LAVENDER MAY - The Girl In The Paco Rabanne Dress
Self made. Unapologetic, audacious & free spirited, our "Widows of the Month" are trail blazers who prove that authenticity and confidence are the fundamentals to success. Every month, Widow's Blow shines the spotlight on inspiring people who share our ideologies and love for vintage fashion. Introducing our collaborators through bold editorials and interviews is a great way for us to express our creativity and grow our beloved community.
When Erika was thrifting one day she came across the rare book “Canned Candies, The exotic women and clothes of Paco Rabanne” printed in 1969. The book is an homage to the perfect woman. Immediately she thought about Lavender May.
“The woman of tomorrow will be efficacious, seductive and without contest superior to man. It is for this woman that I conceive my designs.” - Paco Rabanne.
This quote defines this month’s muse Lavender May a.k.a Marie-Sophie Rondeau down to the last sequin. You may know her as the free-spirited pastel burlesque queen of the Montreal nightlife scene but she’s more than just a showgirl. Erika and Lavender May have been best friends for years. The unlikely duo bonded over their mutual love for vintage fashion, rock & roll, and a fascination for the revolutionary 60’s era. They quickly became inseparable. Fun fact Lavender May can recite every Metallica album forwards and backwards. She’s even performed as part of the opening act for AC/DC. After years of persistence to turn passion into a career, Lavender May is now Montreal’s leading lady of the burlesque scene. We sat down with Lavender May to give us a peek behind the curtain of the famed industry.
Q1 : What is the difference between burlesque dancing and stripping?
[Lavender May] “ The biggest difference between the two is the level of nudity. A burlesque dancer will always finish their set in pasties and a G-String minimum. Whereas when you go see a strip show you know you’ll be seeing nudity. I’d say that burlesque artists strip by passion or self empowerment. They are not as rewarded monetarily and there’s lots of preparation that goes into the routine, the character, the costumes and the props. All in all, Burlesque is a bit more theatrical.
Q2 : What makes burlesque so popular now?
[Lavender May] “ I believe the evolution of our society in regards to accepting female bodies is what's fueling the appreciation of burlesque. Women are using this artform to take back the power of their sexuality, gain self confidence and use burlesque as a creative outlet.”
Q3 : How has the industry changed since you began performing?
[Lavender May] “ I’d say that since I’ve started there have been more places dedicated to burlesque. Social media has also become a very important way of showcasing burlesque. More and more people became aware of what burlesque is. There have been tv series made to showcase burlesque dancers that are being played in prime time slots. I’ve noticed recently that I have a lot more women coming to see me after my shows to tell me they saw my performance on TV or through social media and they couldn’t wait to come see my productions in real time.”
Q4 : What is the difference between the burlesque scene in Montreal as opposed to the International/American scene?
[Lavender May] “ I’ve noticed while performing internationally that out there burlesque is a creative community where women can recognize the star quality and talent in each other without needing to treat it like a competition. Unfortunately in Montreal the burlesque scene has quite the reputation for cattiness between artists, the scene is so small here that everyone is fighting for their spotlight. Another issue with the Montreal scene is the very low pay rates for artists. I’ve been fighting to change this flaw in the scene throughout the past few years. I always make sure to offer my artists a fair salary and work primarily with clients that respect our time and our art.”
Q5 : How does Burlesque Empower Women?
[Lavender May] “Burlesque reinforces confidence in women, it gives them the opportunity to rediscover their sensuality, take back the power of their sexuality and learn to appreciate their bodies. Burlesque doesn’t discriminate body size so not only does it empower the artist but also the women in the audience.”
Q6 : What is your creative process when you are coming up with a new production, costume or choreography?.
[Lavender May] “ I can be inspired by a song, a concept, a piece of material or texture. Generally I just look through all my treasures and allow myself to be guided by the moment and the materials at my disposition. I love starting with a piece of vintage lingerie or giving a second life to some broken pieces of jewellery. I just love salvaging vintage lace, pearls and feathers. It really inspires me.”
Q7: What advice would you give to an aspiring burlesque artist or a baby Lavender May?
“QUALITY OVER QUANTITY”
“I love burlesque but I'm especially passionate about the confection of new costumes, so when I started out I made the mistake of always making myself new costumes, spending lots of time and money. However, for those starting out their careers, it’s much more important to work hard on perfecting your routine rather than your look. It will allow you to differentiate yourself from other artists and build a professional reputation. once you’ve established a few solid numbers then you can get lost in creation or evolve your persona.”
Q8: What do you love about Vintage? you spoke about it impacting your creative process but why?
[Lavender May] “ I consider myself a vintage glorifier, ever since I have been a little girl I have been obsessed with finding treasures in thrift stores, it’s my favourite activity. I’m definitely a hoarder of beautiful things, speaking of which my closet is starting to overflow. I’ll be having a studio sale soon! *wink wink*. Personally what I love about vintage is the attention to detail and the construction of the garment. As a seamstress fast fashion makes me very anxious because mass quantities of poorly fabricated clothes are made to fuel the market. We often forget the human behind our clothing (in most cases underpaid and abused children) as well as the detrimental impact it has on our environment.”
Q9: Tell us about your worst Showgirl experience
[Lavender May] “My worst performance was a bit of a double edged sword, I was performing 3 shows in one night and had to sneak out between two sets dressed in a completely different costume. When I got to my second set I had to perform in a fake bath made for bottle service. The client was supposed to have someone solidify the bath to ensure my safety but they forgot in the heat of the moment. I quickly wound up slipping and falling onto my back hitting my head on some stairs as I slipped out of the bath. My head was bleeding and I was feeling really dizzy but I continued my set regardless as if nothing happened. At the end of my performance I found myself sitting in a bath full of 100$ bills.”
Q10 : Where do you see yourself in ten years?
[Lavender May] *Laughing * “Shaking my ass all over the world”
The humbled artist had a hard time replying to this question. When your art is your lifestyle it can be difficult to predict where you’ll wind up years down the road. For Lavender May the perfect future would allow her to continue living her life completely freely through her pastel fantasy. Unbounded by societal norms, flourishing in the light and love she leaves on the stage and in every room she enters.