Interview conducted by Chanèle McFarlane
Photography by Keidi Janz

If there’s one skill that’s imperative to succeeding as an entrepreneur, we’d like to think it’s self-confidence.

With judgement and discouragement from others often par for the “entrepreneurial course”, it takes an unwavering belief in yourself to keep pushing through. The career journey of Pastel Supernova, an award-winning Burlesque Entertainer, Choreographer and Showgirl, serves as a prime example.

What began as a way for her to cope after a life-altering breakup evolved into Love Letters Cabaret, “Toronto’s most exciting, edgy and sexually charged dance theatre company” that empowers others to push boundaries with burlesque. Although she had an impressive dance career (she’s professionally trained in classical ballet!) where she choreographed and performed internationally on some of the world’s biggest stages, her newfound foray into a risqué industry was met with negativity from friends, family and strangers alike. Nevertheless, she stood firm in her commitment to seeing her vision come to life - making adjustments to the circle around her, as necessary.

Pastel’s work is special, in that, it’s not just something she truly loves, it also makes a positive impact on people’s lives as her unique dance technique lies within the intersection of sensuality and body positivity. As a highly coveted teacher, her focus is to inspire others to feel sexy, and ultimately, confident enough to showcase their best self. She was awarded “Best Stage Presence” at Italy’s Como Burlesque Festival and in 2015, she was recognized as the Top Burlesque Performer by the Alternative People’s Choice Awards. She has also been recognized by FLARE Magazine as one of Canada’s most influential women.

In an honest and insightful interview, here’s Pastel on everything from the importance of surrounding yourself with inspiring people and taking risks to moving provocatively, in both life and business:

 

Tell us about a time that life handed you lemons. Did you make lemonade? 

Once upon a time I was surrounded by toxic 'friends' who kept me down and I was not landing enough auditions to feed me. I was also in the middle of a monumental break-up. That period of my life is now titled the Cosmic Beatdown where everything fell to pieces and I felt like I was walking blindly through dust and rubble. I had no money to take dance classes, which has always been my go-to saviour so I sold everything in my living room, created a small studio and danced for hours by myself to keep from losing my mind. I had so much time on my hands that the dancing evolved into a body of choreographic works as well as a dance-fitness regimen that brought me regular clients wanting to tone up and learn how rock high heels. Soon after, I was teaching various erotic dance styles focused on boosting confidence and professional dancers looking to push boundaries with burlesque. Losing nearly everything was how I came to founding my dance theatre company, Love Letters Cabaret.

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After that first year, how did you scale your business and continue to grow?

I had no business knowledge when I started this venture. Sadly, art programs even in the most professional settings don't put enough time into teaching students about business and financial planning which is silly because the artistic career path is particularly unstable. My first year I experimented with my vision, kept my budget low, took notes and sought out a mentor. I'm forever grateful for the guidance.

How do you measure success in your career?

I try not to measure accomplishments, to be honest because I have some very high goals to reach but that's not to say I don't celebrate my small victories. For the past few years I've become spiritually and financially better off than the one before but also my world is filled with amazing and inspiring people who love me as much as I love them. That keeps me strong, motivated and excited to continue taking risks and living my best showgirl life.

"I'm happy to be inside my own skin and no one body part deserves more praise. I have a juicy shell, smart brains and a high vibrating spirit."  

How much of your success as an entrepreneur has come from taking risks versus playing it safe?

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that playing it safe will get me absolutely nowhere. Everything I love has to do with subjects that are either niche or considered risqué so I have had to move provocatively through my business as well. It's the one way I've learned to stand out with a clear voice to share my message.

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Was there ever a moment that you questioned your decision to become an entrepreneur? How did you overcome it?

There are many moments when a doubtful whisper creeps into my head and tries to ruin my day/ month/ or project but never the life choice and I think that's just part of the creative process. Making art for oneself is safe but making art for strangers successfully lends to being judged, criticized and often misunderstood so it's bound to happen in one's own head first but I won't dwell on it. I either keep working on a show until it feels ready or if the doubt manages to seep into the texture of my work, I'll set that particular project aside until I can look at the situation in a different light. That's never a huge problem because I've often got a few different pots on the stove. For example if the choreography isn't sitting right, I'll work on the costume or prepare a photo shoot.

What is the last investment you've made that has made your life better?

When I put my last pennies into Love Letters, it completely changed my life. It made me realize I believed in myself - I had to! - and that manifested a gorgeous cast of talented, confident performers I admire and care for deeply. The cabaret itself has an 'offspring' called Hunty Swag, a brand of flashy streetwear and custom costumes which has become another in-house source of income.

What do you love most about yourself?

I love my everything. My life isn't perfect and I have loads of personal and professional ish I'd like to continue developing but I know who I am and what I want. I'm happy to be inside my own skin and no one body part deserves more praise. I have a juicy shell, smart brains and a high vibrating spirit.

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Have you ever had anyone doubt you? What did you do about it?

I did... friends, boyfriends, strangers and family members doubted some aspect of my life and career choices. They couldn't believe I chose dance and theatre over a safer higher paying office job not to mention getting into burlesque and erotic dancing. Some people had to get cut out for judging me, and others I knew did it out of love, so I stuck to my guns, trusted myself and made sure to take every step necessary to see my vision through.

What is your best negotiation tip?

Know your worth. Many people on the other side of the table will say and do all kinds of things to make you discount yourself just to see if they can. Take a risk on yourself.


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