Combine Planet of the Apes, The Simpsons, electronic duo Disclosure and 20 burlesque dancers in silver bikinis and monkey masks — and you get the Blackheart Burlesque, a SuicideGirls show set out to beat back traditional beauty standards.
Fourteen years ago, Selena Mooney, aka Missy Suicide, came up with the idea for a website that would showcase alternative beauty, not conforming to the ubiquitous standard of blonde hair and big boobs pushed by the media.
So Mooney, together with cofounder Sean Suhl, created SuicideGirls, a membership-based community of members and models, where women post photos of themselves, often in various states of undress, write blog posts and join online discussion groups with titles like “The worst things to say during sex” and “Twin Peaks Reboot.”
She thought it might be popular in Portland, where she was living at the time. Portland is also home to author Chuck Palahniuk, whose novel Survivor inspired the community’s name with the line, “It’s the same with these suicide girls calling me up.”
Today, the site claims more than 5 million users per month, receives more submissions than Playboy and features SuicideGirls from every continent.
Part of the SuicideGirls empire, which spans books to films, includes the Blackheart Burlesque, the troupe that toured from 2002 to 2007. After a six-year hiatus, the show is back, putting a fresh, raw twist on classic burlesque.
“Burlesquing has really risen; it’s really upped the ante a bit,” Mooney tells EW. “So we knew we had to do our best and we decided to do an all pop-culture theme show.” Think edgy lingerie meets Star Wars and Game of Thrones costume props with a dash of twerking.
While burlesque has come a long way from its Victorian-era roots, the mission of SuicideGirls stays consistent with burlesque’s original goal of critiquing society: SuicideGirls are neo-pinup beauties celebrating their piercings, tattoos, colored hair and different body types.
“I hope that [audiences] leave with a sense of fun and that sexiness can be silly; it can be fun,” Mooney says. “The variety of girls that are in the show are all beautiful and enjoying themselves, and beauty doesn’t come in one package.”
She adds, “And that’s a pretty big, heavy message for a burlesque show.”
Blackheart Burlesque performs 9 pm Thursday, Sept. 17, at the McDonald Theatre; $25 adv., $30 door. 18-plus.