Famous and Soon-to-be Mingle at Burlesque Fest

by Molly Gilmore

Headliner Medianoche, known for her charm and her costumes, holds the title of Miss Exotic World and has been crowned Queen of Burlesque in New Orleans. Photo by Pixel Vixen Imaging

Some of the hottest performers in burlesque will show their stuff at the Pacific Northwest Burlesque Festival, happening May 4-6 at the Olympia Ballroom — and that includes Olympia’s own Papaya Magic Cabaret, which has been chosen to perform at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. “It’s the biggest stage in all of the world in burlesque,” said festival organizer and burlesque performer Valerie Veils.

“It’s like the Superbowl of burlesque,” said Papaya Magic founder Latina K. Turner D’ho (formerly Perlita Picante). “I think they get about 400 to 600 applications from around the world. It’s a very big deal. … I screamed when I saw the email come in. My heart was jumping out of my chest.”

Papaya Magic — an all-Latinx trio made up of Turner D’ho, Dulce D’jour and Vanessa the Witch — isn’t the only festival act with a connection to the Las Vegas Hall of Fame, which preserves burlesque traditions and honors contemporary performers: Festival headliners P. NoNoire of Chicago and Medianoche of New York have both won top titles at the hall’s annual showcase and competition weekend.

And it’s not just the big-name acts that make the second annual festival a notable event: There’s also the fact that Olympia has a burlesque festival at all, said Valerie Veils, a longtime Tush Burlesque dancer and the festival’s producer. “It’s definitely unusual that a city the size of Olympia has a burlesque festival,” Veils said. “It’s pretty cool that we have enough fans and people who are willing to support burlesque.

Headliner P. NoNoire has been crowned both Mr. Exotic World and King of Burlesque. Photo courtesy of the Pacific Northwest Burlesque Festival

“Seattle has a few festivals, but they are more specific, like a boylesque festival and What the Funk, which is an all-POC festival,” she said. “This festival (in Olympia) is the first all-inclusive burlesque festival in Washington State.”

So vibrant is the Olympia scene that this isn’t the first time a local troupe has made it to the Hall of Fame. Tush performed there in 2022, and Veils competed in the best debut category that same year. “It was a bucket-list dream to perform there as part of a group and solo,” she said.

The Olympia burlesque community grew out of the Seattle scene, where classes and shows abounded, and it became particularly vibrant thanks in large part to Tush, Veils and Turner D’ho agreed. The troupe, which started in 2009 and performed its last show in February, produced monthly shows for many years. “The shows built the audience that we have now,” Turner D’ho said.

Veils got her start in Seattle and joined Tush in 2013. “I was amazed by the talent and quality of shows they were producing,” she said. “The burlesque community in Olympia has continued to grow and grow since Tush started. I’m honored and excited to continue its growth with this festival and future productions.”

Veils is too busy producing this year’s festival to perform at it, but among those on stage will be one of her proteges: D’jour of Papaya Magic Cabaret. “I taught Burlesque 101 with Hattie Hotpants and Sly Violet,” Veils said. “Our students created acts and performed in front of an audience. We got 35-plus burlesque newbies on stage to perform. Dulce D’jour … was one of them..”

Olympia Latinx troupe Papaya Magic — from left, Vanessa the Witch, Dulce D’jour and Latina K Turner D’Ho — takes inspiration from the Latin American Las Vegas showgirl aesthetic in the number the troupe will perform at the Pacific Northwest Burlesque Festival. Photo by Heather Schofner Photography

Pacific Northwest Burlesque Festival

7 p.m. May 4 and 6 and 9 p.m. May 5 and 6

The Olympia Ballroom, 116 Legion Way, Olympia

How much
$23-$50 per show

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