Don’t Hate on The Hustle
Tease Tips – Lessons in life, love and the art of tease
By Michelle L’amour
Don’t Hate on The Hustle.
When I was a little girl, I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Every time someone would ask me that question, I would feel waves of anxiety. I worried so much about college and what I was going to do with my life. Everyone around me seemed to know exactly who they would be. I would take career aptitude tests and one of my results was a civil engineer. I am really good at planning, so I guess that makes sense! Anyway, the only thing I did know, was that I wanted to be independent. Work for myself. But, if someone would have said, “Do you want to dance like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance?” I would have screamed, YES!! But, no one asked me that, and I didn’t even know that was an option.
Well, it is an option, but little did I know when I chose this option how much WORK I actually had to do. Everyone will always tell you to follow your dreams but no one ever talks about how much work that actually is and that you will. Never. Stop. What I soon realized after getting into burlesque full time is that I had to hustle. I had to figure out how I could make money doing the thing that I loved without letting that thing get diminished by the need for money. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn’t.
Money and art is always a difficult topic. Burlesque is my art and I want to get paid for that. Does that belittle the art? In my opinion, no. The challenge is to create art that is personal to you but also interesting enough to an audience. That is a delicate balance and there are wrong ways to turn, but in the end, you need to be happy with what you are producing. The challenge is coming up against people who offer you projects for ‘exposure’. Honey, I’m exposed enough, now let’s talk about this phone bill. Exposure is fine at the start of a career. That’s what we call ‘paying your dues’. Somehow though, my dues get higher every year…
When I began my burlesque career, I was still teaching dance to children and as you can imagine, that isn’t a high paying position. I was scraping my pennies together and trying to make a name for myself but my bills far exceeded my paychecks. I was even on food stamps for a while and I remember thinking that fish sticks and ore-ida potatoes was a fancy meal. But now, I’m eating Paleo and spending way too much money at Whole Foods. How did this happen? The hustle happened.
To hustle is creating opportunity for yourself. If you want to work and no one is asking you to work, make the work. Create the space for yourself to do the art that you want to do. Is this a risk? Fuck, yeah! I’ve done many shows where I made no money or negative money, but that’s the risk you take as a producer. Want to work at a certain club but no one is banging on your proverbial door? Contact the club, but be prepared goddamn it! Send videos, photos, links. Be a professional. As someone who books many clubs in Chicago, I would like to say once again, ‘SEND VIDEOS’. Booking people on hyperbole is not happening on my watch. I want to see the work. But herein lies the rub. If you want to work, you HAVE to do the work. Take classes. Rehearse. Prepare. Do what you can. Also, be honest with yourself. Could you be doing more? Can you think of other ways to earn money? Get creative with it. There’s no one way to make a dollar. Consider the money making aspect of your art an art in itself. The art of the hustle.
On that note, make sure to join my fan club on Patreon! Check it out at www.patreon.com/michellelamour. Hey, these rhinestones ain’t gonna pay for themselves!