2023 is off to a successful start for Lauren Jiles, a burlesque artist who grew up in the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) community of Kahnawake. Known by her stage name, Lou Lou la Duchesse De Rière, she was recently named as the second most influential burlesque performer in the world by 21st Century Burlesque Magazine. In this article, she takes us with her on the path to success.
An eventful childhood
“Since I was a little girl, I became used to moving because my parents were both in the military,” says Jiles, who was born in Kansas. She and her parents then moved to Germany for a few years. Then, after the Oka crisis in 1990, she and her mother moved to Kahnawake.
Jiles was a particularly energetic child. “I would literally jump from wall to wall,” she says with a laugh. She was seven when her mother enrolled her in a children’s drama camp to help her spend some energy. By the time she was 10 years old, she was starring in community theatre and musicals, where she continued to act until she turned 18.
Shortly after enrolling at Dawson College in Montreal, Jiles realized her busy schedule was keeping her from pursuing her passion for the dramatic arts. Swept up by the routine of classes, assignments, and constant studying, she fell into a wave of depression. Then one day, fate came knocking at her door. “A friend sent me an ad about burlesque,” she explains. “I didn’t really know what it was, but I wanted to try it anyway.” Jiles quickly realized the art form featured everything she loved: costume, music, and dance. “It was perfect for me because I could decide for myself when to rehearse. I did my first audition at 18 with the Blue Light Burlesque Company and stayed with them for two years before launching my solo career,” she says.
The birth of Lou Lou La Duchesse de Rière
When asked how she chose her stage name, Jiles admits its origin is quite unique. “My name comes from the legendary American burlesque artist, Satan Angel, who unfortunately passed away in 2019. One day, when I was opening for her at one of her shows, she decided to change my stage name from ‘Miss Lou Lou.’ I explained to her that I was from the Mohawk community in Quebec, and after a few minutes of looking at me and twirling me around, she exclaimed, ‘Lou Lou La Duchesse De Rière!’ – referring to my behind, of course.” Jiles admits the wordplay was perfect for an artist coming from a French-English background.
After nearly two decades in the business, Jiles explains that each of her performances represents a way to challenge herself; each act is different from the next, and each move has its own special meaning. “The beauty of burlesque is the freedom of expression,” she says. “You don’t necessarily have to be young or have a background; in fact, most burlesque artists start in their thirties,” she notes, suggesting this allows the artform to remain interesting and fresh.
“No matter what gender, color, weight… everyone is and always will be welcome in the burlesque world.”