As a small gesture of our big appreciation, The Smokin’ Betties had invited you all to submit your questions for us and our guests, and here are our answers. We are all super stoked about our upcoming show on May 30th at Club Cafe Pittsburgh and are so appreciative of all of the support you’ve given us so far! Order presale tickets here so you don’t miss all the action, and visit the event page for cute little updates! Continue reading to hear the performers’ responses to your questions:

Lita D’Vargas
Viva Valezz
DemDare Eyes
Gigi Coudray
Lucy La Bam
Luna La Crème
Midnight Mame
Violet Corbeau

Lita D’Vargas, the Biracial Bardot of Burlesque

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A little background : For accomplishments beyond traveling for ‘lesque, being in The Atrocity Exhibition for four years, and running with Kabarett Vulgare, I graduated Steel City Burlesque Academy under Macabre Noir in 2013 to become her Assistant Director and social media voice for the school! And every time I get off the stage, I can’t wait to get back on it… But they don’t give out tiaras or sashes for that!

What is one of your favorite routines to perform and why?

I do a feather fan number as Goldie from Sin City to the live NY recording of Portishead’s Sour Times. That’s sort of my power number. The vocals are so raw that I can just let go to let all that emotion pour through me. It’s such a sad desperation in this character that she becomes something like a Greek myth. Goldie is a muse, a mystery, and then a catalyst. Without her, the need for vengeance that pushes the story is null. Her death instigates a wave of vigilante justice for a countless tally of sexworking women who were tortured to death and devoured. It demonstrates how easily society navigates around, judges, and forgets about those women. While Sin City is fiction, from my work with Domestic Violence in college and my own mother’s involvement as a Legal Advocate and DV educator, reality doesn’t stray too far from that storyline. There are a great many horrible monsters who prey on sex workers.

So Goldie really is like an angel. She has an immortal power as this sort of messenger, and that’s a great challenge to (attempt to) bring to the stage. You have to bring passion and desperation for salvation with all these demons on your back.

And though she still dies, Goldie goes peacefully in sleep feeling protected by her behemoth. It was the only saving grace that was really available to her, and probably the best sleep she’d ever had.

Who are some other entertainers you admire, and why?

I am obsessed with Perle Noire! Good-ness! She is too fierce for herself when she is devastating the stage, but she is so humble and kind! From sparkling stone to sparkling soul, she is ethereal in perfection! She just breaks down every door, and then the splinters of those doors combust spontaneously into glittering embers having been touched by her lavalicious heat! I geeked out like a school girl when she accepted my friend request on Facebook. THE Perle Noire now shows up in my feed, ha!

She is just so inspiring to watch! Her boldness and movement and costuming and commitment is simply beyond description. I just flip all the way out for her!

If you could go back to any period in time, when and why?

I’d warn Jesus that everyone was going to get it wrong, and that he should probably write his shit down. And I’d tell him only tell Mary Mags where to find it, how to protect it, and hope to save a lot of lives.

And I would totally take a selfie with Jesus. I feel like a lot of people would eat a lot of crow. Or not, because a lot of history would be changed for the better and maybe a little less racist.

Is that too heavy? I’m just trying to make World Peace happen.

What draws you to this form of self-expression over more ‘conventional’ dancing?

Everything I do is my decision. I love to act. I love to dance. I love to build and create. Crafting a story with choreography and costumes by my design and ability which I can continue to cultivate at my discretion is living a dream.

I get to be my body. It’s all mine, and I don’t have to change anything I don’t want to. There is no pressure to keep a certain size or carve any piece of myself that doesn’t bother me for my sake.

I even get to pick my music. Creative control is completely mine. I can dance any way I want to so long as I mean it.

Conventional forms of dance are beautiful works of achievement for large groups and individuals to demonstrate commitment to a larger vision (rarely of their design unless they’re the Robert Redford of dance) that they all agree to subscribe to as many parts of a working whole. That’s totally cool, and I seek much inspiration from their works. The achievement of the body and mind is breathtaking!

I think the Mona Lisa is a fine piece of art too. I look into her Pandora’s box of unopened secrets. I get lost in the swirling detail of the backdrop behind her. But I paint another way, and I wouldn’t change it to make a million exact replicas of her perfection if it meant a Golden Ticket to a better round at reincarnation as a mystic healer on a paradise island somewhere with free margaritas, lots of libraries, and no pollution.

Do you fear being seen more as a sexual object than as a ‘serious’ performer?

I expect to be seen as a sexual object because I am a woman. This artform allows me to challenge that objectification however I like and whenever I like.

Objectify me and I will make a piece about what a joke that is and why. Then I’ll get a whole room hooting and hollering their approval and understanding of said joke.

Hell, I will build a whole show around said objectification, and the whole cast of Sisters and Misters of The Traveling Sequins will vent their beautiful frustration, give it to the audience, and be gotten. And then our objectifiers can feel as small as they are for reducing people to things, and possibly grow up a little.

Oh wait! That’s kind of what we all do anyway! Wink!

Do you fear being labeled an exhibitionist?

No, but I am one. Truly. I’m not mad at being one either. I do, however, know the difference between the two, and I keep them separate.

What I and many others do on stage as burlesque entertainers only borrows from sex, but it’s no more concretely carnal than a sex scene in a movie or a stage play (which seems to always be fine. Anyone can kiss and grind naked with anyone else, regardless of marriage status or sexual preference so long as we all get to pay to watch; but women can’t take rhinestone encrusted costumes off on stage by themselves without a world of uproar. That makes oodles of sense, Everybody Else. Thanks.).

A story is carefully crafted in a particular context to create a precious piece of art where your body is the canvas and the paintbrush. This is one work that can and will only ever live but once in the fleeting beats of a song’s singular rotation, and only for those who are fortunate enough to feast on that fire in that bar or club or theatre. And then story is become story by those fortunate few, and something is shared to become larger than itself.

Exhibitionism is shagging where you might get caught while enjoying the thrill of the risk. For me, I also pray that I’m seen (or heard) with my partner by those who can appreciate and partake in their own way from where they are.

That being said, I am not recruiting voyeurs. I only ever indulge on vacation in places I’ll never go back to. I also travel under another name. So. Just saying.

But call me either, and you would be right. But they have nothing to do with each other, and I’ll be sure to let anyone know who misses the memo.

Where can we see more of you?!!

I can be found on Facebook (Lita D Vargas), Instagram (@lita.dvargas), YouTube, and Pinterest (litadvargas).

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Viva Valezz, The HBIC of Queer Burlesque

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A little background : Not only was I voted Columbus, Ohio’s Favorite Burlesque Performer, but I was Winner of Golden Pasties at the New York Burlesque Festival, and am the Creator and Producer of the Fierce! International Queer Burlesque Festival, which just took place at the end of this past April, and will be in Denver next year!

Why did you start performing and what was going on in your life/the world at that time?

I started doing burlesque because I was ready to break away from my traditional bellydance school, and do something a little more… scandalous. And, because I had been producing events/shows for other people, and wanted to produce my own shows. I had been a professional bellydancer and instructor for almost 10 years at that time. I had turned 40 and… maybe I was going through a midlife change?

What is one of your favorite routines to perform and why?

I don’t really have a favorite… mine changes alllll the time. I do love my Mexican Hat Dance number though. It nods to my Mexican upbringing, for sure. But, it was also the act that got me accepted into the New York Burlesque Festival in 2010, which was a huge turning point for me inspirationally.

Other entertainers you admire and why?

If we’re talking burlesque… I have SO MANY! In no particular order Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Angie Pontani, Dirty Martini, and Julie Atlas Muse.

One fact we might be surprised to know about you?

My picture is embedded into a real tombstone in a real cemetery – creepy, huh?

If you could go back to any period in time, when and why?

I should have been a young adult in the 60s. Young people made such an amazing mark on our country in that decade. Plus… the music in the 60s was the best ever, in my opinion.

Most unexpected thing that happened during one of your performances?

In one act, I lost a pastie… and while I was embarrassed and covering my one boob… the other one fell off and I didn’t realize it until sevvvvvvvveral seconds later. It was hilarious!

Most fun challenge you’ve overcome?

Driving around Pittsburgh – I didn’t even drive on the freeways EVER until I moved to Pgh 1.5 yrs ago.

Hobbies/outdoor activities/what you do when you’re not performing?

Um… I don’t have any hobbies… when I’m not performing – producing and promoting are my… hobbies.

Where can we see more of you?

I encourage you to like my Facebook pages, Viva Valezz, and Fierce! Queer Burlesque. I can also be found on Twitter (@VivaValezz) and Instagram (@TheVivaValezz) and I also have a website, http://www.vivavalezzburlesque.com

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DemDare Eyes, How About Those Peepers?

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A little background : I’m an alumna of the Steel City Burlesque Academy, Class of 2014, and a proud Bettie!

Why did you start performing and what was going on in your life/the world at that time?

I started performing in April 2014 (the unofficial first Betties’ performance!). I kinda fell into it. I took the ‘Intro to Burlesque’ class at Steel City Burlesque Academy because a friend had done it and recommended it. I’m always looking to try new things, so I was game!

What is one of your favorite routines to perform and why?

I really liked the “Love Letters” routine (Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes). It was fun to perform and I loved the reception—that I looked like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. Unexpected!

 Other entertainers you admire and why?

Lita D’Vargas. You can’t take your eyes off her on stage! She’s also super nice in person.

Favorite way to slack off?

I never slack off. It’s not in my vocabulary!

Most fun challenge you’ve overcome?

Hmmm. Fear of being half-naked in public?

Favorite tv show/movie and why?

Arrested Development and Happy-Go-Lucky. I flock toward comedies.

What draws you to this form of self-expression over more ‘conventional’ dancing?

You really have to be comfortable with yourself on stage. And for the most part, I feel more confident there than I do in real life.

Do you fear being seen more as a sexual object than as a ‘serious’ performer?

No. So far, the audience members have been so supportive and great. People really respect the artform.

Given the more puritanical culture of the U.S. vs., say, European culture, what personal cultural hurdles did you have to overcome to allow yourself to participate in this form of artistic endeavor?

Really not many, at least for me personally. This answer will be different for everyone, I suppose, but I’ve always been a bit more progressive in terms of tolerance and being open to new things. The only personal hurdle I would say is getting comfortable feeling sexy, which I’ve never felt. That’s probably the biggest challenge.

Where can we see more of you?

I’m not very active with the social media stuff, but I can be found on Facebook at Demi DareEyes.

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Gigi Coudray, She’ll Tame the Animal in You

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A little background : I’m an alumna of Steel City Burlesque Academy and a Smokin’ Bettie!

One fact we might be surprised to know about you?

I am a vegan and have been one since I was 16 years old ( vegetarian at age 9). No one in my immediate family is vegan. At age 9, I told my parents I wouldn’t eat animals anymore. I didn’t really give them a choice, but they were very understanding and helpful. At age 16, I learned all about the cruelty of the dairy industry and gave up dairy as well. The animal welfare and rights movement has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.

What’s your favorite book/author?

I read a lot and have quite a few favorites but if I had to choose, I think I would say Bret Easton Ellis and Hunter S. Thompson. Although, one of my all time favorite books is ‘Geek Love’ by Katherine Dunn.

Do you fear being labeled an exhibitionist?

No, I don’t fear that at all. I have been both an exhibitionist and an introvert at different points in my life and I feel I have embraced them equally. At this time though I welcome the exhibitionist in me because my creative and self-expressive side is screaming to come out, and so it shall!

Hobbies/outdoor activities/what you do when you’re not performing?

I enjoy many activities in my spare time such as caring for my animals and the animals of others. Walking dogs on a beautiful day is one of my favorites. I love being outdoors especially in nature and at the beach. Swimming in the ocean is always at the top of my list; I am a water sign after all! I also love boulder climbing, TRX, Pilates, writing poetry and reading. I am always up for a new adventure, life needs to be filled with them in order to really LIVE!

Why did you start performing and what was going on in your life/the world at that time?

I began performing burlesque at this time in my life due to several factors. The arts are in my blood and I grew surrounded by them. But even with this positive influence, I struggled from a young age with both self confidence and anxiety issues. I dabbled here and there in theater and dance, but it was an especially difficult process for me due to my personal wars with addiction and body issues (including eating disorders) that had continued to inhibit me from wanting to further explore such avenues. One of the turning points in my life was my sobriety from drugs, and learning to live and love without that crutch. But even with sobriety, I never felt strong enough as a person to perform in front of an audience. In 2013, I moved to Pittsburgh for personal reasons and uprooted and changed my life. I was fortunate enough to find a job quickly, working with and befriending the fabulous Lilith DeVille. It was through his encouragement and guidance that I decided to sign up for Macabre Noir’s 2014 burlesque class at The Steel City Burlesque Academy. This experience completely altered me as a person for the better. My admiration and gratitude to Macabre Noir (Mama Mac), Lita D’Vargas (Auntie Lita) and Lilith DeVille (Auntie Lilith) for teaching and guiding me on this journey is ENDLESS. Not only did I meet my future Smokin’ Bettie sisters in this class but I grew a strength inside as woman that I never thought possible. I have only continued to develop and emerge as an individual and a performer over the last year. I have met and worked with so many fabulous performers and continue to feel the incredible support and love this community offers each other. This experience has fulfilled the creative and expressive side of me that has been locked up for way to long. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Where can we see more of you?

Oh, you know, Facebook (Gigi Coudray) and Twitter (@CoudrayGigi)

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Lucy La Bam, The Knock-out D D Diva

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A little background : I’m a graduate of the Steel City Burlesque Academy 2014, and of course a proud Bettie!

Why did you start performing and what was going on in your life/the world at that time?

I started Burlesque because I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to meet new people. I was feeling in a rut. I wanted a way to express myself and build confidence.

Other entertainers you admire and why?

I really love Ginger Valentine. I would love to see her perform!

One fact we might be surprised to know about you?

I don’t know how to ride a bicycle!

Favorite way to slack off?

Bad TV. Right now, I am obsessed with Southern Charm.

Do you play any instruments?

I wish. I even have a guitar, I hope to make the time to learn and practice.

What kind of music do you like?

Wow… This is hard. I like all kinds of music. Right now – I love Jack White, U2, Butch Walker.

Where can we see more of you?

I’m on Facebook as Lucy La Bam, that’s enough for me!

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Luna La Crème, Pittsburgh’s Cosmic Sweetheart

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A little background : I’m an Ember of The Smokin’ Betties, a 2014 graduate of the Steel City Burlesque Academy, and have participated in many burlesque productions since then. I even appeared in the recent Fierce! Queer Burlesque Festival, hosted by the legend herself, Viva Valezz. You may also have seen me shake and shimmy in the regional Burlypicks Burlesque and Variety Performance Competition this past March, organized by Pittsburgh’s original traveling showgirl, Kat De Lac.

Why did you start performing and what was going on in your life/the world at that time?

I’ve been drawn to the stage all of my life, starting with dancing when I was young and acting when I was in my late teens. In 2010, I joined the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players (JCCP), which is Pittsburgh’s Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast. This is where I learned to feel empowered by taking my clothes off. One day in 2014, I was encouraged to enroll in a Burlesque class being hosted at Most Wanted Fine Art by the Steel City Burlesque Academy. At the time, I was in a lower point of my life. I was in a bad relationship with a girlfriend who didn’t support me doing Rocky and disliked my friends. I felt trapped and started abusing alcohol to cover up my pain. When I saw this offer, I knew right away that I wanted to do it. It looked like a great opportunity, so I went for it. I never expected that I’d fall completely in love with the art of Burlesque or that I would meet an amazing group of women that I am proud to call my sisters. Burlesque helped me find my empowerment and my voice. As for the girlfriend, she is way gone. I found my actual love, who came to support me on my burlesque graduation night when no one else did. I don’t know where I would be without it. It helped me get through that rough time in my life.

What is one of your favorite routines to perform and why?

Right now, it’s hands down All that Jazz from Chicago. I performed this number originally as a preshow for Rocky Horror with my good friend, Lady Tramp, singing it live. Then, I performed it at the 2015 Pennsylvania Burlypicks, and the Fierce! Queer Burlesque Festival. As for the Why? I know this routine like that back of my hand, I look fabulous in white, and it’s just a downright fun routine to perform.

One fact we might be surprised to know about you?

I am a graduate student working on my MS! Slowly but surely, I’m about 1/3 of the way done with my degree. What’s scarier is I’ve been in a school environment for 21 years all together!

Most unexpected thing that happened during one of your performances?

Though I have been fortunate with Burlesque, I have had the following happen to me during Rocky:
– Broke my toe and did a whole show with a broken toe.
– Was unable to get my corset up, and performed with only a boa covering my unpastied boob.
– Forgot my real underwear and had to wear a thong (twice)(once as an all star performer).
– Forgot my underwear and had to wear nude undies. Looked naked.

Hobbies/outdoor activities/what you do when you’re not performing?

I am an avid runner; I try to do at least 2-3 races a year. Also, Netflix! I have a large movie collection, though I’ve gotten good at using movie time to make commissions and stock for my Etsy shop.

What kind of food do you like to cook?

For a lesbian, I make bomb sausages. Also soup! I come from a long line of soup makers.

Do you fear being seen more as a sexual object than as a ‘serious’ performer?

Kind of. I don’t want to be seen as sexual object, but I really don’t care what people think when I’m on stage. I’m not taking my clothes off for them, I am taking them off for me. I feel empowered being able to tell stories with my body; what people are seeing is not me being a sex object, but a personal performance where I’m letting people look deeper inside of me as an artist.

Given the more puritanical culture of the U.S. vs., say, European culture, what personal cultural hurdles did you have to overcome to allow yourself to participate in this form of artistic endeavor?

I’ve honestly always been rather blind to the cultural hurdles, or at least they have never stopped me. Slut shaming has been an issue in life since I was in middle school and during my early adulthood. At the end of the day, if I’m happy and my girlfriend isn’t kicking me to the curb, fuck ’em. This is what I love to do and if I’m a slut for it, I will wear it as a badge of honor!

Where can we see more of you?!

I’m pretty much all over, these days! I have my own website www.lunalacremeburlesque.com, my own Etsy LaCreme Designs , and of course the usual suspects: Facebook (Luna L. Creme), Twitter (@LunaLaCreme), Instagram (@LunaLaCreme), and YouTube (Luna La Creme)

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Midnight Mame, That Mad Dame!

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A little background : I’m a proud graduate of the Steel City Burlesque Academy, and a smoldering ember of The Smokin’ Betties.

Do you fear being seen more as a sexual object than as a ‘serious’ performer?

There’s something about sexual objects that draw us in with their gravitational pull… and it can be so hard to escape from orbiting the subject. I’m not involved in burlesque because I wanted to be a sexual object, but I am not afraid of being seen as one. I personally got involved in burlesque to tap into the woman deep down inside of me I know I could be: vivacious, glamorous, and portraying confidence effortlessly. I also feel that my vulnerability empowers me: facing my fears and insecurities head on. At the end of the night, I’m still on stage stripping away my costume and I’m hoping I can draw you into my gravitational pull being a sexual object. I feel that it’s more important to take yourself seriously, rather than depending on everyone else to do so. 

 

One fact we might be surprised to know about you?

I am a licensed assistant pyrotechnician for Zambelli Fireworks.

What draws you to this form of self-expression over more ‘conventional’ dancing?

I actually have zero dancing experience. I never took ballet, tap, or any type of ‘conventional’ dancing. My dancing experience was tossing, flopping, and high kicking around my living room watching Dirty Dancing or Moonwalker. I think because of having no dance background, the style of burlesque really drew me towards it for a means of self-expression with my body. The versatility of having a slow, saucy song with excruciatingly exaggerated glove peels, or a bass heavy song where you are shakin’ it all over, adds to the excitement and endless possibilities of this style of dancing.

Favorite way to slack off?

Watching The Golden Girls. 

Why did you start performing and what was going on in your life/the world at that time?

I was in a very turbulent time in my life where I had things fall apart with my personal life, my family, and I had no idea what to do with myself. I was becoming more, and more like a hermit, and losing the confidence to mingle and talk to people. I had started a new relationship and it was a suggestion from my significant other to try this Burlesque Academy he heard about. I wasn’t actually able to afford it, and really struggled with the decision to sign up. Frankly, I didn’t know what burlesque was at all, and had the fortune of not seeing ‘Burlesque’ starring Cher and Christina Aguilera (hey now, not throwin’ shade on these two divas, but the movie plot completely obscures what burlesque really is about). I then started to read about this captivating woman who enjoyed bathing in a clawfoot tub outdoors, wore breath-taking costumes, and seized control of her life and never let go of it. Her name was Gypsy Rose Lee, an insatiable burlesque queen. I then immediately confirmed my payment for the Burlesque Academy, and swallowed my pride and insecurities to go off and force myself to open up and befriend complete strangers. Talk about stripping away your fears!

If you could go back to any period in time, when and why?

1893. This is the year Nikola Tesla wowed the world at the World Colombian Exposition in Chicago with one of his landmark achievements; the wonders of alternating currents in electricity. Why would I go back to this time period? Sabotage! I would hide Tesla’s knowledge and instead partner with him to usher in the era of STEAMPUNK! Pretty soon we will create airships and save the planet by using steam and solar power, as well as establish leather as a staple in fashion.

Where can we see more of you?

You can follow me on Facebook as Mame Dennis, and also as @MidnightMame on Instagram and Twitter

Violet Corbeau, The Mysterious Mistress of Magick

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A little background : I’m a proud Bettie and an alumna of Steel City Burlesque Academy!

Favorite TV Show?

It’s a toss-up between The Golden Girls or Hell’s Kitchen.  I like the sassiness and admire the pluck and humor of the Golden Girls. I guess I like Gordon Ramsey for the same reason! “Come here you! Put your finger in it! IT’S RAW!”

What kind of music do you like?

I love bands like Modest Mouse and Portishead because of the cool melodic edginess and the deep lyrics.

What is one of your favorite routines to perform?

My favorite number so far is the one I do to an Arctic Monkey’s song, Knee Socks. The costume is really cool and I have great chair stunt.  But I am amped for my next number ‘Are You The Rabbit?’ by Marilyn Manson. (Spoiler alert: I will be wielding a riding crop!)

What do you do when you are not performing?

I am a practicing Wiccan, so I am always into things. I do tarot card readings, house blessings, and I collect and work with stones and crystals.  I have an extensive collection of about 400 specimens, including a rock from Mars and a Moon rock.

One fact we might be surprised to know about you?

I am a life drawing model for a few art classes around town. It is always so great to see the awesome artists and the stuff they create!  Also, I graduated from Mortuary School and have worked with the deceased.

Funniest moment of the past month?

I was at a toll booth and the person in front of me was having a hard time, I guess they didn’t have the money and it looked like he was writing a check or something. It was taking soooo long, there was this huge line behind me. A guy from the other booth came over to help, and it seemed like this was going on for like an hour – it was a whole production! This bro behind me in line was really agitated and he hung out his car window and started yelling at the other people in line “HEY! HEY! HAVE YOUR SH!T READY!” I busted out laughing because of the way the dude was yelling. When it was my turn to pay, the machine wouldn’t take my dollar and it took me a minute to get it right, because I was laughing so hard. The whole time this bro was flipping out in line behind me. I guess I didn’t “have my sh!t ready.” I am not sure if it is funny or what but it cracked me up. I was still laughing about it when I got home.

Favorite way to slack off?

Paintin’ my nails.

Who is your favorite author?

I love the poet, novelist, and short story writer Charles Bukowski!

Where can we see more of you?

I’m Violet C Orbeau on Facebook, and Twitter @VioletCorbeau

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Welp, that’s all folks! Thank you for sending in all of your awesome questions, thank you for reading, and most of all, thanks for all of the warm fuzzy support you’ve been sending our way! We’ll see your beautiful faces on May 30th

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