Danielle Colby-Cushman appears on the popular History Channel series “American Pickers”. Media Mikes talked recently with Daniel about her work on the show and about her burlesque troupe Burlesque le’ Moustache.
Adam Lawton: How did you first connect with Mike and Frank?
Danielle Colby-Cushman: I met Mike about 13 or 14 years ago. We actually met at a yard sale. We became friends and hung out a lot after that. I ended up meeting Frank through Mike.
AL: How did they approach you about doing the show?
DCC: The guys were never approached to do a television shows. They had shot a bunch of footage and Mike was really the guy trying to get something going. He had tried for 4 years to get the show picked up. At one point it had looked as though Discovery Channel was going to pick the show up and Mike asked me if I would be able to help them run the shop as he was going to be on the road all the time. We used to do this out of his basement so there wasn’t really a shop or anything. Once we found out Discovery was not going to pick the show up I made plans to move back to Chicago. The month that I was set to move back Mike came to me and told me I couldn’t move because, we had gotten picked up by the History channel. I was very hungry to get back into make-up artistry which I had done for 14 years but I had this great opportunity that ended up working really well.
AL: How much are you involved with the business now outside of the show?
DCC: My word is still gold at Antique Archeology. I have more people helping out now which is really nice. I try as hard as I can to not be there during open hours because it is very difficult to work with so many people coming through. However at the same time I love having the people come through because it’s great meeting everyone who made us the success we are. It’s a double edged sword. I just try to do as much as I can before and after hours. It’s still my home sweet home.
AL: On the show recently we saw you experience your first pick. Was that actually your very first pick?
DCC: That was truly my first pick. It was a really awesome experience and something that I had wanted to do for some time. It was a little bit embarrassing to go through something for the first time on television. You want to look like a professional but sometimes you have to sit back and just watch and learn. I really liked being able to do that and have since gone on a couple other picks. I hope to do more in the future.
AL: Can you tell us what made you want to start performing burlesque?
DCC: Burlesque was something I got into because I wanted to stop hating myself. Since I was a teenager I hated everything about myself. I didn’t like the way I looked. I wanted to love myself but I didn’t understand how to do that. I spent a lot of years hating on my flaws rather than the story behind my flaws. I saw an amazing burlesque show years ago in Chicago and I just fell in love with the women on stage. I loved the strength they exuded on stage and wanted some of that. That’s what really got me into performing.
AL: Can you tell us about the burlesque troop you started?
DCC: I had started teaching burlesque classes in Iowa and Illinois about 3 and a half years ago. There was nothing like it in my area as the closes troupe was about 3 hours away. I started YouTubing the hell out of anything burlesque related and I bought a million DVD’s. I devoured burlesque every day of my life and I still do. I think that’s the only way to learn.
AL: Do you have any plans to tour outside of the Illinois area with the troupe?
DCC: I am not sure. My shooting schedule makes it difficult to be able to do something like that. We would love to do that. I will be in the very near future opening up a burlesque lounge. It’s going to be called “Diesel Lounge” and it will feature burlesque and cabaret music. There will be a lot of fun stuff going on there.
AL: Do you think it’s harder performing burlesque or working with Mike and Frank?
DCC: I have a lot of responsibility with both. I think it’s a little easier owning your own thing as you can tell people what you want. You are able to say it’s either my way or the highway. Getting up on stage is not difficult at all. It used to be but, after seeing all the people who were inspired by what we were doing I don’t really worry about if I ate too much before the show. (Laughs) Those people are there to see a story not necessarily a naked girl.
AL: Can you tell us about some of the other things you are involved with?
DCC: I have had a clothing line now for about 10 years called 4 Miles to Memphis. I have stopped making the clothing myself however I still do design it. I have gone with an American company based out of Los Angeles that is producing my designs. I just don’t have the time to make everything on my own now as people want it on a larger scale. It’s so wonderful I just don’t have the time. I have tried to keep everything local to help celebrate local economy but there just weren’t enough people here to keep up with the demand. We are however keeping it an American operation. All the money that comes in from the 4 Miles to Memphis stuff goes to my parents to help pay for my dad’s medical expenses. It’s really a wonderful cause while at the same time being a creative outlet for me.