Fancy Feast is a professional naked person.
She is Miss Coney Island 2016, Miss Bushwick Burlesque 2014, and is the recipient of the Judges’ Choice Award for Most Classic at the Alternatease festival in Boston in 2014. She is known for blending humor and edge in her genre-bending performances, which is exactly how she likes it. Along with Zoe Ziegfeld, she is the co-producer of the monthly show, The Fuck You Revue. She is the producer of Hindsight and Now You See Us, Now We’re Drunk, as part of the NYSB Drivers’ Seat Program, as well as the creator and producer of the smash successes The Unbookables and Maim That Tune at Coney Island. In addition to her performing and producing, Fancy is a sought-after femme-cee for burlesque, comedy shows, and Bar Mitzvahs.
Below, find the first in a proposed ongoing series, celebrating the lives of people doing truly one-of-a-kind things in New York by Leon Chase. I hope you will enjoy as much as we did!
Warning: Much of the language and subject matter in this movie should probably be considered «NSFW»
"I chose Fancy Feast (for this documentary) because I think she symbolizes the more radical elements of the current Neo Burlesque scene in New York. As I see it, there’s a spectrum: At one end, you’ve got the purist acts, intent on reviving and maintaining a very specific retro style of burlesque, based on more traditional ideas of sexiness and beauty. These tend to be the fan dancers, the lithe glamour girls, the acts you’re most likely to encounter at a more high-end, big-ticket venue. Then at the other end, there’s a much raunchier, more confrontational “downtown” element, closer in spirit to Karen Finley or Grace Jones than to Lili St. Cyr. These are the wild ones, the shock artists, the ones intent on pushing the boundaries of sexuality and gender and body image and taste. Fancy Feast, by daring to be simultaneously large and sexual (and, in many cases, intentionally grotesque) onstage, falls firmly into this second camp.
"I call myself Burlesque Performer [but] when I really want to get out of the conversation with people I say that I do short form experimental feminist performance art… and that usually ends the conversation"
- Fancy Feast
To be clear, I have nothing against the more conventional, glamorous styles of burlesque. But at this point I think that scene has already been well-documented by other, much more skilled people than myself. Whereas, when I started shooting some of the shows at places like Coney Island and Bizarre Bushwick, it felt like much more uncharted territory mentally—and a piece of New York City that, to my amazement, no one else was bothering to film. I was fascinated with Fancy Feast’s particular role in the burlesque world: Not only is she making a living by performing as part of this fringe, still largely unknown subculture—but within that, she’s challenging its basic assumptions about what’s considered sexy, or beautiful, or worth celebrating onstage.
Add to that the fact that, when I began filming her, Fancy Feast had just been anointed as the queen of that scene: Miss Coney Island 2016. As a filmmaker, this brought a whole new level to her narrative (and also gave me a nice excuse to shoot footage of Coney Island all summer). As much as Fancy likes to downplay the title sometimes, I think the Miss Coney Island pageant brings a bigger, more historic context to her personality in the film, and to the burlesque scene at large. And it certainly helped me in terms of access and reputation. When you walk into a burlesque event as The Guy With Miss Coney Island, a lot of doors magically open for you.
"Maybe I walk in as the fat girl but I chose how I walk out" - Fancy Feast
Looking back now, it’s amazing to realize how much initial trust there was between us. When I started filming, I had never actually seen Fancy’s live act, or even really spoken to her beyond one very busy day on-set. I was betting on the fact that she would be good (or at least interesting) onstage—and also that she would be able to speak articulately about herself, which is something not every performer can do. Meanwhile, she 100% welcomed me into her world, with the trust that, at the very least, I wouldn’t behave like a drooling idiot in the presence of all her naked friends and, at best, that I would portray her (and the burlesque world) in ways that went beyond the typical sensational, voyeuristic fluff piece. She never even asked to approve anything beforehand—the first time she saw any of my footage was at the film’s premiere. It was an enormous act of faith on her part, and, of all the great things to come out of this project, I think Fancy Feast’s trust in me—as a creator and as a human—is the thing I’m most proud of." - Leon Chase
Photos from Fancy Feast's website