Kimber and burlesque performer Meadow Lark Discuss:
1. How Meadow Lark went from returned Mormon Missionary to Burlesque Performer
2. Facing body insecurities in a profession where you are paid to show-off your body
3. How Meadow Lark empowers other women through burlesque
4. Meadow's vulnerable burlesque performance that echoes the story of many who have left religion
You can follow Kimber on instagram @justbeyourbadself
For guest bios, episode transcripts or to leave a review, please visit: www.justbeyourbadself.com
[00:00:00] welcome back to the, just be your bad self podcast, where you are enough, just the way you are. I'm your host, Kimber Dutton. And today we'll be talking with burlesque dancer. Meadowlark. Meadowlark has been gracing the Utah burlesque stage for over three years. She's a member of Utah's beehive broads, burlesque, and is currently a resident performer at Why Kiki and prohibition.
[00:00:36] Meadowlark has an extensive background in theater, including acting, singing, dramaturgy, writing, and costuming. After college meadow found her true calling to not be Broadway, but the world of burlesque. I had the opportunity to watch metal Lark. Performance the first and only burlesque performance I have ever seen.
[00:00:59] And it was so powerful. I'll talk about it later in this podcast, but after watching her. I immediately. Asked her that day, if she'd be willing to come. And talk to everyone on my podcast because I thought. Her ability to get on that stage and own her body own her sexuality was just so powerful. And I wanted to hear her story and how, how she got there and how she does what she does. And that's what this podcast episode is about. I'm excited to share it with you
[00:01:27] Meadowlark thank you so much for being on my podcast today.
[00:01:31] Yeah. happy to be here. I'm really glad you asked me to come and join you today.
[00:01:35] Yeah. I'm so excited to talk to you. So go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you? Maybe just a little bit of your background and then we'll dive into our conversation.
[00:01:45] Yeah, so I go byMeadow Lark. It is a performer name. I use it for safety purposes and it's a way to kind of. Keep these two aspects of my life separate, but I am a burlesque performer. I started about three years ago. I come from a very, very heavy theatrical background. I went to school for acting. I did dramaturgy.
[00:02:07] I was a writer. Also dabbled a little bit in costume design. So. Like really just kind of fed into burlesque. I ended up finding burlesque kind of accidentally, and it's been something that has been really amazing for me the past few years.
[00:02:24] I've watched you perform and you are phenomenal, phenomenal. So let's go back a little farther, like let's, let's really get into this story. So start at whatever you consider to be the beginning of your journey.
[00:02:38] Yeah. It's really funny you say that. Cause I actually have like, Legitimately traced how this all happened, not just from my first performance. So it actually started, I would say, well, if we want to go really far back, it starts when I was five and my first show, but we'll speed up a little bit.
[00:02:55] But yeah, I did theater my whole life and I loved it. I actually I'm ex-Mormon and I served a mission. And when I got back from my mission, I want us to jump right back into theater. So I auditioned and I got cast in a show and I made a friend and through this friend, she actually introduced me to a different world, not burlesque, not theater, but the world of mermaiding. And so, yeah. And so I ended up getting really into it. I was a professional mermaid for a little while.
[00:03:29] Here in Utah.
[00:03:30] Huh? Yep. I was a part of a troop for a little while and then was freelance for a little bit. But one of the gigs that I was hired for was something called sketch cabaret and they do they would have these kinds of, it was monthly and then it went to quarterly.
[00:03:47] But these nights where they would, it was usually. Metro and salt lake where it would be a different theme. They would have artists there. Aerial lists, performers. Like artists that would just kind of like walk around and post for people and people could come and sketch them. And so one time there was this like kind of carnival big top theme.
[00:04:06] And so I was asked to come and mermaid and be there for it. So I just like sat and looked pretty and people could like talk with me and take pictures or sketch me if they wanted. And I ended up making some friends and those friends were in burlesque. And so I started sewing for them. And then I ended up like mentioning.
[00:04:26] Like how I love to perform. And like one of them, I made a CanCan skirt for. And so I was like, I've always wanted to be part of a CanCan troop. And she's like, oh, I'm in one. And we need an alternate performer. And so she got me in contact with that person who was doing that. And the one time they performed, they needed a performer.
[00:04:46] They needed the alternate. And so I came and it was at prohibition and I came and I performed in two days before I performed. They're like, oh, make sure you have your solo act ready. And I was like, what? huh. So I was kind of a little blindsided. And so I was like, I can't burlesque, cause this was something like I had friends in the community at this point.
[00:05:07] This was something that I couldn't do, because at this point I had left the church, but I was still kind of still very entrenched in it and entrenched in the morals. Not saying that they're bad for some people they're really good, but for me it was, it was a real struggle. So I wasn't sure if it was something I was going to be able to do.
[00:05:30] So I decided that I would perform, but I would. Not remove any clothing. I had been in the musical Chicago and I had made my costumes. I still had it. So I Did a dance number to all that jazz and it was great and it was so much fun. And they asked me to come back. So then I came back and this time I was like, I'm going to do it for real.
[00:05:53] I'm going to go search through my costume box and find some clothing that I can remove. And so I had my very first burlesque performance in like July of 2017 at prohibition.
[00:06:05] Did you have any training? Did you have anyone like being like, this is how you do it or did you kind of figure it out on your own?
[00:06:11] I kinda just figured it out on my own. I loved the movie burlesque, which, I mean, they kind of take clothes off there. It's definitely more cabaret ish, but I was a fan of Dita Von Teese, and that was like the extent of my burlesque knowledge. I had seen my friends perform, but that was it, I kinda just was like, I'm a performer.
[00:06:33] I can dance. I've had training in that sense, so I can figure this out. And I kind of did
[00:06:41] not kind of, I did, I did
[00:06:43] you did, I can attest to that. Wow. Yeah. You watching you at that conference. I went to, and then now I'm I'm music. I'm in theater too. I'm a theater girl, but more on the music side. I'm music directing a production of cabaret right now. And that's about the extent of my burlesque knowledge.
[00:07:00] So that's why I'm like, Ooh, tell me all the details. That's so fun.
[00:07:03] So talk to me a little bit about like body image for women is such a huge deal. And I don't think it matters if you're heavy or super skinny or have big breasts or, you know, like whatever your thing is.
[00:07:18] I think we all struggle with being super self-conscious about our bodies and to have a career in which you're Getting paid to show off your body. How do you cope with all these body image issues that we all struggle with?
[00:07:34] Yeah, that that is the big question. It's something that I, it's not a one and done thing. It's not like I address it. I face it and I'm over it. I'm constantly having to deal with my own insecurities with my body. It's something that I had to get over when I very, very first started because. With being on stage, like when I was in Chicago.
[00:07:58] Yeah. I'm wearing basically lingerie onstage, but I'm also wearing, you know, like dancer tights so I can hide a lot of like spandex and Spanx under there to make myself look smooth and, and nice and tight. And everthing . Burlesque or taking things off. So it kind of defeats the purpose of, of, you know, making sure everything's taught, which is something that we don't, we've been taught needs to happen, but it doesn't have to be there.
[00:08:25] And so it's been, it's, it's a constant struggle I will not lie about that, but what I have to remind myself is that just because I look a certain way or I am a certain size. Doesn't mean that I have any less value. And I mean that quite literally, because I get paid for what I do. I don't have any less value than this other performer that looks completely opposite from me.
[00:08:50] And I'm very specifically like people can look me up and see what I look like when I'm very specifically in this moment, not describing what I look like, because when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter. like as a producer, you can sure. You can decide how you want to cast your show, how you want to, if you want a specific look.
[00:09:09] But ultimately I will be able, I should be able to find work for myself depending on, you know, if I put myself out there and really work for it. Cause everybody has to, but it. It's really just about kind of a day-to-day acceptance of this is who I am. I shouldn't have to tear parts away from of myself in order to fit somebody's mold.
[00:09:34] I read something really wonderful literally last week that my friend shared on Facebook They are friends with somebody who is in the porn industry. They're not an actor in the porn industry, they're a creator. And what they said was the thing that they have learned working in the porn industry.
[00:09:53] Whether if you agree with porn or not, is that there will always be an audience for you. There will always be somebody. You are, you will always be somebody type and it's not about. One person being like, okay. Yeah. Well, I guess I, I have no other options, so that's what I, like. There will always be somebody and usually not just one, but a lot of people that like what you have to offer.
[00:10:19] And so that's kind of what I have to think about with performing specifically because I am here to entertain. I am here. For views. And so I am having to think about audience perspective, and there will always be somebody who there'll will be always be multiple people who like what I have to offer.
[00:10:41] And so I just kind of have to always think of it that way. And then always just kind of just remind myself that I am enough, that I am more than enough. As long as I like me. And is that as long as I like the work that I am doing that in the end is what really matters.
[00:10:58] Amen. I had a lot of thoughts while you were talking. But the thing that I just keep thinking about is how, like I said, I had never watched any kind of burlesque performance before that conference. And I was shocked that that was the most, the whole conference I went. I've been talking about it. I better tell people what it is.
[00:11:18] I went to a thrive conference. It's thriving after Mormonism. It's a women's conference for women who have left the LDS church and Natasha Helfer spoke there and then she invited Meadowlark to come do a burlesque performance for us. And I was, the whole conference was so good, but I was shocked that the most, like the only word I can even think of is like, it was a spiritual experience.
[00:11:41] Some people are going to be horrified that I'm using that term, but that's really what it was for me to watch you perform because. I have to find the words to describe it. It was like, it was like you were fighting for all of us in that room to just love ourselves the way we are and to watch your confidence and the way you just like owned your sexuality and your body.
[00:12:08] And it like clicked for me. Th that's what matters. Like that's what's sexy. Has nothing to do with your body type or this body part or whatever. It's this confidence and this owning of it. And it was such a cool experience to be there and to witness.
[00:12:25] Yeah, absolutely. I think you hit the nail right on the head. I think going into thrive that conference was definitely very, very different from what I normally do. I think underlying, I always kind of have this hope that people are going to see me perform and they're going to be able to take a little something away, feeling maybe a little bit better about themselves or, you know, whatever it may be.
[00:12:48] But this one. Was really, I felt really important. It was, it felt like it had a lot of weight to it. Coming in and showing people like, you can own your sexuality, you can own your sensuality. And it doesn't have to be a negative thing. And so I'm glad it was able to give, at least you, if not more people permission to do so. Yeah.
[00:13:11] I absolutely know. It gave more people permission because I was sitting at a table and we talked about it and now I'm actually taking a group class from Natasha Helfer and your performance has come up several times in that class, both by Natasha and other people in the group that were there. So if the small sampling of people that I've been in contact with since that conference is any indication like that was possibly life-changing for a lot of women at that conference.
[00:13:38] I'm and I'm, I'm just really, really thankful that I was able to be a part of that. It really was. I like I left and I was kind of like, this was once in a, once in a lifetime, once in a career kind of event that I was able to be a part of.
[00:13:55] Yeah. And I loved watching all the women rush up to give you money because it was something so much bigger than. Just paying a burlesque dancer, right? It was like, you, you were like the conduit for all these women, all these sexually repressed, sexually shamed women to like reclaim something about themselves.
[00:14:15] And like I said, it really felt like this amazing transcendent experience. It was so powerful.
[00:14:22] Yeah, the energy in that room was unlike anything else that I have felt particularly doing burlesque. I think I felt at one other time. And it was two years ago when I first debuted one of my favorite acts. I have to be very careful about where I do it because I need to know my audience. But I have an act to the song burning gold by Christina Perry and it starts with me Coming out, dressed as a missionary and I'm actually wearing my actual missionary tag and it talks a song. If you're not familiar with the song, it talks about kind of feeling stuck, kind of feeling like on this path. And you're not sure if it's the right one. And then the bridge into the chorus talks about the lyrics are I've had enough.
[00:15:11] I'm standing up . I made, I made a change. And so in that moment, like, I'm literally like, I'm on, I'm on my knees and I'm praying. And I have a book of Mormon in my hand and I slam it down and I stand up and I take. The badge off and I throw it down. And then the big reveal is at the beginning of the chorus, which is I'm setting fire to the life that I've known.
[00:15:31] And I rip off the missionary dress and it's a gold sparkly outfit underneath, and it's like a corset and the short skirt and that. Act is very much my story. I'm leaving the church. That decision was something that was really, really hard for me. I have been what I call yo-yoing in and out of the church since high school.
[00:15:54] So it was kind of a long time coming. There was definitely a lot of sadness around it, but I finally decided it was something I needed to do. And so this was kind of my cathartic way of like finally putting that part of me to rest. And the first time I performed, it was at a show called behind the Zion Curtain , which happens once a month.
[00:16:19] And. It is a show that is very experimental, I'll say, so the audience, it was the right kind of audience for it. And I was so, so, so nervous to do that act because like, even at one point I rip out pages of the book of Mormon and I rip them up and throw them in the air. And that can be a little sensitive to some people.
[00:16:38] And I understand that, which is why I'm careful about where I performed. But the first time I performed that the feeling in the room was like the feeling of that conference. It was electric, it was emotional. It was, as you said, spiritual. I came off stage and I was crying and then the producer of the show came backstage and she's like, I have never seen this kind of audience reaction at this show before people came up to me afterwards.
[00:17:08] Saying that it was very, very personal to them that they had cried during it. It was just a very transformative piece for me. And that's kind of doing that and the conference, it was the same kind of feeling for me.
[00:17:25] Oh, man, that sounds spectacular. That sounds so powerful. And it resonates with me. And I know, like you said, this is a sensitive thing, right? Because we're talking about a religion. Which is super sacred to the people who believe in it. But I think what it's important for people to understand is like it's important to not feel ashamed of who you are.
[00:17:49] I think that's why I named my podcast just be your bad self, right? Because for so much of my life, there's all these, this is the right way to do this. This is the right way to do this. This is the right way to do this. And it's suffocating and there's so much shame and trying to just stuff, all the parts of yourself in that aren't accepted by this religion and feeling like you're not worthy of love for certain parts of yourself.
[00:18:17] And so imagining that performance of stepping into like, this is who I am and I'm going to let go of the shame and, and this idea that I have to subscribe to these particular checkboxes that someone set out for me is so powerful. So powerful.
[00:18:38] Yeah. Yeah, it is always. And that's kind of another reason why I'm careful about. Where I do it. And when I do it, because it is so personal to me, because this is my story, like, like I said, I'm wearing my missionary tag, so you can see my last name. Like I have a performer, a stage name for a reason. And so to have my real name on display, I mean, you have to be really, really close to be able to see it, but it's, it is an act that.
[00:19:11] So personal to me, I have only ever performed at, besides that one time I've only ever performed it in public to other times. Recent was at Waikiki, which is a queer bar downtown in downtown salt lake. I performed it the first weekend of pride because since leaving the church, I have come out as lesbian.
[00:19:30] So it also kind of has that layer to it. And it wasn't like, I knew that that was the right place. That was the right time to do that act again. And it, it was well received. I had one moment during the second verse of the song, it kinda talks about there's a line that says. One step forward and two back again.
[00:19:52] And I go back and I pick up the book of Mormon again, and I had people in the audience like don't. And so it just felt like they were kind of with me, even though it's a journey that has already happened for the most part, it is, it felt like they were able to be with me and kind of bolster me up during my journey.
[00:20:14] I would love to watch that performance. And I wish I could, like, because I know some of my listeners are active LDS and I wish I could get across. Like, I worry that some people, and I'm sure this, like you said, this is why you have to be so selective for who you perform this for is because some people, if you don't perform it with the right, people are all they're going to see is like you're being disrespectful to, you know, the book of Mormon or this religion and what they don't see is.
[00:20:42] This religion is part of who I am too. This is a, this is a part of who I am too. And this part of my life is sacred to me too, which is what makes it so powerful that I'm able to break free of it.
[00:20:55] And the pain that it's caused.
[00:20:56] Yeah, absolutely. I don't. I know that people, there will be people that are offended by this act and it is not my intention. My mom always has this saying, and sometimes I agree with it and sometimes I don't, but she says, if you get offended, you're looking to be offended. But I, I know that some people will be offended.
[00:21:16] So I try to be conservative of where I do it, as I've said. But it, like you said, this religion has been a part of me and is a part of me. Like I mentioned, I went on a mission and I, I don't regret it. It was really, really hard And it had a severe, severe effect on my mental health, but I learned a lot about myself going on a mission.
[00:21:41] I, the biggest thing is I learned how to live with other people and I learned how to communicate with other people. I was really bad at it before. And so I don't, I don't regret it. I have a lot. Of how I hold myself in this world is because of the Mormon church. But, you know, I have things that I absolutely do not agree with.
[00:22:03] And so I just, I found it best for me to step away and not be a part of it.
[00:22:09] Yeah. I feel like for a lot of us that leave the church, some people might view it as like we're rebelling against good values, or like, we want to live whatever, you know, crazy life we want to live and we want to sin. But I think for most people, what it is is that our values have grown beyond the church and that it comes to a point where we feel like, like you said earlier how did you say it?
[00:22:35] Something about. Oh, you didn't, you were nervous to do burlesque because you were still entrenched at these church morals and it's not like it's not exactly that you gave up on being a moral, you didn't give up on being a moral person, but your values may be grew or changed.
[00:22:52] Yeah, I think that's absolutely true. I was entrenched and I was worried about this because. There is such a purity culture in the church with once again, for some people is great for me, it's not. And one of those things is, is modesty. And for me modesty means something completely different and that's kinda what changed and evolved modesty became less about what I chose to put on my body and became more about.
[00:23:23] And I think I'm still trying to kind of figure out what modesty means to me. I kind of feel like it is sort of this abstract idea that we have tried to, that we, I say we, the, the Mormon church has kind of tried to put in a little bit of a box, but I think it's not just the Mormon church. I think there are a lot of different people that have kind of put modesty in a box.
[00:23:43] And who's to say that that is. The only way to view it. I view it now as something completely different because I have zero problem getting up on stage and taking my top off and just being in a bra and panties on stage and people can see all of me. It's, it's not an issue for me anymore. I, I, I feel like I started seeing a lot more gray is what it is.
[00:24:08] There's a lot more nuance.
[00:24:10] So what's your favorite part about doing burlesque?
[00:24:14] Oh man. There's so much. I am not a type of person who usually like. Puts on a lot of makeup and does their hair, which you would never, I've had moments where like I show up to the venue and like Waikiki, they have a dressing rooms. I just kind of get ready there. And so I'll show up and I'll come in and then I'll get ready.
[00:24:33] And I come out. People will have, I'll like have talked to somebody when I'm just like, no makeup, no hair, like in my street clothes. And then I come back out as Meadowlark and they have no clue that it's the same person. So being able to transform so completely as really fun, I've always loved costumes.
[00:24:52] That was always my favorite part about acting was when I got to see my costumes. But I am a theater kid at heart. The attention is just mush. Chef's kiss. I, I live off of it. I love getting those applause. I love getting those hoots and hollers. It's fantastic. There's a line in Chicago that says let's see.
[00:25:15] None of us got any, got enough love in our childhood and that's why we're in showbiz. I granted if that's true or not I had great parents growing up, but it's, it always kind of just makes me chuckle because I feel like I, I took a break from theater after college because I just, I got burned out on it.
[00:25:34] And I have found a new way to perform and get kind of what I got out of theater. And it. It's just there's there is a thrill, like no other. And I feel like I can't even put words to it of just being able to get up on a stage in front of people.
[00:25:49] Are you pretty close to your burlesque? Like is there like a burlesque community?
[00:25:53] Yeah. There is a burlesque community. It is, it is small. And it's not just in Utah. It is, is everywhere. I know some performers that are out of state and cause there's a lot of places have their own communities. But in Utah, I know, I think most of them probably not all, but
[00:26:11] there is a very kind of tight knit community?
[00:26:15] And so I am part of a troop I'm part of the beehive broads burlesque troop that was started by Delta Ray Dixon. And I love it because it's instant friends, which is always great. And it's a place where I can like bounce ideas off of. So if I'm like, Hey, I'm working on this act.
[00:26:33] I'm not sure what direction to go in. Should I do this or this? And they're able to help me and support me. If we're in different shows, like we let each other know and, you know, we try and come out as much as possible for our burlesque sisters and brothers and siblings and, and support them. And so.
[00:26:52] It's wonderful. It's great. It can like any sibling there can be fighting and it can get a little toxic, but for the most part, I feel very supported in it.
[00:27:01] How's the general reception in is it different here? You think than it would be elsewhere? Are people more excited about it here than they would be elsewhere?
[00:27:12] I have a different perspective than other people because I haven't performed outside of Utah. So I've only experienced Utah. But from what people have told me is Utah's just an, I have, I've experienced at least what it's like in Utah. You just kind of weird and you, like, you never know what you're going to get here Like you may walk, like I'll take, I. I'll perform at prohibition and I love for farming there. They're great to work with and the audience, you never know what you're going to get there. Like I can come in one weekend and do shows and everybody's loving it. And then there can be other times where. People are like, oh, I'm just here for dinner and a drink or two.
[00:27:52] And they're like, oh, there's people that are taking their clothes off. Interesting. Okay. Well, back to my conversation now, so it's, it's really interesting. We can pack them in and then sometimes there's not an audience member in sight, so
[00:28:07] your toes.
[00:28:07] yeah, it like was underground for so long. And now it's kind of coming to the surface, like burlesque is kind of trendy.
[00:28:15] It was drag. I mean, drag is still very trendy. But it's so interesting how like burlesque is starting to creep up and meet up with drag and it's it's fun.
[00:28:25] That's awesome. So if you have. A takeaway or a message that you want to leave with the listeners. What would that be?
[00:28:33] Hm. Do the thing, stop. Stop worrying about. Other people's perceptions because you can't control that. It is as coming from a control, freak, stop trying to control it because he can't just do the thing, whether that is taking your clothes off in front of people, or it could be?
[00:28:54] you know, whatever it is, just do the thing.
[00:28:58] And if you don't have the confidence, you'll get it. Just do the thing.
[00:29:03] Love it.
[00:29:04] I am thrilled to announce that Meadowlark is going to be one of the guests, clinicians at the reclaiming female sexuality retreat. That's coming up in may. She'll be doing a burlesque workshop and it is going to be awesome. I'm sure there'll be lots of awkwardness and laughter. As we all try to tap into our sexy sides.
[00:29:23] You can find more information about the retreat at just be your bed. self.com.
[00:29:30] Thanks for joining me today. Your invitation this week. Do something to celebrate your body and do it with all the confidence you can muster. Maybe you go shake your booty at a Zumba class or go rock climbing or buy a piece of clothing that makes you feel amazing. Whatever it is, do it because you want to and forget about what anybody else thinks.
[00:29:52] If you enjoyed this podcast and want to leave a review, subscribe to the podcast or share it. You have my heart. Remember. You are enough. Right now. In this moment. That's it from me now. Just be your bad self.
Meadow Lark has been gracing the Utah Burlesque stages for almost 4 years. She is a member of Utah's Beehive Broads Burlesque and is currently a resident performer at Prohibition, as well as performing in a variety of other venues. Meadow has a extensive background in theater including acting, singing, dramaturgy, writing, and costuming. After college, Meadow found her true calling to not be Broadway, but the world of burlesque.
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