An Interview with Noelle and Kelsea of Wicked Woman

Wicked Woman is an LA-based event run by performers Noelle Frances and Kelsea Alabama. This bi-monthly show includes poledance, aerial, contortion, and fire. Bold and sensual, this show honors history's wicked women every show. Check out this week's interview with these badass burlesque babes!


DustEmpires: Hi! Can you introduce yourselves please.

NF: I’m Noelle Frances or Noelle Bruno depends on my mood.

Kel: Hiiii I’m Kelsea, Alabama at the strip club, both names have I guess fused into my stage name, Kelsea Alabama, haha.

DE: How did you get the idea for your show, Wicked Woman, and how did you come up with the name?

NF: Kelsea and I worked together in a strip club where we met so many powerful badass women that we wanted to celebrate. We dance in studios as well and bartend in this swanky 1920s Parisian themed bar. We wanted to combine our love of dance and entertainment with our love of cocktails and hospitality and sneak in a little female empowerment and a feminist history lesson. Working as a stripper, you form a camaraderie with this group of women, owning their sexuality in a for-profit environment who society really still sees as threatening to say the least. This phenomenon has been happening since the beginning of time and really has led to so many woman being written out of history. “Wicked Woman” pretty much sums that up for us.
Sometimes I think of someone pointing when they say it.

Kel: Hmmmmm let’s see…I feel like after having a few too many financially disastrous nights at the strip club, I’d been daydreaming about having a club of my own, where I would employ all my stripper friends, pay them a flat rate for the evening, and then let them make their money on top of that…so that we would never have to walk away from the club with just $20 in our pockets…er…g-strings. Noelle got me into working at Pour Vous, where I have since been really interested in the cocktail world, so mixing together two of the things we really excel in seemed like the logical next step. We both have performed in an amateur pole show that happens in town, and we came out of it wanting something more. I wanted a show that requires a skill level above ‘amateur’ (although I really fucking hate that word, we should get rid of it in the performance world), but showcases the sensual side of movement, whatever your apparatus might be. Both of us have experienced the mental fuckery that comes along with being a stripper, and being a female in the service industry (I guess just being a female in the world in general), and we wanted to celebrate the women throughout history that dealt with the same, if not worse, and still changed their world and didn’t give a single fuck. I think we were driving in the car brainstorming names…we wanted to have ‘woman’ in our name, but ‘nasty woman’ was already taken haha.
I’m pretty sure Noelle came up with Wicked Woman. It’s perfect. It’s for all of us throughout history that have gone against the grain of what society demands of us. We’ve been focusing on telling the stories of wicked women who are pretty unknown to the general public, and we feel like the education aspect of this is really important. 

DE: When and where is the show held?

NF: The show is at Pour Vous 5574 Melrose Ave in Hollywood on the first and third Thursdays of each month.

DE: What’s your background?

NF: I used to figure skate a million years ago and always considered myself strong. I started Pole and realized that I was seriously mistaken about being strong. I gained strength over about two years of doing a lot of pole and then I found the Lyra and fell in love so hard. I already had some strength by that point and everything about the Lyra felt right. I bought one and started rigging it up in trees in parks to practice. You shouldn’t do this, the entire community agrees that it’s not safe, but I did it anyway for a few months and taught myself as much as I could. I found an amazing studio which I love and eventually moved to a loft space downtown and bought my own aerial rig so I can train at home. I love it THAT much.

Kel: Let’s see…I dabbled in dance and theatre growing up, but never really committed to anything. My ego got repeatedly smashed in middle school and high school when I wouldn’t land a lead role, so I gave it all up until I started pole dancing four years ago. March is actually my pole anniversary! Poliversary! Ok…I was going to college in Portland, OR, and we all know that there’s basically a strip club on every corner there. I was in total awe of the women who danced NAKED in front of an audience, and I wanted to be able to do it also. I was SO self-conscious about my body growing up, but I felt like the pole was calling my name. So I signed up for a damn pole class to find out if I was totally hopeless or if I could just maybe get myself to audition at a strip club. And I did, and I loved it. It’s very liberating to get ass naked and have a million eyes watching you. I pretty much stick to the pole these days, Noelle has forced me to lyra with her in the park, and we actually have a doubles gig coming up so I really need to get that shit together haha.
It’s important for me to have a show with lots of different bodies because like I mentioned before, I was so self conscious about myself, and it was a waste of time, and silly. I need a place for all ladies to be fucking worshipped like they should be. While we do require a more advanced skill level of tricks for our show, we are mostly concerned with the performers ability to
seduce and captivate the audience. And everyone likes a big, juicy butt!!! So it’s important for me to focus more on your showmanship and confidence, than to require you to be a size zero. Although if you are a size zero, tell me your secrets hahahaha.

DE: The female body is sexualized while female sexuality is usually censored. How does your show set out to change that?

NF: This is such a bullshit injustice and something that is a reality that women are dealing with every day. Our show is SO sexy, but yet it never feels dirty or like anyone is objectified. It’s really a magical thing a for an audience to get to watch a show put together by women, starring women who may or may not be making their living performing, and geared towards seducing anyone who watches. I’ve seen people come in who were just not understanding what they were about to see. The female form is beautiful and can do unbelievable things, we use our bodies freely and on our own terms to create art in movement. There is a depth and real human emotion present in the performances. We try not to stifle anyone’s creative flow which is a tricky balance when trying to put together. a cohesive show I’m the theme of the venue I might add. 

Kel: Both of us having a background in strip clubs, this is something we are ridiculously aware of. Our hope is that people who come to our show can understand that the women performing aren’t doing it just for the pleasure of a man, but they are doing it for themselves, and for the love of putting on a killer show. Because we have a pole in our show, one of our obstacles has been defusing negative stereotypes, which is really hard! It’s an apparatus we constantly have to defend, all because of how society views strippers. Perfect example of how society censors female sexuality. I want the pole to be something that isn’t strip culture appropriation; I want people to understand and respect where it came from, and I want all forms of pole to be celebrated. One of my goals is to get rid of any negativity surrounding the pole, and that starts with people understanding that sex work is real work, and that doesn’t make you a lesser human being. We can have a pole and not be strippers (with respect to the origins of this art form), and not all strippers even care about the pole, they care about the hustle. Most of my friends are strippers, and we’re all fuckin’ badass. Let’s get rid of the judgment, y’all!

DE: What message do you want your show to spread?

NF: Well we want to have people read the little write ups we do about the Wicked Woman of the month and spread some info about some badass wicked women. I really get off on that, when they flip the menu page and start reading about a woman who did some great shit that they have never heard of before. That’s just so badass. Beyond that, I just love seeing women being sexy for sexy’s sake. I love watching women watch women being sexy and having all of these beautiful reactions. I also love watching men, and couples get enraptured by the show. We dance to embody every woman in history who was too wicked or threatening or bold to acknowledge. Also, we love to put women up there who maybe don’t look like what people are used to. Wherever possible, we want to encourage diversity. Our performers are all so talented and so different.

Kel: Yes, everything Noelle said. It’s also really important for us to be inspiring. Every show I have a woman come up to me and say something along the lines of ‘how do you do that? I would never be able to,’ and hearing that soooo often makes our shows even more important. The thing is, you totally can do it. As women, our confidence is always being stepped on one way or another. Confidence goes a long way, and is a really beautiful thing. I struggle with it every day! But when you take away the idea of seductive movement solely being for the entertainment of men, then you can make major breakthroughs. Because of my dedication and love of pole and performance, I’ve made insane strides within myself that four years ago I would’ve never thought possible.

DE: What does sex positivity mean to you?

NF: Sex positivity means sex free of shame. I was raised in a stiflingly religious household and sex outside of very specific circumstances was so directly tied to shame. To think of anyone shamed out of sexual self expression just breaks my heart. I think women especially are conditioned from such a young age to judge and compete with each other about sex. This is ok, that is not, this is sexy, but that is gross, when she shakes her ass it its fine, but that girl over there shouldn’t be doing something or wearing something because she’s to big, or whatever….NO none of this is OK and I’m sick of hearing it. Expression, support, acceptance.

Kel: Sex should be judgement free. Everyone likes different things; there should be no shame in that. Just because a person is walking around in a small amount of clothes, doesn’t mean they should be harassed or that consent is given. Fuck man, when I’m wearing tiny clothes it’s usually cuz it’s fuckin’ hot and or I’m just more comfortable in a sports bra and yoga pants. What people do with their bodies is no one’s business except theirs. Acceptance 100%.

DE: How do you feel before you perform? How do you prepare?

NF: I feel terrified. Truly. I actually am a dare devil when I’m training. I’m not usually scared, but the first time I performed high up, with people and no mats I was like, “oh shit, this is terrifying”. It seems like a no brainer, like duh, heights, but I really didn’t think about it until I did it, I was shocked. My nerves are getting better each time. We are hosting and producing the show as well so I’ve learned that I need to disappear for twenty minutes before I go on. During that time I go over my act and breathe and stretch. Kelsea just goes on, she’s more badass than me. I train in my loft and the week before the show I try to get through my acts fully once each day. That’s more for me mentally than anything else, so I can convince myself that I’m solid and shouldn’t worry.

Kel: I feel like I’m gonna fall apart into a million pieces and vomit and shit my pants right before I go on. This feeling starts probably about 15 minutes before I have to perform. Honestly there is usually a shot of tequila happening. I don’t choreograph my sets, mostly because I fall into an adrenaline black out and remembering choreo becomes impossible. That’s a goal of mine to overcome this year. I don’t feel that when dancing at a strip club at all though, so I’m trying to figure out what makes it different for me. I literally forget every pole trick I know when I get on stage to perform, and just end up doing endless pirouettes around the pole hahahaha. I really need to work on that!!! I guess I end up pulling it off though.

DE: Who are some of your favorite wicked women from history?

NF: I love Mae West, Josephine Baker we did and I LOVE her. Jean Harlow, Stephanie St. Clair, I LOVE Anne Boleyn, that crazy bitch gets not nearly enough credit. In doing research for the show I’ve been introduced to women I had no idea about. Dolly Sinatra (Frank Sinatra’s mother) was one, Not a single book has been written about her, I went to the library and checked! She was a real character too! Cleopatra was a real bad bitch. I could go on forever, but I will quickly add that in choosing women we really had to let go of the expectation that the women we choose are perfect. We had a few times where we would choose someone and then find out that they did this or that questionable thing. We really had to let go of that and remember that these are human beings in messy human lives. WICKED woman, that’s the whole thing!

Kel: Janis Joplin, Frieda Kahlo, Coco Chanel, Elizabeth I to name a few that I really admire. I love all the Wicked Women we’ve chosen thus far…Josephine Baker, Anais Nin, Dolly Sinatra, and Stephanie St. Clair. A bunch of badasses! The educational aspect of Wicked Woman has been really exciting…lots of ladies out there who have paved the way for the fight we are fighting today.

DE: Who designs the costumes for your shows?

NF: Kelsea and I both have a background in sewing so we design and sew most of our own costumes and change it up for each show! We stay busy! If any of our performers is in need of assistance we are down to help out. We want the show to look amazing, so happy to take things into our own hands!

Kel: Noelle sews all her shit, I kind of just add to mine. I usually throw some kind of outfit together the day of the show or the day before. And then I have a meltdown in the bathroom because it didn’t come together like I wanted!!! I should be better about the costuming aspect, because fuck, I went to college for costume design lololollollll. I get overwhelmed and lazy sometimes though, whoops. I did just make one of our performers come cool body binds!

DE: Where would you like to see your show go?

NF: We want it to go everywhere! Seriously though we would love to be able to travel or to have multiple venues and a following. We want to let the brand spin into apparel and market some of our designs for dancing and just everyday wear. We’d love to have a performance space of our own. Ah dreams…

Kel: Yes, I would love to see this show be able to travel at some point, that would be a god damn dream come true. It would be really great to have our own space, because then it’s all ours. Multiple venues would be great also. It would be really great to have people know who we are!!! It’ll happen!

DE: What do you look for in your performers? How do you choose them?

NF: Many of our performers at first were women we knew from class or work, but as our show started growing more and more women have reached out and expressed interest which feels so good. This is a tough one, obviously we have to maintain a certain level of expertise, the performer has to be someone that we think can fit the style of the show and be cohesive with the other performers, we strive for diversity. Women who are into what we are doing, ones who will be excited to perform with us, we try to emphasize how fun and cool we are. We try to have at least one or two new performers in each show.

Kel: I like to know what someone’s confidence looks like during a performance….or like, are you going to engage the crowd and draw them in? That’s sort of why we’ve had a lot of women perform with us who we already know, because we are familiar with their style. Diversity is really important to us as well. I don’t want to put our show into a box of being for advanced performers only, because I want everyone to feel like they can be part of this show, but there does need to be at least an intermediate level of experience. A lot of that has to do with safety as well; we really need our performers to know their apparatus. With the pole, we don’t really have the option to do floor work, so that’s where being really solid in some pole tricks would, for the most part be necessary. I’ve had women come up to me and say that they look forward to excelling in their performance ability so that they can do a show. I love that, it really warms my heart. There are shows and competitions around that I’m constantly thinking about getting into once I’m more advanced, so it’s cool to have folks think that about our show. When we have someone reach out to us, through Instagram or whatever for example, I like to ask that they come to one of our shows and introduce themselves, and see if they think the show would be a good fit for their style.

DE: Anything else you’d like to share?

NF: This idea that women are inherently good and need to keep the world spinning with our inner moral compasses is so stifling. Its a really great thing to explore throughout history. We want to shatter that idea. Also wanted to mention my fabulous supportive boyfriend films each show so any girls who want it can have footage for their reels. He then edits the footage into promo videos for us before each show. The videos are all on our Instagram. I’m so happy to have him. He’s editing my aerial reel at this very moment! He deserves a shout out.

Kel: We’ve felt really lucky to be able to perform with these wicked women. Noelle and I were almost in tears last week watching one of our pole artists, and our sets were just fuckin’ killer. It’s been really cool to have people excited about performing. We can’t wait to see what our wicked woman baby grows up to be, haha.

Noelle and Kelsea founded and perform in Wicked Woman – you can see their next show at Pour Vous, Hollywood on Thursday 6th April.
Check out Wicked Woman’s facebook page here and instagram here.
Click here for Noelle’s instagram and here for Kelsea’s.