Here’s another question emailed to me by one of my students:
I guess there is no standard format for these things, but what is general advice on what to include and omit – especially when you are just stating out and dont have a ton of experience or a reputation backing you up?
A performer’s bio, like a resume, should be updated regularly and should grow and evolve as the performer’s career progresses. The style and voice should also change as the performer’s style evolves. Many of the same persona development techniques that I will be listing in my next post about choosing a stage name can also be applied to the nitty gritty of writing and coming up with inspiration for your bio. For this post, I will go over some of the basics you want to keep in mind when putting together your bio.
Usually in a performer’s bio you would include a short list of performance highlights, plus a few personal details about you (or rather your persona), and a little about your performance style if that’s not obvious through the style of your writing. Especially when you’re first starting out, it’s fine to make a few things up! Don’t lie about your accomplishments or performance highlights, but feel free to embellish or even make up a new life story for your performance persona. Feel free to dramatize! This is burlesque! Remember that your burlesque persona is not necessarily who you are in your everyday life! She is a fictional character and can be anyone you want her to be, along with a life history you can choose for her.
I wish I still had a copy of my first bio. It was full of all sorts of silly things like saying that I was raised by wolves and going on tour because I had murdered someone and needed a quick ride out of town. Silly, silly, silly! But until you are established and have some performance highlights or other accomplishments to talk about, it’s better to write something vibrant that gives the feel of who you are as a performer.
My bio from shortly after I started teaching:
Raised on the beaches of sunny Santa Barbara, California, Bombshell Betty was bitten by the travel bug at the tender age of 16 and promptly left home in search of lust and adventure. She found them in spades when she took to the stage 1996, touring across the US, Canada, and Europe, until finally landing in San Francisco in the winter of 2003. Always restless and looking for new experiences, Betty has been strutting her stuff across stages around town as well as working on new and unusual burlesque projects. Miss Betty started teaching the wildly popular “Burlesquercise!” dance classes in San Francisco and Oakland in March 2004. In addition to her solo performances, she frequently performs with an ever-changing ensemble of her students, “Bombshell Betty’s Burlesqueteers.” As her alter ego, Dollface the Clown, she is one half of the outrageous clown burlesque duo, “Twist My Balloons!”
You can read my current bio here.
Another thing to note is that you usually want to have two bios written up:
- A short, teaser bio to give to the press, show promoters, etc. This should give enough information to intrigue the reader but shouldn’t be longer than 2 or 3 sentences.
- A longer bio for your website, Myspace, etc. This can be a few paragraphs long and include a lot more detail and embellishment.
I would suggest that you keep these things in mind while doing a Google search for burlesque performers and reading other people’s bios to get a feel for how different people write their bios.
I hope this helps. Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions about this!