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Tiny fish in a really big pond

In October of 2019, I made the 8-hour drive to Columbus, Ohio. After my surprising win at Regionals, it was now time to compete at the Burlypicks World Championships. It was set to be a three day event filled with winning acts from across the globe. And my lead foot was looking to get me there fast.


I showed up to the first night fashionably late, but still in time to see all the acts. When traveling solo, I like to let the crowd fill in before I show up. I’m not a big fan of standing alone in empty bars. Performance nights are a different story, but, the Thursday evening show was for Master of Comedy and Master of Lip Sync. I was just there to watch. As the show was getting started, I settled in next to a group of performers I knew from back home and got ready for a night that could only be described as hysterical and talent-filled. These acts were insane. No doubt, the bar had been raised. And it was only the first night there.

I could feel my confidence begin to slip away and I found myself in a familiar place: The land of over-thinking and frantically making changes. I spent the entirety of day two running around a city I had never been to, looking for rhinestones, fabric and sewing materials. When woke up that Friday morning, and took a look at my costume, I realized it needed some major improvements to have chance at standing up to what I had seen the night before. I also realized I only had one pastie. Tricky when you've got two nipples. One of these days, I’m going to be so freaking prepared y’all won’t even know it’s me. Remember that list ….

Anyway, I was so busy making another pastie and rhinestoning my costume that I was more than fashionably late for the Friday night show. Not only did I lose track of time in all my costuming mayhem, I was also feeling unsure of going alone. Everyone from the night before had already left for prior commitments, and I wasn’t feeling super confident. But I sucked it up, got dressed and headed out. As I drove around in circles, I finally figured out the venue was tucked behind a bunch of other buildings. I would have to get out and walk — through some pretty dark alleys. And as a car pulled up to me and asked if my name was Crystal — I started thinking, maybe I should’ve gotten there earlier. But I digress.

As I made my way inside, I said a quick hello to a couple familiar faces and then found a seat upstairs away from the crowd. As I watched from the balcony above with my makeup on point, dressed in all gold, I was painfully aware of how alone I was. I was finding it hard to smile and I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I was deep inside my head feeling awkward and sad. But with my gaze locked on the stage, I sat up tall and let the performances take over. They were beautiful. There was one in particular, a chair act with two women, that I found incredibly striking. Their movement together was amazing. I don't believe they won that night, but that is the number that stands out now as I’m reminiscing. I left quietly after the awards were handed out, looking forward to some much needed sleep.

And just like that, Saturday was here. It came way too fast. I wasn’t ready. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel like I was good enough to take the stage. My self-confidence had been completely shook. I had spent two days watching some phenomenal acts. And until then, I rarely watched the performances on stage before I went out. This trip was turning out to be a lesson in how to keep your cool when you feel the walls of self-doubt closing in. It was the morning of the last day. And it was my night to perform for Best Overall. Because of competition rules, I had to perform the same number I won with back at regionals : Lover. Fighter. I was already losing the battle with my insecurities hard and this number never felt entirely comfortable on stage. So, in a moment of anxiety and fear, I decided to update my choreography. The hotel room I was in had a small living room area that I turned into my “stage”. With the desk pushed into the bedroom and end tables on the couch, I started making changes. I’m sure some of you are reading this and screaming, WHY?! And that would be an appropriate response to this, because what a seriously, fucking horrible idea that was! If my head wasn’t in the game before that, it surely wasn’t now. Ten out of ten would not recommend.

I forgot that I was still a baby in burlesque. I was still less than a year into performing and I put way too much pressure on myself going into that weekend. Saturday proved to be just what I had started to envision. I was shaky and thinking way too much. Bottom line : I gave a good performance, but it was not my best. Everything I had been feeling in the days before were verified that last day. I really was a tiny fish in a very large pond. I had so much more to learn.

Looking back now, I’m proud of what I put out on that stage. It was the schooling in burlesque I didn’t know I needed. I left Ohio with my eyes wide open and grateful that I was able to gain the experience. Burlesque is so different when you start to see it outside of your hometown. The more variety you get to take in, the more creative the mind becomes. And it’s those moments I use now when I’m creating something new.



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