How to Find Your Burlesque Name

Serena Doherty July 20, 2016 Burlesque Dancing Basics
Burlesque Name

Here’s how to find your burlesque name for a creative stage name or just for fun. See how old burlesque stars did it and our fave burlesque stage names.

How to Find You Burlesque Name

The traditional way to choose your burlesque name came with a one size fits all formula. Everyone could find their stripper moniker by combining the name of their (first) pet and their mother’s maiden name.

Likewise, you can generate your porn star name with the name of your (first) pet and road you live(d) on. Unfortunately in this day and age, those equations are quick routes to identity theft. Le sigh.

Luckily the world of technology takes with one hand and gives with the other. Now there’s more than one burlesque names generator available. Though, if you’re looking for something a bit more personal and creative we have some burlesque wisdom to share.

How Old Burlesque Stars Did It…

To start, we’re looking at how some famous and successful burlesque stars got their names. Feel the inspiration. Ooh.

Dita Von Teese

LA burlesque dancer, Dita Von Teese‘s birth name is Heather Renée Sweet. She allegedly got her stage name by adopting ‘Dita’ as a tribute to silent film actress Dita Parlo.

Then for her first Playboy cover in 2002, she was required to have a surname. Consequently, she chose Von Treese from the phonebook. In the magazine, it was misspelled as Von Teese and she decided to stick with it. Sometimes fate intervenes and a legend was born. Now, Dita Von Teese is arguably the best-known burlesque dancer in the world.

Gypsy Rose Lee

The famous 1930s Burlesque Dancers dancer, Gypsy Rose Lee, was born Ellen June Hovick. It was changed to Rose Louise when her sister was born and given her name to make Ellen Evangeline. Her sister later became known by her own stage name June Havoc but that’s another story.

Gypsy Rose Lee got her burlesque name from a nickname she received for her hobby of reading tea leaves. She then combined it with her first name, Rose, and Lee was added on a whim. Finally Gypsy Rose Lee was born.

Lili St. Cyr

The 40s burlesque beauty, Lili St. Cyr was supposedly born Willis Marie Van Schaack. This, however, is a very common mistake, apparently. Her New York Times obituary got it wrong and us too, once upon a time. Thanks to the lovely and talented writer, Kelly DiNardo, we’ve got the real scoop.

People make this fatal blunder largely because Lili liked to tell different people different stories. She was actually born Marie Frances Van Schaack on June 3, 1917 (not 1918 as usually cited).

Both of her grandfathers were named Francis, which is where her middle name came from. Later she started telling people she was born Willis Marie, for reasons still unknown.

Lili began performing at the Florentine Gardens as Marie Van Schaack. When she moved to the Music Box in San Francisco she worked with a choreographer named Ivan Fehnova and changed her stage name to Lili Fehnova. She said, “Lili was a name that evoked mystery and intrigue. There had already been Lillie Langtry and Diamond Lil.”

Both Lillie Langtry and Diamond Lil embraced their sexuality and used their feminine wiles to garner fame, fortune and independence. Evidently a good fit for a burlesque performer.

For a while she performed under a few different names – Lili Fehnova, Lili LaRue and Lili LaBang. Then, after reading about the St. Cyr military academy and considering the success of millionaire Rex St. Cyr, she settled on Lili St. Cyr. A little mystery can go a long way.

Get the in-depth story from Kelly DiNardo and her eBook, Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique.

Common Burlesque Name Tricks

Finding your burlesque name is all part of finding your burlesque persona. The name you’d use for grotesque burlesque probably wouldn’t fit for a classic showgirl burlesque.

There are plenty of rules and tricks you can employ to find the stage name that fits you. You do not want to be confused with another burlesque dancer so do your research before settling on one.

Penny Starr Jr. suggests you avoid: Kitten, Kitty, Vixen, Honey, Von, Lux or Deluxe, Lola, de Ville, Violette, Scarlette, Pinky, Femme or Belle. Here’s a few more common ways to find a burlesque name and an original one to boot.

Colourful Coquettes

Whether it’s Miss Indigo Blue or Perle Noire, using colours to inspire your burlesque names can highlight the tone of your style, like the lovely Violet Blaze. Get some inspiration with this list of colours.

Close to colour is the use of gemstones. Not only is Perle Noire an example of both but there’s Amber Topaz and our very own poster girl, Burlesque Photos. There’s plenty more choices out there too like Amethyst, Jade or Sapphire. Have a bit of fun and hunt through crayola colours.

Boozey Broads

Miss Dirty Martini has one of the most recognisable names in neo-burlesque but she has one of the simplest burlesque name ideas. She named herself after a cocktail. Though Martini has been somewhat overused ever since.

Luckily, there are plenty more alcoholic beverages out there, to put something a bit more adult into your burlesque name. How about adding some ancestral influence, like Lili St. Cyr, with Irish Cream, Oyzo, Chachaka, Saki or Sangria. Take a world trip of alcohol and taste test the results for some added fun.

Bilingual Lovelies

It’s also common to use another language in your burlesque name. Just ask Michelle L’amour. If you want to follow her lead try this list of 100 ways to say love in different languages.

There are so many words and synonyms out there. In Arabic there isn’t one word for sexy, but it’s like beautiful: helwa or jamila. In Egyptian, you can say: mozza. The most important thing is to get the pronunciation right. Then you’re good to go.

There are lots of other techniques. Whether literary or life inspired. We hope these help and let us know how you chose your burlesque name. And if all else fails, do a Lili St. Cyr and lie.

Check out The History of Burlesque Dancing and watch our quick-fire answer to: what is burlesque?

(Main image from Cultura Inquieta)