Kool Kat of the Week: Lola LeSoleil Talks Feathers, Fun and Frolic at Southern Fried Burlesque Festival 2014

Posted on: Mar 19th, 2014 By:

Lola LeSoleil. Photo credit: Your Mojo by Jojo.

The Southern Fried Burlesque Festival is back for its fourth sizzling year March 20-23, bringing the best performers from all over the world to Atlanta for a weekend full of burlesque classes, panels and performances  at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria.  Founded and presented by Syrens of the South Productions, it’s not just bringing a high standard of burlesque entertainment to the city but also getting Southern performers noticed on the national scene.

One of these is Lola LeSoleil, who won the crown of Southern Fried Festival Queen 2013 in last year’s pageant competition. Lola will be giving a special farewell performance on Saturday night before this year’s queen receives her crown, but in the last year, she’s come a long way, baby. It’s our royal pleasure therefore to declare her Kool Kat of the Week and find out more about what she’s been up, her plans for the future and what she’s looking forward to the most about Southern Fried 2014!

How did you get started in burlesque? 

In 2001, my mom and I went to Las Vegas. While there we saw Gladys Knight, Charo– in all of her “Coochi-Coochi” glory – and the signature JUBILEE show at Bally’s. JUBILEE is the quintessential glamorous Las Vegas floor show  – huge feather headdresses; elegant, statuesque ladies dripping in rhinestones; and lighted staircases. I was in love and realized come hell or high water, I needed a big feathery headdress. And sequins. And rhinestones.

It took a few more years before I saw a few burlesque shows in Atlanta – Big City Burlesque, Dames Aflame – and realized this art was in my city! I just needed a way in. After detouring to pole dance class and a one-off burlesque choreography class, I attended a Blast Off Burlesque show with a friend who introduced me to Talloolah Love -at the time of Syrens of the South [Read our Kool Kat profile of Talloolah here]. They offered a burlesque class series. I couldn’t get my butt to class fast enough.

Lola LeSoieil. Photo credit: Derek Jackson

Is there a story behind the name Lola LeSoleil?

Burlesque names can be a challenge. I wanted a name to reflect my abundant energy and honored who I am, but also paid tribute to beauty icons I grew up with. LeSoleil is my heat, my sun. Lola was for Lola Falana who was a black actress and entertainer in the 1970s, and who also appeared on THE MUPPET SHOW.

Who are a few of your role models in burlesque, both classic and from the burlesque revival, and why?

To be honest, Carol Burnett was my first comedic variety role model. She was silly, endearing, dynamic and versatile. I didn’t really know conventional burlesque tease artists until I started taking classes and began  research. Toni Elling and Jean Idelle are two special ladies whom I’m delighted to have met, and their lives as entertainers resonate with me and I have immense respect for them. Contemporary artists share my Gen X/Y perspective on balancing art and work and creativity. It’d take more space than I have here to name them, but suffice to say I’m delighted to have perfomed with and for revivalists whose opinions mean a lot to me.

A few years ago, you were interviewed about being an African American performer in the burlesque revival. Traditionally there haven’t been as many but at least on Atlanta stages, I’ve been seeing more. Can you talk a little about why this has been so and do you see a change or not?

Having more faces that look like mine in the burlesque revival I believe comes down to exposure to the art, and a desire to participate. The burlesque community in Atlanta is welcoming and supportive of everyone’s artistic journey. The change is gradual, and what I’ve seen is encouraging!

Lola LeSoleil. Photo Credit: Marc Turnley

What did winning the Miss Southern Fried Burlesque crown mean to you, and how has it affected your career over the past year? 

The joke of my winning Southern Fried Burlesque Queen was that my third time was the charm. I competed in 2011 and 2012 winning awards, but not the BIG one. Turns out there were a lot of people who were excited to see a nerdy/fandom-inspired act win a burlesque pageant title. I had the opportunity to be invited to perform in cities I may otherwise not have. It’s been a damn fine year!

Without giving away any big spoilers, can you give us a little tease about your farewell performance?

If I told you, I’d have to exterminate you.

Are you teaching any classes at SFBF?

In year’s past I’ve taught, but this year at SFBF, you’ll see me volunteering and being a student because I heartily believe there’s always room to improve as an artist. And I like helping.

What else are you looking forward to personally about SFBF?

I am really excited to have my Beginning Burlesque Choreography class perform in the Newcomer’s Showcase on Thursday night! And of course, I’m abuzz to see friends I’ve met at other festivals and shows come in to town for a gigantic glittery weekend! It’s like the start of “Burlesque Summer Camp” season.

What’s next for you?

I’m fortunate to be performing at the first Nerdlesque Festival in New York in a few weeks, and I’m opening my travel horizons to other festivals and events outside the South. Windy City [Burlesque Fest], here I come! I’m really looking forward to teaching more at  The Atlanta School of Burlesque.

Anything else you’d like to tell ATLRetro readers about Lola LeSoleil?

Follow your strengths as a performer, but don’t limit yourself. Take all the classes. Learn anything/everything and don’t allow yourself to stagnate. As long as you have breath in your body, you can improve.

To read ATLRetro’s preview of the Fourth Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, click here.

 

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Kool Kat of the Week #2: The Better Half Will Reach You: Jazz Singer Yolanda Rabun Is Keeping It So Real at the Atlanta Jazz Festival

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 By:

Photo courtesy of Yolanda Rabun.

The Atlanta Jazz Festival brings a national and international who’s who of the art form to Piedmont Park for an amazing free concert every Memorial Day Weekend. With so many incredible artists, we decided we couldn’t pick just one, so this week, look out for two Kool Kats.

Kool Kat #2 is Yolanda Rabun, one real lady of jazz who’ll be singing both her own originals and classic pieces on Memorial Day Monday, May 28 at 3 p.m. The former Atlantan now lives in North Carolina but is excited to be returning home in support her debut CD SO REAL, and we can’t wait to hear her, whether she’s channeling classic chanteuse Billie Holliday or showing us with her voice how the true meaning of love embodies peace and harmony and even when true love means it’s time to leave. She has sung with Isaac Hayes for President Ronald Reagan, performed with Clay Aiken, been the lead vocalist of the Stanley Baird Group opening for Jennifer Holliday and traveled the world. All at the same time as serving as corporate counsel for a Top 5 Forbes company. We caught up with her to find out more about her eclectic background, what her mother taught her about music and life, and what it means to be So Real…

How did you discover jazz?

My mom introduced me to Nancy Wilson and Nina Simone when I was younger. Billie Holliday was a really big hero of mine. And Diane Reeves. My background is musical theater. I always think of musical theater as a story being told to music and that’s what jazz does too. As I got older I was called by jazz bands asking me to come play with them, and I began stepping out. In fact, throughout school I would sing with different jazz bands. I’d do things here and there, but I really got into my jazz vocal career five to six years ago when I became the official lead jazz singer for a band in North Carolina.

Who are some of your favorite classic jazz singers and why?

Billie Holliday, her music changed during the course of her career and that was very impressionable on me because it gave me meaning behind what jazz what can be. When I think of jazz, I think of improvisation—feeling through music based on what’s going on around you, being more straightforward with tones, more purposeful with meaning. As Billie got older and had been through more, her music became slower, energy more focused either in the emotion of anger or the emotion of sorrow. That was amazing for me. This woman could take music and deliver a message basically through the emotion going on in her life and the song. That’s a skill that I’ve worked on through my years studying music.

Sara Vaughn and Dinah Washington also made an impression on me, and Nancy Wilson is one of my biggest influences.

Trumpeter Al Strong and Yolanda Rabun at Raleigh's Artsplosure Festival 2012. Photo credit: Frank Myers.

Do you consider your style to be traditional jazz or contemporary jazz?

I don’t even think I want to be labeled. I like to be considered both so I’m not put in one corner or other. There’s a photo of me with a flower in my hair on my album, and that’s part of my brand. When you see it, you probably think Billie Holliday. I almost want to you, I sing traditional jazz in live shows. But listen to all of my music and you’ll find out it’s a mix. I want to send the message that whether I am singing contemporary or classic jazz as it was back in the day, whether soulful jazz or gospelly jazz, in the end it is jazz. And jazz is delivering emotion through the actual sound you hear in the music.

There must be a great story about how you came to sing and do a recording with Isaac Hayes and sing for President Reagan?

I was a junior at Northside School of the Arts and President Reagan was visiting. There was a big production and they wanted a song. They said Isaac Hayes was producing it and my face lit up. When I met him, he said he was so glad I was singing it. He was amazing. He was very caring about what needed to happen but also very stern and concerned that I was at my best. When I did it, it was on CNN and all the news stations. As soon as the song was over, I got so excited that I turned around and shook President Reagan’s hand. The Secret Service didn’t expect that. But he grabbed me and hugged me. It was a great experience all around, meeting the President and working with Isaac Hayes.

You often quote the statement: “Half of what I say is meaningless but I only say it so that the other half may reach you.” Where did you get that from?

It was something my mother said to me. I always wondered what she was saying. But I know now it means to pay attention to everything that is said since the portion that you need the most comes when you are ready to receive it.  The story about Isaac Hayes and being able to meet the president—what does that all mean? Mr. Hayes said a lot to me in the course of our working, I remember him reiterating that I would be a singing lawyer and that I am! In the end, it’s about having been blessed and continually being blessed to be able to work with really great people in my career. I’m based in NorthCarolina now, have traveled all around the world and I get to come back home to Atlanta for the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Did you know I used to sing the theme song for Atlanta and now I am coming back toAtlantato sing my music. I’m really, really excited.

Can you take a little about your debut CD SO REAL?

SO REAL is smooth and soul jazz. I started writing the song “So Real” for my husband. It was exciting for me, doing a demo and getting back into the field of music. As a corporate lawyer,  I’d gone full surge into that career but I wanted to get back to music. I wrote the song “So Real” as part of a demo and then set it aside.  Finally, the hard start of stepping out on my own and starting on my own album began in 2010. Because everything became  “so real,” that’s the music I wanted to sing and make my own. I took the single and created a full HD video, and then it toured to Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Jordan. I sang for it for the US troops because what they are doing for us was so real. Then I finished the album and took it back to Diego Garcia, and the  response  was amazing. The “So Real” song and album did well on the charts for the independent labels in the UK. I can’t even tell you how overwhelmed and excited I am.

Can you give us a taste of what you’ll be performing at the Atlanta Jazz Festival?

Hi, I’m Yolanda Rabun here and this is my new contemporary jazz album “So Real.” That’s a big deal. I’ve been the lead singer for a jazz group and now I’m stepping out and here I am. You will see a mixture of a lot of musical influences, Nancy Wilson,  Billie Holliday and others that will surprise a few. I will do some songs from my SO REAL album, and a song by one of the biggest influences in my life out of all my influences, Gladys Knight! My songs involve a journey of love, a journey of freedom, a journey of harmony and peace. My show is centered around the idea of real love and what that is, whether it’s blossoming, wonderful and happy or searching and unclear. In the end it’s about harmony and peace.

I’m from Florida but grew up in Atlanta. I went to Warren T Jackson Elementary, SuttonMiddle School and Northside School of the Performing Arts. I met my husband, Rick, in Atlanta, I was married in Atlanta (formerly known as Yolanda Williams) , one of my children was christened in Atlanta at my home church (Cascade United Methodist), my mom, (Kappitola) is in Atlanta where I was raised as her only child.  Atlanta is my home. I’m coming full circle. I started in Atlanta with my music, went off and became a lawyer, and now I’m coming back with my music.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Scott Glazer Takes Listeners Backstage with Rock, R&B and Country Greats on AM 1690

Posted on: Aug 18th, 2011 By:

Scott Glazer performing with Mojo Dojo at Northside Tavern. Photo courtesy by Scott Glazer.

Take a visit to the audio green room that is BACKSTAGE ATLANTA (Tues. at 12:30 p.m.; encore Sun. 11:30 a.m.) , and you might find bassist Joe B. Maudlin of Buddy Holly & The Crickets sharing a firsthand account of the heyday of early rock ‘n’ roll. Or ‘80s synth-pop maestro Jan Hammer revealing the story behind how he came to compose the soundtrack to MIAMI VICE. R&B legend Peabo Bryson has stopped by, The Beach BoysBrian Wilson was a recent guest, and country star Emmylou Harris came to sit a spell, as well as pianist Kenny Ascher, who’s collaborated with John Lennon, Barbara Streisand and Paul Williams.

Those Retro music greats, however, never would have found it onto Atlanta’s airwaves if it wasn’t for the existence of an eclectic little radio station called AM 1690 The Voice of the Arts and a visionary local musician named Scott Glazer known for jumping music genres and fascinated with what goes on behind the curtains.  ATLRetro recently caught up with Scott, who also deejays The Midday Mix (Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.) on AM 1690, to find out more about the independent radio station and Scott’s passion for preserving music history on the air.

How did you become involved with AM 1690 The Voice of the Arts?

I am a musician. In the fall of ’03, I was playing the annual run of  THE 1940s RADIO HOUR at Theatre in the Square in Marietta. One evening after the show I went to a jam session at Darwin’s, a blues joint. There I sang and played with a piano player and spoke and exchanged phone numbers with him. Turns out that he was/is station owner Joe Weber. We touched base a couple of times during the year, and [in] fall of ’04, he called me and asked me to come in to speak with him and [General Manager] Jeff Davis. I was astounded and excited!

When people hear “The Voice of the Arts,” they might think you’re another public radio station playing classical and experimental jazz. They’d be wrong, right?

First off, they’d be wrong in thinking that we are “public radio.” No National Endowment for the Arts funds come our way. Led by noted industry veteran and my personal hero Jeff Davis, our advertising sales staff is #1 and hustles like hell! As far as classical and experimental music, well, you’ll get some of everything on AM1690. We play music that we are passionate about. Most of it is music that you won’t hear on the big megabucks media conglomerates. How can there not be George Jones, Emmylou or Loretta on country radio?  Or Chuck Berry, The Olympics, Percy Mayfield, Ruth Brown, Patsy Cline or a litany of other American greats on the air?

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