Interview Burlesque Performer and Producer Lil’ Steph
The Criminally Cute Lil’ Steph is an international showgirl and Philadelphia's notorious artistic directrix. Lil' Steph has sauntered across stages in 7 countries and brought her ultra glam, neoclassic style to U.S cities from coast to coast. She has been dazzling audiences and turning the world on with her smile since 2006. Lil’ Steph has produced numerous shows since 2010. You can catch Lil’ Steph every First Friday in Old City at Portside Parlor for their art show. As one of Philadelphia’s most sought-after performers, she has performed at such events as Diabolique Fetish Ball, Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention, Burlesque -n- Beyond, and The Philadelphia Fringe Festival’s Late Nite Cabaret. Lil’ Steph has been a guest performer with Philadelphia's Premier Burlesque troupe The Peek-a-Boo Revue as well as many local burlesque shows. She has intoxicated the room at Philly venues like Helium Comedy Club, Johnny Brenda’s, The Trocodaro, 2nd Story, Franky Bradley's, Ruba, World Cafe Live, The TLA, and Underground Arts.
I had the possibility to ask Lil’ Steph few question.
Tell us a little about who Lil’ Steph is?
Lil’ Steph: The Criminally Cute Lil’ Steph is an international burlesque performer and artistic directrix based in Philly. Lil’ Steph has brought her ultra glam, cheeky style and uber kinky fetish act to 7 countries. She’s performed across the U.S in cities like NYC, LA, New Orleans and Boston. As artistic directrix, she produced monthly shows for 7 years in venues across Philadelphia. Lil’ Steph has sauntered across stages in Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Rome and Prague to name a few. She has performed at numerous festivals all over the world most notably The Burlesque Hall of Fame 2010, Won “ Most Classic” at the Carolina Burlesque Festival 2013 and headlined The Empire Burlesque Festival 2017.
How long have you been a burlesque performer?
Lil’ Steph: A little over 11 years.
How did you get into burlesque performance industry? Do you remember why did you decide to get into it?
Lil’ Steph: I found a book in the school library when I was in 6th grade about the Zeigfied Follies. I did a book report on it. That’s where my interest started. Later, I had been following the resurgence in burlesque in the early 2000s when I was dancing in strip clubs. I wanted to do it but didn’t know where to start. A few years later while go-go dancing at a nightclub, I met a few people who were part of a burlesque troupe. I started doing gigs with them. I wanted to perform more cause I knew there was a big world out there, so I started going to NYC to take classes and going out to shows. I worked hard, found producers who gave me a chance and booked me. Everything kinda took off after that including producing my own show.
Is burlesque a full-time career for you?
Lil’ Steph: I’m a full-time freelance artist.
How did you come up with your name?
Lil’ Steph: It was a nickname that was given to me when I was a go-go dancer. Most knew me by Lil’ Steph so I kept it.
What do you say to critics who would compare being a burlesque performer to being a stripper/exotic dancer?
Lil’ Steph: We are all strippers. Burlesque is the grandmother to modern strip clubs. Those who play the “I’m not a stripper” thing need to get over themselves. We both take our clothes off, I would say just too different audiences so it is a bit different. Burlesque is more emphasis on the tease in striptease, more theatrical and over the top. Though I will say there are many really great feature dancers and amazing pole dancers in strip clubs bringing the theatrics.
What is the best part of your work? What do you love the most about it?
Lil’ Steph: I get to dance and bring all these crazy ideas I have in my head to life and share them. I love being able to entertain people and take them outside of their life if even only for a 6-minute song.
What's the secret to being a good burlesque dancer?
Lil’ Steph: If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret now would it? haha! Not really a secret but I think being comfortable with yourself is key.
What do you believe has been the key to your success?
Lil’ Steph: My tenacity. Don’t tell me I can’t do something.
What has been one of the best or funniest moments in your professional life?
Lil’ Steph: The best moment of my professional career was headlining the Empire Burlesque Festival and headlining with Angie Pontani who is one of the inspirational women that made me want to get into all of this.
What has burlesque taught you about sexiness?
Lil’ Steph: Confidence is sexy. Not some huge ego but being comfortable being you and not really giving a shit.
What advice or guidance would you have for someone (male or female) who is interested in becoming a burlesque performer?
Lil’ Steph: If someone is looking to take it to a professional level, be prepared to work hard and be open to critique. It’s showbiz, there’s a ton of competition. Learn about the history of the art form you are entering into and learn who the experienced performers are in your area and in burlesque in general.
What should people know before they try burlesque?
Lil’ Steph: You are gonna have to take your clothes off.
Where have you performed so far? Where else would you like to perform?
Lil’ Steph: So far I have performed in 7 countries, all over the U.S and Europe. I want to perform in more cities in U.S, Canada, Europe and Australia.
Please share something people don’t know about you. Do you have any hidden talents?
Lil’ Steph: When I was a kid I would put on shows with my siblings, cousins and friends. I’ve pretty much been performing and producing my entire life.