After 18 years of performing under my government name, I decided in 2018 that I wanted to start using a stage name as a performer and artist. That sounds a little backwards but it’s what I decided to do. As I wanted to be intentional and strategic, I put some thought and research into choosing what I consider to be a unique and authentic stage name.
For years, I had intentionally branded myself to use my legal name for both my corporate business life and artistic life, despite the fact that many of my hobbies, interest and specialities cover “taboo” industries such as pole dance, burlesque and kink. I’m grateful I was able to do that, when some people do not have that luxury.
However, for a few years, I had been debating making the switch to a stage name. In 2018, I had gone back and forth on the pros and cons of rebranding and finally last year before launching my updated “SpeakEasy Noir” burlesque classes, workshops, events and teacher trainings, I decided I wanted to use a stage name as a performer and artist.
In general, there are two common reasons I hear about as to why people chose a stage name. 1. They need a bit of separation between their art and their day job. 2. They need a bit of separation between their art and their close circles and networks.
My reasons were a bit of the opposite. The first issue happened many years ago when an adult stranger walked up to my baby sister who was no more than 5 at the time to say hi and physically greet her. This stranger did it because they had seen my sister in a video I posted on youtube. (I used to be a youtube vlogger in another life.) I never imagined strangers would try to engage my younger siblings.
As I also have over 15 years of content online from my corporate life, creative life, and everything in between, people who knew me primarily from the burlesque industry or online social groups were making way too many assumptions about the real me and were trying to take liberties with my family that were uncomfortable. Those assumptions led to many lines being crossed, my safety being put in danger, an assault, a hired security team, a bout of depression, extreme paranoia, a stalker couple following me to different locations while on tour and more. It was time for a change.
Having a stage name isn’t going to prevent those types of things from happening. However, what I needed was to remove some of the ways people could access me. Those in my everyday muggle life know me and call me by name. In the corporate world, I go by a gender-neutral name which is my childhood nickname. (That’s been the case for 15 years.) And now when it relates to my performance life, my sensual erotic work and more, I decided I needed a barrier between me and the audience and my personal life. I’m sure if you search hard enough, you can find my government name. I’m not trying to hide it. Hell, I fucking love my name. I use it every day. However, for those who were going to meet me for the first time as I dance burlesque while removing my clothes and literally shaking my ass…. I need them to address me differently first.
I’m still teaching my friends and family to call me by my stage name when in certain settings. Sometimes they mention my real name on my burlesque social media and I gently ask them to remove the comment, explaining about boundaries and safety and they do so immediately. Every now and then either a careless or ignorant associate who knows me in several contexts will intentionally post my government name within the burlesque community and I do what I can to remove the malicious comments.
So if you know me and are wondering why after so many years, I now go by “Shay Au Lait,” that’s the story of why I did it.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Burlesque Stage Name
If you’re creating a stage name for the first time, here are some things to consider, no matter the industry. It could be burlesque, pole, cabaret, theater, circus, pinup. Whatever.
- When choosing your burlesque stage name consider if the name chosen will cause waves in your corporate life, family life, or community? And if it will, are you willing to pay the price for losing up to everything? This moreso speaks to those who are including their government name in their stage name.
- When choosing your burlesque stage name, research other industries. In trying to figure out my burlesque stage name, I googled “choosing your pole name” and “choosing your pin up name” and even “choosing your stage name” for actors. I ended up finding articles and blogs in places I would have never thought of that had helpful insight.
- When choosing your burlesque stage name, consider your legacy. Think about longevity. Thing about your long term brand goals and industry goals. Think about what’s going to be written in the history books about you. Does that name stand the test of time? Is it too specific? Is it timeless?
- When choosing your burlesque stage name, check to see if the name you want is already being used by another performer. Especially in your direct industry but also in adjacent industries too. I searched for my new name within burlesque, pole, aerialist, theater, cabaret, drag, circus, side show, music, pin up, cosplay and more. If its already in use….maybe find another name or tweak it a bit.
- When choosing your burlesque stage name, check that the name is available on various digital marketing platforms. Meaning check to see if the domain is available, as you should eventually have a website. Check to see if the social media handles are available on all platforms, even if you only plan to use specific ones. If you’re creating a unique name, more than likely you should be good.
Blogs that helped me choose my burlesque stage name.
Hello, My Name Is…Your Guide for Choosing a Stage Name by Pole Parlour. This guide is so comprehensive, it makes you wonder why you didn’t think to write it first. I had already decided on a burlesque stage name prior to discovering this blog post. If I had found this first, I’m pretty sure my stage name would be different but equally, if not more awesome.
What’s In a Pole Name by Khandie Kisses. This asks you to consider the ethics and integrity when choosing a name in an industry that doesn’t have any legalize standards, industry-recognized guidelines or union.
How to Find Your Burlesque Name by Burlexe: They have a blog post for everything and they are quite helpful. This one, included.
Choosing Your Burlesque Name: A Step by Step Fun and Fabulous Guide by Dirty Blonde Diva. I loved some of the exercises they provided in helping you brainstorm a name.
Burlesque Stage Name Generators
It might seem generic to use a name generator, but that is how Childish Gambino got his stage name, after all. Also, you don’t have to limit yourself to burlesque name generators. Find name generators in other industries too that might be great. I tested each generator. Which name do you think is the best?
- Burlesque Name: My burlesque stage name according to this name generator is Dusty Cladwell, the Built Bouncer from Boise
- Burlesque Star Name Generator: My burlesque stage name according to this name generator is Scarlet Mamelóns. “Ms Mamelóns name suggests she has a secret to show you, and indeed she has. By the end of her routine all she’s wearing are a few carefully placed rubies and a she-devil’s smile.”
- Burlesque Name Generator: My burlesque stage name according to this name generator is Love Lumps Schnapps.
- What’s My Burlesque Name: My burlesque stage name according to this name generator is Pearl Paquerette.
What’s the Story Behind My Burlesque Stage Name, “Shay Au Lait”?
“Shay” in “Shay Au Lait” is part of my government name. While I wanted a stage name, I don’t perform as a “persona.” On stage, I’m actually even more of my true self than when I’m off stage. Meaning I get to look, move and be exactly how I want, no matter the tone of an act. There’s so much joy in exploring the full range of my emotional and erotic expressions as a burlesque dancer. I wanted to remain true to myself, so I wanted my burlesque stage name to have an element of my real legal name. Also by using the “Shay” part of my name, it connects me to my three sisters and I really adore that connection we share.
“Au Lait” in “Shay Au Lait” gets its inspiration from my OBSESSION with nude tones for people of color. “Black Girl Nude” is only just now starting to really show itself for our kind. After searching so many brands, one of my go to brands is Nubian Skin and my color with their brand is “Cafe Au Lait.” See that.
Cafe Au Lait.
Shay Au Lait.
And all together, its me…bare. Fully exposed. Nude. Or…is it an illusion? Isn’t that what nude tone clothes and makeup sort of do? It implies something. It suggests something. Both versions…fully exposed and implied…its the complexity of me. Shay Au Lait.