WHO: MIA CULPA
WHAT: HORROR BURLESQUE PERFORMER
MIKE JOY : When did “horror burlesque performer” come into your mind that this is going to be your profession?
MIA CULPA : Well, it really wasn’t a conscious decision- something that career specific rarely is.
I had always been interested in burlesque- I’m a hard core nudist and exhibitionist, so it was a natural gravitation that I had towards the art of striptease itself.
However, there are many performers out there, and in order to get any sort of attention, one needs to be unique- as with all professions. I also perform sideshow stunts and am a die hard horror fan, so I married the two elements in order to distinguish myself from other performers and also to provide a better reflection of myself through horror burlesque.
MIKE JOY : How did you get involved in even trying flesh-hook suspension?
I’ve got to think it’s a gradual process unless you own Hellraiser’s puzzle box.
MIA CULPA : I had heard of flesh hook suspension, but had never even considered trying it until I went to a fetish party in a town I was living in about 4 years ago. There was a performer who lifted a beer keg through hooks in his chest, and I was so amazed and enthralled that I wanted to know what it would be like to give an audience the same feeling that I was having at that moment.
I joined the group, who were my first performance group “Circus of the Damned”, and I performed other acts while I worked up the courage to go though with a flesh hook suspension.
After about a year, I got tired of thinking about, talking about and reading about flesh hook suspension, so I said, “f*ck it, now or never”.
Typically, one begins with a pull- two hooks are inserted into the skin- usually the back, ropes are applied to the hooks, and then the connective tissue between muscle and skin is torn, sending the person into shock-not car accident shock, but the first euphoric stages, where the body deals with trauma by releasing natural painkillers inside the brain. Once one does a pull or two to get use to the feeling, then a suspension can be performed- my first was done in a dungeon kept by a dominatrix friend. Afterwards, I went home and cried with joy and I knew it was my calling.
By the way, everyone’s experience with flesh hooks is different, mine is just one way.
So, in a sense, I suppose I unlocked my own puzzle box- except mine took a year to open, and I didn’t get torn apart by Cenobites.
MIKE JOY : How do you deal with the pain associated with some of your acts? You must have an amazing discipline to deal with being a human pin cushion or even glass walking.
MIA CULPA : I’m unique in that I have a hormone disorder that has caused me a tremendous amount of physical pain since I was about 12.
As a result, my threshold for pain is ridiculous, to the point where I don’t just tolerate it, I enjoy it, which for me, coupled with focus and the roar of the crowd is what pulls me through the most painful of stunts.
MIKE JOY : In your job, the execution of the performance has to be perfect 100% of the time or you’re going to face some serious injury. Have you ever had any mishaps or mistakes happen during any of your acts?
MIA CULPA : Once one becomes a professional with this sort of thing, one understands better what acts are allowed a certain margin of error and don’t need to be 100 percent perfect-but that comes with much training and understanding.
The worst mishap involved an act where I give a girl (my performance partner at the time) a lap dance and she staples money to me then rips it off.
We were using a medical stapler (bad idea) and medical staples are bent so that they need to be removed with clippers.
When my partner went to staple a bill to my butt, the whole stapler got stuck to my ass cheek, and she had to yank it repeatedly to pull it out.
Having a stapler stuck to ones ass is not a pleasant experience, and the bruise left behind was quite gruesome, and the whole incident was embarrassing-now, it’s a funny anecdote I can share in interviews.
MIKE JOY : How far are you willing to push your body in the name art? What I mean by that is simply, is there anything that you would love to add to your repertoire but just haven’t gotten there yet?
MIA CULPA : There’s many things- lots of fire acts to try.
I’ve always wanted to do a ballroom dance with a male partner through broken glass, but I have yet to find a man with dancing skill and tolerance for pain to help me in this endeavor….(if I do, I’ll have to marry him- or kidnap him)
In terms of how far I’d go- I’ve done some strange stuff onstage- I’ve been beaten, suffocated, water boarded, and had my own blood fed to me…so I’m willing to try a lot…
However, one thing I’ll never do is real sex on stage….anyone can have sex…not anyone can hang from hooks and do a ballet routine in midair
MIKE JOY : Why did you choose the Black Dahlia murder as inspiration for your act?
MIA CULPA : I read James Ellroy’s book “The Black Dahlia”, and love the noir aspects of the story. I’ve always been a big true crime fan, and I like the Dahlia case because of it’s contrasting light and dark aspects, on the one hand, it’s the story of beautiful girl who set off to sunny California in the 1940’s to be a star, but it’s also the tale of that same girl meeting an incredibly grisly end- for reasons that still remain a mystery.
The gruesome glamour is what attracted me, but it’s the beginning of a series of acts I hope to create about young, beautiful girls who were snuffed out in their prime and whose murders outweighed and outlived their legacies (ie, Sharon Tate, Dorthy Stratton, etc)
MIKE JOY : Do you have a most memorable performance? Where? Why?
MIA CULPA : I eluded to it earlier- Northbound Leather , which is a company that makes couture fetish wear asked me to close their runway show in October 2008.
The event is the largest of its kind, attracting 5,000 people. I suspended to “Ave Maria” while wearing a black ballet outfit, complete with black pointed shoes.
The act was a tribute to the Black Swan from Swan Lake- I’ve been dancing since I was 5, ballet being my first love, so it was emotional and strange to return to it in such a manner.
It was one of the most transcendent experiences I’ve ever had on stage- for 4 minutes I was surrounded by thousands, yet truly alone.
MIKE JOY : You’re in pre production on your first horror short.
What can you tell us about this project?
MIA CULPA : The film is called “The Kick Inside” , it’s about a pregnant woman who is possessed by her unborn baby to kill.
I’m really exited, because it’s taken me two years to create a script that I feel really passionate about – it’s truly (pun intended) a labor of love…any producers out there feel free to hit me up!
MIKE JOY : You write for Rue Morgue magazine.
I’m a fan. When I’m flipping through the pages, what articles can I expect to see from you?
MIA CULPA : Who isn’t a fan?
I actually took an extended break from RM due to medical reasons, so it’s been cool to get back into it…right now I’m writing a piece on freak shows (surprise, surprise), but my most memorable past piece was on the emergence of Christian horror (yes, it does exist)