PHOTO BY LEE CAVE, C STUDIO
The name “Hattiesburlesque” has been floating around downtown Hattiesburg since 2014. What began with a casting call for dancers resulted in an unforeseen cornucopia of diversity: Ladies aged 18 to 62 of all shapes, sizes, career paths and stages of life showed up and showed out for the inaugural performance. Now, with 10 seasons under their belts, Hattiesburlesque has become more than a show. What began with an act of bravery has become a celebration of sisterhood; the embracing of one’s self and one another with love and acceptance; the sharing of both joyful experiences and tragedy; and unconditionally supporting one another as they become mothers, sisters, wives and friends. Paying that acceptance and sense of family forward, the ladies of Hattiesburlesque have some requests for Jolly Ole Saint Nick as he prepares to visit the Pine Belt this year.
A Hattiesburlesque member here. I wanted to drop a line to ask you to please remember the women of Hattiesburg this Christmas.
I know that sounds like I am leaving out a large population, but you see Santa, I have two little women at my house, and in them, I see all the women of our great city.
Right now on Main Street, there is a woman who beats the pavement of downtown every week in her stilettos. She hustles from one meeting to the next. She is passionate about what she does, but most of all, she is passionate about her city. Make her see that what she is doing is valued, and let her know her city sees her.
In the Avenues, there is a new mother who is up late at night feeding her baby. This time of night seems the loneliest, and she feels like she is the only person in the city awake. Remind her that soon the lonely nights will come less frequent, and she will no longer dread when the sun starts to set.
On East 5th, a grandmother sits while the sounds of Jeopardy provide the soundtrack for the dinner she eats alone. She knows her family will visit on Christmas, but that only comes once a year. What she wouldn’t give for a phone call, so she feels included. She needs to know they remember her, not just on the holidays, and they still need her as much as she needs them.
There is a college student who stands in her dorm bathroom, pinching the skin around her belly as she stares at the reflection in the mirror. She should be finishing a paper, but she is distracted, waiting for her phone to light up with notifications. Give her the understanding that she is perfect just exactly as she is. Remind her to love herself first, and the other stuff will come naturally.
A toddler girl has just fallen down while playing at Town Square Park. She stands up, and with her dimpled hand she brushes the hair out of her eyes and takes off running again. More than toys this year, she needs you to always remind her to pick herself up, brush herself off, and keep going. She will need this for many Christmases to come.
All the women of Hattiesburg – the mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters and aunts – they all need something this year. Keep them safe, give them a voice, remind them they are enough, and what they do matters.
Amanda Robertson is an instructor at Jones County Junior College. The loves of her life are her daughters, Mila Roe and Vaeda.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve sent a list to you. But as I’m sure you and your busy elves know, life gets crazy, especially around the holidays. This year I’m not writing for myself. My life is incredibly full already and that is all I could ever ask for. However, there are a couple of things I’d like to ask you to give to our little art-centric community.
As an artist, I strongly believe it is very important that all our schools implement art programs at every level for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most important reason is to help our kiddos cultivate their imaginations and creativity, maybe even discover a hidden talent or lifelong passion. I don’t mean strictly drawing and painting either. I’m talking art, music, dance, theatre, show choir, art history, the whole shebang, because each discipline can beneﬁt students in ways that we don’t even fully understand.
That being said, it would be super awesome if you could give each school whatever it needs, like, funding, supplies, teachers, volunteers, mentors, facilities, political changes, etc., so each student has the opportunity to explore the arts. A little extra candy wouldn’t hurt either!
Abreez “Abbi” Thomas is a 24-year-old transplant from Jackson. A graduate of Southern Miss with a BA in Art and minors in French and Art History from USM, when she’s not being an art nerd, she enjoys dancing with the best gals in town or cuddling with her cat.
I am fortunate enough to be deeply involved in two nonprofit organizations. I was recently elected president of the Hattiesburg Jaycees, and what we want most for Christmas is members. The Jaycees aim to provide men and women, ages 18-41, the opportunity to develop personal and leadership skills through local community action and organizational involvement. We will be hosting a new event in December, “The Jaycee Holiday Craft Party,” and we are so thankful to Abigail Allen of Hattiesburlesque and SmART Space for her time and expertise in leading this new venture.
My other passion project is the Mississippi Dance Leader Alliance, which is a dance organization made up of dance professionals, amateurs, and students seeking to create connections, promote dance-related opportunities and events, and grow the audience for dance. As the artistic director of this organization, I have seen this group grow during our three years in existence. Our wish is to acquire a CPA, hopefully one with such a passion for the arts that they would be willing to volunteer their time to us. Finally, we give our thanks to Robin Roberts for investing time and expertise in MDLA.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas,
Megan Bradberry is a dancer and choreographer with a BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from the University of Southern Mississippi as well as a BS in Psychology from Mississippi State University. She teaches dance and choreographs for competitive color guards in Mississippi, and she enjoys directing and editing dances for film. Megan lives in Petal with her Army man husband, their toddler, who frequently crashes rehearsals and two fur babies.
It’s me, mean-muggin’ B. I have been astoundingly good this year, even when faced with the challenges of raising a toddler, starting a business and performing with Hattiesburlesque. I’m so excited to continue to do all those things, and I can’t believe that this time next year, I’ll be the co-owner of a coffee and popsicle shop on the corner of 19th Ave. and Hardy Street! I have been patient and kind to all of the dogs I have met, and only nagged my husband 36 percent of the time (which, you’ll note, is pretty good).
This year for Christmas, I would like:
• Patience in dealing with family during the holidays.
• The ability to control my face when people say dumb things.
• Eye shadow palettes from Sephora
• A puppy (just kidding. Do not get me a puppy; my husband would be so mad)
• Smooth sailing for our opening of Equinox Coffee in January.
All my love and a very happy Christmas to you,
Becca Huddleston lives in Petal with her husband, Tayler, son, Jack ,and their small menagerie of animals. Next year, they will be opening a coffee shop, so please keep them in your thoughts, so they don’t all murder each other.
My name is Imani Steven. I am a recent graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biological Sciences. I have been active in the Hattiesburg music community as the host to Jazmo’s and VFW’s Open Mic Thursdays as well as hosting other events. Recently, I hosted the downtown block party sponsored by BluJazz for USM’s Alumni Association. Through those events, I was able to form a band which plays at my show, “Soul Session w/Imani” at The Thirsty Hippo. The "Soul Session w/Imani" is a space where people can come to enjoy great live music, fellowship and love themselves without boundaries. I hope when a person leaves each "Soul Session" they leave lighter and love themselves more than when they came in.
This Christmas season the band leader for “Phony Pony,” Gunner Vowell, and I have teamed up to produce “A Soulful Friday Night Before Christmas” on Friday, Dec. 21, at the Thirsty Hippo. In addition to admission, we would like the guests to donate school supplies and/or board games for the children on the Homes of Hope for Children’s Campus and Aldersgate Mission.
Brad Newton, owner of Thirsty Hippo, agreed to have a donation box inside the business from Monday, Dec. 17, through Friday, Dec. 21, to allow anyone to drop off donations. The owners of Southern Prohibition Taproom, Nostalgia Bar and Lounge and Mayor Barker have also accepted the invitation to hold Gift Donation boxes. I want to extend the invitation to other business owners in the area to help us spread Christmas cheer throughout Hattiesburg!
Imani Steven is a recent graduate from Southern Miss’ Biological Science department who enjoys spreading her gift of voice by hosting shows throughout downtown Hattiesburg.
I’m sure you already know what’s coming.
I have so much love for Hattiesburg, and I am so thankful for being able to make a living doing what I love day-in and day-out in a city that is rich with lovers of music and art. My wish this year is for more Hattiesburgers to discover their love of dancing. I wish for people of all ages and backgrounds to step a bit out of their comfort zone and see what it’s like to socially dance with other people that may not be exactly like them. Please gift these folks the understanding that learning to dance with others not only allows you to meet new people, but also has long-term mental and physical health benefits, and allows you the ability to express yourself to your favorite music (specifically local, but that’s another wish list entirely). Hattiesburg Ballroom & Beyond is growing and in the coming year will be offering classes of all kinds for adults – from beginners to more advanced movers – and I sincerely hope that lots of newbies will show up and discover just how much dancing can enrich their lives.
Rebecca Chandler is co-creator / choreographer of Hattiesburlesque and owner of Hattiesburg Ballroom and Beyond. A lover of naps, sparkles, musical theatre, and all things Hattiesburg, Rebecca is also winner of 2018’s Best of the Pine Belt Best Mover and Shaker award.
We here at Hattiesburlesque are so incredibly thankful to be entering our fifth year of shows! We couldn’t have done it without the support from our city, family and friends. In the spirit of #artmakesart, we would love to ask that you bring more awareness of the incredible art that is created right here in the city that we love so much! So many organizations work tirelessly to create quality shows for the citizens of Hattiesburg and we hope all of the organizations receive sold-out performances in the coming year. A very limited list includes: Center Stage, HCLO, Hub-City Players, Laurel Little Theatre, Hub City Comedy, Hardy Action Theatre, countless local bands, artists and of course, Hattiesburlesque!
Local art is the perfect thing to give and receive this holiday season and Hattiesburg offers it in abundance.
Abi & Rebecca
Abigail Lenz Allen is co-creator of Hattiesburlesque and leader of the local ArtMakesArt movement. When she’s not crafting on her own accord, she’s runs smARTspace, a free creative class for kids aged 6 - 13.
Isn't Hattiesburg just the greatest? We are lucky and #blessed to have incredible arts and music events that are a load of fun and completely family friendly. Some of my personal favorites include Live at Five, Historic Downtown Art Walk, Piney Woods Picnic, Eaglefest, Star-Spangled Celebration at the River and Downtown Crawfish Jam, just to name a few.
Although many of these awesome events are free to the public, they are all reliant upon sponsor support. Santa, would you do me a favor and spread the word to businesses and individuals alike that these organizations would love to have their support? I want Hattiesburg to continue to be the BEST city in the state of Mississippi. These events are critical to our local identity, and I would appreciate your help in keeping them alive.
P.S. The Saints need another Lombardi Trophy.
Allison Neville is a food enthusiast, sports fanatic and supporter of local art. You can find her running an event near you with The Depot / Lagniappe Catering team or at Live at Five.
There are SO MANY good boys and good girls at Hub City Humane Society this year. They are fluffy, snuggly, and sometimes slobbery, but are very much in need. You see, these sweet babies are waiting very patiently on their forever homes. Hub City Humane Society is a local animal shelter located on Jackson Road in Lamar County. The shelter is full of amazing and wonderful fur babies available for adoption and foster year-round.
This Christmas they are all hoping to be made part of someone's family, where they can play with kids, run around with other doggies and kitties, and give night-time cuddles. Santa, please send adoptive families to the Hub City Humane Society so these babies can have a wonderful life. Some have been through quite a lot already and could use some holiday cheer.
If you could also send them things to make their stay at the shelter more comfy, that would be great too! Hub City is in need of dry and canned pet food, cat litter, kitty and doggie treats, toys, blankets, towels and cleaning supplies. The staff and animals of the shelter are very deserving, and I'm sure they'll love any gifts they get!! Thank you and Merry Christmas!!
Amanda Bennett is first and foremost an animal lover. When she’s not spending time with her fur babies, she is a 911 Dispatcher for Lamar County Sheriff’s Office.
It’s been a rough year for everyone, so all I want this Christmas is that we learn to love ourselves and each other a little bit more. I want us all to able to recognize how deeply beautiful and kind we can be. I want us to be kinder to ourselves and to listen to our bodies when they are screaming at us to “take a break!” Being kinder to yourself makes you kinder to others. Shed those resentments and grow angel wings instead. Fly towards the sun! Surround yourself with people who make you happy. There is nothing wrong with cutting off people that make you unhappy. You are worthy of so many wonderful things. Do the things you want to do – paint, buy an instrument, play music, sing, dance, play games, sit back and enjoy life. You are worthy of all things wonderful. And remember, fear is temporary and useless. Apply for that job, wear that tight dress, ask that person out, take that road trip, or audition for that show you love! Love yourself and learn to be loved. You will not regret it.
It may just be the best thing you ever do.
Catalina Olavarria moved to Hattiesburg from Chile in 2013 and graduated with a Bachelor's in Psychology from The University of Southern Mississippi. Currently studying and getting ready to apply for PhD programs in counseling psychology, she hopes to bring awareness to mental health and diminish the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
It’s been a while! How’s the missus?
Just wanted to reach out and let you know you’re doing great, but for the first time in a long time I have a personal request. Could you, with your magical little powers, keep the momentum that Hattiesburg has rolling along? I’ve been so excited to see downtown grow and midtown expand! Please throw an extra little dash of fairy dust on our precious town when you’re flying over.
P.S. The usual two lumps of coal will be fine for me.
Brittany Purvis is from Alabama, but has made Hattiesburg her home. She currently lives with her boyfriend, three cats and student loan debt in the Avenues. Through Hattiesburlesque and stand- up comedy, she has found something truly magical in the growing Hub City.