A group of burlesque performers have come together in the name of camaraderie and community service. Mary Lynn Mayhem founded Bad Girls Club DFW in 2017, and it officially launched in January. The members aim to use their positions within the burlesque community to pursue philanthropic endeavors.
Mayhem’s idea to start the group came from other communities she has close ties to.
“I was inspired by some of my friends that are in motorcycle clubs, pinup clubs and fraternal organizations … stuff like that,” she says. “I asked myself, 'Why don’t we have a burlesque club?' I saw how other organizations raise money for good causes, and I felt like it was something we would be good at. I wanted to start something where we could all get together and give back to our community and local charities. From there, the ideas just started flowing.”
Dallas has a large and diverse burlesque scene, allowing an organization like Bad Girls Club to have a significant impact.
“We probably have 200-250 performers in Dallas, and we’re one of the biggest communities in the U.S.," Mayhem says. "In New York, there are shows every night. California is similar to Dallas, but it’s more spread out. There’s burlesque in every major city, but Dallas is unique because we have every genre of burlesque and most cities don’t."
Strict guidelines don’t exist regarding what organizations Bad Girls Club intends to help, but there are a few areas of emphasis, including mental health.
“We just did a fundraiser for Foundation 45, which is a local mental health and suicide prevention organization," Mayhem says. "LGBTQ services are high up on our list [of priorities]. There are a lot of clinics that provide free checkups, screenings, hormone administration and other services for people who are transitioning. We’d like to help anything related to women's services … shelters, domestic abuse organizations, things of that nature. Of course animals because everyone loves animals. We just did a fundraiser for Operation Kindness.”
Bad Girls Club routinely faces obstacles because of the industry the women work in. Some charities and nonprofit organizations won’t work with individuals who are involved in burlesque, exotic dancing or any occupations related to the sex industry. Sometimes, this is because of specific guidelines organizations must adhere to for grants and various forms of funding. Other times, the restrictive policies are based on the organizations' ideologies.
“It can be difficult at times to [find] charities that will take donations from us because they feel we’re a little risqué," Mayhem says.
“We always have to remember when we’re seeking organizations to work with that everyone is not as friendly as we’d like them to be," she says. "Anything dealing with children's services, we try to stay away from. There are also some women's shelters that think we’re glorifying sex work, so they don’t really want our help."
Honey Hula-la, a Bad Girls Club officer, has done community service for most of her life. She faced many barriers in her work before joining Bad Girls Club because of her background.
“I went to a Catholic high school, and one of the principles they taught us there was the importance of serving your community,” Hula-la says. “Even though I no longer consider myself a Catholic, I really take volunteer work to heart. I spent most of the last two decades working with organizations that help underprivileged, abused, neglected and/or special-needs children.
"About five years ago, I began work in the adult entertainment industry. Unfortunately, that decision put a stop to my volunteering streak. Most nonprofit organizations that I attempted to work with afterward prohibit people with a history of adult work from volunteering.”
This experience played a huge role in Hula-la’s decision to join Bad Girls Club.
“I jumped at the chance to be a part of it because it’s given me an opportunity to help marginalized groups of people and organizations that would otherwise have a difficult time finding help,” she says.
Although there are loopholes to donor restrictions, members of the Bad Girls Club prefer to find organizations that are willing to work with them openly.
“We have ways of working around it; we can donate anonymously,” Mayhem says. “We’re just going to keep trying and support whoever we can. There are plenty of people who will take our money, for sure.”
The organization also intends to be a support system for the burlesque community.
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“When you’re in a motorcycle club, it’s like a brotherhood," Mayhem says. "We wanted to have something where we support each other and have one another’s back. We’re all like family, anyhow, so we believed our organization is something that will make that closeness more official. When emergencies happen for burlesque performers, we want to be there to help them [financially] or set up fundraisers on their behalf."
Bad Girls Club is using merchandise sales to generate revenue. It’ll have members on site Saturday at Viva’s, July 14 at Trees for the first Texas Star Burlesque show and July 26-29 at Viva’s for the Texas Queerlesque Festival.
“Right now, we’re vending merch at shows, but we’ll put on shows of our own in the future also,” Mayhem says. “Our website is almost complete, and we’ll have ways you can donate or become a sponsor on there also.”
Much of the beginning of 2018 for Bad Girls Club was focused on solidifying membership and making inroads within the social service community. The rest of the year will play a key role in setting the organization up for longevity.