Since the 1860s, burlesque has been serving up a delicious combination of eroticism and empowerment, as badass beauties combine ribald comedy and the art of undress to stimulate their audience's body and mind.
Derived from Italian burlesco or burla, meaning joke or ridicule, the burlesque tradition in America in particular combines pop entertainment with avant-garde activism and serious social undertones.
Burlesque stars of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, whether they knew it or not, helped usher in a new era of feminist liberation. As photographer Marie Baronnet explained in an earlier interview with The Huffington Post: "These women were pioneers, using their art to conquer for themselves and for other minorities their independence. They were natural activists of the feminist cause, consciously for some, not so much for others. But they all were 'free spirits' at heart, and so bold for their time."
Kitty Kat DeMille, co-creator of the burlesque web channel Workin’ The Tease, is no stranger to the bewitching powers of the art form. In a recent video for the page, DeMille invited living legends of the burlesque stage, now in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, to wax poetic on their lifelong passion. Many of these women, it should be noted, still perform, embracing their bodies and sexuality at any age.
We've compiled some of our favorite moments from iconic burlesque names, including Isis Starr and Madame E, below. Watch the entire video above.
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