Burlesque has been around for centuries, and it’s more than just racy performances; to Devin “Rebel” Adams, it’s an art. He spends hours and even days preparing his costumes, hand-crafting complex outfits that glitter in the lights of the stage, only to be torn off at the opportune moment. Meeting Adams for the first time, you’re immediately drawn to his big personality and wit. He has a huge smile and isn’t afraid to show it. Adams calls what he does “boylesque,” and he won the title of Prince at Great Southern Exposure, his first-ever burlesque competition. Rebel performs as one of two male dancers with Big Mama D’s House of Burlesque. You can catch the group’s upcoming 10th annual Valentease performance on Feb. 11 at the Visulite.
How did you get started with burlesque?
A friend of mine was like, “hey there’s auditions being held at Upstage in NoDa, you should go.” So, I just showed up and did my thing, and they were highly impressed. [It] makes me feel good about myself, that somebody actually thinks I’m a great dancer and wants me to be in their dance troupe…I never really took a dance class. I was basically self-taught, inspired by Janet Jackson and other dancers, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake.
Who are your burlesque icons and mentors?
I look up to a performer named Ray Gun. He’s based out of Chicago. Also Bazooka Joe, who’s also based out of Chicago. Mr. Gorgeous, who’s based out of New York. Lola Lesoleil, I love her. She’s in Atlanta. Of course, Dixie Crystal, Big Mama D. She’s honestly the reason behind my burlesque career, because if it wasn’t for her pushing me, I probably wouldn’t be known in the burlesque world. She’s local here in Charlotte. I look up to her tremendously, like any advice that she gives me, I’m doing it.
What’s your favorite part of performing?
My favorite part of performing is when I connect with the crowd. As soon as I get on stage, I’m instantly happy, doesn’t matter what song I’m performing to. I’m connected with the crowd, and I like to flirt with the crowd because it’s burlesque and it’s strip tease. You want to get the crowd involved and hyped-up and excited.
What are some of your signature moves?
I don’t really have a signature move. I do this bow, and I don’t really pay attention to it. I bow down and both arms are extended out. Every video I’ve seen, I’ve noticed that I’ve done that. It’s subconscious.
How do you use your sexuality when you perform?
My sexuality is what it is. I can connect with male, I can connect with female. I’m a Libra, and we’re natural flirts. I can’t help it. If I’m taking off my pants, and there’s somebody sitting in the front row, it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman, of course I’m going to moon them [laughs]. And they absolutely love it.
What do you do for fun, besides burlesque?
I used to paint a lot, oil paint. I haven’t done that in a while. I like creating. I like doing the costuming which is part of burlesque…Burlesque is a part of my fun thing, because I get to create a costume. I get to create an act. I get to create a persona. I get to pick out whatever kind of music I want to dance to, whatever theme that goes with it…I like to go to the park with my dog. I like meaningful conversations, something that grasps me, something that inspires me. In other words, I just like creating, and creating new relationships with good people.
How would you describe your “happy place?”
I’m actually a loner. I like to be alone. I like to listen to my music. If I’m in the house cleaning, and I’ve got a good playlist going, I’m good, I’m happy…But most definitely when I’m on stage.