Updated: Feb 11
When Ivy Les Vixens founded her queer womxns’s burlesque troupe, the Les Vixens, she had never even taken a dance class. She had previously been involved in theater, but something drew her toward burlesque.
The Orlando-based troupe started out as just Ivy and two other people. Fourteen years later, the Les Vixens consist of eighteen queer womxn, a “magical girl gang,” as Ivy calls it, that has been voted Orlando’s best burlesque troupe for the past two years.
“We push being independent, powerful, sexy, body positive, queer positive, and being a safe space, but also a fantasy,” says Ivy. “We really try to create this (biodegradable) glittery fun.”
The Les Vixens perform in queer spaces throughout the Southeast, but they can be found almost every Saturday Night performing for a thousand people at an event called “Girl the Party,” the largest lesbian and queer weekly event in Florida.
It wasn’t always this way, though. Ivy says one of the biggest challenges in growing the Les Vixens brand has been gaining the respect of venues.
“Even in the gay community everything is still geared toward the men,” she says. “But our connection with the community is super strong, even with trans men and gay men. [The challenge is] getting venue owners to see the value.”
Ivy admits things have improved significantly as the Les Vixens have cultivated their reputation and consistently sold out shows. Still, challenges remain as gay bars continue to close and lesbian bars become even more rare. “There’s no lesbian bar [in Orlando]” Ivy says. “Just lesbian nights sprinkled in.”
Nevertheless, Ivy has pushed on, and with a degree in marketing, PR, women’s studies, and advertising, she seems to have the perfect mix of skills to turn the womxn in her troupe into stars. She works 70-80 hours per week, running the business side of things in addition to performing.
Throughout her journey, Ivy has had to learn to set her own benchmarks for success.
“Not having a corporate ladder to climb, not having all of that laid out is very scary,” she says, “So my best advice is, aside from just keep winging it, to understand your purpose. Because for me, it’s not just the glitter and sparkles of a show, it’s the purpose behind it, the empowerment, the creation of a community, the connection, and that helps guide me in everything else I do.”
Branding has become increasingly important to her, but she wants to ensure she is building the brand authentically, through forming strong relationships with audiences.
“As a burlesque performer, there is reciprocity between the performer and audience,” she says. “We give and receive and it’s this beautiful connection. This is not just entertainment. This is art. This is connection. This is making people feel good and forget about the bullshit of the outside world.”
Above all else, Ivy is proud that she’s been able to give the other Les Vixens performers a way to both display their skills and speak out for what they believe in.
“I love that I’m able to create a platform for femme, powerful, queer women to have a voice, create their own fan base, and their own mini platforms. There’s veganism, some of my girls are bisexual, they all have their own things they can now have a voice for and they can now share that, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
From the start, Ivy has known that the Les Vixens are more than glitter and glam, and it’s that knowledge that has kept her going.
“We’re not just taking off our clothes and shaking our butts,” she says. “There’s so much more to it than that. I think that’s the magic of it, and I want that to just float across the universe.”
Article from forbes.com