Today we’d like to introduce you to Athena Patacsil, Gazella.
Athena, Gazella, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
When I was a little girl, I loved to play dress up. So naturally, I took to the stage with dance in all it’s forms available through my parent’s dance studio, Centre Stage Dance Co., in Aurora. I loved the many costumes I would get to perform and compete in every chance we had. I loved the “glamour” of performing.
At fourteen, I decided to take the path of a professional ballerina, romanticized by many films I had seen. I studied hard, trained tirelessly and received many scholarships over the course of my teen years—scholarships for summer intensives, a semester studying with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, and eventually a corps de ballet contract with Nevada Ballet Theatre (NBT) at eighteen.
It was a tough road in the ballet company. The other companies I had auditioned for told me I was too tall, but I was determined to become a principal dancer and moved to Las Vegas to fulfill my dream.
Weekly weight notices ensued over the course of three seasons. “All you need to do is lose five pounds,” they said. But at 5’9” and 120 lbs., I knew better. I wanted to perform, but the forty hours a week I was rehearsing for the short run of shows every two months, wasn’t enough for me. I was ready to quit dancing entirely.
One day, a dancer that had left the company to perform in a show on “The Strip,” came to company class and invited me to audition for the show. I was hesitant but went anyway.
I had to borrow a leotard, fishnets and high heels in order to audition. It was brutal—I would say the toughest audition I have ever experienced.
We learned a combination from the Principal dancer in the show, performed it, showgirl walked across the stage and then stood in a lineup facing forward and then backward. All of this was new to me since I had never been to any other audition that wasn’t a ballet class. It had been years since I had used my jazz “strut.”
I was the only one called down from the stage to talk with the managers of the show and then sent down for measurements in the costume shop.
I had gotten the job.
A whirlwind of a month into my new position, I rehearsed for two weeks learning my spot in the show, then had my dress rehearsal two nights before my debut in Donn Arden’s Jubilee! as a covered dancer.
I was finally a full-time performer, a bonafide Las Vegas Showgirl, performing twelve shows per week for a year-long contract. I had benefits, vacation time and got to play dress up night after night in $10,000 Bob Mackie costumes. We hardly ever had rehearsals, maybe once per month, for an hour after performing two shows.
It was quite the glamorous life.
My sights on the spotlight didn’t change, and I pursued it with as much intensity as I had when I was a ballerina. It took me four years of principal auditions and receiving understudy spots until I eventually signed a Principal contract and achieved my dream of dancing in the spotlight.
Since being a performer on “The Strip” is a night gig, many performers went to school, had families, had day jobs. I went to design school, thinking that I wanted to continue to do something creative well past my dancing career.
After a year of being a Principal, I decided that I had had enough of the stage and “retired.” I had attempted to work full-time with my design degree while performing, and doing both full-time began to wear on me. I took the pay cut and pursued my graphic design career full speed.
I found out I was pregnant shortly after leaving the show and dove head-first into motherhood, leaving my feathery and dazzling past behind me.
Deciding that we didn’t want to raise children in Las Vegas, we moved to the Big Island in Hawaii and then back to Colorado a couple of years later, where we had our second daughter.
Life was perfect—perfect house, perfect design career, perfect children, perfect husband.
But I wasn’t happy.
A gaping void in my chest leads to meditation and yoga practices, as well as therapy. What I discovered in that year is that I had spent so much of my time caring about what others thought of me, and living a life that they had thought was “appropriate” for me, living for my daughters and their lives, that I was failing to live a life that I had wanted and created.
So, I took everything apart.
Some would say my life fell apart, but I know that I systematically undid all the doing I had done in the five years since moving back to Colorado and began building a life that I wanted to jump out of bed for every day.
In the past six years, I have found me again. I brought the glamour woman back to life, and learned to balance being the Mom of the Year with my new alter ego, Gazella—the Mile High kicking Showgirl.
I allowed myself to be selfish and take the time and space I needed to get back onstage and design the life I love. My daughters are happy and confident because I am the best role model to show them that their life is what they make it. By showing them that I am pursuing my dreams, I am inspiring them to continue to pursue theirs.
Which is why I started my business. It started off as a production company to produce burlesque and Showgirl shows that uplift and inspire, but has since evolved to immersive experiences for women to get a taste of what it was like to be a Las Vegas Showgirl and boost confidence.
I have designed and constructed twelve Showgirl costumes that include feathery hats, body chains and bracelets that I have worn to high-kick it onstage. I am now sharing all the feathery glamour with women as they celebrate their freedom and sensuality with divorce parties, ladies nights and bachelorette parties.
I took my passion for having fun and playing dress up, combined it with my love of Showgirl fashion and design and created a business that I love. I help women get their sexy back through glamorous and playful experiences and they will, in turn, inspire others around them as we all uplift each other.
Has it been a smooth road?
It hasn’t been a smooth road, but it is how we respond to contrast that we experience in our lives that can improve (or worse) a situation.
I was too tall and “curvy” to be a ballerina, so I turned the situation into a better one and found a place that I fit in and satisfied my desires. I didn’t fight against the institution of ballet to undo centuries of body shaming and psychological bs. I left and found a place that appreciated the body and talent that I brought to the table.
Similarly, when the “corporate rat race” proved to match my experience in my dance career (I was expected to conform to standards that I just didn’t fit), I left and pursued my own business that helps women find and ignite their passions and share their gifts with the world.
When we start to feel less than stellar in our lives, we get to choose how we move forward. We can look outside of ourselves and attempt to get validation from others to justify where we are, or we can take notice of how we feel, choose to feel better and make the choice to focus on what’s working in our lives. This goes for all the “contrast” we experience such as breakups, job losses, mistakes, accidents, etc.
Taking responsibility for how you feel, not how you react to the world that’s happening around you, can make all the difference in your day and your world.
Love yourself. Love all the things about you, dark and light. Love yourself enough to care how YOU feel in any given situation. Love yourself enough to want the best life for you.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on.
The past five years has been so much fun in discovering how I want to show up in the world and share my gifts. Selfishly, I chose to perform first to satisfy my need to move and feel sexy again after being a “frumpy” mom. The burlesque world was my entry back to the stage and I learned a lot about myself and how women are in the world these days. Some know my former burlesque name as Gazella Galore. Once I started producing shows, I learned even more about performers and how they value (or don’t value) themselves as performers and women. When I realized that it’s not only performers that feel less than amazing day today, but most women when I began hosting burlesque bachelorette parties, I started formulating a better business model.
A former design client of mine saw an Instagram post about Showgirl classes I was teaching and invited me to teach a class to her coaching clients when they came to Denver for a retreat she hosted last spring.
She is a business coach and is very much into fashion and couture, so I offered to bring along my Showgirl costumes to play dress up too. She was excited about the add-on, and we made the arrangements.
I showed up as promised with my entire collection of Showgirl costumes that I had constructed over two years. The ladies were surprised and a bit nervous and giddy.
What happened in the following two hours was something I didn’t expect.
By telling my story of going from a ballerina to a Showgirl, offering the experience of the Art of the Showgirl with a movement lesson and then the opportunity to try on the hats and jewelry and feel the glamour of the icon, I had helped those ladies tap into a feminine energy and confidence that they were seeking and not knowing how to find.
Each of them was floored by the craftsmanship of my costumes, and inspired by my path back to the glamour queen I once was, that they practically demanded that I start selling this experience to business coaches everywhere in order to teach confidence.
Turns out that a little playtime and glamour is all they needed to boost their confidence in their own businesses.
I now call myself a confidence and femininity coach and Showgirl.
Most Showgirls in the world these days are what I call “Gig Girls.” There are only two classic Showgirl shows left in the world to perform in, none of them in Las Vegas. Many of the girls that were left behind when Jubilee! closed in 2016 are now parading around in costumes for corporate events and in nightclubs for private parties. A very different life to being in a full-scale production show.
But I am choosing a different path. By sharing the experience of being a Showgirl in an immersive way with the costumes that I have designed and constructed (inspired by the ones I wore all those years,) and teaching the walks, bevels and poses that Showgirls are known for, I am helping pass along that confidence boost I felt every night for my time in the show.
I help women tune into their femininity and confidence by getting back to that playful girl inside. By allowing ourselves to have fun, we shift our energy to ease and love.
When asked what my passion is I respond, “I just want to make beautiful things and play dress up. Having more friends to join in will make it even more fun.”
Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
Anything by Abraham Hicks (tons of YouTube videos, and resources on their website).
Kon Mari books and lifestyle.
Trello to keep me organized and productive.
Jessica Eley, my mindset coach.
- Feathery Revelry Burlesque $397: Feather Boas, satin gloves and naughty strip-tease movements for a fun ladies night party for 5-10 ladies.
- Feathery Revelry Frou Frou $397-$1997: Showgirl dress up parties to boost confidence and playfulness for 1-12 revelers
- Amplify You Confidence Coaching: One on one coaching starting at $397
- Website: Showgirls.Life
- Phone: 720-648-9893
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @gazealous
Athena Patacsil and Sarina Baumgardner