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Meet Kira Turnage of The Dollface Dames in Santa Monica but we perform all over Southern California

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kira Turnage.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kira. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m originally from the East Coast. I moved to LA to pursue a career in the Entertainment industry. When SAG went on strike I couldn’t work, so I started back with my theatre roots, performing in a dance play that hinted on burlesque. A producer came to that show and asked if I’d perform in a burlesque fundraiser to raise money for their theatre company. At that point I didn’t really know what burlesque was, but I looked it up and said, “Wait, you mean I get to play a character, act, dance, and wear lingerie…yea that sounds fun!”

That show was so successful we ended up doing an entire summer run. I’ve always been passionate about working with talented women and self-empowerment. After seeing how successful this could be, I tapped into my business background and decided to start my own Burlesque company, so performers could have a place in LA to explore their own unique talents in a safe and collaborative space. Burlesque combines all my favorite things: acting, dancing, empowerment, glamorous costumes, travel, and sometimes even food 😉

Time has flown by, and this October we will be celebrating our 10-year company anniversary. I have produced and directed over 1000 shows. Our company has been featured on NBC as ‘the thing to check-out in the LA Burlesque scene’, we’ve performed for celebrity clients such as Anna Paquin, performed at Sundance Film Festival, and we regularly perform weekly shows all over Southern California.

When I first started TDD there were only 4 of us, myself included. Now our company is comprised of over 30 principal performers and 100 specialty artists, showcasing dancers, singers, magicians, aerialists, circus performers, fire performers, showgirls, boylesque, sideshow, bands, comics, variety acts, & more!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?

I don’t think there are any smooth roads when starting your own business. It’s taken a lot of hard work and taken me several years to build The Dames up to where we are today. Being self-employed people often joke about the fact that I can sleep in and do whatever I want, and boy are they wrong. Instead of doing what I want, as the sole owner, I have to do everything. I am literally every department; sales and marketing, social media, accounting, booking, and the list goes on and on.

Live entertainment is a hard business to be in, as venues are few and far between compared to 10 years ago. When I first started The Dames, there were only a couple other burlesque groups in LA. Now it seems like everyone has their own show. Los Angeles is the entertainment capital, so there are shows going on every night of the week somewhere. Getting the word out about our shows is challenging when there’s so much going on. Finding the right venues for shows is also difficult. I want to work with venues that will work as hard as me on making a night successful. With this in mind, I’ve thankfully found some amazing residences in LA that I love being a part of.

When I first started my company, people didn’t really understand why. There were a lot of negative associations people would make when I say burlesque. The responses went usually one of three ways:

1. “Burlesque, that’s so exciting, where do you perform?”

2. “Burlesque, what’s that?”

3. “Oh, burlesque, and then change the subject”

When I first started The Dames if people answered either 2 or 3, I explained that burlesque is rooted in Vaudeville and with our company it’s a true Cabaret experience with a mixture of dancing, singing, and variety acts that demonstrate the art of the tease in a fun-filled way that both men and women can enjoy. Some would still be skeptical, and I would say, “just come to a show, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to come again.” Every single person, that came to a show liked it. The first time my parents came to visit me in LA, they attended several shows, and they both loved it! They could see how much joy it brings me, and how much joy the performers had when they were on stage.

There are all different styles of burlesque, but ours is very theater based and our company members are all professionally trained, but because of the nature of burlesque a lot of people just associate burlesque with stripping. The bottom line is there are elements of removing clothes but it’s not as simple as that. It’s about costuming, characterization, interacting with your audience, telling a story which each act, and owning that stage in a way that no other art form really allows you to do. It’s a beautiful thing to see how members have transformed throughout the years, people gain confidence, and really come into their own. It’s an empowering art form, with all that being said, like any other art form it may not be for everyone, but all people should give it a shot.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the The Dollface Dames story. Tell us more about the business.

The Dollface Dames was founded in 2008 and have been producing high-class show-stopping entertainment ever since.

We specialize in burlesque, cabaret, circus & variety performance. We perform private parties, corporate events, travel to hotel/casinos, and perform recurring live shows right here in LA.

Our style of burlesque is very different from other companies. We’re more of a Cabaret company that incorporates the fun elements of burlesque into our shows for an experience like no other. The Dames work with literally hundreds of performers who use their unique backgrounds to bring patrons a little bit of everything all in one show. We offer pointe ballerinas, Bollywood, jazz, swing, tap, salsa, showgirl, sword-swallowing, aerial, glass-walking, contortion, fire eating, boylesque, singing, and many more.

I’m most proud of how we have grown as a company. I work with some of the most talented, kind-hearted performers in the world. To be able to keep live entertainment going strong for as long as we have, is quite the feat. I love that I can produce shows weekly to showcase such amazing performers. Our company performs more shows than any other company in LA and we have the longest running weekly residences.

Whether someone wants to book a soloist for an event, or a full stage show, we have it all. We have 12 fully developed show themes including Geek To Chic, Rock n’ Roll, Around The World, Circus Spectacular, Vintage 20’s-40’s, just to name a few, and one of our all-time favorites, our USO Big Band Burlesque tribute show that we do every November in honor of our Veterans. We’re also known for developing new themes designed to travel anywhere in the world.

All the action isn’t just on the stage though, we also teach Burlesque & Body-Confidence Classes for men or women, so every person can explore their inner burlesque persona. Our Bachelorette parties are also very popular because who wouldn’t want a little shimmy and shake instruction before a night on the town?

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’m not sure about luck, but I am fortunate to have built amazing relationships and a support system here in LA. My parents raised me to be a strong woman and encouraged me to go after my dreams. With that encouragement I moved to LA at the age of 20 not knowing anyone out here. I finished my college degree remotely, while pursuing acting, and working a 60 hour a week day job. I worked hard and started my own company before I turned 25.

I’ve always been very ambitious. I’ve created a very rewarding career that allows me to audition and find talented individuals whom I get to develop, encourage, and help inspire to create amazing art every day. This in turn inspires me and gives me the courage to continue doing what I do, “Make people happy.”

With everything that’s going on in the world today it’s refreshing to be able to produce shows/experiences, that give people a break from their everyday lives, to enjoy a night of fantasy and glitter.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Red/Black with wood background shots: Lisa Sandler Photography
The Blue Fringe & Cinco de Mayo Industrial Picture: Tim Hunter Photography
Corvette/Outside Corset shot/Masks: Darren Eskandari Photography

1 Comment

  1. Paddyo

    May 25, 2018 at 00:22

    Love The Dollface Dames!

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