Sunday Essay by Sauda Namir

Lucille 1911. Betty 1922. Carol 1933. These are the women who shaped me with their comedy. I was born in the wrong era, or maybe I was just raised by the right one. They are pioneers of their medium, lauded experts in their craft, and astute business women. This old soul of mine is made for Vaudeville in the age of the internet. My partner calls me his Golden Girl, which may be the most comfortable term of endearment I’ve ever worn.

These women taught me to be glamorous; what that truly looks like. You may not think of clowning as elegant, but it takes an extremely courageous person to pratfall in a Bob Mackie gown, as Carol Burnett did week after week. For me, burlesque was a very natural fit. Under the veil of glitter, my artistic voice is strongest. I’ve had the privilege to work in collaboration with numerous companies in my years of tease, but never exclusive to them. I cherish wearing all the hats myself: conceptual director, choreographer, costume designer, booker, and promoter of my unique brand. Complete control over my own image allows me to take more risks.

sauda photo 1

Billing myself as “Chicago’s Charismatic Chameleon” keeps me mindful not to fall into any pigeonholes. I run the gamut of styles from nerdlesque to a fusion of neo-classic, and while my tone could be humorous or mysterious, whimsy is my only constant. If something is begging to be explored, I do not want to shy away from it.

“I’d rather regret the things I have done than the things that I haven’t.” -Lucille Ball

That statement has been a guiding principle in all my endeavors. It reminds me to get out of my own way. I may still be my own worst critic, but I won’t be frozen by fear. Modeling has been a part of my life for a very long time. Starting with runway, add to that pinup, plus nudes, and most recently erotica. Pushing boundaries is my pleasure. Whether that means the type of photography, or the content of the images.

I take a certain joy in the magic of film. Some of my favorite photo series are because of the imperfections of analog. There is an intimacy inherent in grayscale portraiture, and a nostalgia that instantly elevates the heartbeat when you gaze over every line. Our past is in black and white, our pretense of the present is stripped away with the hues. When working in the modern conveniences of infinite frames and full spectrum color, I try to exploit those advantages for all they are worth. Betty White has adapted and developed her entire career, the longest of any female television entertainer, always living in the now while looking forward. Like the ladies I hold in highest esteem, I revere the origins of media while I play with newly available technologies and formats.

No matter what modern pop culture may dictate, success is something that does not come from notoriety or accolades. No, my trinity of comedy taught me something more lasting than that. Laurels may come after a pattern of triumphs, but to not expect or rest on them. They are not owed to anyone. Anything not well earned is fleeting, and a hollow a victory. Ours is a “reach for the stars” philosophy. I’m well aware that the number of plates I try to keep spinning is more than any one sane person should handle. I don’t know how to do less. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Discontented with the notion that I have but one life, I have invented ways of doing more. I am not a person divided. I am living as two in equal measure. Both led actively and passionately, with the same twenty-four hours a day that we all get. This ingenuous concept was torn from the fictional idol of my youth, and used as a blueprint for my own real existence. An avid fan of the 1980s cartoon Jem and the Holograms, I have my own Jem/Jerrica Benton dichotomy. It isn’t a recommended solution; I find it every bit as exhausting as Jerrica did – especially without the help of Synergy to pull off my transitions! It is, however, the only course for us. Our best solution to run these two primary facets of ourselves concurrently.

“There’s never been a big secret. I guess I just like keeping my private life, private. I’m just a normal person like everybody else, and I love singing. I know I use a stage name, like other people, but the real question is what really matters; my real name or the songs I sing?” -Jem

Like Jerrica, my other self is private. She cares for children, takes care of the mundane, and has a small group of supporters who are in on both lives. Jem may seem entirely contrived; her motivations separate from the aspirations of Jerrica. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Both are authentic expressions of self, despite contrasting personalities. So, too, is Sauda. My “Jem” is a public persona, her own rockstar of sorts, given the freedom to create and express that which would otherwise be bottled up until my other self burst at the seams.

“Forces of inspiration and rejuvenation are converging upon me. Each moment fueled with intense desire. I tug upon the intangible, those threads of shared experience linking minds. Fragments snap back to nourish my spirit. The unvarnished truth is assembled piece by piece. Life is merely a mosaic. Endeavor to craft a bold and intricate work of art.” -Sauda Namir

***

Sauda Namir is a multifaceted artist with a penchant for titillation. She’s a burlesque artist, model and photographer for Zivity and GodsGirls, thriller actress, and bisexual, poly, kinky, sex positive visionary. Sauda lives in Chicago with her incurably supportive partner and a very fun cat. Find out more and follow her on the social media outlet of your choice by meandering around SaudaNamir.com

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