Mister Junior (from New Mexico, and currently in Chicago) is a burlesque performer who dances and strips his way into your heart. He is of mixed nationalities, bridging his Mexican heritage and American upbringing. He is in the company of Vaudezilla Burlesque and Productions
, (named by Chicago Reader
as “Best Burlesque 2011” and “Best Burlesque 2014").
What makes Mister Junior unique from any other male burlesque (often called “boylesque”) performer is his use of the art of burlesque to address larger conflicts. On the stage, his presence is commanding, eliciting cheers of excitement to see him remove the next garment. But it goes beyond this. Each of his acts seeks to question societal expectations of race and gender normativity and performance. He playfully adapts Hispanic stereotypes such as the Lover, the Bull/Bullfighter, and the expectations for a male body and subverts them before your eyes.
The second wave of feminism in the mid to late 20th century brought female empowerment into the social consciousness, asserting that women and men, though inherently different, should be treated as equals - that the woman’s place is not just behind the man, as a secretary, or housewife. That women have as much political, social, and sexual agency as men.
Today’s critical discourse surrounding gender and sexuality is no longer concerned with the binary distinctions of male/female, but rather the blurring of these boundaries. Gender (a socially performed aspect of personality) is inherently different from sexuality (sexual attraction), and between these two tenets are infinite combinations.
Going to a burlesque show brings all of these issues into focus. On the stage, the performers take charge of their bodies, stripping garments to their own pace and desire to reveal their bodies, not as vulnerable submissions for public consumption, but rather as active assertions of power. Yes, these are breasts, and they are mine. Yes, these are curves, see what I can do with them? Yes, here is a male body, watch me fuck with your expectations.
Beyond the spectacle, Mister Junior uses the art of burlesque as a platform for addressing these social issues. How are Latinos stereotyped in the media? What is the difference between a man and a beast? Do puppets have agency? What makes a man, a woman, beautiful or sexy - can one use tools from the other, and still be as such?
Burlesque (which derives from the root “burla” or joke) is part parody, part caricature, part satire, in the format of a striptease. It began as an art form in the Victorian era, as an alternative to theater. In the 1860’s to the 1940’s, it gained popularity in cabarets, clubs, as well as theaters with its mix of comedy, dance, and striptease. The art remains true today in its current format, usually as a variety show, in which singers, comedians, magicians, and other entertainment acts punctuate the shows between stripteases.
If you’ve never been to a Burlesque show (and watching the Christina Aguilera movie does NOT count), I highly suggest going. If you’re in the Chicago area, check out Mister Junior and Vaudezilla.com for upcoming shows.
Text by Kiam Marcelo Junio
Originally published here