Marlo Marquise is a full-time performer and flesh hook suspension artist. Marlo began her journey into modeling in high school when friends offered her work doing art projects. It was mainly just an artistic hobby for her from highschool and into College. Having a bachelors degree in Fine Arts, she has been taught virtually every medium of art.
“I became very fascinated with the basic of raw art and thought to myself, what what is the most raw tool I can create art with… my body.”
Six years ago she decided to make a “model” profile on Model Mayhem and got instant responses. Her first shoot was a week later with a very old-school fetish photographer who had shot many covers for lifestyle specialty magazine such as DDI. Eventually she was shooting constantly and it became less of a hobby and more of a job. The rest is history!
Flash forward to present day: Marlo is a very sought after performance artist who specializes in Sideshow Burlesque, Fire, Flesh Hook Suspension as well as other various “freakshow” oddities.
I have followed Marlo’s work for quite some time and a few months ago I decided to shoot her a quick message online and see if she’d be interested in chatting a bit about her work, her lifestyle and her crazy shenanigans. She blew me away by being totally on board. So below is an assortment of questions and answers about her work with modeling, her personal journey through flesh hook suspension and a bit other personal information about her. I wanted to share this piece to promote this amazing lady and all her work. She’s a constant inspiration to me, and I know there are a lot of girls out there who are always looking for positive role models who showcase beauty, sophistication and class with a side of raw, unabashed self love. For me, Marlo is an icon who displays all the aspects of a hardworking, independent, driven woman who loves what she does and doesn’t let anyone tell her she can or cannot do it. She showcases her passion on a global stage and is part of the fight to push past social barriers standing in the way of more people doing what they love. Please enjoy the following and show this fantastic lady some support and love.
Do you consider yourself an alternative artist?
“In the general sense of the term, yes I do consider myself an “Alternative Artist”. I consider myself an artist above all titles. Performance or modeling is just the vessel I use to present my art to the world.”
What has being an alternative sideshow model and performer taught you: about society, yourself, and the idea of beauty?
“Being involved in all these different industries as a performer, model, and enthusiast of sorts, has taught me so many things about society, the idea of beauty, and very importantly myself as a human being. I could honestly write a book on each of those topics. I have learned that everyone’s idea of beauty is different. Society is extremely close minded when it comes to their definition of what is beautiful and what is ugly- especially in the US. The bases of my performances are things that society generally sees as ugly. It’s my job and challenge as an artist to make them think differently. I’ve learned an unfathomable amount of things about myself as a person and what I’m capable of.
Performing and modeling for a living has taught me a variety of lessons, business wise and personal. As a business woman I’ve learned to always be professional no matter what. No matter how many things so and so has said about you, no matter how crappy the gig was, no matter how you are being treated, just always handle things in the most professional manner possible, and keep going. It will only reflect positively on you and your work. As a person, a very hard working one at that, doing this for a living has taught me that I’m capable of anything when I put my mind to it. There are no limits to what I can accomplish. Always be you, and don’t let anything or anyone stop you.”
“I have performing for over six years now. My roots are in Burlesque, and it will always be near and dear to my heart because of that. After a year or so of Burlesque I transformed into a different breed of performer, which leads us to what I do now! I’m not one for labels, but I could be considered “Sideshow Burlesque” and suspension artist. I have elements of Burlesque striptease in my performances, because who doesn’t like a lovely lady doing dangerous things wearing next to nothing? I have been told that I am New York’s first “Sideshow Burlesque” performer.”
“Aside from suspension, fire is my favourite act to perform. I have a great love for it and it was the first sideshow skill I ever learned. Aside from fire I have quite a few skills in my repertoire, I perform glass walking, human blockhead, ladder/bed of machetes, and my skewering or what people like to call human pincushion, but what I consider more inspired by Fakir. I’ve been lucky enough to be around circus performers through my years as an entertainer. As a result of my surroundings, I was loosely trained by a Russian contortionist and I try to add elements of simple contortion into my acts where I can.”
“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. There’s a lot of prep involved in performances and in between my more extreme shows a lot of healing! I take really good care of myself, I’m a bit of a health fanatic, so prepping for shows includes a lot of that, rehearsing and getting into the zone. I’m a solo performer, so my regular gigs don’t involve any type of crew, it’s just little me hauling what can be up to 70 lbs of gear and setting it all up myself. When I do suspension shows, I’m usually traveling with my partner Steve Truitt, who makes all the magic happen, and for certain conventions our suspension team Ascension Suspension.”
“I have been interested in the art of hook suspension for a long time. I am of Native American decent, so I’ve always been aware of it as a ritual. In my late teens I came across books, photos and documentaries on Fakir Musafar, and Bob Flanagan. I fell in love. Those images had a great influence on me. Unfortunately I had no one who shared these interests in the town I grew up in. It was all kept to myself until a little later in life. It wasn’t until my early twenties when I saw hook suspension performed live. It was around 7 years ago in NYC. I was at a random Fetish event and a woman did a hook suspension show. I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I was mesmerized. I never thought it was something I would be able to handle myself. A few years later I was invited to perform a blood bath burlesque act I used to do at a tattoo convention with a suspension show. That’s where I met Steve. So I have always been around it. I still wasn’t ready to try it myself. I figured when it was my time to hang, I would know.
My time ended up coming at the worst point in my life to date. I was going through a lot in my personal life, so I decided to go on tour to keep my mind off things. What I was going through was so powerful that not even work could distract me from the trauma I was experiencing. I was booked for a show in Dallas, TX in June 2012. I decided that no therapist, no family, no friend could help me through what I was dealing with at the time. I needed something life altering. I then decided to get in touch with Allen Falkner. I discussed what was happening to Allen, and without question he said yes to suspending me for my first time as an act of meditation and therapy. To this day, it was the best and most important day of my life. It was very private with only Allen, Courtney his girlfriend, a photographer and myself in Allen’s home. What happened to me that day is almost indescribable. When I went up I was only up for a few minutes before I passed out. All the stress, trauma, and pain seemed to rush at me all at once and I remember holding Allen’s hands, looking him in the eyes and saying “I’m going to pass out now” and he said “It’s okay I have you”. That moment seemed to release something in me. After I woke up, I went back up and hung for at least an hour. It felt like all the hurt went away and everything that was truly important came into focus. That day will stay with me forever, and this is the first time I have publicly talked about it.”
“Suspension has changed my life and who I am as a person. It has made me handle challenges in a more positive constructive way, and has introduced me to the best people I have ever been surrounded by. It’s been nothing but positive for me and this is why I’m dedicated to change the way people view it. I want everyone to think it’s as beautiful as I see it, even if it’s only for the duration of a performance. For me personally, suspending is a constant reminder that I’m alive and that I can get through anything. I like challenging myself and surviving those challenges.”
“When I first started suspending I had no intention to put it in a performance setting. It was very personal for me, and I wasn’t ready to share that with the world. Steve Truitt and I reconnected when he suspended me for my second time I believe. He contacted me a few weeks later about suspension in a feature length film. He was impressed with how well I handled suspension, and how naturally at ease I was with it. He was looking for someone who was a full-time performer, but who could also suspend. He offered me a part in the movie “Dead Billy”. I had to think about it for a while. A week or so later, I agreed to suspend in the film. What made me say yes was, any film I had ever seen portrayed hook suspension as a torture ritual or horror scene. It was never shown in a positive light. The script of “Dead Billy” wanted to make it look beautiful and classy. They wanted to put it on display as a beautiful art form.
At the time I had heard of someone getting their child taken away from them in court because of their involvement in hook suspension. It’s situations like that, that made me continue performing suspension. I don’t want things like that to ever happen again. When I perform suspension, I try to make it look pretty to people who normally would pass it off as something hideous. You can call it selling out, or anything else you want, but at the end of the day the only way to make hook suspension acceptable in society is to put it in the mainstream. I’m proud of how I present it to the world. Something as extreme as suspension needs to be presented in a more digestible form to the masses instead of shocking, because it’s already shocking to them. This is why I decided to incorporate Hook Suspension into my acts. It’s very important to me. I want it to survive, grow, and become accepted. Burlesque has become a household word. Fine, I’ll do “Burlesque”, but I will do it on hooks!”
Photo by Andrew Koenig (email@example.com)
Has the feedback from it always been positive, or have you faced controversy?
“I have had both positive and negative feedback from performing Hook Suspension. I’m proud to say I have performed it in venues and shows that normally have always been against it, but I changed their minds about it. When Steve and I performed in London we did a suspension performance in London Supper Club. That was quite an accomplishment. It was such big deal that it happened there, that Bizarre Magazine wrote a 2 page article on it. The only real controversy I have faced was with my family. I’ve always been the black sheep, but my family was really confused and almost hurt by me participating in hook suspension. My parents wondered where they went wrong. It was a hurtful situation for me too because here was this thing that had changed my life, and I couldn’t share it with them. The first time my step-mom watched me suspend was when Janes Addiction had us perform with them on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. This performance came at a time when I was at odds with my family. When it was over I had a moment with my step-mom when she turned to me and said “You know, I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to fly”. For that moment, she understood. That is a perfect example of what can happen by performing suspension in a mainstream presentation. It can change things. It can change people. Now my family and I can talk about it and they are proud of what I do.”
“What I like most about performing suspension publicly, is sharing what I love more than anything with the world. I really enjoy the crowd’s reaction, and people’s expressions. Sometimes they act like little kids who just saw magic happen! I will answer any questions I can after a show until I’m blue in the face. Educating people, who are intrigued by it, will only make things better. Last but not least, of course I like the adrenaline rush. I’m an entertainer. Making people happy makes me happy.”
“I mostly stick to suicide suspensions for shows because it’s the one position you can move around the most. You can actually put on a performance while you’re up there. When my back needs a break, I hang from my knees.”
“The most common question I get asked about hook suspension is “Does it hurt?”. Of course it does. Anyone who says it doesn’t is not being honest. It’s part of the fun and its part of the challenge!”
“I’ve been sword swallowing training for over a year now. My mentor is Todd Robbins- King Coney Island. Dear friend and the best carney I know. It’s one of the oldest skills in sideshow, and the hardest. I really hope to add it to my repertoire of skills in the near future.”
“I would really love to try so many different types of suspensions. I’ve never done a resurrection before, that’s at the top of my list. I would also love to do a bungee suspension. I envy how fearless those hookers are! But I’m the type of person who loves scaring myself. Conquering fears is the best way to live. Another art form I would love to try but I have no fear of it is incorporating Shibari with hook suspension. Two beautiful things combined into one.”
“The most challenging aspect of what I do is mental and physical health. I’m currently based in NYC, and the performance scene is VERY different here from the rest of the world. We call it “the grind”. You are never not working when you perform full-time in NYC. It takes every ounce of energy, mental capacity, and creativity out of you on a daily basis; its constant pressure and constant hard work. I always say you learn your work ethic in NYC, and then you apply it elsewhere. NYC produces purebred hustlers. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
Aside from environmental factors, there’s also the industry itself. It’s a dog eat dog world, and one of the hardest things to do is let any negative words thrown at you just roll off and keep your chin up. At the end of the day, there’s only you to pick yourself back up and tell yourself you’re doing a good job. There are a lot of people who like to put each other down in the world of entertainment, and as creative people we take it to heart since we are emotionally connected to our art. That’s the worst when someone gets catty or jealous and insults your art. It’s taken me six years to learn how to pay no mind to those kinds of things and only indulge in constructive criticism from respectable peers. Grow, and learn.
As far as physicality’s go, my career as a sideshow and pain performer really takes its toll on my body. As mentioned before, I’m a health nut. I eat very healthy, workout at the gym any chance I get, and take tons of vitamins and supplements for my immune system and tissue repair. It gets rough balancing a heavy work schedule and trying to rest and heal. At times it seems almost impossible. This year alone I’ve spent thousands on dental work from my fire destroying my teeth. There are days when I’m ill from fuel poisoning, but still have to get on stage that night. The hardest was when I did three suspension shows three days in a row and on opposite sides of the country. That’s how much I love doing what I do! I’m going to ride this body ’til the wheels fall off.”
Photo by Andrew Koenig (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What does 2014 hold in store for you?
“I can already tell 2014 is going to be filled with positivity. It looks as though I will be traveling more than ever this year. My significant other Steve Truitt and I have quite a few suspension shows booked, one every month until August I believe. I have a few projects that I will be releasing in months to come that actually don’t involve performance, but still involve the art of body modification and adornment- very excited about that. I just plan on working harder than ever, accomplishing all my goals and setting new ones.”