“I’m going to be big and a huge visual exclamation point and you’re going to like it,” she says of her stage presence. “I’m sparkly and fabulous.”
Jenkins performs regularly in Atlanta and also tours the U.S., most recently with the Body Heat Femme Porn Tour that took her around the country with other queer femmes who want to break down barriers to what “femme” actually means.
But now Vagina Jenkins has the opportunity to go international — she’s been accepted to perform at the prestigious London Burlesque Fest April 20-25.
But to get there she needs $700 for a plane ticket. So Vagina Jenkins is doing what she does best — throwing a “spectacle” to raise some money and entertain the masses.
“All About Vag” on Thursday, April 8, not only celebrates Jenkins, but includes performances by many other queer artists who are donating their time to send their favorite burlesque performer across the pond.
The lineup includes “King of the Teabag” Al Schlong, interpretive hip hop dance from Twinhead Theatre Company, a tribute to vaginas from Lala Luscious, Drag King Devin Liquor, and a performance by Syren of the South burlesque artists Talloolah Love.
There will also be plenty of music from such bands as The Gazelles, a 50s-inspired “grrl” rock band, and Uncle Daddy and the Kissing Cousins.
“Sometimes when I’m alone at the sewing machine, I feel all alone and that nobody loves me,” Jenkins admits. “But when everyone agreed to do this show for me, it was validating. I’m very grateful.”
| ‘All About Vag’
Thursday, April 8
8 p.m.-11 p.m.
Cover: $5 to $10 sliding fee
290 Martin Luther King Junior Drive SE, Atlanta, GA 30312
One of the major acts of the evening will be a new play by Johnny Drago.
“I claim the spot as her number one fan,” Drago says, who will debut his new play, “Attack of the 6-foot Vagina!”
“It’s twisted and obscene and borderline offensive,” Drago says.
The play is about a retired vagina hunter who is called back to duty after one vagina escapes from Vagina Island. But Drago promises the play has meaning.
“It’s about how women are locked up, kept under control, silenced — about how society and America want to silence the vagina, to continue the metaphor,” he explains.
And, yes, there’s a tall vagina in the play: a person wearing a costume designed by Vicki Kelly.
“I’m so lucky to have her design and create this costume. As a gay man I need all the help I can get — I have no frame of reference,” he says, laughing. “But not only is it a costume, or a comedic piece, but also a piece of art that is alive.”
Vagina Jenkins first performed burlesque at the Michigan Womyn’s Festival in 2003 and has continued to hone her craft since then.
“There’s a burlesque show on the last night [of the festival], not part of the official program, and I got asked to do the show because I’m a flamboyant femme,” she says.
About seven years ago, not knowing what burlesque was, she asked other people what to do and then created her own idea of what she wanted her act to be. Her first performance was a slow dance and tease number with silk flowers she sewed to her bra and panties.
“I danced as Eve to ‘A Sunday Kind of Love’ by Etta James. And I love that I started performing in a queer context,” she says. “All my major firsts have been in queer contexts.”
Burlesque is an art form that celebrates all things feminine, Jenkins says. But she also likes to push the boundaries of what people perceive as the ideal beautiful woman.
“I’ve always done this on my own terms by never going on a diet, not being closeted, no boob job,” she says. “And the way burlesque works feels so gay.”
Jenkins wants to start touring on her own and is also trying to raise funds for an RV or a van so she can take her message of challenging the traditional views of beauty to more and more people.
“I want to bring more visibility for the communities I represent — women of size, people of color and queer femmes,” she says.
“And I’m an attention-seeking whore,” she adds.
Watching Jenkins perform, Drago says he feels transported to the past and to the future at the same time.
“I think what she does is really important in representing very consciously and in a focused way the types of beauty that are not typically challenged,” he says.
“By just showing up she challenges you to think about beauty. While honoring the history of burlesque, she’s subverting it.”
Photo: Burleseque artist Vagina Jenkins is fundraising her way to the London Burlesque Festival with ‘All About Vag.’ (Courtesy Knottie Pictures)