What's It Really Like to Be a Burlesque Dancer? Pastel Supernova Schools Us

In our 9–5 series, we profile women at the top of their game. This week, Pastel Supernova tells us about the biggest misconceptions people have about her career—and the awesome women who inspire her acts

Pastel Supernova performs in a burlesque show in a black sparkling outfit.

Name: Pastel Supernova

Age: Ageless

City: Toronto

Length of time as a burlesque dancer: Five years, but I’ve been a professional dancer for 17 years. Catch her performing with Love Letters Cabaret in Toronto.

Pastel Supernova performs in a burlesque show in a pink feather boa

How did you get started as a dancer?

I’ve been dancing all my life. I was a classically trained ballet dancer. I did contemporary dance. I went into that field for a little bit and organically landed in a pop group. We were contemporary dancers doing performance art, but it turned into a thing people believed was a band. We rolled with it. We started making music. I ended up being a backup dancer for artists, and then started dressing like a pin-up and eventually got booked for a burlesque show.

Do you remember the first burlesque performance you saw where you were like “I want to do that”? 

I’ve always watched sexy dancing ladies. I’ve always been into erotic art and exotic dancers. I guess Flashdance would be the first actual burlesque performance I ever saw when I was a kid. I was like, “That’s what I want to do,” and I didn’t really understand what it was, but lo and behold here I am. There’s a lot of streams of burlesque. The first one I saw in Toronto didn’t really call out to me; I was really on my contemporary dance training, and I wasn’t ready for it. Eventually I saw another one 10 years later: I saw Roxi D’Lite, a former Queen of Burlesque. There’s an international competition that’s kind of like the Miss Universe of burlesque, and she won it the year I discovered her. She blew my mind. It changed everything. She’s amazing to watch. She’s the epitome of sexy, and stylistically I was like, “Yes!” 

What’s a typical work day for you?

Well, I run Love Letters Cabaret. It’s a dance theatre company, but we live in the world of burlesque quite heavily. Usually I start with a five-hour rehearsal with my company, and then I’ll go to Brass Vixens, where I teach pole dancing, burlesque, erotic chair and a few various fitness workout and stretching classes. And then I spend the rest of my time at Hunty Swag, which is a line that Rosie [Sugatits Mae, of Love Letters Cabaret] and I have started, making costumes for strippers and burlesque performers.

Pastel Supernova performs in a burlesque show in a red dress

How do you unwind when you’re not working?

I hang out with my husband and my cat and my dog; I smoke a lot of weed. I just listen to music, all kinds of music. 

Do you ever just, hang out in sweatpants?

No, I like to dress up all the time. Greta Constantine is really awesome, that’s my favourite Canadian designer. I love Karl Lagerfeld’s Karl brand. It’s too fun. It’s just jokes. Miu Miu, La Perla, all the lingerie on earth.

Do you wear that stuff when you’re performing?

Karl, I’ll wear in the daytime. I don’t wear the others for shows; I’ll wear them to parties and things, but they’re not things I want to tear off and toss on the ground. I’ll make those. The clothing I make, my costumes, are made to take abuse.  

What would you say are the biggest misconceptions people have about what you do?

That it’s easy. I work really hard. I love every bit of it, but there’s a lot of time and a lot of energy put into it. Only because it’s so hard, I think going full out is the only way I’ll actually work the energy up to do it again. Every time I do it, when I go outside it’s like playing dress up every day. I love to live in the burlesque element and character and it’s very energizing, but it’s definitely not easy. 

What drives your work?

I work 24/7 to promote body positivity and positivity towards others. I call it Poom Poom Power. I’m constantly pushing that. I use all the classes to teach a certain self awareness and confidence that will allow the students to pump up each other as well as themselves, and my personal performances are stories of goddesses and icons that have either been slut-shamed or perhaps, in my opinion, been forgotten. Cool women and female roles that we can stand to remember and gain some strength from them. Medusa’s one I have a solo to. Another one is Oxum, she’s an Orisha—a different style of belief, but similar to Aphrodite, a goddess of love. Oxum’s particular attributes, her way to make things happen, she danced and peeled off her clothes and made whoever was in power pay attention to her. She always played towards humans. She was known as La Virgen de la Caridad, Our Lady of Charity. Just cool chicks who helped other people.

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