If you don’t already love the glamorous burlesque performer, Miss Tosh who dazzles audiences while covered in Swarovski crystals, twirls on a carousel unicorn that she literally crafted herself, or because she’s a self styled fashion muse, Perhaps you’ll love her because she fights for a cause close to her heart and is the ultimate modern woman who isn’t afraid to show some skin!
She has been featured in some of the nations top best-dressed lists and celebrated amongst publications such as Marie Claire, Elle’s Choice awards, New York Times, New York Fashion Decode, and Nylon Magazine, to name some.
She has hosted fundraisers for organizations that provide transitional housing and support services to homeless lgbtq young adults. Miss Tosh is held in high esteem by The School of The Art Institute of Chicago as a queer artist and a global inspirational figure. She is the Glambassador to the LGBTQ community.
To me, Miss Tosh is the face of NOW and she was kind enough to agree to do my Beauty Q&A!!
Wild Swan: One may look at you in awe and wonder how you could propel into the spotlight as a fearless burlesque performer and power lesbian (I hope you don’t mind that phrase – I love the term power lesbian), but I imagine there must have been some struggle throughout your life and career. I know from experience that it’s not easy becoming an entertainer and I imagine that there can be struggles and obstacles being gay. Can you give me a little insight?
A: Living in today’s world is challenging for anyone who identifies as lgbtq+. I have faced my fair share of struggle and obstacles as a lesbian and entertainer. Growing up I didn’t have any lesbian role models and women in the public that I felt I could relate to. As a child, I suppressed who I am because of fear. Once I reached my early adult life and moved away from home, I was living alone with my self. It was a struggle, but I found that being unique is beautiful. We are all deserving of love and our dreams. There was always push back in my childhood, in college, in relationships, and in the entertainment industry. I never fit the mold, but I decided I was going to do it my way. So I became my own super hero and a reflection of what I want to see more of in the world. I finally felt like me and made a promise to be the most vibrant, brightest, sparkliest, unicorn I could possibly be!
Wild Swan: To you, what makes a human truly sparkle?
A: What truly makes someone sparkle and shine is love and kindness. Showing others loving kindness is the best way to sparkle from within. Staying true to your self and having tolerance and compassion for those who are different from ourselves.
Wild Swan: How did you discover Burlesque, what made you want to be a burlesque performer, and how did you start? Was there anyone who particularly inspired or encouraged you?
A: I first fell in love with the idea of burlesque when I saw images of Josephine Baker. I was in dance school and Debbie Allen was teaching us about Josephine and how she was a pioneer and achieved her dreams against all odds. It was the first time I saw a woman truly celebrated for her skill and sensuality. She was the rabbit that led me to wonderland where I discovered American Burlesque. I was inspired, fascinated, titilated and thrilled! I had so many fantasies about what these performances must have been like, that I began dreaming up my own.
When I was 18 I injured my self and surrendered my dream of being a professional dancer in a company. I was also very passionate about art and painting and applied for art university. I went to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago on scholarship. The best thing that could have ever happened to me at this point in my life. When I felt like my dream of being a dancer had vanished, I found a new path. I was accepted into the fashion department where I discovered a new talent for design. My passion for painting, movement, sculpture, art and math all found a home in fashion.
I still hadn’t come out to my family, and felt like I could truly express my self until I discovered an amazing night life scene in Chicago. The Drag queens saw me for who I am and pulled me right in. When my dear friend asked me to perform with all the queens at one of Chicago’s notorious queer clubs I said “Yes!” Plus you should never turn down a Queen. Later on, I became the Artistic Director of a show called “LQQKS” where we had many of the now drag superstars make their debut. It was a wild time where we all had the freedom to do the craziest things on stage and people would line up down the block in the snow to get a peak. This is where I developed my iconic “Peeling” act. It was the queer community and audience that encouraged me to go for it. And Ive been on this amazing journey ever since.
Wild Swan: Do you feel like you are always developing and changing your image or are you past that at this point in your career? Who or what inspired your look?
I’m definitely getting some Marilyn vibes!
A: I alway feel like I am in transition and evolving. I embrace opportunities for change. I love experimenting with my look and collaborating with other artists. The first time I dyed my hair I went for a fearless hot pink! It was so fun and changed the way I felt about my hair forever. I have always been obsessed with the art of transformation and creating glamour. I do however have a signature look that acts as my foundation to build from. My signature platinum hair and red lipstick is always my go to because I love a strong, graphic, and classic look. Hair for me is like sculpture and I am always aiming to make the waves and shape so dramatic that it feels like the hairdos of my favorite cartoons.
For beauty and hair I am inspired by starlets of the past like Jayne Mansfield, Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable. I am also very inspired by the badass looks in pulp comics and hairdos of Tex Avery cartoons. Style inspirations for me are classic eccentrics like Marlene Dietrich and Issabella Blow. I adore the swag, vibe and wit of Missy Elliot, Mae West and Maya Angelou.
Wild Swan: What are some beauty products or cosmetic brands that you can’t live without? Do you have any to die for beauty secrets?
A: I am by no means extravagant when it comes to beauty products. The looks I create are absolutely attainable and do not require fancy brand name products. I create my looks with mostly drugstore products. I dye my own hair with bleach from sally’s beauty supply and use the basic purple shampoos. I love wet&wild liquid eyeliners for creating my eye shape and bobby brown gel eyeliner with the thin brush. I love vivid colors with high pigments not for the faint of heart. I am a red lipstick connoisseur always hunting for the perfect blue reds. I love Russian red and ruby woo from mac and the Sephora brand red. I also love the Kat Von D long last red liquid lipstick. I like to line my lips with a darker shade of red or even magenta to make my lips look three dimensional. I absolutely cannot live without coconut oil! The jumbo tub from the grocery store. I use it fore everything as makeup remover, lotion, hair treatments, cleaning my brushes. Its the best ! For long, healthy, platinum hair only heat style for stage or special outings. Wet set for longer lasting hair looks. Treat your hair with coconut oil once a week and keep it in all day. These are the days I wear hair wraps or turbans. For skin care use Cerave’ products because they are unscented and super gentle. I just started to use a retinol cream from Paula’s Choice and Im really liking the effects. I wear sunscreen regularly, even at night when I go out.
Best beauty secrets: Beauty comes from the inside, literally! A big part of my beauty ritual is how I take care of my body. Every day I take my vitamins and start my day with a green smoothy or acai bowl. For vitamins I take a dissolving capsule of b12 which saves me when I have jet lag! I also take multi vitamin, calcium, d3. Always consult your doctor before taking supplements, because what works for me might not work for you!
Wild Swan: I’m blown away by the fact that you basically fully design and produce your own shows top to bottom! Talk about a one woman show. Is that hard? Where do you find inspiration? Also, please tell me all about building or creating your famous carousel unicorn! Literally, I’m in awe.
A: Thank you! I design everything in my performances from lighting, to music, choreography. I engineer and build all of my props while I design, pattern, sew and embellish my costumes. I do all my own beauty from nails, hair and makeup. My carousel unicorn prop began as a fantasy five years ago. I had the vision in mind and it took a few years of planning, saving, and researching to engineer what you see today. The first few prototypes I performed on were not solid and probably pretty dangerous to be swinging around on. But through trial and error I came to the design you see today. After a lot of sanding, painting and pounds of glitter, Nayonce’ was born. A lot of people will ask if there is power that makes her spin but she moves with my momentum which take a lot of acrobatic strength for her and I to twirl so smoothly.
I also run my own production design company, N.E.Thing Goes with my partner. I am always working on multiple projects at once, but I really love what I do so much. I am naturally very ambitious and fueled by passion. I will wake up in the middle of the night from a dream I had about a new idea and begin sewing or drawing it immediately. I get very excited about creating that when an idea comes, it pours out onto paper. My productions are so elaborate now that I have the privilege of working and hiring amazing artist, creatives and production individuals to be a part of my team.
Wild Swan: Tell me about yourself as a designer! I know you design your own costumes, which are stunning, and occasionally release clothing you’ve designed. Do you have a favorite piece? Where did you learn design?
A: I am a fashion designer and pattern maker by trade. I studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I created some fun collections while in school. My favorite is my sound and motion sensitive dress I made my first year. My favorite burlesque costume has to be my Stardust costume that pairs with the unicorn. It is so decadent and fully encrusted in Swarovski crystal. I have been working on new costumes and props for the past year that I am really excited to debut!
Wild Swan: How long does it take to embellish an entire corset? Do you think you’ll ever release a crazy lingerie line, or have you?
I would go crazy for that!
A: The Stardust costume took six months to complete and that is from concept to conception. I hand set every large stone into their setting and individually apply every crystal. Its very labor intensive. Since debuting the Unicorn act, I have had interest from students to intern and am considering offering an apprenticeship.
I have also been working on a few collections that I have kept secret for some time now. I have been working on a ready-to-wear clothing line and lingerie collection with a very exciting twist! I am aiming to release pre-sales before the holiday season.
Wild Swan: Do you have an exercise regimen or any particular type of diet you live by? What’s your secret to maintaining that perfect pin up/burlesque type figure?
A: The unicorn keeps my in pretty good shape. Lifting her steel base and practicing on her is a great workout. I am always building, lifting and working in my studio which keeps me very strong. My costumes are very heavy and weigh about 40 pounds when I am fully dressed. I stretch and practice yoga at home and love to do things that keep me active, but don’t feel like working out. I like to go on hikes in nature, go roller skating at the roller rink, and ballet class. I would really like to take up horse-back riding. My work is so active and labor intensive that I don’t do much else.
I think the key to looking good is feeling good. Eating things that make you feel great. I like to start my day with a fresh juice or green smoothie. I take my vitamins and eat a clean diet fruits vegetables, and grains. I don’t count calories or limit my self to what I indulge it. It is all in moderation and keeping a balanced diet.
Wild Swan: Are there any particular Fashion Designers or clothing brands that you absolutely adore?
A: I am an avid collector of vintage clothing and love shopping for treasures. My go to vintage haul is the Rose Bowl Market in LA. I love vintage designers like Lili Anne and Cecil Chapman. Its also important to me to support small businesses and independent designers rather than large commercial companies. My favorite lounge wear company is Department of Curiosities. They make the absolute best silk dressing gowns and beach pajamas. Every thing is made in house at their atelier in Chicago. I usually wear there garments backstage before a show or out for a sexy casual look. I am really excited about my new clothing collection because I was able to make the fashion staples I wish I had but can never find. Things that are comfortable, exciting and statement pieces.
Wild Swan: If you could travel back in time and be at one burlesque performance in history, who’s or what would it be?
A: I would have loved to have seen Sally Rand perform the first feather fan dance at the 1933 World’s Fair. She created the act out of necessity. She couldn’t complete her costume for the act she planned on performing so she made a fair of white ostrich fans and showed up in the afternoon performing in the nude with the giant feather fans. Talk about scandalous! I always believe our most creative moments come from fewer means, problem solving, and play.
Wild Swan: How do you stay looking so flawless and glamorous between shows, travel, design?
A: Travel and touring glamour is an art of its own. I keep as organized as possible and have glamour travel uniform that is easy and chic. Traveling by plane or arriving to a show my hair is in a relaxed updo, powdered face, sunglasses, and red lipstick of course.
If I am traveling by plane I love to wear a fitted jumpsuit, long jersey dresses and ballet flats. A beautiful coat or trench always sets the tone of a glamorous jetset look. I pack smart and keep my immediate needs in a large handbag. My change of clothes, a pair of stilettos and other things I will need when I land are in my carryon bag. The trick to always looking your best on a long flight is planning ahead. When I land I go to the restroom to change, reapply my makeup, and touch up my hair.
The show starts the moment you arrive! Making an entrance is the start of the performance and I never want to provide the full fantasy. Keeping integrity in your aesthetic doesn’t have to be high maintenance.When I arrive to a show I always wear a wrap dress because it is easy to remove and I can wear it while I get ready. No need to pull anything over my head and ruin my hair or makeup. I keep my every day products at home and always have a packed travel bag of all my showgirl essentials. That way if I need to travel last minute I am already packed. When I am not wearing my costume it goes back in its trunk and all my props break down into neat containers and crates for easy travel. Effortless glamour is achieved by being well prepared and paying attention to the little things that will make your job run smoothly. Working in showbiz I always leave room for mistakes and accidents. So I give myself and my team ample time when we arrive to a venue. This way I have time to enjoy my backstage rituals and a glass of champagne.
Wild Swan: Do you have a background in dance or choreography?
A: I am trained dancer and spent 14 years studying ballet and other techniques in dance academy. I had the privilege to study under Debbie Allen and her amazing dance mentors. I auditioned for her academy and received a scholarship. I would take the public bus every day after school and on the weekend to dance. It was a rigorous education where we would train 48 hours a week! I remember finishing home work in-between dance classes or at lunch at public school so that I could focus on dance. I learned 13 styles of dance from around the world. My favorites were flamenco, dunham, african, modern, swing, and ballet of course. It was a wonderful dance education that kept me focused and disciplined. It is amazing how all my training has filtered over into all aspects of my life.
Wild Swan: Do you do your own hair styling? If so, how do you achieve such a perfect, retro, bouncy, curl? Does it take forever?
A: I do all my own hair styling for stage and every day. Being a dancer we would have to do all our own hair and makeup for stage. I think of hair like sculpture and have been practicing that retro hairdo for most of my life. As a little girl I would sponge roll my hair and try to mimic the different hair looks I saw in cartoons. I am completely self taught, before there were any youtube tutorials to follow. I definitely had many bad hair days in high school trying to figure out retro hair sculpting. Practice makes perfect!
Wild Swan: How do you achieve the perfect retro winged liner?
A: The first thing about eyeliner is to think of them as sisters not twins. Your eyeliner should look alike, but don’t burden your self with making them identical. I like to look down into a hand mirror which makes a world of difference. I will alter the placement and size of my wing depending on how much drama I’m calling for.
Wild Swan: Tell me a little about the work you do within the LGBTQ community. I know you are very involved in helping homeless LGBTQ teens, which is so admirable and so beautiful.
A: Supporting the LGBTQ+ community is very important to me, because it is my community. I remember as a kid I didn’t have many role models that I could relate to and I never felt a sense of community. So I tried to become my own super hero and hope to be a positive example for young people. I really feel like love and hope is needed more than ever! There are great organizations and community centers for the lgbtq+ but still so much more work to be done. In the past I have held fundraisers to create halfway housing for displaced and homeless lgbtq+ youth. I have worked with the human rights campaign and events like Turn Up For Change. My partner and I are working together on a campaign called “Love & B Loved” to encourage positivity, and love within our global community. All proceeds from shirts sold go to support the Trevor project, an organization that offers support to distressed and suicidal lgtbq+ youth. We are working with youth on an upcoming mural and fashion projects that we hope with inspire youth and build a stronger sense of community.
Wild Swan: Thank you so much for talking with me! Is there any advice you’d like to leave my readers with or anything you’d like to add?
A: Thank you so much for the thoughtful interview. I really enjoyed speaking with you too. If I can leave you with anything today it is to be kind, be bold, take risks, never take yourself too seriously – and most importantly have fun through all your trials and triumphs!