he burlesque performer can sometimes fall into gross caricature—ample décolletage, callipygous, waist tinier than the circumference of her head. It’s an easy stereotype to whip out, a generous brushstroke across a canvas.
But during coffee one morning, Sukki Singapora, 28, Singapore’s first burlesque artist is far from the boilerplate. Now, she’s in motorcycle pants and a tracksuit; her eyes eclipsed behind sunglasses, her fruit punch hair stretched back into a messy bun; her glamour stripped from her.
This isn’t the image that Singapora wants people to see. Usually.
“When I started,” she says after sipping her coffee, “I didn’t want people to know how much of an emotional struggle I had in carving out my burlesque career.” To showcase this is to expose her Achilles heel; it leaves her vulnerable.
But her opinion started to shift last year when she moved to LA to further her career. There, she discovered that she was a minnow among sharks in the entertainment industry. In Singapore, she gets stopped in the streets for a selfie, but in LA, no one gave a toss. She had to begin from zero once more. This setback proved interesting. “When you say you’re from Singapore, that holds people’s attention in Hollywood because that’s a story they’ve never heard of before.” Can that be seen as fetishising though? Singapora thinks for a beat. “That’s always the case for Hollywood, especially when you’re an Asian woman. But I’m not the typical aesthetic of what an Asian or Singaporean woman should look like.” She highlights her racial ambiguity as an example—it helps, in terms of not pigeonholing her into a safe category, thus opening her to more opportunities, but it hinders as well, as she has to justify her race and nationality. “That’s always one of the first few questions they ask me that usually detracts from my work,” she says, rolling her eyes.
To be fair, it’s not just in America that she experience this; she gets the same treatment in Singapore but after a while, people come to terms with it. Singapora avers that it’s the appearance of the new wave of mixed-race