Feline Friday: Interview with Icky Muffin, 2018 Best Boylesquer at The Burlesque Hall of Fame, Cat Video Lover

As a cat lover, I seek out my fellow feline fanatics to interview for my blog. Since my blog is about the burlesque I experience, they are often people with whom I've become friends over time, some for decades, some much more recently. Enjoy this Feline Fridays interview with Icky Muffin!

While his rhinestoned leopard print socks and heels caught my eye on the lobby carpet at the Orleans Hotel, it turns out he's as dazzling in the air as on the ground -- and that year he took home one of the most coveted awards in the world of burlesque, Best Boylesque, with his incredible bratty cat routine. While some folks worry that the BHoF competition is getting too orthodox, he proved that you can play with a roll of toilet paper onstage and still take home the trophy.

See this complete performance at https://vimeo.com/304483006

Jo: Where are you located, and where do you perform the most?

Icky: I currently live in Austin Texas, but most of my performances are in Dallas where I got my start. The Dallas burlesque community is where my heart is. I am the assistant producer of Lollie Bombs Burlesque in Dallas, and we do regular shows that we collaborate extensively on. In addition, I know so many performers, producers, and stage crew there that going back to Dallas to do a show feels like going home. 

How did you get interested in burlesque?

Years back, at a time when I was heading towards a divorce with my husband, I really needed an outlet for my energy. I had JUUUUUUUST stumbled into aerial. A few weeks after I started taking aerial classes I was invited to my first burlesque show….and I was unprepared. Mr. Gorgeous was headlining the show and he was the first performer I saw who fused aerial with burlesque and I thought to myself: “THAT! I WANT TO DO THAT!”. 
As with most things in my life, when I am motivated, everything else in the world gets shut out. I had no husband telling me what to do with my time. I was no longer worried about him thinking I was “too gay” or “over the top”. For the first time in years I didn’t have to give a single solitary fuck about what anyone else thought about what I was getting up to. For me….burlesque was an opportunity to have absolute agency over my presentation, my masculinity and femininity. The qualities I had struggled with for so long in my life were celebrated by the beautiful queer, body positive, sex positive feminists who allowed me into their space.
Throughout my childhood, I was very active in theater, but I abandoned that when I went to college, after which I spent most evenings in shitty gay bars in goo boots and boy shorts on random evenings dancing with my friends. We definitely put on a bit of a show, and had small competitions to see who could be the most scandalous on a Tuesday night. No-one hired us to perform….and yet there we were.
This his was fun….but eventually I found myself drinking too much, doing a lot of drugs, and all in all doing my best to wreck everything in my life. When I was diagnosed with HIV in 2008, it shook me. It motivated me. It was moment of pivot in my life where I took my health (both physical and mental) with more seriousness. I started going to the gym. I became obsessed with yoga….and for the first time in my life I started to build real confidence. By the time I stumbled into aerial and burlesque, I was a RYT 500 yoga teacher, I was passionate about movement and mobility, and I was primed and prepped to find new (and intentional) ways to entertain myself and others.

What was your first burlesque performance?

In the beginning I was showcasing my aerial acts in aerial festivals and competitions. I was good….but I wasn’t great. When a local producer, Vivienne Vermouth, asked me to perform in their ’Simpsons vs Futurama’ show at Tuesday Tease, I jumped at the chance. I ended up putting together a routine I lovingly called ‘The Seduction of Montgomery Burns by Waylon Smithers’. It was a good song. It was a cute concept. But Jesus Christ, it was 4 minutes of me doing every risky and challenging Lyra hoop trick I knew. At the end of the routine I did a flip through the hoop, missed the bar, and toppled backwards onto the floor. While I miraculously landed on my feet, I did realize that maybe….just MAYBE I needed a new approach. While I still have some pretty challenging elements in my routine, I do my best to edit the skill maneuvers so that they don’t overpower or replace the comedy, story, or burlesque in my acts.

What is the origin of your stage name?

'Ickymuffin' was a part of my identity well before I began performing. 
Let me set the scene. 
Back in 2000, I had just moved into this TINY little studio apartment while I was a Sophomore in college. I was trying to come up with my very first AOL Instant Messenger screen-name. I figured I would use 'Muffin' somewhere in the name since that's what my best friends lesbian mommies used to call me when I was in high school. I had JUST come out of the closet after meeting a couple handsome men on Adult Friend-Finder, and I thought it was a nice homage to them and my newly explored gayness.
I didn't want to have some number at the end of my name so I needed something SUPER unique. Anyway, I was playing an 'I Spy' game to get the creative juices flowing and I started looking around my tiny little cluttered studio for inspiration. ‘I SEE…..KY’. As in….dozens of single use packets of KY jelly lubricant that I had scored from an LGBT resource center in Austin. Then it clicked….and interesting juxtaposition of two unrelated words….and thus Ickymuffin was born.
At first, it was screen name. Then a bar name that was more prolific than my government identification. Then it expanded into my design portfolio site. Many years later when I started performing, it was a natural evolution of my personal brand. Fond memories of my past, my queer self actualization, and...masturbation supplies. 

I've seen you do two cat numbers -- two AWESOME cat numbers -- and I've seen photos of your Fifth Element number. Are you particularly inspired by cats?

When I first started building acts, I dreamed of a cat act. It was actually the first act I started to plan…but I didn’t do much with my notes or ideas for years because I didn’t want to blow my wad before I was ready. My first acceptance to BHOF was for a routine called ‘The Prince’ and it was accepted into Movers and Shakers. 
About a month before my first BHOF, I met Matt Finish at a festival in Houston, and he asked me if I wanted any feedback on my routine since I had expressed that I did indeed want to compete one day. He told me I was a great aerialist, but that it seemed to be one that just happened to take my pants off. He said I should make sure that the burlesque came first, and that the aerial was just part of the show versus BEING the show. That was the catalyst for what became my Mr. Gibbles character. I was methodical. I knew I wanted to nail as many aspects as I could: humor, story, character, big and unique visuals, and tease. And more than that: I had to find a way to incorporate the hoop into the narrative and to make it a key part of the visual storytelling. 
Over the next year I planned, I smoked a lot of weed, trained all the time and experimented. In my Cats are Dicks routine, with which I won Best Boylesque at BHOF, I managed to check all my boxes and also discovered that I am truly obsessed with cats. My husband is terribly allergic, so I can’t have one at home, but that doesn’t stop me from hiding in the toilet at work and watching cat videos on the interwebs.
After I won, the daunting task of creating a step-down number flooded me with anxiety. I had just seen Lou Henry Hoover’s step down….and I was like….”what in the fuck….how does ANYONE top that?!”. I knew I couldn’t do something as grand as what Lou did…and I am terrible in group routines because I am an awkward turtle, but I did have an opportunity to put together something ridiculous and over the top. Also, I had more than 4 minutes to do it! ‘Cats are the shit’ slowly evolved. I had started working more intentionally with ribbons, and my love for props had only grown. Over the course of months, and a lot of THC inspired ideation, I ended up with the next iteration of Mr. Gibbles. I’ve never been as satisfied with the second number as much as the first, but I don’t completely hate it.

What was it like to win the 2018 Best Boylesque award at BHoF? Did it affect your career? If so, how?

Winning Best Boylesque was awesome. A key driving factor for me is this underlying fear that I am shit. That I am garbage. That at any point someone is going to realize that everything I do is derivative of everything else I have done. When I won, I felt a level of validation that I didn’t expect and in many ways that win took so much anxiety and pressure off of my efforts. 
Right after I won, I moved to Wichita Kansas with my partner, started to build a slightly different life, but then had to move rather suddenly. I spent about 8 months after I won remodeling my house, selling it, moving back to Texas, finding a new job, and trying to squeeze in performing wherever I could. I honestly thought I would perform a lot more and that opportunities would open up hand over fist (but that wasn’t really the case).
Because my life was in such chaos, I became very selective over where I had the spoons to put my efforts. I learned that as cool as it was to be invited to other places to perform, that I would only do so if the opportunity, pay, and experience were right. Otherwise going back into the office after a travel weekend felt like being livestock pushed through a gauntlet only to get a bolt in the head at the end of the journey. 

Where can you be spotted next?

Dallas. I almost exclusively perform in Dallas even though I live in Austin. The venues tend to be larger capacity, better ceilings to rig from, and my whole burly family is there. I typically perform 1-2 times a month, and for right now that is fine with me. I’m slowly starting to dream up new acts, but to be honest, my brain is a bit preoccupied. I just got married. We just bought a house. Also, I want to adopt…I’ve wanted kids for a REALLY long time, and I want to start the foster-to-adopt process within the next six months.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

The last thing I’ll add it this: Burlesque changed my life. Burlesque saved my life. I get so much joy in seeing the weird, creepy, sparkly stories that my friends and peers are creating, nothing gives me more joy than screaming like a fucking goat for performers who have created something haunting, profound, or daring. Even if my own creations are less frequent, I have a few burlesque and aerial kids who are picking up the mantle and doing some truly amazing things as they discover their own journey. For them, I will always try to one the best advocate, mentor and friend that I can be.

You can get more Icky at


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