Altar for the purposes of your personal practices is, well… personal.

When you ask mother google “How do I set up an Altar” you usually get one of two things. The first is an overly specific set of parameters and an overload of information, while the other is a nebulous an unspecific “do whatever you feel” approach, which isn’t wrong but it also doesn’t offer much guidance.

Have you ever asked someone what time it is and they try to tell you how to build a clock?

The truth is – there’s no wrong way to set up your spiritual practice. I encourage you to make choices that help you SPEND TIME with your altar OFTEN if not every day. I think two things to consider are What is an Altar and How do you intend to use it?

Whatever you put on an altar – you are telling the universe that it’s pretty important.

What is an Altar?

I often describe an Altar in short as a “Spiritual Workspace”. To this end an Altar could be a yoga mat, your fireplace mantle, a small table top, or a special spot on a bookshelf. It could also be an outdoor space, a circle of stones or a picnic blanket. Temporary or permanent, one of many or singular and significant, general or specific it’s literally where the magic happens.

When I say “Spiritual Workspace” the most important factor in declaring something an Altar is that it isn’t used for other things than for spiritual work—and spiritual work is personal. You are the main ingredient. So unless that cup of coffee is an offering — let’s just put in on the coffee table, and if you’re using a coffee table as an Altar, you’re gonna need a new place to set down your coffee.

That being said – there are a few guideposts to offer some inspiration, I wouldn’t leave you floating like like that! My suggestions are exactly that and you can take from them what you will. I encourage you to be creative with your altar. And if you’re a member of the Ephemeral Experiences Magic Camp I encourage you so share your creation to help inspire others with your approach. The more magic shared – the better.

How do you intend to use it?

Many people with a religious affiliation will place sacred objects on their Altar for use in rituals. The consecrated Altar of the Catholic Church is a prime example. The Priest uses the Altar to perform the Sacrament of the Eucharist at Mass (that’s a ritual within a ritual)

In a Temple or Shrine altars feature statuary and attendants might burn incense or place flowers, prasad, and other devotional items to focus their intentions.

If you’re new to the whole Magical Altar thing I’d like to suggest placing some items that are sentimental to you, remind you of loved ones or inspire hope and resilience. A lot of spiritual work should offer a sense of peace and clarity. I’d suggest keeping it simple.

Will you meditate with your altar? I like to sit in front of mine and reflect on the objects placed there. I sometimes write myself notes or pull tarot cards for insight. I like to burn candles and incense if I’ll be able to attend to them while they are burning. Most of the time I write in a journal and keep in on the Altar (I call this my book of days)

Think about what your “Spiritual Workspace” might need if you were going to spend at least 15 minutes a day connecting with with your Higher Purpose, even if you don’t know what that purpose is (most of us don’t). This is the sacred spot you make to focus your attention.

Make sure anything you put there has a reason. Even if it’s just because you love it.

Here’s a tidied up version of my Altar as just one example:

Here’s what I recommend to get started with a pretty solid altar

Altar Cloth

This can be a specific color or the fabric itself may have some personal history. I have one piece that I use that was a scarf a friend brought to me as a souvenir from her trip overseas.


Safety First! Flameless candles totally work. Your altar should never pose a safety hazard to you, your family and your pets. Full stop. Candles are used for all kinds of Magical purposes and they are rich with symbology. In the Experience Community we do a deep dive into Candle Magic.

Pen & Paper (always comes in handy)

Some might say that Sacred Parchment and Blessed Ink are the only way *Dogma Alert* – I love fancy paper and quills and I feel really connected to that sometimes, other times a notebook and a ball point pen serve the best purpose. You’re better off with tools you can use instead of not writing down your thoughts, spells and intentions because you didn’t make it to the witchy poo market in time for the perfect parchment sale.

Something that Creates Sound

Bells are great. It’s phenomenal how sound and vibration can focus the mind in an instant! I also have a noise maker made of shells that one of my favorite spiritual influences gave me at a ritual years ago. It sounds like a rainstick – so soothing. I know someone who has a small harp. It’s a perfect way to set the tone (pun intended) for your Spiritual Work session.

Fresh Flowers, Herbs, Aromatherapy, & Insence

These awaken your olfactory senses and, in the case of flowers, your visual senses. But activating a your sense of smell is a proven way to help you associate your magical work with a particular state of mind. Our olfactory senses are directly linked to memory.

Vessel and/or Bowl

I think it’s good to have a bowl around to place offerings in. Sometimes I put a little rose water in (see above) and other times I fold little notes with prayers or hopes. Sometimes I’ll hand the flowers upside down to dry out and make a potpourri in my bowl (Especially if the flowers were a gift)

A Sacred/Sentimental Item

This could be a picture of a personal hero or deity. A gift from a loved one or ancestor. Something that helps you see the larger picture of your lifetime and helps remind you of your inherent meaning.

Ephemeral Experiences

We talk about this a LOT in the Magic Camp Community discussion, perhaps you’d like to join the conversation?

Why I don’t give a F&@#! about “Self-Care”

In my mid-twenties, I stumbled upon one of the greatest literary works I would ever need in my lifetime.   In the wake of losing my closest personal friend from childhood due to cancer, I was a fresh yoga teacher with less than a year of full-time teaching experience.  It was 2009 during the big Anusara boom in Chicago and I didn’t have the emotional resources to process grief.  I found myself in yoga class after yoga class listening to teachers talk about “living my best life” and “filling your heart with radical expansion” and listening to inspirational quotes from “the Secret”.   At one point someone directed me to “radiantly spring into Warrior I” – I didn’t want to radiantly spring anywhere

I wanted to get through this.  I wanted the uncomfortable questioning to be over.  And I wanted my yoga class to make me feel better and not worse.  And as a teacher who had heavily relied on Dharma talks to springboard my yoga classes, I found myself struggling with a severe upheaval in what it means to have “spiritual boundaries”.

As a result – I leaned into my Ashtanga practice because I needed to experience yoga without the instructor giving advice on how I was supposed to feel and, I must admit, I taught some of the best yoga asana of my career when I focused on developing the sequences and teaching to people’s bodies without having to weave a “spiritual lesson” through the class.

One of my students noticed the shift in my classes and I was able to tell her about how I was feeling.  She recommended “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion.

Joan Didion Photo: Quintana Roo Dunne

In it,  Joan recounts her experience of grieving after the sudden loss of her husband and that’s when I adopted Ms. Didion as an “ista-devata”, or chosen spiritual guide of mine.  I felt understood, and through reading her book which also incorporates medical and psychological research on grief and illness I was able to process my own experience.  It was the recognition that what I was going through was utterly human, that finally helped me face my nonlinear path of grief and loss.

No yoga class will ever be able to do that.

But that’s not the literary work I’m talking about.   It wouldn’t be until years later, some career fails and a few rocky relationships that I would have to learn the valuable lesson of taking care of myself.  I had NO CLUE what it meant to be self-directed and I subscribed to the all too popular notion of “Self Care” which, all too often is more like self-abandonment wrapped up in terry cloth robes, pedicures and expensive martinis.  I see it now, all over social media, “self-care selfies” of people being self-indulgent, buying shit they don’t need, thirst trapping, or just skirting responsibilty.  This form of “self-care” doesn’t promote a healthy relationship with personal growth or self-acceptance.  It’s a hashtag for a disastrous unraveling, and it’s certainly nowhere near the hard-earned realm of Self-Respect.

My love for Joan led me to read her collection Slouching Toward Bethlehem and subsequently her iconic essay “On Self-Respect”.  In it, Joan talks about the common misconceptions around self-respect that echo the modern incarnation of “self-care”.

“There is a common superstition that “self-respect” is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation…

In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues. (…)  Nonetheless, character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.”

–Joan Didion On Self Respect

Please don’t tell me its about “building character”

For me, and many of the people who helped me on this path, “Self-Care” involves doing the hard work of making sure I show up for myself.  It’s doing the dishes and prepping a healthy dinner when I’d rather order a pizza. It’s doing the laundry instead of buying new underwear.

Most importantly – it’s having the difficult conversations.  It’s taking ownership when we make mistakes and the willingness to resolve the rift.  It’s actually answering the phone when the student loan officer calls and being honest and kind with them.  Sometimes it means breaking up with someone, even though you love them because you’ve lost yourself in the process.  It’s making difficult decisions and standing up for your choices by accepting their consequences.

Self-Respect involves practice cultivating an inner voice that has my best interest in mind and suggests I try my best.  It reminds me that I have a support network through close personal connections, family and friends, a spiritual practice, and the humility to ask for help.

Josee in Garudasana by Sean Ambrose

Truly successful people all rely on coaches, mentors, teachers and spiritual clergy to help them with decision making, difficult life transitions and physical and mental achievements.  How often have you looked around and said to yourself “How do all these people seem to have it figured out?” I felt that way most of my life until I started working with others. I learned that almost no one has it “figured out” – but the key characteristic of those of us who are working out the kinks,  adapting to the flow, and getting shit done are the people who aren’t forcing themselves to do it alone.

We are social animals, even monks have to spiritually train almost their entire lifetime to go into hermitage.  You’re not weak if you need help, you’re a human being.  And when you ask for help you give someone else the opportunity to be of service.  Oprah talks openly about serving others as the main spiritual calling on our life.

“We talk about social service, service to the people, service to humanity, service to others who are far away, helping to bring peace to the world – but often we forget that it is the very people around us that we must live for first of all. If you cannot serve your wife or husband or child or parent – how are you going to serve society? If you cannot make your own child happy, how do you expect to be able to make anyone else happy? If all our friends in the peace movement or of service communities of any kind do not love and help each other, whom can we love and help?”


So, does everyone need a life coach, a nutritionist, a therapist and a priest?  

Not necessarily.  

Self-Respect is a product of a commitment to Svadhyaya, or self-study, it is the fourth Niyama (inner observances) of the classical Yoga system.   According to Pantanjali, when we commit to learning and observing ourselves with honesty, “one finds communion with their ista-devata, or their chosen personal divine guide.  Yoga says if we are looking for some sort of direction in this life – look within.

We get that, but what if the inner voice says — “I’m stuck.” “I don’t know what to do.” “how does a person get through this?”   — that’s when we must seek outside resources, someone to reflect our experience back to us. Just like Joan did for me in The Year of Magical Thinking and just like my mentors, healers and guides continue to do for me today.

Stay open, pay attention – the path will reveal itself.   No one is gonna fault you for treating yourself to some frozen yogurt or your next Netflix binge but when it eventually becomes necessary to make the transition from “self-care” to full on “Self-Respect” most of us need a little accountability and guidance.

Yoga people are kooky but Jessica Blanchard means business, and her business is helping you feel your best.

by Precious Ephemera

When I first decided to move to New Orleans in 2013, I started looking at yoga studios for teaching opportunities. In Chicago, at times, I was teaching like 18 classes a week to make ends meet and I was burnt out. I wanted to just teach a couple classes to keep yoga as a part of my life. After a couple studios informed me that they only hire teachers through their own teacher training program (imagine paying upwards of 4k to get a despicably low paying job doing something you’ve done professionally for more than half a decade) I got a wonderful email from a studio owner who was interested in meeting me. She invited me to the studio to get to know her. This, to me, is how New Orleanians do it. They’re gonna feel you out.

Balance is a different kind of yoga studio than you find most places and Jessica is a different kind of studio owner. First of all, she’s completely sane (surprisingly hard to find) and it is evident upon meeting her that she’s someone who practices what she teaches. We don’t often meet people with her level of character and integrity. She wasn’t just offering me a job. She was offering me a place in a community of people who want to feel better and don’t want to subscribe to some Gweneth Paltrow inspired lifestyle with an impossible set of standards. Balance is a studio where normal people can learn and practice yoga without any of the social pressure or spiritual elitism you find in a west coast inspired studio.

It’s a fucking breath of fresh air, to be quite honest.

I’m proud that this is where I lay my mat down. I’m glad that our studio doesn’t hold classes for 50+ people at a time. I’m glad that when you get there on a Saturday someone is preparing an Ayurvedic meal after a workshop and it smells like a house full of people who are kind to one another and learn together. My relationship with her and Balance Yoga Wellness + Ayurveda is a cornerstone of my life in New Orleans and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her gentle encouragement and tempered support.

Jessica Blanchard, RD – Functional Nutritionist

Since starting at the studio Jessica and her partner have welcomed a second child and we spent last year on campus together as she finished pre-med. She has a little window of downtime before med school kicks back up again and SHE’S TAKING CLIENTS! I tell you this because it is such a huge opportunity.

Jessica Blanchard is the example. You can’t say that you are too busy to take care of yourself. She has years of experience making time for yoga, nutrition and wellness AND the demands of being a business owner, a functional dietitian with a private practice all while raising two kids under 10. She’s just as intuitive as she is a scientist and she will make a terrific doctor.

If you find yourself grump and groggy all the time and you haven’t been able to figure out a plan, I can’t tell you enough how much working with a functional nutritionist can demystify the fog of concerns that overwhelm us at times.

Jessica Blanchard and her children. New Orleans, LA

When it comes to tackling wellness, there is no one more qualified to help you feel like yourself again. Come to our humble lil spot in Mid-City and take a gentle class, grab a coffee in the kitchen, take off your shoes and take a deep breath, she’s built a space where we can gather to get better, and she’s here to help. and she wants to meet you.

Here’s the page that tells you all about what she does. Check it out and if you happen to see her and her friendly family out and about – be sure to give her a high five from me.

Sparkly Devil meets Lottie the Body and Toni Elling, Introduces them to BHoF

As Sarah Klein and Culture Editor for the Detroit Metro Times, Sparkly Devil’s enthusiasm for the Neo-Burlesque Revival invited two of the first living legends of color to be inductee’s at the Burlesque Hall of Fame.

Sparkly would go on to create Legends Challenges and inspire relationships between contemporary performers and their predecessors. The Burlesque Hall of Fame Honors one Community Member with a Memorial Scholarship every year since her passing. As the 2019 recipient of this honor – I learned first hand how much impact one person can have on our community. I consider this history sacred and it’s a privilege to share it.

Here is her article. Shared with permission from the Detroit Metro Times.








“Living with Water” starring Phathoms Deep
Special Guest Pandora Gastelum from Mudlark Puppet Theater
November 30th // Cafe Istanbul // 7pm

8th Annual Annie LennoxMas Celebration
December 25th // Balance Yoga & Wellness // 10am

Organize Your Life According to Your Queer Divine Path
Sundays in January 2020 // Balance Yoga Wellness // 11:30-2:30

“Artificial Anxiety” starring TBA
Special Guest TBA
March 21st // Cafe Istanbul // 7pm

Featuring the Legendary Children of the HOUSE OF FAMOUS
Sunday May 24th // Hotel Peter & Paul // 4pm

a charity tubing dragsperience to benefit Women With A Vision Inc.

62nd Annual Titans of Tease Showcase

By Sparkly Devil Memorial Scholarship recipient, Precious Ephemera

Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender 2019
Orleans Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, Nevada

Everyone has taken their seats in anticipation of the inter-generational mayhem that’s about to ensue. Each year the Legends of Burlesque shock and delight an audience whose very existence couldn’t have been foretold by their wildest dreams.  I think to myself how amazing it must feel for all these stars to shine on the people they hadn’t even conceived of when they were living their truth, their art and their best life.

Annual Emcee, World Famous ☆BOB☆ welcomes the audience after a grand entrance in an ensemble inspired by the hypothetical lovechild of Divine and Malibu Barbie.  The Blonde Lady recalls the early days of Jenny Lee and Dixie Evans, the reunions on the goat farm and how their passion for burlesque kept a tiny flame alive that would become the roaring fire that continues to warm the world’s stages today. “Welcome to the Temple” she says as she reminds us that The Burlesque Hall of Fame and each of us is here because the Legends were here before us.  Without these Titans of Tease, none among us would have a tassel to twirl or a glove to peel and for that we are truly grateful.  

In a perfect opening act we were introduced to the Grant Avenue Follies by a golden clad ensemble member telling the audience precisely how little we know about poetry.  The curtain opens to the most charming cast of citizens whose seniority is predicated by charm and unity.  These synchronized swimmers of the stage used timely chimes and boa flips to cast a spell, awakening the audience to pure magic.  Newly in a state of fantasia, we were introduced to cabaret legend Holly Carrol, whose throaty vocals and gritty wit transported us to the smoky stages of the casinos and clubs of yore, she worked the stage and the crowd over until we were hooked and madly infatuated her with timeless star power.

The First Lady of Burlesque, April March is then escorted onto the stage by smolderingly suave producer Seven.  She spoke of the Burlesque of the 1950’s with adoration and nostalgia noting that things “were a lot different then, then they are today”.  With the unfailing conversation skills of a wisecracking debutante, April had the audience rolling as she introduced us to Jack Cione, Delilah Jones, Tina Pratt, Bambi Jones, Bic Caroll, Tempest Storm and, making her legendary debut on the BHoF stage, recently inducted Kaena

Ellion Ness filled the stage like a moonbeam in a black spiral beaded skirt.  She has an enchanting presence and gave everyone a lesson in at least one devilish use for a coat rack.   Penny Star Sr. lit up the moment she hit the stage in white and gold with a pitch perfect coif and her whip-like tenacity.  In the brassiest display of comedic charm, Gail Winns melted all of our faces with her unrelenting wit, and reminded everyone in the room that what truly makes us laugh is heartfelt truth doused in playfulness.   Lovey Goldmine gifted us with her love of musical theater in a head to toe Cabaret medley. Flanked by talented dancers reminiscent of Britney and Christina in Madonna’s iconic VMA performance, Lovey weaved us into the tapestry of the ever-relevant music and message we all know and love.   Each of these leading ladies reminded us of the purity of heart that got us playing dress-up and singing into our hairbrushes as children and how this natural part of ourselves can lead to a goldmine of love for a lifetime.  

Brandy Wilde gently takes the stage at a podium to address the crowd and paint a landscape of burlesque in the 1960’s – a politically turbulent time.  She reminds us that homosexuality was illegal and gracefully alluded to the pain of life in the closet. In a celebratory segue she tells us how she always found acceptance and respect from her peers in the world of burlesque.  Many of us needed the reminder that Burlesque continues to be a refuge of pride for those of us facing social adversity in our lives offstage. Fittingly, Brandy first introduces Toni Elling followed by Adina, Melissa St. John, Rubberlegs, Lola Foxx and stage trickster Georgette Dante.  

Then it’s time for Las Vegas’ only Nude Magician to offer us something to cool our jets and blow our minds.  With an enterprising determination to extract all the remaining “oohs and ahhhs” from her audience, Dusty Summers reveals everything but her illusionist secrets in her mystifying performance in icy blue accompanied by white doves, dazzling smirks, and charismatic precision.   Before the first act comes to a close, Bambi the Mermaid takes the stage to present the Legend of the Year Award. Holding back tears as she describes her friend, the indefatigable warrior of individuality and the Godmother of Neo-Burlesque. Camille 2000 is escorted onto the stage to tell us of her recent diagnosis with stage IV cancer and how knowing that she would have the opportunity to receive this award in her lifetime, in addition to the support from our international community has kept her alive.  Overwhelmed with emotion saying “Thank you for Loving Me” her right eyelash was transposed and affixed to her cheek like warpaint and the crowd rose to their feet in support of the Cosmic Queen.

The second act opened with the In Memoriam presentation of community members, too many gone too soon, and the audience laid their hands over their collective hearts as the screen delivered its honors.  The room smiled in remembrance, sighed with longing and wept in deep respect for those who have impacted the heart and soul of Burlesque with their voices and their efforts. The tone was immediately juxtaposed by the only one who could transform the mood to sheer delight.  With her signature sass and flawless irreverence Big Fannie Annie takes the stage and introduces us to the band of legends who represent the 1970’s. Viva LaFever, Eartha Quake, Shawna the Black Venus, Velvet Ice, Snowi Sinclair, and Gina BonBon took to the stage and soaked in our adoration with poise and swagger.  

Songbird Monique Murray treated us to a performance of the 1953 sultry hit “Teach Me Tonight” one of America’s great Jazz Standards with some pretty scandalous implications the lyrics.  Gabriella Maze turned the tone on a dime with an ecstatic performance beginning with flames and isis wings and finishing with head to toe hairography and ferocious femininity. World Famous ☆BOB☆ shared a letter from Miss Topsy who was unable to attend the festivities in person letting us know that despite time and distance the flame of the reunion is alive in her heart and that she hopes to grace us next year.

Marinka, Queen of the Amazons takes the stage and with just a subtle twitch of movement she commands our attention.  She knows exactly what she’s about to bestow upon her audience and she takes her time building the anticipation, her fingers tell a story and guide our eyes to the exact place where we have permission to look before she grips us with both hands, takes us with her whole body over to the velvet curtain for the moment of no return, her signature move that has the whole room on their feet for thunderous applause and jubilation.  Judith Stein asserts herself like a whiskey neat on a maplewood bartop. She’s mesmerizing and smooth and she stings going down. With her matter of fact movements and brassy attitude, she could entertain us in denim and flannel if she wanted but she relishes a glove peel, kills in a pale blue gown, and isn’t afraid to use her teeth. Shannon Doah, demure and sweet, sees herself onto the stage in an ivory fur overcoat and aubergine organza headpiece, she shows us the value of a woman enjoying herself with softness and personal satisfaction.  Coby Yee, accompanied by her lifetime companion Steven King give us a royal retelling of a courtship lasting an era. Coby leads and Mr. King graciously attends tender and connected moments giving this performance an authenticity that communicates a timeless true love most of us only dream about. Through this dreamworld we bear witness to a respectful and admirable intimacy that demonstrates how consent never compromises passion.

The show could’ve ended there, with a fairytale happy ending, but before we closed the curtain on this showcase, one final performance would carry us into a new reality and a deeper understanding of our place in the tectonic shifts of the greater burlesque movement.  I have dedicated an entire article with a significant amount of detail to the prophetic and historical performance that permanently emblazoned Camille 2000’s place as the Girl for Yesterday Today and Tomorrow in the history of burlesque forever. First, let it be known that at the time of her performance Camille has outlived her life expectancy by nearly 7 months and with courage, came to the stage and delivered a message of self acceptance and vulnerability.  Once again, the Godmother of Neo-Burlesque proved to our community that nothing holds us back from living our truth. Using religious iconography, she reclaimed her conservative christian upbringing and contorted a spiritual message worthy of the future of womanhood free from stigma and shame. With her Burlesque daughters Whitney Ward and Bambi the Mermaid at her side like angels, she sobbed through unmitigated physical pain to humbly take her place on the stage for us.  We will never forget the way the room felt when Camille 2000 took her bow as Legend of the Year.

It was a night of celebration and remembrance and an unexpected reminder of the meaning we can hold in the incredible artform of Burlesque.  The legends teach us so much about what we transmit as entertainers and to be in their esteemed audience is an invaluable gift. Everyone left the showroom changed for the better.  

Aggressive Art from a Lion-Heart

for 21st Century Burlesque Magazine

Sparkly Devil Scholarship recipient Precious Ephemera writes in tribute to burlesque legend Camille 2000 to mark her passing after a long and valiant battle with cancer.

Camille 2000, ‘the Girl for Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow’, is an unapologetic woman with a particular kink for racking up legendary stories and experiences. No one could describe her as ‘subtle’. At 73, Camille is not just any burlesque legend but the entertainer who kicked open the door for any contemporary person performing burlesque against the grain and with an attitude. We can thank her for introducing the world to the fusion of performance art and burlesque. 

Burlesque legend Camille 2000.
Burlesque legend Camille 2000.

When she began her career, she found out quickly what it would take to make a name for herself and followed suit to become a travelling feature, but after a decade of mastering her craft, and observing the market sliding towards live nude shows and lap dances, she started breaking from the classical standards of the burlesque she was initiated into. 

She started changing up the music, bringing in what she refers to as ‘aggressive art’ – most notably donning leather for her famed tribute to the Marquis de Sade and killing herself on stage in ‘Black Widow’. She remembers her peers, mentors, and naysayers telling her that what she was doing ‘isn’t Burlesque’, to which she fearlessly and ferociously replied, “Well, it is now!” 

At the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender in June, just before intermission, Bambi the Mermaid took the stage to present the Legend of the Year Award to The Cosmic Queen. An emotional moment, she described her friend and legend the indefatigable warrior of individuality, lifetime wild woman and the Godmother of Neo-Burlesque. 

Camille was escorted onto the stage and shared what was news to many: the previous summer she was diagnosed with Stage IV metastasised cancer in her lungs, spinal cord, adrenals, pulmonary artery, brain and “everywhere fucking else”. Her doctor told her she wouldn’t live to see Christmas. She sobbed as she accepted the honour and emphasised how she was standing there alive as a direct result of the kind words and loving support of the burlesque community, their belief in her and the opportunity to receive this award in her lifetime. 

Weeping in gratitude and brushing tears from her eyes, one of her eyelashes affixed itself to her right cheek where it would remain for the rest of the night. She stood before us like a seasoned athlete in eyeblack, symbolic of warpaint in the fight to continue to pronounce her rebellious truth in the realm of the stage with her humble battlecry: “Thank you for loving me”. 

I had the privilege of speaking with Camille 2000 on the phone about her experience at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender. I didn’t realise that my call would coincide with the auspicious one year anniversary of her cancer diagnosis. When I asked her about the inspiration behind her performance she plainly stated, “Because I am fucking dying. If that man can rise up and come back from the grave then so can I, and if someone like me can do it, so can you.” 

Burlesque legend Camille 2000. ©Marie Baronnet
Burlesque legend Camille 2000. ©Marie Baronnet

She credits the collective consciousness and the unified spirit of the community for guiding her through what would have been an impossible performance. She knows it was a miracle. “As soon as my foot touched the stage I started crying, and here I am, this old woman crying and dying in front of all of you. Our spirit guides were just carrying us through; it wasn’t me”. 

Her prophetic performance in the 62nd Annual Titans of Tease Reunion showcase is one for the history books that everyone in attendance will remember forever. She underscored a career of ‘aggressive art’ with something so meaningful in its symbolism that the audience held their breath in awe of it. 

She began seated, centre stage on a throne shrouded in a white cloak stretched wideways, her hands joined in prayer. Her burlesque daughters, Whitney Ward and Bambi the Mermaid, appeared from the wings in white gowns with feather fans as angels at her side. With resilience and power, Camille simply stood up and the crowd went wild for her. Her pasties were rhinestone crosses and she presented herself with arms outstretched in the theatrical imagery of a Christ figure. At first glance, one could compare her performance to a glitzy passion play or a throwback to the religious drama of an eighties music video, but we soon realised that we were bearing witness to a parade and peel for the ages. 

Camille 2000 in the 60th annual Titans of Tease Burlesque Reunion Showcase at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2017. Image by Honey Beavers, exclusively for 21st Century Burlesque Magazine
Camille 2000 in the 60th annual Titans of Tease Burlesque Reunion Showcase at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2017. Image by Honey Beavers, exclusively for 21st Century Burlesque Magazine

With her very life, the Godmother of the Neo-Burlesque movement would usher her community through the door she busted open decades ago, directing all of us to walk through fearlessly and never look back. In her final reveal, Camille opened her palms for the audience to behold crimson crystallised stigmata wounds. Shortly after, dripping in self-respect, she transfigured her hands into their signature gesture for which she is famously known. 

For those who might not understand the religious phenomena of stigmata – it can be defined as marks resembling the wounds of the crucified body of Christ, said to be supernaturally impressed on the bodies of divinely chosen people. St. Francis of Assisi was the first stigmatic on record and he, like many purported stigmatics, first saw angels before he received his wounds. 

To be a stigmatic was a very big deal, it meant that you were so deeply devoted to your divine calling that the object of your worship bestowed his own wounds upon you, giving you the likeness of a God who would give his own flesh to relieve the world of its shame and misery. The word itself is plural for stigma: a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. 

Camille 2000 and Tigger! at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2012. ©Orangeroads Photography
Camille 2000 and Tigger! at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2012. ©Orangeroads Photography

In burlesque, we are no stranger to the stigma of sexuality and womanhood. We walk through the fire of stigma surrounding sex work, mental health, ageing and morbidity, threats to the lives of gender variant individuals and rights to sovereignty and safety for all bodies – especially women. Social stigma is ascribed to any person who deviates from what is considered by society to be acceptable, normal and comfortable. It’s often met with fear, rejection, and violence. This performance punctuated our collective mission to walk through our deepest fears and to have faith in our art in order to pierce the veil of shame. 

When I asked Camille if correlating this aspect of her performance was intentional, she said that I hit the nail on the head about her message, adding that she was just following her intuition. 

“Me and Whitney and Bambi did nothing – our spirit guides did the whole thing, we were just guided. We all need to thank the baby Jesus or whatever, for healing our demons”. 

She floated through her act to the tune of Amazing Grace, lifted up and given over by the support of free-thinking wild women everywhere. 

No one in the audience could tell if the eyelash on her cheek was intentional, but we could not avert our eyes from Camille’s messages about the body. About disgrace. About dis-ease. About stigma, surviving, sanctifying our own bodies and following our intuition. But most importantly as a woman and burlesque icon, Camille showed us her whole self, sobbing on display, in deep unrelenting physical pain, in the absence of shame, with jubilation before the community she loves. Watershed. Bloodshed. Humility. Ecstasy. “Thank you for loving me.”

As Legend of the Year, Camille has already chosen the unofficial colour theme for next years Titans of Tease Showcase to be S&M – and of course when I said “S&M isn’t a colour,” she replied, “Well, it is now!” Touche. 

Before I got off the phone I thanked her, I told her that every cell in my body was different now because I know her and I asked her about the eyelash that migrated to her cheek with her tears. I said that it reminded me of warpaint and rebellion, that I thought it was an iconic look by a woman who wasn’t afraid to come to the stage and stand in the centre of her truth no matter what. 

I asked if she would find it a fitting tribute that any of us rebel-minded friends and fans would wear an eyelash in such a fashion to honour her commitment to breaking through stigma. She said she thought that was a “fan-fucking-tastic idea” and gave all of us her blessing to honour her in this way. 

I want to remember that Camille didn’t need fixing when things were out of place, that she took the stage against the odds to let us love her exactly as she was that day. I want to remember what humility looks like on a true bad-ass. 

Camille 2000 at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2016. Copyright: John-Paul Bichard
Camille 2000 at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2016. Copyright: John-Paul Bichard

This week, Camille received news that there are no additional courses of treatment for her to take. The next phase of her care will be to transition her to hospice. The doctor described her as an absolute miracle, saying she has never seen anyone with this diagnosis live to see even one anniversary of it in her entire practice. Over the phone I can hear Whitney and Bambi by her side chiming in that she looks like a million bucks and you wouldn’t even know what she’s been going through. “Yeah – that’s cause I’m not done terrorising all you mother fuckers,” I hear her say, and we all laugh before everyone reminds me that I absolutely must watch Lola Rocknrolla’s Bloodbath of Terror

It is abundantly clear to me that Camille is not going out without leaving her mark. Without our legends there is no us. You are a part of a historical unfolding. How do you choose in this time, through your art, to pave the way for the next generation? What would you sacrifice? Are you willing to show up with your whole self, unfiltered, to contribute to something beyond your comprehension? You have been called to expand on the dreams of the ones who came before you and I believe we all have what it takes to make them proud. So, what are you waiting for? The door has already clearly been kicked open. And if she can do it, so can you. 

21st Century Burlesque Magazine


Caftan Salon 2019

The Sunday Salon : A Caftan Afternoon

May 26th at 4:30pm
The Hotel Peter and Paul
2317 Burgundy St 
$10 Advance Online // $15 Door

If you haven’t seen me mysteriously posting examples of Caftan Fashions on my instagram have a gander.  It’s also the last event I’m doing before I ship out for the entire Summer and it promises to be a GOLDEN afternoon. Advance Tickets Online at a Huge Discount

Second Annual Caftan Salon & Bazaar

How it works ::  You wear a Caftan (great news!! – they can be a trailer park muumuu or a billowy fashion spectacle – I foresee people wearing bedsheets and curtains and I also foresee people dripping in Jewels and Fine Silk.

There will be a Red Carpet Photo Opportunity,  A High Velocity Fan Photo Booth and DIY Runway for you to twirl and shine for the Gods, the People, and the Camera

Still need inspiration?  Take a page from the book of Endora!

Poetry & Lyric from
Isaac Lauritsen and Co
Zachary Mohr (Desdemona’s Dreams)
Tsarina Hellfire
Stanley Roy
TITIBABY (for Elektra Cosmetics)
and Chicago based Performance Artist

Sunday May 26TH – Hotel Peter & Paul


Practical Magic & Spiritual Services

Awaken Your Intuition…

If you’re feeling stuck, unsure of your place in the world or you need insight to make a big decision, we can open the door to your deepest wisdom in a short amount of time through the ancient practices of divination

Growing up Queer in a rural community I always had a deep connection with nature and my empathic self.   I’ve spent time in very austere religious environments as well as radical chaos communities and have since settled into a solitary practice that works for me.

I’m happy to share that with you…

many of us crave spirituality but don’t quite align or agree with the organized religion we’ve been introduced to.

There are many paths to peace…

For well over a decade I’ve incorporated several approaches, traditions, and doctrines into my spiritual practice. Sourcing from Sufism, Christianity, Hoodoo, Astrology, Neo-Paganism, and Folk Magic I utilize an arsenal of ideologies for you to pick and choose the things you like…






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