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Author | Photo from CoCo La Creme's Facebook page
"Put on some music and dance in front of a mirror! Be aware of your body, live in it."

We caught up with burlesque performer CoCo La Creme in anticipation of the Feminist Porn Awards

For over 10 years, Lorraine Hewitt—better known by her stage name CoCo La Creme—has been performing burlesque with her troupe Skin Tight Outta Sight and working as a sex educator at Good For Her. She will also be moderating a panel discussion following this year’s screening of the Feminist Porn Awards. We caught up with her to chat about the world of burlesque and the upcoming awards.

Shedoesthecity: How did you get started as a burlesque performer?

CoCo La Creme: The burlesque started way back when, around the year 2000. I was a go-go dancer at my friend’s party called Vazaleen. The burlesque revival in Toronto was just beginning, and the girls who were doing Skin Tight Outta Sight said, “You’re out on stage and you’re dressed up. We’re doing this thing where we’re onstage and dressed up and then we take our clothes off—maybe you’d like to try it?” I thought it sounded pretty interesting, being the exhibitionist that I am. It was a bit terrifying at first, but I quickly grew to love it.

SDTC: You’ve been doing this for a while. Have you seen a change in burlesque in Canada since you began?

CoCo: For sure. When I started there was hardly anyone doing it, and now it has become a very popular form of entertainment. You can see burlesque almost every night of the week in Toronto. What’s fabulous about that is it increases the range of styles and performers that are out there. In the beginning, it was fun to be doing it, but people didn’t understand what it was. The audience for it had to be built, and club owners didn’t get what you were proposing to do—they thought it was going to be a strip show, and strip clubs and dancers need to have a special license. A lot of people had to have the whole history [of burlesque] explained before they understood what our show was about.

SDTC: What’s your favourite song to perform to?

CoCo: There are so many songs that I love, but one of my favourites is “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West. Another favourite that I have is another Jesus song, the Johnny Cash version of “Personal Jesus.” Skin Tight Outta Sight had a history of doing a biblical burlesque show in April where we would do a lot of blasphemous biblical acts; that’s why I have a couple of acts with Jesus in them. [Laughs]

SDTC: You’ve said in the past that burlesque helped you to feel more in control of your sexuality. Can you explain that?

CoCo: Yes, just in terms of being able to feel empowered in my own sexiness. Taking charge of my body and how it was presented and how I wanted it to be seen, and being able to have fun with my sexuality and take on different personas, it definitely helps. And to go out there [onstage] and not be rejected, to not hear people say that I shouldn’t be out there because stages are reserved for folks who are white and thin, and to have the audience reflect back that I am a sexy, beautiful person, really helped my self-esteem overall.

SDTC: Aside from becoming burlesque dancers, what can women do in their lives to get that sense of empowerment and sexiness?

CoCo: You have to embrace yourself, no matter what you think your flaws are. Recognize that the things that are different about you or make you stand out are the things that make you unique and beautiful. Our differences are strengths. Also, put on some music and dance in front of a mirror! Be aware of your body, live in it. It’s so easy to go through your day and never really feel your legs, your fingers, your hips, and not be aware of them, instead totally living in your head. Reconnect with your body—whether it’s through dancing, or exercise, or whatever else helps you to be more grounded and appreciate your body for all the things it can do for you, rather than judging it for how you think it’s perceived.

SDTC: What does feminist porn mean to you?

CoCo: To me it means that there is an attempt at egalitarianism, an attempt at rebranding and reframing desire so that more people have access to sexy images. Porn has traditionally been made for only men to consume, and even then, it has a particular view of what men might like. Feminist porn allows everyone to have access to it and be able to participate in it in a fun and sex positive way, where they can feel empowered by those sexy images instead of diminished by them.

You can catch CoCo La Crème this Thursday at Public. Provocative. Porn: The Year’s Best in Feminist Film. Tickets are available here.

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