Portland State University Sociology Paper: December 9, 2012
Best Renaissance Man in Drag
On her business card, Zora Phoenix presents herself as a sort of jill-of-all-trades: a singer, emcee, graphic designer and burlesque producer. Nowhere does she use the phrase “drag queen”—even though, when she gets off her day job as a red-haired, bespectacled advertising executive named Chris Stewart, she changes out of her black slacks and gray shirt and into fake eyelashes, a dark bob wig and shimmering red dress. Instead, she prefers the term “gender illusionist.”
“I’m not really trying to be what most people think of as a drag queen,” says Stewart, 31. “I’m not transgender, I’m not a transvestite. But if you take drag queen, transvestite and transgender and put them in a triangle, I’m in the center.”
Zora singing Hot Child from Zora Phoenix on Vimeo.
Stewart began entertaining at age 8, as a square-dance caller in his hometown of Louisville, Ky. When he moved to Southern California in 2004, he picked up a gig hosting a bingo night at a piano bar in Long Beach, where he began to develop an act combining music and comedy around his Zora Phoenix persona. He describes Zora as “a seemingly promiscuous, dumb girl who’s really acerbic and witty and quick to catch you off-guard,” but insists that under the makeup, “it’s really just me.”
Since moving to Portland in 2007, Stewart’s job description has expanded. In addition to putting on burlesque events all around town—including Burlesque S’il Vous Plaît at Crush and Phoenix Variety Revue at Kelly’s Olympian—he runs the burlesquepdx.com website, uses his marketing background to teach performers how to better brand themselves: to, in his words, “use your T&A to help your S&L”). MATTHEW SINGER.
Original article here: http://wweek.com/portland/article-17782-best-of-portland-2011-best-people.html
Zora Phoenix, producer, emcee and gender-illisionist, gets around. Around town, that it is. With twoburlesque shows occuring this week alone, she's a one-woman whirlwind in six-inch heels.
Phoenix, who was born in Kentucy, '...came to Portland by way of Southen California,' where she emceed and performed in a number of variety and drag shows. After co-emceeing a breast cancer event in September of 2008, she saw the ways in which burlesque enriches women and was determined to find a way to participate. 'Seeing the self-confidence, sense of self and strength that it requires to be a good burlesque performer entranced me. The art form is beautiful, sensual and empowering in so many ways,' she says. A few months after the benefit, she was contacted by producer, Frankie Tease, of girlpartiespdx , to emcee her show entitled Big Top Bottoms Up, at Kelly's Olympian. After almost five months, Miss Tease audiences outgrew the room so she moved her show to a bigger venue. It was then that Phoenix took on the role of producer' in additon to her role as emcee. She's been at Kelly's over a year now, where she presents bi-mothly burlesque shows entitled, The Phoenix Variety Review.
Zora, who handles every aspect of each production, explains her duties this way: ' For my events, I act as booker, business manager, contract writer, graphic designer, marketing director, Internet promotions and publicity manager, set-up person, liason between bar and staff and production, emcee/hostess, music editor, finance manager and clean-up staff.' Where does she get her energy? Phoenix, who sings, dances and handles the microphone like a pro, says, ' I live to entertain.'
Phoenix claims that there are plenty of artistic pay-offs for the hundreds of hours she invests in burlesque. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, she sees her production company as a vehicle for other performers, ' ...as I age and mature, I find that sometimes the best way to entertain is to pave the way for others to perform. In this case, producing a solid show that is entertaining to the audience, ethical to the performers, and successful.' Likening her productions to rearing a child, she says, ' Having my name attached to an event over which I have total creative and artist control that people enjoy and want to return to see, is like seeing your child make its first step...it never stops evolving,'
Phoenix is appreciated in the burlesque community for her efforts to create unity. She works with burlesque producer, Rayleen Courtney, of SinnSavvy to make this happen. Together, they concentrate '....on brainstorming both concepts and concrete ideas to help provide cohesion. Besides hosting potlucks meetings among key performers and expanding each time to loop in more of those involved in the burlesque scene...' she's developed two Internet networking sites, ' One for the public to learn where to see it, what it is and how to become involved, and a separate site to produce resources and information to those deeply involved: performers: producers and vendor/skill-holders.' She admits that 'This has been a slow, painstaking process but has been moving along at a steady pace.'
Zora Phoenix enthusiasm for her art is palpable. Her considerable talent and dedication have impressed both peers and audience members alike. The next Phoenix Variety Review returns to the stage on Wednesday, May 19th at Kelly's Olympian. Burlesque S'il Vous Plait, which occurs the first Friday of every month, is "billed as a classic burlesque show with a contemporary twist..' Returning to the nightclub, Crush, this Friday, May 7th, this presentation begings at 9:00 p.m, and features Zora Phoenix, performer and emcee, dancers, Itty Bitty Bang Bang, Cherry Valance and Delilah Sinn, with belly dancing by Kristinh and live music by Stellar's Jay. Keep an eye on this ambitious producer/emcee; you can always count of her to deliver an amazing show.
Original article: http://www.examiner.com/article/producer-emcee-zora-phoenix-is-all-about-burlesque