Lillian Bustle is a Burlesque performer and body positivity advocate whose acts range from classic to comedic. She has performed with Burlesque shows and festivals across North America since her nightclub debut at the age of 14 as a singer in a drag show.
Despite having produced 19 Burlesque shows in Jersey City over the past three years, city attorneys shut down Lillian’s March 2018 show at a Newark Avenue bar/venue, telling the owners that they could risk a fine for violating a local obscenity law. The law turned out to be a 36-year-old ordinance originally intended to stop the proliferation of strip clubs in Jersey City. NCAC pointed out that if the poorly-worded law were to be applied evenly, any movie that shows nudity or sexual activity would be banned along with Lillian’s shows.
At an April Jersey City Council meeting, flanked by a group of supporters that included other Burlesque performers, Councilman James Solomon, and Hudson Pride Center Executive Director Michael Billy, Lillian spoke about freedom of expression and the need to revise and amend the current outdated obscenity laws. With advice from NCAC, NJ ACLU and Jersey Council member James Solomon, not to mention the sheer force of her personality, Lillian won acknowledgment of her art in the form of a letter from the City’s lead council stating that Jersey City law establishes “exceptions for performances that have ‘serious literary, artistic, political, and scientific value.’ The City is confident that your performance…will fall under this exception.”
The out-dated ordinance is now under review by the City. Lillian praised the obscenity law re-write as “very simple and very progressive…I hope that the more conservative members of the City Council will recognize that this isn’t some kind of slippery slope into the depths of degradation,” she told The Jersey Journal. “Rather, it will open up a whole new chapter of artistic and personal freedom for the citizens of Jersey City.”
Meanwhile, the show will go on!