I could feel the buzz of excitement and nervousness as the other women — among them a court reporter, nurse, dance mom, and insurance agent — lined up and waited for their turn to walk in front of the judges. I felt the same way. I’m used to being on stage and presenting in front of a large audience — but not in high heels in a Main Street, Alhambra bar.
Why would these confident, professional women — many of whom self identify as Power Babes — choose to parade around in heels on their Friday night and be judged? For me, the story began with researching the burlesque scene of the 30s and 40s and the neo-burlesque scene of today. I loved the idea that women teased their audience with this sexual dance without fully stripping off their clothes. With a background as a ballet dancer, I was used to a very different type of expression, but there is also an uncanny sense of humor in burlesque that empowers the woman on stage, and by the end of a good burlesque performance the suggestive jokes are always on the audience.
In Alhambra, I, like many of these women, became involved via Joanna Vargas’ Streetease class, where the costumes and glamour are distilled into simple workout clothes and heels. The choreography is modern and the sensuous moves are similar to what you see in today’s music video choreography. Dancing with props is a signature of burlesque performance, and Streetease even offers a special “chair dance” class.
When I found out Streetease was hosting a Stilettos and Tapas high heel competition at Boteco, the Brazilian restaurant on Main Street, it didn’t take much convincing to get me to join. I enjoy dressing up, but I rarely make time for it. So a high heel competition near my house was the perfect excuse to literally dust off my heels and enjoy a ladies’ night out.
At Boteco lounge on a hot summer night, the men were docile and outnumbered by women three to one, so the hooting and hollering came from the women encouraging one another. As we ate “Tapa-tease” appetizers and drank “Louboutini” martinis, the emcee and New Gen Rotary President Will Kelso introduced the judges: Dr. Michele Colon from 34 Minutes Shoe line; Chris Paulson, New Gen Rotary President-elect; Jeff Martinez, who works in the nursing industry; and Marcos Sayon from Sayon Fitness. After the judges were introduced, the evening was centered around the competitors and the heels, and we each got our time to shine on the “runway.”
The women were as diverse as the heels, and a camaraderie developed amongst us as we competed and got to know each other. All the heels in the competition were high, but some were harder to miss than others. The most unique designs ranged from black heels with protruding metal spikes to red and white polka dot heels with large bows.
As the evening’s event came to a close, the organizers tallied up the scores. My feet were sore, but I felt strong and empowered from competing with so many beautiful ladies. Sexiest Heels went to Ashlie Genova, Highest Heels to Dominique Pampa, and Most Unique Heels to Nazanin Massahebi. The Overall Streetease Favorite was Frances Manzo-Pimentel.
Although I was disappointed I didn’t win any of the categories, I still felt great just to be dressed up and wearing my favorite heels in a competition that honored all the participants. Faith, runner up for Sexiest Heels, said, “It was an honor to participate in such a unique and inspiring event that celebrated womanhood.”