The art of burlesque is and always has been about self-expression and body love, and the women of Brown Sugar Burlesque are bringing both– with a soulful twist. This all-Black show (created by Mariah Kunkel with help from producer Jessabelle Thunder) is out to shift public perspective about what burlesque looks and feels like with their own brand of beauty, glamour and melanated magic, mixing old-school strip tease and foxy fresh showmanship.
Thunder is a local treasure thanks to her powerful presence, thematic costumes, alluring music and movement, and interactive style, which lifts a room and makes it feel like a party. We’ll never forget her swingin’ 60s grinds at Tiki Oasis, the annual island-themed jam in San Diego, or her mystical moments at Belle Book and Candle, the witchy burlesque bash at El Cid in Silver Lake.
Currently seen regularly at Bathtub Gin, The Outlet LA and La Boheme, Thunder describes her performance style as a mix of classic striptease with modern moves. “I can’t really be put into a box,” she says.” I’m a bit flirty, a bit sexy, a bit silly and demure at the same time.”
Her creative vision shifted over the years in terms of inspiration, going from an internal focus to an external one and the world at large. “I wondered what I could do for not only the burlesque community but for society in general,” she tells us.“My answer was to put Black burlesque on display and highlight others as well. I just wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Around 2022, I met Mariah and she approached me with the idea to have a full all-Black experience that includes a burlesque show and live music. We wanted to get Black people out to some high-end, fancy pants things because we felt like there wasn’t enough of that in LA. The idea came to fruition when she came up with the name “Brown Sugar Burlesque.”
Beyond the vibe conjured by the name and funky Rolling Stones tune, these ladies really do “dance so good,” but the show offers a lot more: live music, a Black female DJ spinning classic RnB, drag, and specialty cocktails using Black-owned brands and poured by some of the finest female Black bartenders in town.
This month, marks Sugar’s third iteration with the following line-up: Maurice Smith and Delta Soul; burlesque by Thunder, Egypt Blaque Knyle, Onyx Nova, Candace Cane and Ashleeta; drag performances from Amber Crane and Ivory Onyx; andb eats and grooves from DJ Chrome Queen. Hendricks Gin National Brand Ambassador Vance Henderson hosts and cocktails will be poured up by Linda Douglas.
At Checker Hall, 104 N. Ave. 56, Highland Park; Sun., Oct. 15, dorrs at 6:30 p.m. More info here.
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