In our ongoing Q&A series --"The Candy Gram"-- we ask the same quirky questions of burlesque's various performers. If you want to be added to the mix, drop us a line at kellydinardo AT gmail DOT com. Today, say hello to painter Gemma Parker who has begun performing in a double act called The Chantilly Belles.
What is your hometown?
How long have you been interested in burlesque/performing?
As long as I can remember! I was into burlesque before I even knew what it was and that it had a name. My favorite films when growing up were the black-and-white ones with glamorous ladies in them. Fred and Ginger made a real impact on me when I was small, and I naturally went on to adore Marilyn Monroe and other Hollywood icons. I also love dancers like Gene Kelly, who in my opinion was a real hottie.
How many pairs of pasties do you own?
Interestingly none! The Chantilly Belles perform non strip routines based on iconic music and dance routines. We like to tell a story through our detailed costumes and characters, I think we’re very tongue-in-cheek and silly, that’s why I enjoy performing.
What are your three favourite songs to perform to?
Our favorite tunes include anything by Julie Andrews, the goddess of high camp, and old classics from Hollywood musicals. We’re currently working on a new routine to The Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace; we hope to make it our signature song.
What three items could you not live without as a performer?
As an artist I couldn’t work without my ever so glamorous overalls, as painting is a messy business. But I also find it important to have music to work to; it really helps me concentrate, so my radio is a necessary item at my studio. Other than that a painter needs her paints. I feel lost without having something to draw with close to hand!
As a performer, I’d say comfy non slip shoes. Every time we go out to do a gig I have visions of slipping on my behind, it freaks me out! However, how many burlesque acts do you see trotting on stage in their sensible Clarks shoes? Dance tights are a gift from heaven! They make your legs look so smooth and tanned and they help stop you feeling too vulnerable in close proximity to an audience. Lastly, not that I’d say she was an ‘item’ but my dance partner Rene la Rouge is very important! There’d be no Chantilly Belles without her too!
Who had the biggest influence on your career?
Art wise, definitely Gil Elvgrin the greatest of the pin up artists. I loved his work from the moment I saw it. He was a superb draftsman and artist and his work is recognized worldwide. I didn’t start painting until I left Uni but I knew I wanted to create work that interested me and I had a passion for. Learning about Elvgrin and his career gave me a so much inspiration to stick to what I loved!
Who is your favorite burly queen?
This is a very difficult question because all performers are so different and have different strengths. I really enjoy Beatrix Von Bourbon. She made a real impression on me when I first saw her perform. I like her strong characters and her overall style. She’s a very clever performer and I think extremely intuitive about the way she works. I also saw Dirty Martini perform and she was so elegant and poised, she had everyone in the audience craning forward holding their breath. No one but her can take a glove off with such sexual tension! That’s why I love burlesque, it’s so varied and fun and that is one of the things I try to capture in my art work.
What is your favorite item of clothing?
I love clothes! And I find it hard to choose just one item, I’m always finding new things and trying out new looks. I love the nautical look and I’m looking out for the perfect pair of sailor pants. Again this makes me think of Gene Kelly. I love it when he danced with Jerry the mouse in Anchors Aweigh, what a star and what a great pair of pants!
What's the last movie you saw?
Last night I went to see Rec, a Spanish horror film. I’m such a light weight when it comes to gore or slasher flicks but for some reason I love a good zombie movie. Rec was a zombie film recorded in real time. I screamed at one point, it was great!
What's on your must-see-TV list?
Again, I really enjoy getting scared, so I always watch Most Haunted, I especially like the live programs. Ok, so it’s mostly people wandering in the dark saying, ‘Did you hear that?’ but sometimes things happen that can’t be explained and I like the fact that Yvette Fielding a former children’s TV presenter has such a foul vocabulary! I also love America’s Next Top Model. In the last series the contestants met Dita Von Teese to learn about movement and performance. She made them all look like ungraceful elephants!
What book is on your nightstand?
I just finished reading, In the Company of the Courtesan, by Sarah Dunant. It was a fabulous read set in the Renaissance period. It covers the flight of a high class courtesan and her faithful servant, a dwarf, as they escape the sacking of Rome for the opulence and debauchery of Venice. It highlights the power of female beauty and the alarming effect it can have on some people.
If you could go anywhere for vacation, where would you go?
After reading that book it would be Venice! I’ve always been interested in history and it’s the most historic city, and very romantic too. I recently fulfilled another dream of mine by visiting New York. It was everything you think it will be and everything you don’t. Words can’t describe. While there I was lucky enough to go to Starshine Burlesque. I met Creamy Stevens one of the organizers and resident performers. She was lovely and really happy to chat about burlesque. One of the biggest differences I noticed about burlesque nights in Britain and ones over there is that the audience really make an effort in the UK. It’s a habit to dress up and go glam or vintage or rockabilly. But in New York no one bothers. Me and my boyfriend turned up suited and booted and stood out like sore thumbs from the rest of the crowd in their jeans and t shirts. It seems a lot lower key over there, but that added to its underground feel and made it more exciting. While there we also saw Jo Boobs perform. She was very sexy and slick I feel so lucky to have seen her!
If you could have any superpower, which one would you want?
I have been learning to belly dance for the last few years, and I’m still just getting there. If I could have a super power it would be to shake it like a pro and amaze audiences with my shimmying pneumatic ass!
Satisfy your appetite for more Candy Grams: Darla DeVine, Sparkly Devil, Vivienne VaVoom, Lux LaCroix, Charlotte La Belle Araignee, Bunny Love, Amber Topaz, Amelie Soleil, Red Hot Annie, HoneyLu, Kimberlee Rose, Vicky Butterfly, Dominique Immora, Yasmine Vine, Cherry Bomb, Millie Dollar, Joanie Gyoza, Bonbon Vivant, Lola Martinet, Frankie Boudoir, Vixen Violette, Ravenna Black, Veronica Lashe, Amber Ray, Beatrix von Bourbon, Angie Pontani, Tanya Cheex, Bloody Belle, Clams Casino, Trixie Little, Michelle L'Amour, Margaret Cho, Miss Dirty Martini, Princess Farhana, Miss Delirium Tremens, Paris Green, Jo Boobs, Jack Midnight, Heidi Von Haught, Diamond Minx, The Titillation Twins, Scratch, Creamy Stevens and Gina Louise.