Rosie Bourgeoisie: Opulent and Voluptuous
The Boundary-Breaking, Burlesque-Dancing, Body Activist Preaches Self-Acceptance Through Glam, Glimmer and Glitz
On stage, Rosie Bourgeoisie is an enigma. Flashes of pastel-coloured silk sway as the performer shakes and slides under the spotlight, a sly smile hidden and revealed between spins. A handsome robe, homemade and adorned in feathers, slinks to the floor.
“I think [Rosie] is like, a fantasy of this bougie royalty thing that I never had,” explained Bourgeoisie. “It was really like this glam, opulent, fancy lady when I started. And it evolved, it grew with me.”
With rows of pearls, rhinestone panties, and pink hair curled into a perfect ocean-like wave, there’s no doubt that Bourgeoisie is true royalty.
The person behind the performer considers themselves to be shy—a far cry from the character they portray on stage. While they embody luxury on stage, in daily life they are humble, inviting, and emanate an unmistakable warmth. Their joy lights up the room.
Bourgeoisie, a self-defined body activist, has taken the Montreal burlesque scene by storm. They’ve been performing for six years—and don’t plan on stopping.
With sets ranging from traditional to neo-burlesque and crossing genres in style and content, the character’s divine opulence breaks the boundaries of gender and expression, while bringing a whole new meaning to the words body acceptance.
Growing up in the Montreal borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, a young Bourgeoisie gleamed in their creativity and a love for dance.
They’ve been performing for almost their entire life, taking dance classes at a local dance school into their teenage years.
“[Dance was] a way for me to feel good,” they said.
Bourgeoisie often shared their dreams of acting and modeling with their mother—they revelled in the attention and the exhilaration of performing on stage and for family members.
When Bourgeoisie started CEGEP, they decided to put dance on the back burner to focus on their studies.
Bourgeoisie would be back on stage though. Several years later, after modeling for a friend’s plus-size clothing collection, Bourgeoisie was invited as the stage kitten at a burlesque show at Café Chaos, a now-closed punk bar on St. Denis St. that hosted burlesque and drag events.
They scoped out the venue attending a drag event, and found the atmosphere to be accepting, free and “just lovely.”
From the moment they were back on stage, the spark was ignited. “I missed performing on stage, because I wasn’t dancing anymore,” said Bourgeoisie.
As a plus-size person, Bourgeoisie found it difficult to find costumes in stores in their size.
A friend lent them a corset, and they performed their first routine using regular underwear and stockings—very different from the opulent and extravagant homemade outfits that shine and glimmer on stage with them today.
“I think just being on stage, and taking space, being loud, and taking off my clothes—so being vulnerable and naked—is like, just so big.”
— Rosie Bourgeoisie
Bourgeoisie continued to build their repertoire—both of numbers and skills. They even started to make their own costumes, a feat which would bring Bourgeoisie up to another level of lavish extravagance.
They began to perform more frequently, auditioning for the burlesque troupe Sublime Rondeur, a troupe of plus-size burlesque performers.
“I think that the world of burlesque right now is at a really interesting point,” said Pascale Frenchy Jones, manager of Montreal’s The Wiggle Room.
“The roles of gender have always been interestingly played with, but now we’re pushing the limits more.”
Jones and Bourgeoisie met as performers at Sublime Rondeur.
“We’re really trying to lose the identity of gender in burlesque in general. I think that Rosie is at the forefront of that.”
“I think they’re really pivotal,” she added.
Referred to by Bourgeoisie as the Mom of the burlesque community, Jones played an integral part in the development of Bourgeoisie’s character.
They credited Jones for helping them through their first few years of burlesque, helping them shop for sequins and fringe.
“Every time I see them, they make me smile,” said Jones. “As a performer, I think that they are a groundbreaking, door-smashing powerhouse. And as a person, they are an absolute angel.”
Frustrated with the lack of venues allowing artistic liberation, Bourgeoisie became a founding member of House of Genderfuck in 2016.
A collective of queer, POC, allies, and trans artists, House of Genderfuck brought performers together to create a platform that would “break the boundaries of gender, expression, and gender expression,” Bourgeoisie explained.
From alien dominatrix scenes, to on-stage masturbation, the now defunct House of Genderfuck was all about not being in a box.
With a laugh, Bourgeoisie described the collective as “very experimental.”
With routines that blend themes and genres, swinging between satirical comedy and drama, Bourgeoisie always tries to be political and have a message in their routines.
Though the message may not be apparent at first, it’s always there, underneath that first layer.
One routine, performed to a remix of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” discusses a past relationship of Bourgeoisie’s, dealing with its toxicity in a cathartic performance that is raw in emotion.
Other routines, like a fan dance to Lana Del Rey’s “High by the Beach” were created after the legalization of marijuana in October 2018—it brings the audience to a dreamy daze.
“I think just being on stage, and taking space, being loud, and taking off my clothes—so being vulnerable and naked—is like, just so big,” said Bourgeoisie.
Being on stage as a plus-size person is political in and of itself.
“As a plus-size person, you’re always told that your body is not worth it, that you’re not pretty enough that you should hide yourself. And I’m doing the opposite,” they said.
“A lot of people have come to me and said that I changed their way of seeing themselves,” they added.
Judy Stardust, a newcomer to burlesque who studied under Bourgeoisie at Arabesque Burlesque School, described Bourgeoisie as a mentor and a role model. Stardust recounted a moment where she felt herself melt into her character completely.
“I let go of all my barriers that I had before, I let go of all [of] what people could think of me. I just abandoned myself to this art and to this character that I was building.”
“With Rosie, I just learned to embrace myself,” she added. For Stardust, burlesque is a way of embracing oneself and one’s sexiness.
“I like to see [that] all different bodies are celebrated, and Rosie is part of that,” she said. “They don’t apologize for who they are, and this love for themselves is shared with the public.”
A friend of Bourgeoisie’s and fellow performer Grant Canyon said that he wouldn’t be where he is now as a performer if it weren’t for Bourgeoisie, who helped him not only on a technical level, he said, but on an emotional level as well.
“I guess people assume that we’re comfortable being on stage and we’re comfortable with our bodies,” said Canyon.
“But it’s not always the truth and the case and for me is that I wasn’t when I started doing burlesque. It took me a few months to be able to love my body and embrace it as it is.”
He added that the burlesque community not only encourages full authenticity, but praises it.
“Burlesque is the celebration of a body,” he explained. “It’s a way to tell a story, or to make people laugh, or make people think, and entertain in a special art form.”
“It’s really nice to see that the burlesque community wants to celebrate bodies as they are and people as they are,” he added.
Canyon is inspired by Bourgeoisie’s persistence, noting their dedication to the craft in the consistent originality of their routines, to the glammed-out costumes they design.“I feel like Rosie has a big future in the burlesque community, and not only in Montreal but in the world,” said Canyon.
“And I just can’t wait to see it all happen.”