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SuicideGirls bring Blackheart Burlesque tour to Oakland

Wildly popular website brings its live burlesque show to the New Parish on April 2



Here's a must-see show for grown-up geeks: Blackheart Burlesque, an adults-only dance show featuring the tattooed vixens of SuicideGirls.com, is kicking off a new tour at the New Parish nightclub in Oakland on April 2. SuicideGirls formed in 2001 as an online community to celebrate alternative beauty and culture—tattoos, piercings, and provocative nudity are all par far the course on SuicideGirls.com.

The website's co-founder, Missy Suicide,  created the site with humble aspirations ("I wanted to create a place for people to express themselves creatively and to meet like-minded people"), and watched it become a spectacular success, receiving five million unique visitors per month, with 6.5 million Facebook followers and another two million on Instagram.

That kind of virtual attention built demand for a live experience—the Blackheart Burlesque show. Fans of SuicideGirls have packed small cabarets and large sports arenas to watch tattooed women perform carefully choreographed, sometimes nude dances evoking Star Wars, A Clockwork Orange, and Planet of the Apes. In short: It's heaven for geeks.

I spoke with Missy Suicide about the upcoming Blackheart Burlesque performance, the rise of her online empire, and what presidential candidate Ted Cruz might learn from Suicide GIrls.

We have a Guide for Geeks in the current issue of Diablo magazine—covering everything from comic books to Game of Thrones. Why will readers interested in the Geek Guide want to know about Blackheart Burlesque?
Oh, they will love us, because the show is full of geeky pop culture references—everything from vintage video games to your favorite movies to Game of Thrones. We have a number that is a Planet of the Apes routine, we have one that uses Simpsons and Barbarella. Essentially anything and everything that’s geeky, we might have a dance for—with references as deep and layered as you want. And sexy.

Describe the creative process of putting together these dance numbers with pop culture riffs—how does a routine come together?
We talk to the girls to see what they are geeking out about. We have this ongoing running list of ideas that would be great for numbers. Then, I try to pair songs with the geeky reference, to conceptualize what might work. Finally, I talk to our choreographer who takes these songs and makes these wonderful, imaginative routines

Your tour kicks off at the New Parish in Oakland on April 2. How often do you come through the East Bay?
I think this is our first East Bay performance. We have performed in San Francisco a few times, but we haven’t been to the East Bay proper yet. I’m excited to check it out.

The growth of SuicideGirls has coincided with the popularity of the Internet, especially in the social media age. How has the popularity of social media platforms expanded your brand?SuicideGirls co-founder Missy Suicide
I definitely think that the site has evolved as social media has evolved, but when we first started it, social media wasn’t a thing yet. There were bloggers, but that was about it.

I remember saying that I wanted to create a place for people to express themselves creatively and to meet like-minded people. I remember getting feedback, like, “People are never going to do that, they won’t want to share their information online with strangers.”

One thing that I am very proud of is that SuicideGirls has always been about having a respectful dialogue. The rest of the Internet seems to be made up of billions of trolls, but we have been able to maintain that sense of respect—which is important for a place where women are baring their souls and their bodies.

You have a brand with phenomenal viral popularity and click rates—which is what everyone wants from their website. Especially politicians. Since the presidential race is just getting started, how would you advise the Ted Cruz campaign about building its web identity?
I would say that you need to find something that touches people close to their heart, that people can resonate with, and build a social presence around that. On SuicideGirls, I think we have built a community around the idea that everyone feels like an outsider at some point in their life, and that this is a safe place to come express yourself. That is the secret.

SuicideGirls' Blackheart Burlesque tour kicks off April 2 at the New Parish in Oakland. For more information, click here.