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I Became Carmen in Macao

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

There was a brief moment in time when I worked as a showgirl in Macao. I was hired as a burlesque dancer in a beautiful venue called Something or Other, and it was the most challenging work experience of my life. I was alone in a Chinese-Portuguese town, living and working with mainly Russian and Ukrainian beauties who for whatever reason, aligned to make my life a living hell. They hated me and told me so every. single. day. And they aimed to prove it too. Between not speaking the local languages and being shunned by my coworkers, the isolation was intense.

The establishment didn't tell me until after my 26-hour travel day from Toronto to China, that they were a hostess bar so the bulk of my duties (and paycheck) consisted of sitting with clientele to make sure they drank a lot and often in order to fill a quota or else the venue would forego my pay completely. (yup) There's more to their financial gouging but why go into it? Your girl made a mistake working for them and sadly, performing was just a fraction of the job. I was stuck there for the longest six weeks of my life.

I quickly learned that the clientele couldn't easily pronounce my name. They lost interest in me if I came off as educated, and my pin-up esthetic didn't fly either... So I made up a new persona to see me through my contract. I did a little mirror magic and created a new persona. With an incantation and a little rebranding, I transformed in front of the mirror. Carmen was ruthless. She wore simple dresses, wore no makeup, wasn't easily amused, only spoke Spanish, and only laughed facetiously at men when they flaunted bankrolls... which made them do it often. Carmen was a mix of Femme Fatale dressed as the girl next door and without her, I don't think I would have survived. (Seriously, my coworkers were not above smashing bottles over each other.)

My overall ambivalence in Macao was what I brought to this photo shoot with John Ball. You'll see Rosie Mae and a sweet barber man who brought his vintage car to the shoot. I can't credit him, because I've forgotten his name. ah well. Enjoy




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