Wrestlepalooza burlesque performer Sweetpea: "It's about the sizzle, not the steak"

What happens when you take the best independent wrestling talent, the sexiest burlesque performers, and live punk rock, then jam them inside of First Avenue? You get the fourth installment of Wrestlepalooza, going down this Saturday night.

While "The Anarchist" Arik Cannon, Colt Cabana, Horace the Psychopath, and a roster full of face-smashing, high-flying brawlers will be handling the action inside the ring, some of Minnesota's top burlesque talent will take center stage as well, providing a sexy touch to the ensemble of bone-crushing bros.

Sweetpea, one of this weekend's featured performers, gave us a few minutes of her time before stepping through the ropes to talk about all things burlesque, wrestling, and how to follow in her glamorous footsteps.


For those who aren't familiar, when and how did you start doing burlesque?

I learned about it back in August 2003 when I saw an advertisement for a traveling show that featured beautiful women in vintage attire.  Within minutes of watching the first act, I was transformed. I wanted to find out everything I could about this art form and create and perform myself, and I started that following January.

What do you think the most popular misconception is about burlesque?  

That it isn't an art form or that it is the same thing as the stripping you'd find at a gentleman's club. Anyone who sees a quality burlesque show or performance will immediately notice the production value, the elaborate costumes, and the choreography or theatricality of each individual act or vignette. In a day when you can see everything on the internet or in a strip club, it's radical and refreshing to bring focus back to the titillation and anticipation rather than instant gratification. It's about the sizzle, not the steak.  


What was your experience like breaking into burlesque?  

After seeing my first show, I started doing tons of research online, buying books to find out about the history, and watching as many performance videos as I could find. I was overjoyed to find out that we had our own scene developing in the Twin Cities. I went to a Le Cirque Rouge show on a Friday, and approached the director after the show.  She encouraged me to come back that next Wednesday for an audition. I had my first performance in front of an audience two days later, and loved it. I haven't stopped since, and in 2013 was inducted into the Burlesque Hall of Fame as the Tournament of Tease's "Most Dazzling Dancer."

Wrestling and burlesque is a pretty unique combination. What were your thoughts when you were first approached about the idea of performing at Wrestelpalooza?  

I loved it! The marriage of masked wrestling and burlesque has been going on in other cites like L.A. for longer than I've been performing. I was thrilled to hear it had made its way to Minneapolis. With ring sports like wrestling, boxing, or MMA, there are ring girls between the matches or rounds. It makes sense with the elaborate and eccentric personalities of the wrestlers in Wrestlepalooza that they would want an appropriate spectacle of entertainment in between the matches, hence showgirls over bikini girls. When they approached me about it, I didn't hesitate to say yes.  

How do the Wrestlepalooza fans typically respond to you, compared to other burlesque events you've done around town?  

You anticipate your audience no matter what kind of performance. For Wrestlepalooza, I get to play and bring out my rock 'n' roll, over-the-top character acts and leave the high-glamour, classic, parade-and-peels meant for large stages at home. It allows me to express more sides of Sweetpea that others might not usually see. I have a blast, and so do they.

Did you ever watch wrestling before taking part in these events?   

Absolutely! I grew up on it. My memories from youth have images of Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, and the Bushwackers. I even had the figurines.

If someone were to ask you how they can get started in burlesque, what would you tell them?

Start researching and get inspired! Keep notebooks, lists, and Pinterest pages of ideas for acts you'd like to create or costumes to construct. If you feel uncertain about learning the basics and creating on your own, there are many options for burlesque and performance instruction throughout the Cities, including learning with yours truly.


Wrestlepalooza IV

First Avenue

Saturday, June 14, 7 p.m.

18+; $18-20

More details here