Sabina Kelley brings her talents to burlesque show in Las Vegas
International model, television personality and showgirl Sabina Kelley got her start dancing with classic Vegas show Jubilee!, came back six years ago fully tattooed to star at Claire Sinclair’s Pin Up production at The STRAT, and returns to the stage Valentine’s Day Weekend for an exclusive engagement with the Flamingo’s "X" Burlesque. Kelley spoke with Las Vegas Magazine’s Matt Kelemen about dancing again, her 2020 calendar and what may come next.
Our previous interview was six years ago, when you were looking forward to dancing at Claire Sinclair’s Pin Up show. Now you’re preparing to join the "X" Burlesque dancers onstage for a pair of shows at the Flamingo. Had you been wanting to get onstage again or did the offer come first?
I absolutely wanted to get onstage again, 100 percent. I was working at Totally Outrageous Brunch at SLS right before it changed over to Sahara Las Vegas. Then that show ended up closing and I was ready to do something else. Then this opportunity was presented. Obviously headlining a show is what I wanted to do, so it was perfect. It worked out great.
How did the opportunity come about? Did you know the producers Matt and Angela Stabile?
We became friends with each other, and we just started talking about it. It all just came together.
Were you already familiar with "X" Burlesque? Had you seen the show?
A long time ago, but I’m in the whole burlesque world and have been performing burlesque all over the world. It actually fit perfect.
The timing worked out too with Valentine’s Day falling on a weekend.
I know, that’s exciting too. It’s really cool doing it on a fun holiday like that, but it’s not themed for Valentine’s Day.
You’ve published pictures of yourself in a giant glass wearing purple pasties. Is that an indication of what people are doing to see?
Yes, yes. That’s what people are going to see. They’re not supposed to be purple. They’re see-through and rose-tinted, so I think when they light hits them they come across as purple.
How much time are you putting into rehearsal?
We just started rehearsals. We’ve been having to do them late at night because of the props. One of the dances is in that Champagne glass, so we have to have a tech person there.
How is the chemistry between you and the cast?
Oh, they’re awesome. I don’t know them that well, but I did do a full photo shot with them for the promo stuff and they’ve been super sweet to me so far. I’m glad because you know how some girls can be super catty, and here girls have just been awesome.
That shoot was done by a good portion of your calendar crew. Do you work with your own photographer and stylists?
Definitely, yeah. I have a few different teams that I work with but the people I work with on my calendar were on the “X” Burlesque photo shoot. We had a different makeup person but other than that it was still the same photographer, editor and hair stylist.
Is Julian Murray is your main photographer?
Julian? Yeah. I’ve worked with them for years. They’re a husband and wife team. (Julian’s wife is Lacey)
Who do you work with for makeup?
Sam Taormina is the one who did my calendar. This is just in Vegas. I have different teams in L.A. and stuff like that. And then LaVey Kindred did the makeup for that. Janine Cali is my regular makeup artist.
I don’t think many models in town have a crew that works with them that regularly.
Well, it’s one of those things where I’ve been modeling for so long and worked with so many different people that I like to work with teams that I know are never going to mess up, ever. All the people I work with are really strong at what they do and I trust them 100 percent to do what they want to do. I don’t have to give them all this direction. They know what I like and what I don’t like, what works and what doesn’t work for me. I’m among professionals so I just let them do what they want to do and it always turns out awesome.
How many calendars have you had so far?
I’d have to go double-check but I’d have to say it’s my 13th calendar.
Have you done it every year since you started?
Just about. I did skip last year and then everybody just ripped on me, like, “I’ve been collecting these for years! Why aren’t you making them?” I honestly thought people don’t use calendars anymore. Everyone’s got their apps and little planners, but not really calendars that you’d hang on the wall. I didn’t realize that I’ve been doing it for so long that my fan base expects it. Some of them probably use it as a calendar, but it’s more something the guys hang in their garages, that sort of thing. And then the women that follow me use those images as prints on a wall. It’s more like they’ve collected them over the years.
They form a relationship with you and this is their Same Time Next Year date, and you didn’t show up last year.
They do! A lot of people expect it. It’s like their Christmas present. I’ve gotten so many messages on it. What’s even funnier is I’ve had a few people who have collected them for years, they matched which calendar lined up to the same days as last year, so they put up on old calendar because the days were correct for the year but it was years back. It’s funny that people went that far to figure it out.
Would it freak you out if you went to somebody’s house and saw your … or have you been to somebody’s house and saw your photos all over their walls?
Yeah! Actually, it doesn’t trip me out. It’s pretty cool. There are a lot of people who get tattoos of me and sometimes I’m like, “Whoa!” Like I had a guy that did an entire backpiece of one of my images, but it’s pretty cool that I can inspire people that much with my images where they’d want to do something like that.
Can you estimate how extensively people have used your images to inspire tattoos?
There’s definitely been hundreds. At least once a week I’ll get something (sent through social media). That’s been happening for years.
Does your husband (tattoo artist Nixx) do all your work now? Does he refine and …
I’ve never had my husband tattoo me, not yet. I haven’t had any new tattoos in a while. My husband owns a tattoo shop in Australia and now he’s working at a shop out here. He just moved out here last year.
So your husband has created an art print of you that can inspire tattoos, but he hasn’t tattooed you yet.
He’s tattooed me on someone else before, and he’s made a tattoo of my signature. When we were in London for a tattoo convention—we travel to tattoo conventions all around the world—one of my fans came up and wanted a tattoo of my signature on them. So I wrote it and then my husband tattooed in on the guy. It was pretty cool.
Did you meet him in Australia?
No, I actually met him here in Vegas through mutual friends and we just hit it off instantly. We just knew.
Are you providing him with emotional support due to the fires in Australia?
Oh, 100 percent. He actually just designed two T-shirts that we’re in the process of getting printed right now to be able to raise money for the firefighters, for the animal rescues. That’s what kills me the most is seeing those pictures of the animals.
Are the T-shirts being handled by the company you and your husband just formed?
I’m not sure if he’s going to do that through City of Sin. It’ll probably just be on both of our social media.
What is City of Sin going to entail?
City of Sin’s still growing. It’s going to be artwork, T-shirts, hats. Right now on the site there’s just hats, but it’s in the early stages of everything. It all has a Las Vegas vibe. We’re pretty excited.
So, it’s separate from the merchandise you sell on your site?
What does your air freshener smell like?
I’ve got a peach one, I’ve got a vanilla one, a strawberry and a coconut. You’d never believe the comments. People are like “Which one smells like you?” They’re one of my best-selling items, especially since I do a lot of hot rod modeling.
There’s something different about this wine named for you. It comes with removeable stickers?
I have a wine bottle with Sort This Out Cellars.
2016 Sabina Kelley Pin Me Up Pinot Noir.
Yep. It’s a wine bottle and I’m pictured in lingerie. It’s almost like the old paper dolls, but it’s removable stickers. It comes in a sheet of different clothes you can put on me, so you can dress and undress me as you’re drinking your wine. (laughs)
The company also makes Bettie Page wines, rum and tiki mugs, which gives me a segue into your guest bartending at Golden Tiki. How often have you done that?
I do that once a month for a company called Lemba Rum. I’ve been working with them lately and have a few projects that I can’t speak about yet. They’ve been a great company so far and the rum is awesome. I used to bartend years ago.
Do you think you’ll be back with “X” Burlesque in the future?
We haven’t spoken yet about the future but I definitely want to do more stuff on stage. I’ve got stuff personally that I’ve been working on. I definitely want to do my own show headlining on the Strip. That’s what’s in the works. “X” Burlesque, we’ll see what comes of this. I’ve enjoyed working with everyone so far and I hope it goes farther than just these two.
Would you have become a pin-up without becoming a Jubilee! showgirl first?
Oh, 100 percent. Jubilee! had nothing to do with my pin-up career. When I did Jubilee! I wasn’t into modeling at all. I didn’t want to model. I had no desire to be a model. I was just into the rockabilly scene and pin-ups, and I used to collect everything vintage, everything Bettie Page and vintage lingerie, and vintage clothes and dresses. I’d always do my hair and makeup that style. I had actually just been asked at Viva Las Vegas (festival) to do a cover shoot for Car Kulture Deluxe magazine, and I did it and it just snowballed from there. It’s something that I did as a hobby for fun and it somehow became my entire career.
I didn’t mean led directly to modeling. I was thinking more of circumstances. At the same time you were helping keep pin-up culture alive you were part of a showgirl culture that’s gone and not likely to come back.
Yeah, that’s actually a real hard thing for me. When I started out as a Jubilee! showgirl, I was 18. I was the baby of the show. I was on the billboards. I was on the programs. I always did the extra work, extra shows that came to town. I feel like I’ve been a real Vegas showgirl, then I went to Paris to work at the Moulin Rouge, so I know what a real showgirl is. Now that there’s nothing like that in Vegas, I feel like I have to bring that back in some aspect so we don’t lose that. I feel like I am one of the last real showgirls who is still able to perform and keep that alive. I almost feel like it’s my duty to bring that back in some way or form and teach it to the younger generation.