She is not the first one, she will not be the last one,
but what can we do to protect ourselves and help others?
Let's learn the story of Lottie Ellington from Virginia.
Lottie Ellington, a Virginia high school teacher, was forced to resign from Hopewell High School after a YouTube video, posted by The Michigan Burlesque Festival, made the rounds among parents of Hopewell High School students. The parents expressed concern, resulting in the school board asking Lottie to resign or be fired. In the video, Lottie performs twerking, a dance modernly popularized by artists like Nickie Minaj and Big Frida, among others. During this storm, Lottie Ellington made her scheduled appearance at the Friday Night All Stars Show during the 2015 Ohio Burlesque Festival held in Cleveland, Ohio at the Beachland Ballroom.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, but currently I live in Richmond Virginia.
How is the mentality of the community as far as education in Richmond?
Where I taught there wasn't a whole lot of community support. At a school of over 1,500 I was lucky if I got 20 parents to parent-teacher conference night. There are no theaters or artistic venues in the city; the biggest theatrical event they have is the yearly high school play.
Was this job your main source of income?
Teaching was my only source of income.
What were your feelings when you were outed?
I felt betrayed and hurt.
Do you still live in the community?
No, I moved after shortly after a drive by shooting.
Do you think this will limit your job opportunities?
I can't get a job right now because of all of the media attention. My face is everywhere, so it looks like I'm going to have to make Lottie Ellington a full time interest.
As a teacher, what came to your mind about your students seeing the video?
At first, I didn't care because I had already resigned so I considered it to be a non issue. However after it went viral and the parents called the local TV station, I was hurt and violated because it all amounted to cyber bullying on a large scale. People (students & parents) were going to my Lottie Ellington Facebook page, downloading my pictures and passing them around. Then adding insult to injury they started sending friend requests to my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I had to change all of the privacy setting on my accounts to slow the spread and distribution of my image.
What got you started in burlesque?
I got started the best way possible... I went to a show!
How did you find burlesque was right for you?
I have danced my entire life, so as I watched my first burlesque show I said to myself... I can do that!
When did you and why did you start traveling?
I did my first out of town show in Detroit, Michigan. Richmond has a budding burlesque community, but because of the strict liquor laws, we are only allowed to perform in theaters. So I started looking for work out of state to broaden my performance base and to lower the risk of being accidentally outed by an audience member.
Did you ask for the video of you to be taken down?
Yes, when the Michigan Burlesque Festival realized that my video had gone viral, they asked if I wanted them to take it down or just remove the negative comments and I requested that they take it down.
Do you think this was discrimination against a misunderstood art form?
This was "slut shaming" at its highest form. Burlesque is female dominated and female empowering, and it strikes fear in the hearts of some people in Hopewell to think a woman could be smart, educated, and sexy in the absence of a man. Again, this is a city with no cultural center. A city that just this year considered eliminating the Fine Arts programs in the school district to save money. Many of the residents have no concept in a "metropolitan sense" of art or theater and even fewer residents know what burlesque is. Without that context and prior knowledge it is difficult to fully process what you are seeing or reading. There have been several parents, fellow teachers, and former students of mine that have reached out to show their support. I just regret that the school administration felt it was necessary or appropriate to promote such a public scandal. Hopewell is a small city (11 square miles) and after 8 years of teaching and living there, I know how things work. I know why some stories hit the news and other stories never see the light of day. It all depends on who you are, who you know, and who will benefit. When all of the dust settles I will continue to hold my head up high, pursue my art, and fight for artistic freedom for all creatives.
Where to now?
Now I am focusing on building my brand, opening my etsy store, booking shows, preparing to produce shows, and being and advocate for my fellow performers.
How To Protect yourself
- Privacy and security settings exist for a reason: Learn about and use the privacy and security settings on social networks. They are there to help you control who sees what you post and manage your online experience in a positive way. Think before you click. If you don't know them, don't add them. Send a quick message on how they know you and take it from there.
- Once posted, always posted: What you post online stays online. Think twice before posting on your every day profile that may bring to question your burlesque identity. Same in burlesque: think before you post.
- Know and manage your friends: Social networks can be used for a variety of purposes. Some of the fun is creating a large pool of friends from many aspects of your life. That doesn’t mean all friends are created equal. Use tools to manage the information you share with friends in different groups or even have multiple online pages. If you’re trying to create a public persona as a burlesquer, create an open profile or a “fan” page that encourages broad participation and limits personal information. Use your personal profile to keep your real friends (the ones you know trust) more synced up with your daily life.
- Be honest if you’re uncomfortable: If a photographer, producer, or fellow performer posts something about you that makes you uncomfortable or you think is inappropriate, let them know. Likewise, understand that giving them a heads up is necessary. There are ways to restrict who tags you on what and when without your approval.
- Know what action to take: If someone is harassing or threatening you to uncover you burlesque life, know what your rights are in and outside your workplace. Be Informed.
- Own your online presence: When applicable, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s ok to limit how you share information.
- Video: Express to your producers and show directors that you do not feel comfortable being filmed and that is ok not to sign a release for such videos. Make sure photographers know the drill as well. Get a Dropbox and have it sent to you and you alone and decide then what to do with this information.