If you told Lucy Smith seven years ago that she would be doing burlesque, she never would have believed you.
Then a shy and introverted student at West Chester University, she had a love of theater and the arts, but wasn’t comfortable with her body.
“I had done theater all of my life,” Smith said. “Although I wasn’t always comfortable in my personal life, I liked the attention I got on stage. On stage I could be myself.”
After graduating with a BA in Theater in 2011, Smith decided to pursue a more stable career and enrolled in the Illustration program at Delaware College of Art & Design (DCAD). There, she said she was inspired by a fellow student to be more open and friendly. She developed more confidence and became more comfortable with herself.
Smith, now 25, has come a long way.
After graduating from DCAD with an Associate’s degree in 2013, she came to Moore to complete her BFA in Illustration. Today, as a junior, Smith is the founder of The Sexuality Club at Moore, as well as an active burlesque performer.
The Sexuality Club started in 2014 as “an outlet for Moore women to focus on self-love and self-acceptance,” and as a “respite from the negative messages in the media,” Smith said. The club hosts speakers and workshops, but the most popular event is the burlesque show, which takes place once a semester. Smith performs in the popular show as well as with burlesque groups outside of school.
“There has been a lot of positive feedback from the Moore community and outside the Moore community,” she said. Past club events have included two guest speakers who spoke on sexuality and gender issues. Upcoming events include Burlesque 101 with performer Tesla Tease (March 24 at 7 pm) and a belly dance workshop with Kim Infiniti on April 23, 2015 at 7 pm in Stewart Auditorium.
Burlesque, defined as “a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter,” is an integral part of sexuality, so the two go together, Smith said.
“If there was no sexuality in burlesque it would just be comedic dancing,” she said. “Putting on a burlesque performance is a way for people to come to terms with creative expression of their own sexuality. My definition of sexuality is something incredibly inviting and feminine, lots of girly outfits, pretty shoes and lace.”
Smith currently performs with “The Whiskey Kittens” and "Envoute: Magic & Burlesque,” both in the Philadelphia area. She performs twice a month at different venues, from The Trocadero to the Penn Museum. She said learning burlesque is equal parts natural skill, comedic timing and “watching and learning.”
“I would learn from past performers, watch YouTube videos, listen to music and come up with my own choreography,” she said.
Her first opportunity to perform came after a role in the “Rocky Horror Puppet Show” in Philadelphia a few years ago. The director suggested she check out a burlesque show. She liked what she saw and started out as a makeup artist for Envoute ‘s Halloween show. After being asked if she would like to perform, she decided to give it a try.
“I made this little dress and bra and put peppermint-like buttons on it and candy colored trim,” she said. “The fabric was cupcakes on a pink background and I wore little pink shoes. I danced to the song ‘Candy’ by Mandy Moore and wore a pink wig. Everyone thought I did well, so that propelled me forward.”
Smith also became more invested in her education at Moore. She had always pursued drawing as a hobby and was very into anime and manga. She didn’t realize she could do so much with an Illustration degree, such as animation, concept art, even some aspects of graphic design.
“I literally thought I would be drawing comic books all day,” she said. “Moore showed me all the different things I could accomplish with my degree, so it was a good decision. I want to be an art director or creative director one day.”
Smith said that she came to Moore because of its strong career focus and its unique internship program. She also liked that Moore was an all-women’s college.
“I like the sense of community from the fellow students,” she said. “The faculty and staff also advise students to pursue what they want to do instead of what everyone else is doing. The nurturing of individuality is what helps us go far. We end up supporting each other.”