by Dr. Laura Wilhelm, LauraWil Intercultural
Leslie Zemeckis has one of the world’s largest personal collections of burlesque memorabilia. Now the actress, best-selling author, and award-winning documentarian has adapted part of this collection into burlesque and pinup-inspired emojis which are available for download exclusively from the App Store.
BurlyQji, the first emoji collection of its kind, was inspired by Zemeckis’ passion for burlesque, vintage showgirls, pin-up models, and flamingos. It is compatible with messaging applications that support the copying and pasting of images and GIFs.
“The line includes dozens of emojis and GIFs drawn from my extensive collection of old photos and memorabilia, from dancers to retro hairstyles to those pink tropical birds,” says Zemeckis.
“It is a tongue-in-cheek line that continues to add inspiring images celebrating the countless performers whose lives and talent are indelibly linked to this alluring era of American pop culture.”
Zemeckis has been documenting the burlesque era for decades in television, publishing, and digital media. As a historian of American pop culture, Zemeckis continues bringing to life the stories of inspiring and misunderstood women in burlesque.
And until she finishes writing her latest book about sex, scandal, and showgirls for Counterpoint Press, her BurlyQji app reveals those intimate stripped-down thoughts with emojis, bringing the stage to your iOS device for only $.99. For more information, please visit www.lesliezemeckis.com
Questions for Leslie Zemeckis from THT
1) Hi Leslie! What do you think makes the Golden Age of American pop culture embodied in your emoji app so endlessly alluring?
We have forgotten so much about it, or really didn’t know anything about it. Pop culture – burlesque in particular – during this time was misunderstood, but fun, humor-based, sexy without being sleazy (for the most part, there were exceptions).
It was a more innocent time and form of entertainment. It is still a very much untapped gold mine.
2) I am a semiotician by training and am always trying to figure out what verbal and visual material signifies in my Hollywood stories. Burlesque interests me because it both reveals and conceals the subjects. What are your thoughtson this matter?
Well of course, because we don’t really see beyond the skimpy outfits (and at the time, not so skimpy!) or the words “stripper.” We see an image, of a half-naked woman from the 1930s or 1940s standing in front of an audience dancing and we assume a lot.
But we don’t take the time to ask who she is, what is she thinking, how did she get there, or where did she go after her form of entertainment died?
We still rarely see beyond an image, or explore beyond a label. I see people as people, be they the Siamese twins in my second film Bound by Flesh, or Mabel Stark, a female tiger trainer in my third and current film. They were both more than a “freak” and “circus performer.”
It just takes time, curiosity and a desire to know WHO PEOPLE ARE to shatter labels, especially negative ones.
3) Do you think American culture has evolved to the point where it is putting burlesque into new contexts? If so, please explain.
Yes, it’s very popular now, very accepted, very fun, but everything has to be put into the context of its time. It was very different for a woman in the Golden Age to take off any amount of clothing, and be labeled a stripper.
There was much shame and shaming. Even though the women knew they were making a living and doing nothing wrong, society looked at them differently.
We don’t so much today. And it was a huge industry then. You worked 52 weeks out of the year, 7 days a week, 6 shows a day if you wanted to.
Especially at a time when jobs and opportunities were so much less for women of limited means, burlesque, circus, etc. provided a full rich life, travel, and perhaps a home and a family of their choosing.
That is why I’m so interested in keeping the past at the forefront, re-examining a time, and women (in particular) who were never given their due.