Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Showgirl, Gia Nova, plays with fire while dancing with death and desire (NSFW)

The burlesque performer on how a midget stripper changed her life, breathing fire, metal bras and sweater panties, bloodbaths, people zoos, and killing the girl next door.

Posted by on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Gia Nova on stage at NightMoves 2013
In 2007 Gia Nova exploded onto the feature dancing circuit in a burst of sparks and flames. She was the first feature performer to take an electric grinder to her armor-like metal underwear, showering audiences in a kind of molten, heavy-metal confetti. Her act continues to strip the shiny veneer off of erotic entertainment, exploring the darker sides of desire by sawing through layers of sensation. Relying on her roots as a go-go dancer in a fetish club, some of Nova's acts incorporate such extremes as bloodbaths, leather-face costumes, and occult themes. Even with these darker elements, her burlesque strip teases feature as much flare and feathers as an x-rated Cirqu Du Soleil show on the Vegas strip. She is as comfortable performing aerial silk acts as she is spinning fire from nipple tassels or breathing fire. She has the blonde bombshell proportions of a busty playboy model, which she is, paired with the style and tattoos of a fetishistic pinup model, which she also is. Her dancing crosses as broad a spectrum as her gypsy lifestyle, incorporating belly dancing, Middle Eastern, American tribal, modern dance, and hip-hop. She also crafts her own props and costumes, and mixes her own music, creating a backdrop as unique as her performance. Nova's exotic shows offer a carnival or experience, combining the taboo curiosities of freak shows and peep shows with the center-ring thrills of highflying circus arts.

Nova's erotic talents have been featured in every major gentlemen's magazine, including Penthouse, Playboy, Cherri, Hustler and Club. Exotic Dancer Magazine perpetually ranks Nova as one of the top feature performers. This October Nova won "Best Feature Dancer" at Nightmoves 2013.

A week before she embarked on a tour of Florida clubs, I caught up with Gia Nova over the phone while she was stuck in her Atlanta home under a sheet of snow.

Why did you start sneaking into Chamber Fetish Club in Atlanta at 17?

At 17 I was old enough to drive and I had my first job in retail. That job exposed me to people outside my circle of school friends. All of a sudden I was meeting people in their 20s. Through them I heard about these cool goth and fetish clubs. One of my friends who was a go-go dancer at the goth club got me in by having me carry her costume bags. She told me to pretend like I was helping her and to act like I belonged there. Only one person made a comment about how young I looked. My friend just claimed that the club was going to hire me as a dancer. I did that for months. When I turned 18 the club did end up hiring me as a go-go dancer.

Were you a high school drama nerd who danced at the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

I wasn’t a drama kid in high school, though, looking back, I really wish I had been. I missed out not taking drama. I would have loved it. I did sneak out and go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was in 10th grade with a bunch of girlfriends. I love that movie. Rocky Horror is definitely a key component of who I've become as an adult.

While dancing at Masters Show Bar in Atlanta, you met your first feature dancer and realized the direction you wanted your dancing career to take. Who was that feature performer?

A couple feature dancers came through Masters, but Tiny Tina was the first feature who sat down in the dressing room with the house girls and actually talked to us. At that time I didn’t fully understand what a feature was. She gave me the low down on how it worked. I was amazed. It sounded like the Holy Grail of careers. It took me a couple years after that to get my act together, but she planted the seed.

Many feature dancers first build their name by doing porn. How did you break into the feature-dancing circuit?

I was a dancer in Atlanta. I had done fetish and burlesque shows. I love performing. We had a competition at one of the clubs I worked at. Not Masters. The competition was to see which of the house girls could put together the best feature act. Let's just say it wasn’t the most fairly judged competition. All of the girls with really good shows didn’t even place. Two girls who placed really didn’t even do a show. They were just "friendly" with the management. It really upset me that I didn’t even place. The house mom was this neat older woman who featured in the 70s at the tail end of when burlesque was turning into strip shows. She told me I just needed to take my act on the road. That was probably two or three years after I met Tiny Tina. That’s when everything really clicked. I started building my shows and I contacted an agent.

Have you ever set anything on fire while using your angle grinder, breathing fire, or spinning fire from your nipple tassels?

Besides myself? No, I’ve never set anything on fire. But, I have had a few fire shows where guys try to get as close as they can to the flames. It’s crazy. Recently while I was breathing fire, one guy kept yelling, “Light me on fire! Light me on fire!”

I’ve also had numerous guys ask me after a show, “Is the fire real?” I’m like, “What do you mean, ‘is the fire real?'" Of course it's real. What else could it possibly be? It's not a cartoon of fire. I'm not holding up photos of fire.

How many sets of metal underwear do you own?

Only two. The surface that I use the grinder on is replaceable so they get re-plated often.

You posted a picture on Twitter of you wearing panties made of knitted sweater material. Would you ever do a feature show in those?

Absolutely.

Would it be like a Cosby Sweater show?

I was thinking something that evoked more of a cuddly snow-bunny next to the fireplace, but Cosby Sweater brings it to a whole new level. I could play the Cosby theme song when I come out.

And do his little shuffling dance?

Yeah, and then I could hand out Jell-O Pudding Pops.

gia_nova_back_tattoo_h.r._giger_brian_froud_fairy_wings_naked_nude_bath_tub_playboy_fetish_model.jpg
  • ilovegianova.com
Your back tattoo mixes the lighthearted imagery of fairy wings with the nightmarish, futuristic style of H.R. Giger. Do you see your fetish shows as mixing these same elements? For you, what is the connection, if any, between horror and sexual fantasy?

Absolutely. Now you're getting into an area where I’m going to ramble. My tattoo was inspired by some of H.R. Giger’s preproduction sketches for the Alien movies. It was also influenced by Brian Froud. He's a fairytale artist. I was obsessed with those two artists as a kid. I find their work completely beautiful.

That's interesting because almost all of Grimm's fairytales have dark elements lurking just beneath the playful surface.

Right. A lot of the original horror in those stories has been whitewashed for modern audiences. Many of the original fairytales were very scary. I had books of Brian Froud, Grimm’s Fairytales, Aesop's Fables. Then I was exposed to Alien and other scary movies. I'm a huge horror fan. I think certain elements of horror are sexy. Vampires are like the manifestation of sexuality in horror. Dracula embodied monstrous sexuality in Victorian times. We all have something beautiful and completely horrific in us, but most of us only want to show the beautiful sides of ourselves. What are we concealing and why? Sometimes you find that those things aren't as scary or ugly as you thought. I've noticed more artists exploring the darker side of human nature recently. You'll see high fashion dresses that look like exoskeletons or modern remakes of fairytales that embrace the horrific elements. I like exploring what is not traditionally pretty, as you often discover things that are much more meaningful and complex than pretty, shinny things. Recently I've started delving much more into the ugly side of things.

What ugly side of yourself do you expose on stage?

I incorporate some horror into some of my burlesque shows. When I first started featuring I was told, "Don’t do anything too weird. Don’t do anything fetishy." I was told I would never get booked with tattoos. I think Janine Lindemulder was the only feature who had significant tattoos at the time. I was told that I would have to cover my tattoos, that tattoos weren’t acceptable in this industry. Which is now laughable because everybody has them, and they have a lot of them. But, in 2007, all my agents told me I had to cover my tattoos or I wouldn’t get booked. They said I should never come on stage with my hair up because men wanted to see dancers with their hair down. I felt like I was in the 1950s. It was bizarre. They gave me this whole list of what not to do. Don't have a name that's difficult to pronounce. Don’t do shows that are scary unless it’s Halloween. Don’t do anything fetishy because you will freak out the audience. Someone told me I couldn't do a "bloodbath" because it would remind men of menstrual blood. I was like, “What the fuck are you talking about? You are crazy.”

It’s just laughable all the things people told me never to do in the beginning because those things are all so normal now. But, the first couple years I had all my standard beginner shows: naughty teacher, belly dancer—which I still do, but it's different—I had my cowgirl, which I loathed. I even had a Strawberry Shortcake outfit. Everything was designed to make me cuter because I had this giant tattoo on my back and I had facial piercings. I even tanned to help cover the tattoos. I was trying to be more like my idea of "the girl next door."

It took me three solid years to find myself again. I wanted to be a successful feature dancer so badly that I listened to every thing people told me for three years. Then one day something in me snapped. I decided I would do what I wanted. I was like, “I’m not lying in a tanning bed anymore or covering my tattoos." I was tired of covering who I am. I put all my facial piercings back in. I brought back all of the stuff I used for my fetish and burlesque shows. I decided I wasn't doing a fucking country western show. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it wasn’t who I am. I started dying my hair crazy colors like I did before I started featuring. I started doing all the shows I love. I did my fire breathing and glass walking and blood. I do a vampire show and my Leather-Face show. I have an occult show where I act like I am conjuring demons. Does it scare a few people? Maybe, but you're in a freaking strip club. Come on. I guess that's what I mean when I say I've been exploring my dark side.

I still take advice on my shows, but if there’s something I want to do, I do it. If you're in the public spotlight, people will always have a critical opinion no matter what you do, so you may as well follow your instincts and do what you want.

You have a Tibetan skull mask tattooed on your shoulder in red ink. Some historians believe the mask originated from the practice of warriors painting their faces in animal blood to scare their enemies. What emotions do you hope your stage show inspires in audiences?

I want them to feel everything. As a feature in a strip club, first and foremost you want them to be turned on. But I think to put on one hell of a show, to create something memorable, you need more than that. You want people to laugh with you, to feel a sense of awe, to maybe even be a little frightened. I’m not saying you need to gross people out or scare them so bad they're afraid of you. It could be something like, you are doing aerial fabrics and you almost fall, but you catch yourself at the last instant. Any way you can layer emotion into a show makes it more memorable and meaningful.

A strip club environment definitely demands more of a sensual vibe. I season my shows with fear and humor, but the meat and potatoes of those shows is sex appeal. With my more mainstream shows, sex is more of the backdrop. I want my audiences to feel a whole gamut of emotions. I’m even okay with being a little cheesy and goofy. I want to take them through a range of emotions. But I also hope I startle them and scare them and shock them. I want them to feel a sense of awe.

What do you remember about growing up in St. Pete?

I lived in St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island for almost seven years. What’s not to love about living on the beaches as a kid? I moved there before my troublemaking teen years. There was a sense of freedom in being able to walk everywhere. I walked to the beach, the corner store, the movie theater. I didn’t really appreciate that freedom until I moved to a subdivision in Atlanta. I was like, "What do you mean I can’t walk to the theater or the bookstore?" It was kind of depressing. I wasn’t old enough to drive myself anywhere. There were literally walls and fences around each subdivision. As a kid I called it a people’s zoo.

When you retire from feature dancing, will you fall back on your degree in historical costuming and make outfits for others dancers?

It’s definitely a possibility. Right now I make my own costumes. A few girls have asked me to make costumes for them, but until I can devote more time to costuming, I don’t want to push inferior items out just to sell them. The quality must be there if I'm going to put my name on them. That’s something I would love to do, but it’s not in the near future. I could also see myself teaching yoga, dance, or burlesque while featuring. Teaching isn't as time intensive as costuming. I don’t think I could do something like that until I am completely done performing, and I’m definitely not done featuring. I'm trying to make all of my shows a bit more mainstream and integrate more circus arts.

Have you had any success expanding your shows beyond adult venues?

I’m in contact with some cruise companies and casinos as we speak. A few casinos are talking about rebooking. I have a handful of shows that would work really well. I've gotten rid of a lot of my smaller feature shows that I started with. I have nothing against performing in strip clubs. I love it. That is my meat and potatoes and you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I will forever have crazy strip club pride. But, I also feel like I have to keep evolving. More mainstream shows will be my next evolution.



After seeing the difference giving to the homeless made during the recent freeze in Atlanta, Gia Nova will donate 20% of her stage tips each night to a charity near each of the clubs on her Florida tour.

T's Lounge in West Palm Beach, Feb. 4 - 8
Teasers in Key West, Feb. 10 - 11
Bare Assets N. in Holiday, Feb. 12
Lollipops in Hudson, Feb. 13
Bare Assets S. in Pinellas Park, Feb 14 - 15

Check out explicit content of Gia Nova at ilovegianova.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot.com, Youtube.com, and ModelMayhem.

Follow Shawn Alff on Twitter or Facebook and email him here

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