What’s the most important thing – aside from a polished, professional performance? Your name! After all, you want the legions of adoring viewers who witnessed the performance to remember who it was they saw! But giving yourself a stage name can be one of the hardest tasks ever! Here’s some tips that may help…
I’ve just started performing – help!
One of the most frequent stumbling blocks when starting out is what they hell to call yourself. There’s so much pressure to find yourself a name that you end up panicking and coming up with something highly unsuitable on the spur of the moment. The big thing to remember is, if you are just starting out and having lessons, you can always change your name at a later stage. Think of something ‘light, fun and temporary’ just for the course. Thinking in this non-committal way will take the pressure off and when you’ve found your footing, and what styles you like or what kind of performer you are, you can always change your name at a later time.
Temporary names – think about what you like…
DeeDee and I tell those on our beginners course all the time that if you are using a name just for the course, you really don’t need to stress about it! If you choose something silly, it doesn’t matter. Think about paring any of these things: your favourite
- body part
- Weather condition (however, bear in mind ‘windy’ anything might have other connotations!)
It doesn’t have to be anything in-depth, and if it’s just for fun, there is no worry!
Taking things a bit more seriously…
Once you’ve found your footing, and gravitated toward a style, now is the time to get yourself a “proper” name. You might want a moniker that describes what you do, what or who you are (fire performers with flame/hot/scorching/etc is an example and even Lilly Laudanum came about to ‘describe’ what I do, which is mostly historical characters – laudanum being a Victorian opiate), something that describes luxury if you are aiming high end or something a bit more ‘ambiguous’ if you are thinking of something more long term that will take you across professions (more on that in a bit!).
Avoid the predictable and the pitfalls…
A few years ago there was a trend towards a name that was “a little bit French” or “a little bit German”. And absolutely no offence intended towards anyone who has a name of that ilk… (especially since our lovely DeeDee is ‘of the rouge’!) but unless you are actually (for example) French, having a pseudo french name is a bit predictable and doesn’t really sum up you. And you can bet there will be a lot of other performers vying for their place in the spot lights with similar names. Stand out! Have the courage to call yourself something totally different. Often a name on a show application will make a producer really interested (and vice-versa if they have seen countless predictable names, they will expect countless predictable acts).
Other ideas you might want to avoid include anything that might be politically/socially and culturally incorrect. Be respectful and truthful to yourself. Be daring, be bold and you will find something that suits the inner-you! You might also want to avoid similar names to established acts. Just because you like the name that someone else has it’s not okay to change it slightly so you can name yourself – eg Dita Van Teese, Immodest Blaize, Teesy Von Dita or adding a ‘von’/”dela’/”la/le” in between a performers two name parts – etc. You get the idea… Things to bear in mind:
- Fuck the rules!
- You don’t need a ‘burlesque sounding’ name to be burlesque.
- Be yourself
- Be outstanding, different and unique
- A strong name will sell yourself and your acts
- Fuck the rules again, because you can.
Checking if any other performer has the same name
When all the brain-wracking is done and you’ve settled on a few names, it’s worth googling just to check if there is anyone on stages (anywhere and in any form – not just in the burlesque and cabaret field!) with the same name. Check alternative spellings, too. A name will be your ‘brand’, and the last thing you want is to be confused with another performer who might have been established for years and they won’t be best pleased that you’ve not done your homework in checking. A name confusion can have booking problems – eg a producer booking the “wrong X-named” performer or billing connotations, with ‘x-named’ performer advertised as performing and fans buying tickets expecting to see a famous name when, in fact, the ‘X-Named’ performer is a hobbyist who has chosen the same name as an already established act. And at the worst, an already established performer (in any field, again, remember to consider anyone in the public eye) may sue if you take on their name. To find out why this is so important, have a read of our post on branding
Once you have settled and checked your name, for god’s sake, register with Equity (UK). This is a union for all performers and there are so many benefits! Not only will being part of one professiohnal body make you feel more professional but you will be protected. You will be entitled to legal advice (should things ever go wrong – and Equity can help fight cases for you!), any advice actually! You also get Public Liability Insurance (to find out why insuring yourself is so important, head over here), there’s discounts from associations such as the RAC (handy if you drive everywhere to shows and need breakdown cover!) plus your name will be registered with them and other new potential members will not be able to register themselves professionally with the same name once your name is registered.
And on that note – it’s worth thinking about how seriously you want to be taken as a performer after your burlesque life. For instance, do you want your burlesque and cabaret career to lead onto the west end stages or a glittering calling towards film and TV or acting work? If you are thinking long term, it’s worth sparing a thought to the type of name that you would want associated with that work as well. After all, you don’t want to be in film credits for a serious tear-jerker as Fanjita Mc Fanny (and you possibly wouldn’t be called for an audition, as casting directors consider all things – even names! Although if it were a comedy tear-jerker, and you fancy a career in comedy, it might a highly appropriate name). You can, of course, change your name again when you progress in your career or your profession takes you on a different journey, but it would be a shame to do that if you’d built up a really great reputation for acts and professional conduct.