Dahlia “Daddy” Desire (they/them) is an Indianapolis-based, non-binary performer who has a passion for moving people. The self-described “Afro-Latin laissez-faire” is a sultry independent burlesque performer, drag king, and producer who is steaming up the Midwest one stage at a time.
Dahlia describes their performances as “soulful and provocative vixn with ‘Metal Maiden’ tendencies,” and assures audiences that “you just never know what to expect, but you’ll always walk away feeling excited and enticed!”
Indy Maven spoke with Dahlia to learn more about their work and future plans.
You currently perform as both “Dahlia Desire” and “Daddy Desire” and are the co-producer of Burlesque AF. Can you talk about how you chose those personas and what they mean to you?
I think one of the first steps in starting a burlesque career is to figure out a stage name. “Dahlia” came from the infamous unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, also known as the Black Dahlia. The name itself is dark and a bit glamorized at this point, and I wanted that to come across in my persona. Dahlia isn’t so far off from the person I am in real life, but not many people get to see that side unless they’re intimate with me. Performing as Dahlia gives me a chance to show people the rawness and vulnerability that they wouldn’t typically get to see in my everyday life.
Daddy kind of just happened out of necessity. I started to dabble in drag and I needed a stage name. It was when the craze started of people using “Daddy” to talk about a dominant sexual figure, so I took the name on with every intention of changing it one day. People seemed to really like it, so I never did change it. Now people call me “Daddy” more than they call me “Dahlia” or even my real name.
“Dahlia” and “Daddy” have kind of morphed into one at this point. They both were born out of my need to feel like I was taking my sexual power back after I got out of a particularly toxic and abusive relationship. It was my way of rebelling against the societal norms that I had been constricted by my entire life. They’ve both helped me in so many ways. Learning to be confident and comfortable in my own skin, advocating for myself and being assertive with others are definitely the biggest impacts they’ve had on me.
How did you first become interested in burlesque and drag?
Before my burlesque career I was a local live storyteller. One day I went to a show called Pull Up a Chair which was hosted and produced by my now good friend Nikki Sayer, aka Frankie Spanxx. She was a part of the troupe Angel Burlesque and she invited me to come and start helping with the shows. I “kittened” my very first show on Aug. 25, 2017, and never looked back. I became a member of Angel Burlesque in 2019. While I am now an independent performer, I can never say thank you enough to the amazing, talented, and inspirational people that mentored me and helped me grow in my first few years.
What can people expect when they attend one of your performances?
People can expect sexy and sultry. Definitely expect some sexy eye contact and a tease. Expect versatility. You can see me in all black crawling around the stage performing to heavy metal in the first half of a show and then see me in orange fringe dancing Salsa and performing to Afro-Caribbean percussion the second half. I am an eclectic human with a lot of depth, and I definitely bring that dynamic to the stage.
Do you have any upcoming shows that we should know about?
I do! I always do; I can’t seem to ever say no to a booking opportunity.
Not only do I have Burlesque AF every second Friday at Almost Famous, I’ll be at The White Rabbit Cabaret on Oct. 21-22. I’ll also be in Bloomington at The Back Door on Oct. 28 and in Fountain Square for their Halloween Bash on Oct. 31.
I have a calendar on my website (www.dahliadesire.com) that folks can keep up with and find ticket links, as well as a merch store.
What are your future plans? Anything exciting you are working on?
I am constantly learning and growing and trying to one-up myself. I definitely plan on doing more traveling next year. I want to continue to make Burlesque AF an amazing show. Max Maneater [co-producer of Burlesque AF] and I sell out every month and I want to keep giving our audiences amazing talent and immersive experiences. I am also working on possible collaborations with some Latinx and Afro-Latinx producers in Chicago. Definitely follow me on FB and IG, and check out my website to keep up with me and my shenanigans.