Lily Liqueur of Norfolk’s Focus Fox Burlesque Troupe
“I like to think I’m a mix between Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe—a little cheese-cakey with a little sex appeal.”
She sits at a mirror, dabbing a brush into a small jar of Martha Stewart red craft glitter, then carefully sweeps the shimmery dust over her cherry red lips. She unfastens the pin curlers from her locks, letting tight curls fall to her ears.
Next she slips on a black bustier studded in rhinestones, followed by a series of undergarments bedazzled with more rhinestones and tassels, a black sequined robe, thigh high-panty hose and strappy stilettos. A pair of silky, elbow-length black gloves and a feathered boa tops off her ensemble. Finally, she steps onto the stage where she’ll take everything right back off again.
Undressing in front of strangers has become second nature to the burlesque dancer known as “Lily Liqueur.”
“I started getting immersed in this world,” says the 26-year-old entertainer with tattoos scattered about her voluptuous figure.
Growing up, she loved performing and entertaining and even dabbled in tap, ballet and jazz but says she never fit in with a dance group because of her curves. Her fascination with pinups led to her interest in burlesque.
Since 2011, Liqueur has produced, directed and performed Burly Q at the Venue, held at The Venue on 35th in Norfolk’s Park Place. She, along with three other women, make up Focus Fox Burlesque, a troupe that presents creative stripteases mixed with humor.
Each show has a theme and original costumes to coordinate. In a tribute to Disney’s Up she adorned herself in colorful balloons, provocatively popping one at a time with a pin. For her role as Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, Liqueur covered her tattoos with makeup and donned a bright blonde wig, dancing with fabric that resembled flames. She owns at least 30 wigs, but the green hair is hers.
Despite the stripping aspect of their routines, their purpose isn’t to sexually gratify men but rather to express themselves and to challenge sexual taboos. In fact, their audience demographic is mostly couples, women and older fans. “Everyone finds something to like about burlesque, whether it’s the costumes or the performers,” Liqueur says. “It throws back to what everyone loved about the ’40s and ’50s—being the most glamorous you.”
Liqueur describes burlesque as an incredibly loving environment for everyone involved. “You’ll never hear anyone say, ‘She shouldn’t wear that; she’s too fat.’ We’re here to empower each other and everyone else in the audience,” she explains. “As a kid—and really your whole life—you’re catered to believe you need to look a certain way or act a certain way. Why can’t you own that you look good and let the world know it?”
Lily Liqueur teaches classes each Sunday at the Norfolk Institute of Burlesque.