Her Photo Gallery Follows the Text
The great thing about burlesque is that it’s stripping but with the theatrics of things like ballet, magic, and aerial, and it has an element of comedy,” says Katrina Darling. “Burlesque traditionally came from when a comedian toured with a girl and he would use her to bounce off jokes, and in between sets he would push the woman out and she would disrobe—most of the time rather inelegantly. It wasn’t the art form that it has evolved to these days.” The doe-eyed Brit with blond hair (for the moment) speaks with an aggressive conviction about her passion, maybe even with a tiny crisp on her shoulder because she wants everybody to take her life’s work seriously. Burlesque is a lot like tattooing: The uninformed group people scratching tattoos in prison along with Filip Leu, just like they’d classify the go-go dancer splaying herself to the tune of Buckcherry as being on par with Katrina.
No, Katrina is a performer who uses both her wit and body to create art on the stage. She conceives her acts, she choreographs, she designs her look, and she taps into the souls of her audience. “Everybody likes to smile and have a laugh. There’s a variety of people in the room, and I try to get everybody on the same level. There is a tangible thread throughout humanity.”
She draws a very mixed crowd; for example, at an AIDS benefit in Vienna, both President Clinton and Elton John watched her act. “I have performed for everybody from plumbers to princes.”
Speaking of royalty, Darling is not the only headliner in her family: You have probably heard of her distant cousin Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. In her showstopping act “God Save the Queen,” Darling rocks her own tiara, swathes herself in the Union Jack, and dances to the British national anthem and the Sex Pistols. “Burlesque really gives me a platform to be as creative as I want to be while I tell a story,” she says. “I want you to be entertained, to see something visually gorgeous and awe-inspiring.”
Part of the visual is her collection of tattoos. “How I position and pose myself onstage is definitely influenced by how I have adorned my body,” Katrina says. She got her first tattoo around her 18th birthday when her friends were at a music festival at Glastonbury and she had to stay home because she had shows booked. “I wanted to have my own rock ’n’ roll fun, and that was when I got the little ice-cream cone on my ankle.”
Her intricate pieces are done by her best friend’s fiancé, Daniel Hartley, who works out of Cock A Snook Tattoo Parlour in Newcastle, England. Her fair skin is adorned with plenty of roses, a black swan, a stag’s head, and a cat. “I am a crazy cat lady,” she says. “It is just a bit of a pissed off pussy.”
Katrina gets tattoos when she feels she’s accomplished something. “Sort of in the way that tribes have tattoos to mark different stages of their lives, I feel the need to get tattooed when I have leveled up as a person,” she says. While her ambitions are great, she isn’t in a rush to completely fill up her skin just yet. “I slowed the pace down a little bit because I don’t want to run out of good real estate too early,” she says. “I still want to be getting tattoos when I am an older lady.”