Stormy Leather Storms the Stage
The bisexual bombshell, bears all about her sexuality and naughty moves.
When she dances, Stormy Leather—the Naked Girl of Burlesque—is like a firestorm that, as much as you try to, you just can’t tame, and in the end you don’t really want to—if you’re smart.
The first time I saw Stormy Leather perform, at a burlesque show at the Stonewall Inn, it was like being in the eye of that firestorm—and I loved it. Stormy spun a spell, using old-school moves, combined with naughtier neo-burlesque, that Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love and war, would envy.
Her set was burned into my mind, so I was delighted when I caught up with her before she headed out to Vegas, to perform at a new nightclub at the Palazzo. It also sent me on a Stormy Leather burlesque junket, taking me to some of the naughtiest and most naked burlesque shows in the city. She was dubbed the Naked Girl of Burlesque by her friend and sometimes partner in burlesque crime, Melody Sweets, whom Stormy credits with helping her break out of her shell—although it’s hard to believe she was ever in one.
My interview with her revealed a beautiful, creative, sexy, super-smart woman who loves women, and we spent much of our time discussing the women in her life. They often include the women of burlesque, who love and support one another in life as well as in art. I had to ask about her sexuality. “I’m bi now, gay later,” she says, smiling. Coming to terms with her bisexuality was not easy when she was growing up Southern Baptist in Oklahoma and Texas, where being bisexual or lesbian was either a joke or downright dangerous.
In high school, Stormy was confused by her feelings for women, secretly checking out the girls in the locker room while still being attracted to her boyfriend. It wasn’t until years later, when a friend came out to her as bisexual, that Stormy had a name for what she felt, and someone to talk to—and experiment with.
Until her late twenties, she thought she might be going through a phase, but while she was living in Chicago she was finally able to embrace her sexuality. Stormy took a little heat from friends who thought she should pick one gender or the other to sleep with. Others wanted to know whether she liked men or women better. Her answer? “I love who I love,” she says.
For Stormy, love and sex have lots of starting points—and none of them have to do with gender. It’s about a connection, whether it begins with a conversation, a feeling, a touch, a smell, or a look. Stormy has been in a long-term relationship with a woman, and although it didn’t last, “It didn’t end because she didn’t have a penis,” she says.
Stormy Leather’s acts are certainly fun and sexy, using fan dancing, tassels, pasties, and feather boas, along with drag, bondage, fetishes, and other erotic extras to rile up the crowd. Yet her numbers make you think—and do a little work to see what she’s getting at. This is one of the reasons why Stormy Leather is so special.
“Daddy’s Home” is a performance piece that she prepares for by going into a “psychologically dark space.” This Method burlesque, in full “daddy drag,” is about a very broken person who pulled out a gun, rolled on a condom, and pointed it at her vagina. For Stormy Leather, this piece is profoundly personal. “It’s a number that shows my frustration with that distinct difference between the way men and women are treated,” she says.
For burlesque with substance, Stormy Leather is a must-see. (stormyleathernyc.com)