After six-year hiatus, the Suicide Girls burlesque show is back in town [NSFW]

Categories: Burlesque
courtesy Suicide Girls
The show in rehearsal.
When Missy Suicide decided to put some photos of her alternative friends online in 2001, the internet was a different place. Twelve years later, those early photos have grown into the Suicide Girls, the alternative pin-up empire that spans books, movies, and a website with photos of more than 2,500 women.

For a few years, that spectrum also included a traveling burlesque show, but six years ago, the tour went on hiatus. Now, it's back with 45 shows across the country boasting five Suicide Girls, plenty of props, and dancing riffs on everything from The Big Lebowski to Kill Bill. Dressing Room caught up with Missy before the show hits the Varsity Theater this Friday.

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Dressing Room: What led to taking a break from the burlesque tour over the past six years?

Missy Suicide: It was a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work to put on a tour as well. We had put out our book and the girls had opened for Guns N' Roses, and we were like, well, let's just take a season off and we'll pick it up again. The hiatus extended itself. Then we put out our third coffee table book, Hard Girls, Soft Light, and we decided to do a book signing tour up and down the West Coast. We just sent girls to book stores, and there were 500 people at like a tiny comic book shop in Santa Cruz. We were like, alright, we've put it off long enough, clearly there's a demand for people coming out to see the girls.

How did you revamp the show?

When we were first doing the tour, we were the only ones that were doing sort of non-traditional, not old-timey burlesque on a large scale. We had pop-culture references, all these things that were not being done anywhere at that time. And over these six years that we've taken a break, there's a ton of non-traditional burlesque, like the Star Wars Burlesque, and even the large-scale spectacle shows, like Lady Gaga and all of that, and so we knew that we really had to up our game a lot. The girls on tour are all professional dancers, we worked with an amazing choreographer, it's set to a modern soundtrack, and there's a lot of different cultures used -- everything from Game of Thrones to Star Wars.
courtesy Suicide Girls
Behind the scenes in rehearsal.
The show's been on the road for a month now. What has the reception been like?

It's been crazy. Everybody just is so ready for this sort of experience. The crowd really gets into pop-culture references, the dances, the sexiness. And the fans bring the girls all sorts of treats. Now the girls can just Instagram a picture or tweet out something they want, and the next show all these people show up with Fruit Loops or something they want on the road.

You recently re-launched the Suicide Girls website, which now has a cool Tumblr-type interface. What led to the re-design?
When we had originally created the website 12 years ago, it was before Friendster or Facebook or Myspace or any of that, and the only way that people had to interact with the internet was at their desk on their computer. So it was a nice workable model for the single device that people used. But fast forward 12 years and people rarely sit at their computer. They have mobile phones and tablets or go through their Xbox or through their Kindle. We wanted to create an experience to allow our members to be able to access the site and the community from anywhere, any of their devices, and give them a seamless experience. It was a big undertaking.
courtesy Suicide Girls
And you have a dating app now too. Any other future plans we should be on the lookout for?

We're finishing up our new movie, we're working on our next book, and we're hoping to take the burlesque tour internationally. So you know, just the little things [laughs].

The Suicide Girls is about celebrating alternative beauty. How has the definition of that changed since you launched in 2001?
I think that the initial message was alternative beauty, but the overall, overarching message was just that everybody is beautiful. That confidence is the sexiest attribute a person can have. While society as a whole has become more accepting -- now you don't have to be blonde to be considered beautiful -- there's still quite a wide berth of people that society is not necessarily celebrating as beautiful. Our emphasis is still that every person is beautiful. If you look on the site, yesterday the photo of the day was a girl who is a little person, and I don't know that she would be a model any place else.
courtesy Suicide Girls
The women in the show.
You've been running the Suicide Girls for over a decade now. What about it still makes it fun?
It's still fun for me to interact with community, and to be able to see the impact that the community has had on people's lives. I have over a thousand emails from people, over the 12 years, that are written to me to tell me how Suicide Girls has changed their lives: How they didn't feel beautiful before, and now they feel so much more confident. That they've met their best friend or their boyfriend or the father of their child or the mother of their child on Suicide Girls. It's those sorts of stories that's why it's fun.


Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque Tour
Doors at 8 p.m., show at 9
Tickets start at $23.
Friday, November 29
Varsity Theater
1308 4th Street S.E., Minneapolis

Location Info


The Varsity Theater

1308 4th St. SE, Minneapolis, MN

Category: Film

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Chelsea Wren Hanvy
Chelsea Wren Hanvy

It certainly isn't that Suicide Girls isn't doing "real" burlesque - Neo-Burlesque is many, MANY different things and every show does it differently. If you do a little bit of research on the ethics of the company and their history of co-opting genres and sub-cultures (not to mentions their treatment of their models and misogynistic behavior of the owner) it might shed a bit more light on why the local and national burlesque community's feathers are a little ruffled. In my opinion, it's mostly about their hype: "We invented neo-burlesque, no one else was doing pop-culture, we don't do old-timey" etc. It's dismissive of the community and the history of the art form. It can sound a little pissy, I know, but I have only met one other performer in the Burlesque scene who was not very involved and respectful of the wider community. It's like some one copying a Warhol and changing a tiny fraction and saying "I invented this. No one else was doing it like I was." It's insulting and dismissive. It's similar to a new show saying "We're the PREMIERE show in town, We're the city's NUMBER ONE show" when they have nothing to back it up. It's definitely a marketing technique, but it does tend to piss off people who've been busting their asses to create something and support their artist community. Their attitude kind of shits on that.

Sam Guertin
Sam Guertin

Christina Graber I've actually seen them before, definitely worth it.

Erin Schaub
Erin Schaub

How is suicide girls burlesque (also called black hearts from what I've heard) any less "real" than the local performers.

NicCole Weinberg
NicCole Weinberg

Black Hearts Burlesque is having a REAL burlesque show at Hell's Kitchen.

Jasmine Rae Ojala
Jasmine Rae Ojala

Why in the hell didn't I hear about this earlier?!? Damn it all.


@Chelsea Wren Hanvy To be expected from a company that first claimed to "redefine beauty," then claimed they never said that, then started claiming it again (meanwhile, the forum topic "SGs who look like celebrities" has been going since 2004, so they must not have redefined it too much).

Speaking as a former member of their site, while I loved parts of the community, I agree that the company's ethics are shit. Also, their most recent site redesign is utter garbage. They reactivated the accounts of all former members for it, but the design is so bad that I still don't want to use the site. They would have to literally pay me to go back -- which, considering this is free porn we're talking about, is the worst insult I can imagine.

I wonder how much Sean paid for this promo piece.


Oh, and let's not forget that kerfuffle a few months back, when suicidegirls was going to turn all their "private" (not viewable to people not in the group) regional groups completely public, viewable to all, which caused a panic even for people who were long gone from the site, because this threatened to reveal personal info (pictures, names, addresses, etc.) of people who had posted those items in that area only due to the promise of privacy, removing group moderators' ability to control the safety and privacy of those members.

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