#SWAAYthenarrative

Changing The Social Narrative Through Politically-Charged Burlesque

Culture

Although burlesque may seem like unexpected vehicle for making a statement on social issues, Earlecia Richelle believes the art of dance is an empowering way to convey powerful, unexpected messages to an audience.


“I like unconventional ways to tell a story,” says Richelle, the Beverage Director and Cultural Curator at NYLO Hotel in NYC. “For me, it’s not through writing a book or an essay. Instead, I want to tell stories through bartending and through the art of burlesque. I like taking these issues that have a lot of depth to them and apply them to arenas that are very social. You go to burlesque show, you think you are seeing skin, and that it will be sexy. You’re not thinking you're going to get a history lesson. You think you are just going to have a good time.”

Richelle, who began her career in editorial, said she always knew she wanted to work in New York City in the creative arts. In her third year at college, she moved to Manhattan to pursue a career in magazines.

Earlecia's Solange & Sage Cocktail Recipe

1.5 oz Ketel One

.75 oz Sage Simple Syrup (1:1)

.25 oz Suze

.50 oz Lemon Juice

2 Whole Blackberries

1-2 drops Preserved Lemon Brine

​Directions:​

Muddle blackberries in a cocktail shaker. Add the rest of the contents and shake with pellet ice. Dump contents in rocks glass. Top with pellet ice. Garnish with a burnt sage leaf and edible gold glitter.

Once in the city, Richelle got an internship at Essence Magazine, despite no longer being a full time student (a no-no at the time). According to Richelle, she kept up the clever ruse so that she could eventually follow her dreams of storytelling through unique mediums.

They kept asking me for my papers and I kept saying ‘I’ll get them,’” laughs Richelle. “I just stretched it out until I couldn’t anymore and then I made an excuse why I had to leave.”

Thanks to her shifty maneuver, Richelle says her internship helped open many doors for her. Richelle next went on to work at Sephora, where she worked in the beauty editing department, helping them build out their blog. From there, she began an editing role at Henri Bendel, and while she enjoyed experiencing the New York City world of beauty and fashion, Richelle felt something was missing.

“What I really wanted to be was a stylist and an editor and I wasn't having that much success in the magazine side,” said Richelle, who soon joined forces with an accessories designer, becoming a stylist assistant. “I was styling music videos and editorial shoots. I was still in and out of school trying to finish my degree, but I had all this passion [that had still been untapped]."

After attempting to launch her own online magazine, while concurrently moonlighting as as a cocktail waitress, Richelle said she was feeling a lack of creativity. She decided to

"check out a burlesque show" called Brown Girls Burlesque, and suddenly, Richelle says the world opened up for her.

“When I tell you it was a moment that changed my life, it was” says Richelle, who is of Panamanian and African descent. “I was like ‘Yes! I can finally tell the stories I have been trying to tell through burlesque. This is totally the platform. Looking back I understand that I’m very much a storyteller of my ancestor’s stories; that is who I am. I wanted to tell stories of people who looked like me; I wanted to talk about the things that represented me and where I came from, which being told in mainstream media. Women of color are so fly and our culture is so rich , why don’t I see that [reflected in the media]?. I didn't understand it."

These days Richelle is focused on telling stories that have to do with relevant issues including race, culture, and even global warming through burlesque and mixology. In one of Richelle's burlesque acts called Toxic Bee (which is danced to Britney Spears’ Toxic), she plays a bee in love with a sunflower. In the skit, eventually the love, like climate change, poisons the dance, culminating in a dramatic fashion.

“In other countries, say, Latin American cultures, daughters are raised to be accepting of their female forms, says Richelle, making the point that by embracing Burlesque, she is able to rise against the American tendency to have self hate. "They dance, they own their body, and they learn that from a young age. For me burlesque takes me to that original place if I had been born in Panama or Africa, and I had felt very disengaged from that.”

In her newest role at NYLO, Richelle is still telling stories. Now, a maestro of mixology, the outspoken beauty spends her time creating meaningful cocktails like Strange Fruit, meant as a a reflection in America's gruesome relationship with the hanging tree; Roses and Ash, a smokey rose sour inspired by Van Gough's painting Roses which he created right before leaving the Saint-Remy asylum; and Viva La Loba- playing homage to my most adored book, "Women Who Run with the Wolves"

“I want to continue creating high concept cocktails that create a craft cocktail experience fused with culture and unique engagement,” says Richelle.

The Quick 10

1.What app do you most use?

Lyft.

2.What's the first thing you do in the morning?

Check my emails.

3.Name a business mogul you admire.

Dita Von Teese.

4.What product do you wish you had invented?

Red Lipstick.

5.What is your spirit animal?

Maxine Waters.

6.What is your life motto?

Keep creating, no matter what.. "you can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." Maya Angelou

7.Name your favorite work day snack.

I forget to eat most days at work.

8.What's something that's always in your bag?

Lipstick, wine key, and business cards.

9.What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?

Lesotho, southern Africa.

10.Desert Island. Three things, go.

Gin & tonic, avocados, and some kind of hat.

3 min read
Culture

Please Don't Forget to Say Thank You

"More grapes, please," my daughter asked, as she continued to color her Peppa Pig drawing at the kitchen table.

"What do you say?" I asked her, as I was about to hand her the bowl.

"More grapes?"

I shook my head.

"Please?"

I stood there.

"I want green grapes instead of red grapes?"

I shook my head again. I handed her the bowl of green grapes. "Thank you. Please don't forget to say thank you."

"Thank you, Momma!"

Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children?

Many of us are busy training our young children on manners on the other side of the Zoom camera during this pandemic. Reminding them to say please, excuse me, I tried it and it's not my favorite, I am sorry, and thank you. And yet somehow simple manners continue to be undervalued and underappreciated in our workplaces. Because who has time to say thank you?

"Call me. This needs to be completed in the next hour."

"They didn't like the deck. Needs to be redone."

"When are you planning on sending the proposal?"

"Did you see the questions he asked? Where are the responses?"

"Needs to be done by Monday."

Let me take a look. I didn't see a please. No please. Let me re-read it again. Nope, no thank you either. Sure, I'll get to that right away. Oh yes, you're welcome.

Organizations are under enormous pressure in this pandemic. Therefore, leaders are under enormous pressure. Business models collapsing, budget cuts, layoffs, or scrapping plans… Companies are trying to pivot as quickly as possible—afraid of extinction. With employees and leaders everywhere teaching and parenting at home, taking care of elderly parents, or maybe even living alone with little social interaction, more and more of us are dealing with all forms of grief, including losing loved ones to COVID-19.

So we could argue we just don't have time to say thank you; we don't have time to express gratitude. There's too much happening in the world to be grateful for anything. We are all living day to day, the pendulum for us swinging between surviving and thriving. But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?

If you don't think you have to say thank you; if you don't think they deserve a thank you (it's their job, it's what they get paid to do); or if you think, "Why should I say thank you, no one ever thanks me for anything?" It's time to remember that while we might be living through one of the worst recessions of our lifetimes, the market will turn again. Jobs will open up, and those who don't feel recognized or valued will be the first to go. Those who don't feel appreciated and respected will make the easy decision to work for leaders who show gratitude.

But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?

Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children? Remind them with flashcards? Bribe them with a cookie? Tell them how I proud I am of them when they say those two magical words?

Showing gratitude isn't that difficult. You can send a thoughtful email or a text, send a handwritten card, send something small as a gesture of thank you, or just tell them. Call them and tell them how thankful you are for them and for their contributions. Just say thank you.

A coworker recently mailed me a thank you card, saying how much she appreciated me. It was one of the nicest things anyone from work has sent me during this pandemic. It was another reminder for me of how much we underestimate the power of a thank you card.

Apparently, quarantine gratitude journals are all the rage right now. So it's great if you have a beautiful, leather-bound gratitude journal. You can write down all of the people and the things that you are thankful for in your life. Apparently, it helps you sleep better, helps you stay grounded, and makes you in general happier. Just don't forget to take a moment to stop writing in that journal, and to show thanks and gratitude to those you are working with every single day.