Main photo credit: Danielle Bondanza at MDC Photography Studios
Across the pond, amid the thriving scene of the Los Angeles burlesque scene, a rising star of hooping and burlesque is working on establishing her acts, and making sure her name is recognised wherever she goes.
Lillian Starr was born in small-town Texas in 1987. She was raised by her mother, who, from a very early age, encouraged Lillian to participate in the creative and performing arts. She started tap, jazz and ballet lessons at the tender age of five and her hobby became all-encompassing; rehearsals, shows and pageants turned into everyday occurrences for the young protégé. She won numerous dance awards throughout the years, ranging from solo acts to group routines to best high kick!
A chance encounter at high school introduced Lillian to the art of hooping. “I was 14, and one day at school they had one of those fundraising things with hula hoops. I got down to the final two, and then the teacher said the first one to do a trick, wins. I did my first hoop trick ever by lifting it above my head. So I went home, bought a hula hoop and just kept trying things”. Lillian’s natural aptitude for hooping progressed into a performance that she was keen to develop. She developed an interest in burlesque at the age of 17, when a conversation with a friend’s mother, who was a burlesque dancer, planted the seed of a new, exciting type of performance.
Following her graduation, Lillian moved to Washington, where she worked as a fire fighter. Dancing was put on the back burner for a while as she blossomed into an adult with diverse interests. However, a serious back injury then forced her to move back to Texas. There, she was given the devastating news that she needed surgery and may never dance again. “My heart sank, and I remember just bawling my eyes out”, Lillian recalls.
After Lillian had healed from her back surgery, she began to rethink her life completely. She had been warned that she would never hoop or dance again, but refused to give up on her dream. Although she won Miss Texas All American in 2010, Lillian wanted to take a break from pageant life and move on towards recovery, and possibly performing again. This led to her relocation to Los Angeles, California, six years ago. “On a Wednesday I decided I would move to Los Angeles… by Saturday my car was packed and I was on my way.” Lillian has never looked back.
In Los Angeles, Lillian worked hard on strengthening her back. She secured a day job in a vintage lingerie store, and met and fell in love with her now-fiancé. Eventually, she recovered from her injury enough to start performing in the large and eclectic burlesque scene in Los Angeles.
One of the first tasks she had was to choose a performer name. “I like my first name,” she says, “but obviously I needed to figure out something to put on the end. One of my favourite burlesque dancers is Blaze Starr… and as I do have a small obsession with stars, I thought it fitted. So I became Lillian Starr – the hoop dancer who will light up your world!”
Lillian quickly found work as a performing artist within the industry, saying, “My first big show in L.A. was a go-go gig for Lords of Acid. I must have impressed someone as I’ve been busy ever since!”
Busy indeed, as Lillian has been involved in a host of different events within the scene in Los Angeles. She has performed with bands, in cabaret shows, at grand events such as Exxxotica and Viva Las Vegas, and at car shows all over America. Lillian has also appeared at several charity events as part of the Blue Moon Betties, helping to raise money and support communities.
Lillian’s principal act at the moment is an LED hoop burlesque show, entitled “Light up your world”. She also performs a fire hoop burlesque act, “World on fire”. Lillian, who describes herself as a “social butterfly”, has befriended many of her fellow artists; not only in burlesque, but also fire performers, go-go dancers, actors and musicians.
The confidence Lillian gained from performing again led to her rediscovering pageants. She recently participated in a pin-up pageant, which has inspired her to enter more competitions, including burlesque contests. “Burlesque is all about confidence,” Lillian asserts. “I’ve embraced my curves. Dancing burlesque has taught me to hold my head high and be proud of who I am… all of me”.
Lillian performed a punk rock hoop burlesque act at the Bang Boom Bash Punk Rock weekend in Long Beach at the beginning of November. You can also see her perform at the Rockabilly Extravaganza at the end of November, and she is particularly looking forward to Viva Las Vegas 20, where Lillian will be celebrating her 30th birthday! “Keep an eye out for me,” she reveals, “I’m always looking for new and exciting shows to be a part of so I’m hoping 2017 will open more doors for me. Looks like I’m not done yet!”
Lillian Starr’s resilience, and her determination in the face of adversity, demonstrate such an intense desire to thrive in her chosen industry, that one gets the impression that she cannot fail to succeed. “I feel I was given a second chance, and all I want to do is perform. This is what I live for!”
You can follow Lillian Starr on Instagram @lilstarryeyed and on Facebook @RockabellaLillianStarr