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Luscious waves of electric blue and purple hair, a chic vintage dress, sky-high designer heels and a perfect, lipsticked smile that lights up the café we met in one rainy afternoon – you simply can’t miss Sukki Singapora. She looks every part the pin-up girl, but make no mistake that behind her glamorous exterior is a hardworking, determined, and surprisingly down-to-earth… ‘dork!’ she grins. ‘I’m such a huge dork!’
Except this dork is Singapore’s first burlesque artist. Yes, the corseted, sensual, titillating, swinging-from-the-ceiling kind of performance. Sukki is a true trailblazer in that regard: she’s the woman who successfully convinced local authorities to legalise the misunderstood art form. Because that’s exactly what it is, says Sukki. Misunderstood. And she’s taking it upon her lithe shoulders to change that perception.
Born Sukki Menon, the 25-year-old grew up as a half Singaporean-Indian, half British girl whose parents wanted her to be a lawyer or doctor. ‘I had a very traditional upbringing, and I wanted to do something that felt liberating,’ she recalls. ‘I’ve been trained in classical ballet since the age of seven, and I discovered vintage clothing during university [in the UK]. So one day I was googling dresses – I’m such a millennial, I know – and found this thing called burlesque. Two questions popped into mind: “What is it?” and “Where do I sign up?”’
Fate stepped in, and a comedy club called The Laugh Inn opened down the road from where she lived in the UK. Sukki marched up to the owners and talked them into believing she was an experienced burlesque dancer. She had never done it before.
‘So I had seven days to teach myself how to do burlesque by watching YouTube videos!’ she laughs. 'When I went in, everything that could go wrong went wrong. I couldn’t even find the zip at the back of my corset, so I literally spent, like, 5mins wiggling around the stage like this.’ She sticks out her elbows as she awkwardly reaches for her back, ducking her head around to check. The crowd assumed the gaffe was part of the comedy, and went wild.