Angela Senyshyn, better known as Miss La Muse, sips strawberry wine in her vintage kitchen in Winnipeg in anticipation of her performance at The Great Canadian Girlesque EXPO ’13 this weekend in Toronto.
On Jan. 27, 2013, La Muse will be sharing the stage with Tempest Storm, an iconic burlesque performer from the 50s whose career has spanned more than 60 years, as well as several other well-known teases from various eras and demographics.
“What I see in Angela is the ambition to really raise the bar for herself and her city,” said Christopher Justin Doyle, a magician who goes by Mysterion the Mind Reader, founder of Great Canadian Burlesque. “I see her as the representative of burlesque in that part of the country, much like Burgundy Brixx represents Vancouver.”
“I don’t know if it’s totally sunken in yet,” said La Muse. “I’m going to meet so many amazing women who are burlesque royalty and Tempest Storm is the queen. I’m so inspired by her.”
Despite the glamour, putting Winnipeg on the burlesque map hasn’t been all Swarovski crystals and feathers. La Muse grew up in Cape Breton with her parents and remembers desiring a different life.
“I don’t come from a wealthy background – in fact we were dirt poor. I lived in the middle of the woods and our first fridge was a hole in the ground with a rock slab on the top,” said La Muse. “My parents moved there because they wanted to live off the land.”
La Muse described her parents as hippies who encouraged her to be creative and free.
“I used sneak off and run through the woods naked. It felt awesome,” La Muse said. “I totally feel like a kid on stage. Running around naked in general fills me with joy.”
After graduating, she traveled to England where she saw burlesque for the first time.
“When I saw burlesque I felt very connected to it,” said La Muse. “I never expected that I could make living doing burlesque.”
La Muse remembers her first show and having stage fright.
“I was an absolute wreck, not because I was nervous about exposing myself, but because I was so concerned about the show,” La Muse recalls. “I remember being in the bathroom trying to put on my false lashes. My hands were shaking and I kept sticking them on my cheek. My friends came to see if I was ok and I was in a corner almost crying.”
Yet she got her first performance under her garter belt and went on to create burlesque workshops so other women could embrace their feminine selves.
“I noticed a lot of the girls came just to learn how to be confident. All women have a feminine and glamorous side, but you have to make it your own.”
Kimberley Melnychuk, a molecular biologist who performs under the name Miss Ruby Redlips, said La Muse was a great instructor.
“She’s very easy to learn from and makes you feel amazing every step of the way,” Redlips said.
In between performing and teaching workshops, La Muse has been working at Ipsos Reid in Winnipeg as a telephone surveyor for three years.
“Sometimes I’d make little burlesque costumes in my cubical,” said La Muse. “I’ve been tempted to tell people on the phone, “I’m gluing crystals onto panties right now.”
When La Muse returns from Toronto she plans to perform fulltime.
“It’s a risk becoming a full time artist, but I feel this is the year I need to go for it,” said La Muse. “I wouldn’t want any other life right now. I’m pretty much just scraping by the skin of my teeth, but I am so happy.”
Mysterion the Mind Reader supports La Muse’s decision to perform fulltime.
“I had to kill off a promising career in Culinary Arts to be a magician. Everyone looked at me like I was out of my mind, but now I work in New York every month,” said Mysterion. “The fact that she’s going independent, I think she’s going to go far.”
“(La Muse has) launched herself to a position where she’s going to be accepted by her peers and be on the stage with an icon,” Mysterion said. “It’s because of the amount of hard work and dedication that she does she’s been given that.”