From ‘Burlesque babe’, 21 April 2013, article by Melissa Sim, Lifestyle, Sunday Times
For more than a year, burlesque dancer Sukki Singapora, 26, led a double life. By day, she worked in IT support – wearing formal skirts and fitted shirts – but once the work day was over, she cast off her office wear for corsets and sequined outfits. “It was very much a Clark Kent existence,” says Singaporeconnected, Britain-based Sukki, who quit her IT job with the British cycling Olympic team to become a full-time burlesque performer in April last year.
…“I was fortunate enough to be offered enough shows that I no longer needed a day job,” says the dancer, who uses a peroxide cream to create the look of an “albino Indian”
…What keeps her going, she says, are the letters she receives from Asian women and men, nearly 100 from Singapore alone. “Some want to learn how to do it. However, more often than not, they are too scared to try because of their strict backgrounds and feel they have no one to talk to except me,” she says.
So she set up The Singapore Burlesque Society, a Facebook group which has 64 members, to provide a “safe community” for those interested in burlesque in Singapore. She also started The Singapore Burlesque Club, a touring show which has a policy of hiring at least one Asian burlesque performer at every event.
…Denying that she chose her stage name because it was more exotic to be from Singapore than the UK, she says: “I picked it because it represents where I felt I was from. I still consider myself a citizen.”
Born to an Indian Singaporean father and a British mother, both doctors, Sukki Menon was a Geography major before achieving grand diva success. She became a British citizen when she was 18, and would give our very own drag queen Kumar a run for the money. Most Singaporeans, however, would rather play Angry Birds than see dancers dressed up as peacocks, this despite Moulin Rouge and the less successful Burlesque movies spurring the revival of a vintage stage show. ‘Showgirls’ probably gets more illegal downloads than both movies combined.
Sukki isn’t the first Asian sensation to seduce audiences with wild, sexy dancing. Malaya used to have her very own ‘Queen of Striptease’ in the 1950s, none other than the late, great Rose Chan. Referred to as a ‘stripper’ in those days, her shows were banned here by the police in view of its ‘improper nature’. She was also badass enough to wrestle with pythons. Today’s burlesque artistes settle for boas instead.
I suppose many Singaporeans have matured since then to accept burlesque dancing as a respectable profession, nude or no-nude, but it’s mostly viewed as a hobby to tone your abs or surprise your husband on Valentine’s Day (for $180 you can have 10 hourly lessons of Exotic Dance/Lap Dance). I’m not sure if albinos or Indians would take offence at Sukki’s use of whitening face cream. I’ve never seen an Indian albino in the flesh, but I doubt they look like Courtney Love as Sukki does. Going ‘Blackface’ for your company DnD with a Bollywood theme, however, is a terrible idea.
Crazy Horse, which bears similarities to burlesque though it boasts as the most ‘avant garde’ all of Paris cabarets, failed in Singapore after just 14 months. Supporters were quick to denounce the country for being intolerant of such ‘raunchiness’. But it also offended housewives who thought it was ‘pornographic’, ‘derogatory to women’, and promoted all sorts of wrong values. A layman would find difficulty differentiating burlesque, cabaret and exotic dancing, though flashy costumes (and eventual lack of it), ample cleavage, flirtatiousness and feathers are all common elements. Some would call her a ‘high-class’ stripper, and in fact Sukki in her Facebook page has acknowledged her job as a ‘striptease artist’. Here’s a video of her jiggling out of traditional Indian dance costume into a slutty red bikini:
Burlesque dancers tend to give themselves names indistinguishable from adult movie stars or James Bond girls (think Pussy Galore). Not all have glamorous monikers like Dita von Teese, which sounds like a villain from a 101 Dalmations cartoon. Here’s a quick test to see if you know your burlesque from your XXX stars.
1) Aurora Galore
2) Aurora Snow
3) Lexi Belle
4) Dottie Lux
5) Dirty Martini
6) Summer Haze
7)Lady Beau Peep
11) Kitten de Ville
*2, 3, 6 and 12 are porn actresses
Dancers also tend to argue that their art is a ‘celebration of feminity‘, yet there is an internet magazine for ‘all things burlesque’ named BurlesqueBITCH.com. An organiser for international events like the All Asian Burlesque Spectacular calls itself THIRSTY Girl Productions. Sukki herself acts in The PEEP SHOW, and performs at a La Bordello Boheme. It’s all in the name of good ol’ naughty fun, of course, but I doubt the folks at AWARE are amused. I’m sure the Esplanade can bend its ‘No Sleazy Uncles’ rule to slot in a Sukki show somewhere.
Incorporating Singapura in her stage name aside, she has also wowed audiences with what she calls The MERLION strut, a homage to a ‘mythical beast’. There is also the “Sparkle for Singapore’, complete with ‘glistening Singapore orchids’. We should rope Sukki in for the next National Day Parade since we’ve done pole-dancing anyway, and pair her up with Kumar in a Battle of the Divas. With our ailing fertility problems, perhaps sexy burlesque is one way to sizzle up our bedrooms, and no one better to promote it than our Burlesque Ambassador and Superheroine, Sukki Singapora herself.