“We can be feminine and we can also be queer.” Scarlett Snow, dancer and founder of Honey Burlesque, started the popular queer women dance company in September of 2017 with the intention of creating a simple burlesque brunch. Honey Burlesque is now a troupe of 18 dancers with weekly bookings in queer spaces throughout Los Angeles and New York City. But it’s more than a go-go performance or burlesque show. Honey Burlesque provides a safe space and a fun party for queer women and non-binary individuals, all while showcasing the beauty of femme-presenting queers.
Like many lesbians, Snow moved to New York City for love. And, while she was closer to her partner, she was further from her dance career and community.
“I found a few go-go gigs, but I realized the style of burlesque that I was taught — the style of burlesque and performance that I grew to love in Florida — wasn’t in New York yet,” Snow said. “And there also weren’t a lot of spaces for queer women…I essentially said, ‘you know what, if it’s not here, I’m gonna create it.’” And with Snow’s background in dancing and a desire to expand the queer women community of New York City, Honey Burlesque began.
In less than five years, half of which was during a pandemic, the company secured a residency at Stonewall Inn, was featured in Bustle and Notion, and was even booked for the official NYC Pride festivities in 2022. But none of this would’ve happened without Snow, who, with just three dancers and the tiny Henrietta Hudson stage, put on the first Honey Burlesque performance.
“It was really, really small, with barely any lighting, but the crowd loved it,” Snow said.
The goal was also to bring more social environments for LGBTQ women and non-binary folks in a city like New York, where there are numerous LGBTQ-friendly places and gay bars, but only a couple specifically dedicated locations for queer women.
“That is the main goal of the company as a whole,” Snow said. “We promote femme visibility within the community,” Snow said.
As a more femme-presenting lesbian, Snow mentions she has to come out multiple times a day, and random individuals ask her if she has a boyfriend.
“Or, like when I refer to my fiance, there’s always a he pronoun that’s added to it,” Snow explained. “It’s an uncomfortable feeling and something that I think a lot of feminine women in this community experience. So I really wanted to take that and put on a stage ‘this is what a lesbian looks like, this is what a bisexual looks like, this is what a pansexual looks like.’”
Like any oppressed population, Honey Burlesque faces hostility daily. Random cis-het men are constantly commenting and DMing the girls online. But, as Snow says, Honey Burlesque “Shows, our events, have never been for the male gaze. So those words, those things they have to say about us, are just dust in the wind.”
Despite the backlash, the love and support of the queer women who attend keeps the dancers going. They now have biweekly Honey Tea Dance at Stonewall Inn and are partnering with Hot Rabbit for Hot Honey, a go-go show and nightlife party all in one. They host Zodiac-themed parties every season and are in the midst of planning a new event series.
Honey Burlesque is a visual representation of the resilience of queer women who, historically, continue to fight for their space, rights, and visibility. With only a few years in, they’ve accomplished so much for queer women and only plan to grow in the years ahead.
Follow the group on Instagram @honeyburlesque and catch them live in queer spaces around NYC and Los Angeles.