Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Tristan Risk. For those of you who haven’t discovered her yet, you’ll want to set aside some quality time to scope out her ridiculously fun website. Famous for her smart mouth, seductive stage performances, and insightful writing, Little Miss Risk is a fascinating character. Hailing from Vancouver, she’s a delightful combination of all things sultry and spooky, with a hint of comedy that will knock you on your ass. A talented darling of the stage and screen, Tristan also spends her days as a Corsetier, model, blogger, and all around connoisseur of mischief.
I was familiar with Little Miss Risk’s work through the burlesque community, but really developed a crush on her recently after viewing the horror hit “American Mary”. My favorite character in the movie was the charismatic Beatress, so when the credits rolled by, I was delighted to learn that the actress portraying her was none other than the astonishing Tristan Risk. It was then that I decided that I must get all of the gorgeously gory details on the girl who has so effortlessly captivated audiences worldwide.
1. What’s a average day like for Little Miss Risk?
It depends on season. If it’s winter that means waking under the cover of darkness and if I’m at home, feeding my crows outside. Daily routines include yoga, seawall run or gym time, at least one sojourn though East Van daily. Regular activities in a day can include a photo or film shoot, performance where (spoiler alert) I wind up in a state of undress, or learning a ridiculous life skill like hanging from my hair or bending a nail with my ass. Usually coffee and smiles are involved throughout the day.
2. What qualities do you think make a great entertainer? What sets you apart from other performers?
It might seem redundant, but one of the best qualities an entertainer can possess is the DESIRE to entertain. I see a lot of performances that aren’t authentic because the person behind them is hiding behind large costumes or props when they aren’t giving their whole heart. A great entertainer is present, and is sharing the moment with their audience. Creating that special bond between exhibitionist and voyeur rather than a performer thinking about laundry and an audience member texting.
I think what differentiates me from other performers is my arts bleed across one another. My visual art gets into my costume concept, if I’m shooting film, I try to appear naked in it, I use my body to tell stories and create visual art as a kinetic sculpture. I think the inability to compartmentalize it and to still have a sense of humour in whatever my project is serves as a pretty good signature of style.
3. You’re somewhat of a Vancouver historian. What’s it like living there?
I was born and bred in Vancouver. I have never lived anywhere else in my life. Yet I’ve travelled fairly extensively over the years as a performer and have seen much of Europe, North America, The South Pacific and Asia. And every time I have to say I adore coming home to Vancouver. We are spoiled by all the gorgeous natural surroundings of mountain and ocean, and while keeping some of our original architecture of ‘old school’ Vancouver becomes a challenge, it’s still a wonderful place to live. Add to that the the general public is fairly attractive, in good health, and smokes a lot of pot, it truly is Lotus Land. I really encourage anyone who’s not come to check it out. But don’t trust the travel guides – hit me up and I’ll direct you to the things you HAVE to see!
4. Who are some of your favorite burlesque stars?
Of the Legends? I’m a fan of Tura Satana (who also graced screen and burlesque stage as well), Dusty Summers, the first nude magician, and Satan’s Angel who first spun fire tassels! From the new school I’ve tremendous respect for Dita Von Teese and Catherine D’Lish for bringing the ‘show’ back to ‘showgirl’, my ladies in Sweet Soul Burlesque, Melody Mangler, and Burgundy Brixx from the Vancouver crew. I adore many of the NYC ladies, and Eve Champagne and Tronicat in Germany! Much love! But I’m amazed at the new and fresh talent. Especially here in Vancouver where I’ve heard our burlesque scene is likened to what Seattle was to Grunge music. I’m always surprised and impressed with all the high concept art performances, the merging of sideshow/fetish/magic/tribal styles and the drive that all these performers have. It’s very humbling to be around.
5. You were incredible as the character ‘Beatress’ in the movie ‘American Mary’! What was it like playing that role?
At the risk of sounding like I went too far down the rabbit hole, I feel a lot of myself is in Beatress. Fragments and portions of my personality. Some of them twisted into parodies, but it’s still there, and with Beatress I feel she was an extension of some of these personality facets. Playing her was such fun, since everyone liked the character, and more than a few crew were walking on eggshells around me until I realized they were trying to be polite and not stare – they thought the fx make up was my real face! But getting to twirl around set crooning like Beatress and making people laugh on set was the most fun! For my first major film role I feel lucky to have hit the jackpot.
6. The Soska Sisters are a pretty intense duo. Any fun stories you’d like to share?
The Soska sisters are divine creations. I’d have never had half of the opportunities I’d have been offered if not for them taking a chance an casting an unknown ecdysiast in the role of Beatress. I also recognize that a role like THAT does not always come into one’s lap. So let me start this by stating that I am very grateful for the chance to play Beatress and have two such gifted and kind friends. As for one of our fun moments was we ‘discovered’ a hidden pool at this hotel we were staying at. There was one main one, and then other one that you practically required a sherpa guide to get to, but this other had a hot tub. So another friend of mine was there with us and we dressed like mermaids and had a mermaid party in the hotel pool. The looks we got trucking the tails down the hall, over our shoulders were priceless, not to mention the puddle-trails that followed us to our room. I’m pretty sure they knew it was us, but the hotel security footage from that must be priceless…
I also have a bad habit of delivering them ‘stripper coffee’ as I tend to be a (annoying) morning person. It usually means I wake up two hours before anyone else, go get coffee, then knock on the door and when they answer, be topless. Again, the hotel security footage would be solid gold here.
7. Little Miss Risk is a wonderful balance of sex appeal, humour and horror influence. What are some of the things that inspire you the most?
Antique erotica (trust me, humans exhausted all options WAY before the Internet) and taking from forbidden and taboo subjects of the past. Old school Alice Cooper is as big an influence as Zigfield and Dita. I’ve a fascination with myth and folklore and a lot of myths and legends inter wired into cyberpunk concepts often meet in my brain. I have a collection of vintage brooches which I like to arrange amidst tarot cards to see if one can influence the other and then I can bring them to life onstage. 🙂 I’m pretty sure too that I’m not the only one guilty of having a large collection of coffee table books with art and artists that inspire me as well….
8. What is something about you that people may be surprised to learn?
That I like to surf. I don’t do it often, and I’m not terribly good at it, but when I get the chance I like to ride the waves. I also plan to get a professional mermaid tail made so I can have tail when travelling! I also have a terrible compulsion to doodle raccoons pushing wheelbarrows as well.
9. If you could travel in time, when and where would you go?
1888 – Montermarte, Paris
1925 – Paris
1978 – CBGB’s, New York City
1945 – The Cave Supper club, Vancouver
1986 – Vancouver, at a Skinny Puppy recording session
10. What are some of your favorite magic tricks?
I love quick change magic, and Pepper’s Ghost, which is one of the hardest illusions to recreate since it’s so fundamental that the venue be set up properly for it. One of my favourite magicians, and good friends, Dr.T, has shown infinite patience with me, usually when we do our duo stuff. He’s done the Fringe circuit for a few years, and I always find myself clapping like a five year old when I see him do his acts.
11. I’ve heard that you began performing by accident. I know there must be a great story…please elaborate!
Oh lord, it’s true! I emcee’d my first show when I was seven for my granddad’s church show… after getting the stage and a taste of the mic, I never looked back. I got into burlesque entirely by accident. A friend was having a party for her boyfriend and wanted someone to jump out of a cake and do a Marilyn Monroe striptease thing. I volunteered to do it (the cake was the most ghetto cardboard/sparkle/glue gun affair that you can imagine). Apparently it was a hit, and he asked me to ‘open’ for their band the following week. Since then it’s been difficult keeping me off of a stage and clothes on, but I’ve not heard any complaints yet.
12. I absolutely love reading your blog! What post was the most fun to write?
It’s like trying to pick who’s your favourite among your children. I do rather like throwing down on burlesque or Vancouver history and any chance I get to write about my favourite RPGs and their relevance to my current state of affairs makes me smile. And when in doubt, post photos of yourself or people/things/places that inspire you.
13. Any exciting projects on the horizon that you would like to talk about?
Ooh, well I’ve got three films being released come 2014, which is pretty exciting for me. One is Astron 6’s The Editor, and two short films, one is a secret and the other is Jill Sixx’s The Callgirl where I’m also with Laurence Harvey (of Human Centipede 2/3). Very stoked about all of these and looking forward to doing a few more films come 2014… Not sure when I can spill the beans on those, but there’s three projects lined up so fingers crossed I can let you know sooner than later. I’m also working on a coffee table book with Shimona Henry that I’m hoping to release next fall so things are coming down the pipe all over!
I could have gone on forever asking Little Miss Risk a million questions, but she had some trouble to start and I couldn’t bear to interrupt. If you’re in the mood for some sassy tweets you can track her down at @littlemissrisk. For burlesque bookings she can be reached at email@example.com. Love letters can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to Shimona Henry for the beautiful images!