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Wham Bam Pam! - From Anime Cosplayer To Burlesque Dancer

Reported by Jay Cochran - 07:29 PM 2011.03.19
What do you get when you take a former scifi/anime cosplayer and a current Burlesque dancer? You get Wham Bam Pam!

I had a chance of seeing Pam perform a couple of weeks ago in Frederick, MD and really enjoyed the show. To my surprise, I later discovered that Pam used to be a Scifi/Anime cosplayer and model, so I thought it would be interesting to find out how one goes from being a cosplayer to burlesque dancer.

Jay: First, can you tell us what the story behind the name Wham Bam Pam is?

Pam: When I decided to get into burlesque, I knew I wanted a fun, suggestive name that rolled off the tongue. I really wanted to keep the name my mama gave me as well, because it’s much easier to answer to only one name. I posted a survey online and invited everyone in my online network, most of whom knew of me through cosplay, as PamelaNeko, to suggest and vote on names. One awesome dude wrote “Wham Bam Thank You Pam” and I died! It was so perfect!

I love the way the name suggests immediate satisfaction; it’s got a little hint of objectivism which has always attracted and fascinated me. And it’s just a fun name to chant and easy to remember! When I performed in Chicago at the Blue Bayou (Vaudezilla’s weekly bartop show), there was one guy who couldn’t get enough of me. He would get really drunk, pound on the bar and yell “Wham Bam Pam! Wham Bam Pam!” Our wonderfully patient emcee started teasing him about it, by encouraging the other audience members to play along. So after a couple weeks… When I was up to perform, the audience would shout “Wham! Bam! Pam!” along with the emcee. It just started with one drunk dude… and became my trademark at shows. 

Jay: I know you primarily do Burlesque dancing now days, but you originally started out as a anime/scifi cosplayer and model, how did you get started with that?

Pam: I originally was introduced to the world of anime conventions and cosplay at Anime Central in Chicago in 2003. I saw two drop dead cosplayers there, and I realized I had to try it! So I worked with my mom to create my first costume (Sawa from Kite). I started working for a vendor and traveling around the country to other conventions. Eventually I met those two beautiful girls – Limebarb & Jia Crens – in 2006. They became my friends and mentors, making my costumes and teaching me, and introduced me into the rich subculture of the cosplay community. 

Jay: Of the scifi/anime characters you have modeled, which is your favorite and why?

Pam: Hmm, that’s pretty hard to choose! I really adore my Mikura jumpsuit – it’s from the movie Mezzo Forte, which is an X-rated hentai movie. I really love using characters from anime porn.

Jay: How did you get involved in Burlesque dancing?

Pam: I answered a Craigslist ad! No, really. I was getting burnt out on cosplay; I loved getting dressed up and modeling, but I wanted to perform. So I looked for other opportunities – naturally, starting with “Gigs” on Craigslist. I started as a Vixen (a pick-up girl and stage hand) for Vaudezilla. When one of the performers in their Holiday show suddenly dropped out, Red Hot Annie asked me to step in and perform pro bono. I jumped on the opportunity and just fell in love.

Since Winter 2007, I’ve taken lots of classes and performed in hundreds of shows! 

Jay: When some people hear the term Burlesque dancer, they automatically think stripper. What do you say to those people and, in your own words, what is the difference between the two?

Pam: There are a couple different explanations I use to explain the difference between burlesque and stripping. First of all, I don’t have a problem with stripping or the sex industry. I don’t believe it is a shameful line of work. I’m not insulted if a person argues that stripping and burlesque are the same; that person is just wrong.

A lot of people assume that the point of burlesque is to titillate men, but I refute that. I have never met a burlesque performer who chooses that goal. Most amateur performers want to express something about their identity or sexuality. Most aim to entertain; a lot of people want to titillate, but in a way that plays with gender and beauty norms, challenging the audience to think about what is sexy.  Some women want to recreate a glamorous fantasy for the audience—but it is still a fantasy the performer chooses, and it’s not specifically targeting the male desires or definitions of sexuality. At EVERY show I have had women approach me from the audience and tell me how they felt liberated and inspired by the stripping they saw.

Burlesque is in the entertainment (variety arts) industry. Stripping is in the sex industry. Burlesque is about expression; it is defined and articulated by the performer. Stripping is about selling a product; it is driven by what the audience expects and wants to pay for. When you see the former, you are buying a ticket for a show where you will see many artists performing the acts they created and chose to feature. At the latter, you enter, choose a woman you like, and pay to interact with her, request her to do certain actions, etc.

Though an audience member may see/perceive the same “show” at either venue (it’s possible but RARE!)… on the other side of the stage line, the experience is so astoundingly different, that I can’t even fathom the conclusion that the two are indistinguishable.

Jay: Do you come up with your own routines in your Burlesque dancing acts, or do you use existing ones?

Pam: All burlesque performers come up with their own acts! Occasionally an established performer will create a tribute piece to a classic, famous dancer. It is extremely distasteful to copy another performer’s act.

Jay: We saw one of your acts where you dressed up as a mime and pretended to strip which was very intriguing. How did you come up with the idea for that one?

Pam: (As written, I begin the routine in panties & pasties. Which would be the final reveal for a typical burlesque routine! I wore a decorated bra in Frederick, since the town/venue doesn’t allow boobie-nudity.)

I had been playing with the idea in my head for a long time. I had seen a lot of brand new performers with little training come in and perform basically an amateur striptease to a cliché theme. I am also fascinated by the “classic” moves in burlesque striptease – though a full classic routine is a bit out of character for me! A lot of new performers seemed to toss aside choreography and shrug “well at the end, they’ll see boobs, so they’ll be happy with that.” I am guilty of this at times, too!

So, the mime act is a bit of poking fun at burlesque, how it can sometimes become cliché. It is also a challenge to myself and to the audience – can I create an engaging act that doesn’t have a reveal? I could have done it clothed, but being naked the whole time was ballsier (and more fun!) That’s the Wham Bam Pam style, I think.

Jay: What is the most difficult thing about doing Burlesque dancing?

Pam: The hardest part of burlesque is coming up with creative, interesting, funny, and engaging concepts, and translating it into an entertaining routine.

Jay: As a Burlesque dancer, what has been your favorite venue to perform at?

Pam: I really love performing in venues where I can interact with the audience up close. I love dancing on bar tops, and meeting challenges of awkward sight lines, squeezing through tables, multiple levels, etc.

Jay: Why did you switch from doing the cosplay thing to doing burlesque dancing?

Pam: My interest started to lag when I lost interest in anime. Then I realized how much more I love performing! When you cosplay, you adopt a character and emulate it. Fans and photographers are interested in you only as an extension of their interest in the character, and treat you like that character. I found that the individual expression of myself through burlesque is something that I enjoy infinitely more! I love being Wham Bam Pam, it’s an extension of myself. I get to be as super glamorous and daring as I want to be all the time. It’s difficult to think of going back to cosplay after I’ve experienced something so much more fulfilling.

Jay: Are you still a scifi or anime geek? If so, what are some of your favorite scifi/anime books, movies, characters?

Pam: I love scifi, animation, and fantasy entertainment! I love series with strong female leads. I think I’ve watched every episode of Futurama a dozen times. I’m really excited about the upcoming Game of Thrones series that will be on HBO, as the Song of Ice & Fire series is one of my favorite fantasy novel series ever. I also love zombies, DC comics, and video games.

To learn more about Pam, check out her website.




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