PORTLAND, Ore. — Two Portland performers are celebrating making the burlesque global top 50 list for 2020, but more importantly, shining a light on Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in their industry.
Known as the "Pitbull of Burlesque," Lola Coquette is a multi-award winning international showgirl and instructor based in Portland. She is ranked no. 24 on the 21st Century Burlesque Magazine Most Influential Burlesque Industry Figures in the World list.
Coquette said her career in burlesque began 10 years ago. She is Indigenous Mexican and commented only four Latin performers made the list last year.
"Full transparency, I wanted to see more BIPOC folk on that list and more Latinx folk," Coquette said. This year, eight Latinx people made the list and over half were BIPOC.
"And that list should have been that diverse a long time ago," she said.
She headlined the 2018 International Latin & Hispanic Burlesque Festival and Coquette represented Portland at the New Mexico Burlesque Festival in 2019. She has done headlining acts highlighting her culture and heritage, including a performance on the decolonization of Mexican Indigenous women.
In Portland, she has been a part of the Oregon Burlesque Festival (OBF) and performed at Dante's in 2014 for OBF. She made the decision to move here permanently in 2016.
As an activist for BIPOC and Latinx rights, she celebrates representation.
Coquette is also the co-curator of Burlesque Latinx, a performer database burlesque performers can use to network and book virtual gigs.
She started this project during the shutdown so performers could still make an income without having a venue to perform at.
The 2020 Oregon Burlesque Festival has been postponed due to COVID-19 and no future date has been set yet.
However, Coquette will be a part of a virtual show Booklover's Burlesque: Once Upon a Tease, which will be live-streamed on Saturday, Feb. 27.
Another well-known artist, Isaiah Esquire, also from Portland, is no stranger to the global stage. The "Tower of Power" performer is happy to have made the world's best burlesque list for the second year in a row, ranking in at no. 43 for 2020.
Burlesque in its essence is, " A field of entertainment, it is storytelling by using, revealing, or putting on something to convey that story to its truest form," Esquire said. "People decide how they choose to do that, it's a form of expression."
Esquire attributes the power of vulnerability as to why the bonds formed within burlesque are so strong. Esquire has been performing in the burlesque scene for 13 years and said he's dedicated his life to staying visible as a person of color to inspire, educate and mentor other Black people.
"You are in a vulnerable state because you're always bare in the sense that you -- your body and art -- which is a combination of all your life experiences and you're sharing that all the time," he said. "You really grow a deep love with people that are sharing that same space with you."
He and his partner, Johnny Nuriel, are part of a burlesque show called BOYeurism, voyeurism with a 'B' which they started together in 2013. Esquire performed at Star Theatre from 2013-2017 and has been at Bossanova Ballroom performing until the shutdown.
Esquire and Nuriel, like many other performers in Portland, have had to adapt BOYeurism and their other shows to virtual events since the pandemic started and venues closed.
Esquire said Taglines are a big deal in burlesque. Together the power couple is known as the "Goliaths of Glam" and go by IZOHNNY for their performances.
The upcoming Boyeurism act will focus on Black and BIPOC excellence for a nod to black history month Feb. 6.
Esquire said having two people from Portland who are POC is powerful and historic for BIPOC performers.
Esquire and Coquette said they will use this international recognition as a platform to voice validation for more inclusivity and diversity within their industry.