The lights flicker and the poised audience draws to silence. Old school jazz or perhaps Michael Bublé’s ‘Feeling Good’ kicks off, and Miami Minx strides out beaming a flirtatious smile. She commands the room.
After strutting around the bar floor and teasing the audience—dashing to the left and back again—she whisks off the first clothing item. The show is underway. And the skill, raunch, and thrill only proliferate. The act culminates when Miami is just in pasties, holding a pair of sparkling handcuffs.
Fabian Moreno, 31, works as a barista by day, mustering cups of joe for students and downtown regulars at Pikolo Espresso Bar. Come night, he takes to Montreal’s burlesque stages and enthralls drag coteries as Miami Minx.
“[Miami] is an exaggerated version of the normal Fabian!” he exclaims.
Fabian is originally from Doral, Miami. He first came to Montreal at 18 to visit his old neighbours from Miami, who were close family friends, and fell in love with the city, so he migrated in 2010.
Fabian’s goal was permanent residency. He got into CEGEP but realized he needed a different level of education to obtain permanent residency. Eventually, Fabian settled on a vocational study in graphic design at the Rosemount Centre, which he completed in 2012. This paved the way for him to settle down in Montreal long-term.
The Wiggle Room introduced Fabian to burlesque in 2016. Every Wednesday night, he would sit in the front row and soak in the entertainment. He was then asked to help out as a stage kitten, picking up the dancer’s clothes while the audience meowed.
Burlesque is typically an erotic storytelling performance removing costume pieces, similar to drag, said Fabian , who also considers himself a drag queen—though drag focuses more heavily on lip-syncing.
To learn more, he volunteered at the Arabesque Burlesque Academy, acquiring credits toward classes. He used these credits to pay for Class B, a 10-week intensive program at the academy.
Fabian made his debut in 2017 back where it all started—The Wiggle Room. Six years in, Fabian now performs eight to 10 shows a month, performing mainly classic striptease.
Fabian first became a barista at Café Dépôt. And a couple years later, just as his interest in burlesque grew, he worked at a copy centre and shortly after as a barista again at Café Myriade. He also started a translation degree from French to English at Concordia in 2016 and graduated in 2019, though his interest in linguistics waned.
In 2020, Fabian joined Pikolo, which recently moved from Parc Ave. to the Ontario-Clark intersection. At Pikolo, you can recognize Fabian by his black flap cap, clean latte art, and pristine red nails.
Making coffee as a day job may not offer him the same joy as dancing, but it facilitates his burlesque career and he very much enjoys his colleagues’ company at Pikolo.
Although Burlesque is an industry that pushes back against standard Eurocentric stereotypes of body image and promotes self-expression and Montreal is one of the more liberal cities in North America, Fabian, as a brown queer man, still has to contend with racism and homophobia.
Some nightclubs, for example, only want skinny white women to perform, and even then, they can receive a hostile reception. Sometimes these adverse attitudes come indirectly with audience members telling Fabian how brave he is for performing.
“These comments make me kind of feel weird,” Fabian said, collecting his thoughts. “I think what they’re really saying is it would take bravery for them. ”
Fabian now produces his own show called ‘Les Folies Draglesques’ at the Cabaret Mado, a bimonthly show on Thursdays, and performs weekly at the speakeasy Le 4e Mur.
He’s also danced at Unity nightclub for New Year’s, and since 2018, has performed at Montreal Pride in front of some 30,000 people.
“It’s the kind of stage that’s so big they have screens for the people who can’t see what’s happening,” he said.
Fabian intends to keep performing until his body starts to hurt. “I’m 31 now,” he said, chuckling, “[and] this is what I love to do.”
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Photos: Mason Bramadat @viewswithmason