Steff Ivory Conover (Actress, Mind Leech)
The Horror Revolution: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Steff Ivory: My favourite horror movie AND the movie that scared me most has got to be the Blair Witch Project (although, honourable mention goes to Paranormal Activity). I liiiived for horror movies growing up, and had watched all the classics (The Exorcist, Poltergeist, Amityville Horror, Psycho etc) by my early teens! By and large I'm not a huge fan of gore, so my favourite scary movies are when they don't show you the "monster" - and let your mind do most of the wandering (and BOY does my mind ever LOVE to make up scenarios!) - Psychological thrillers are my JAAAM. THR: I thought you did a fantastic job in Mind Leech, and it’s your first acting role in a feature. What inspired your performance in the film?
SI: Thank you! I'm chuffed to hear it! I can't say that anything particularly inspired my performance per se - I went into this with an open mind and the intention to play. I have a tendency to take my (art) work far too seriously, and Cheeseman gave me so much confidence and ease within the early days of this film that this was "not that type of movie" (his words - not mine). That advice gave me the room I needed to just have fun with it, and go with the flow. Both Cheeseman and Paul were sooo integral to keeping us in that easygoing mindset as we approached each shot, and Cheeseman's original motive to keep us (actors) in the dark as to what we were going to encounter on set each day, to ensure that we had authentic reactions to each scenario, really ensured that we were flying by the seat of our pants and giving the most realistic reactions possible much of the time. THR: What inspires you to become an actress in general? Were there any particular films that made you know that’s what you wanted to do?
SI: I've been a performer my whole life - my Mother was a dancer and played piano & blues harp, my father is a jazz bassist and a longtime Creative Director in the Advertising Industry, so my sister and I were writing and performing skits, plays, commercials and jingles to our family (and anyone who would listen) since were were kids! Fun fact - I was in my first commercial at 2 1/2 for Johnson & Johnson's Baby Oil, cause the kid my dad originally cast in the role got sick. From there on in, a star was born! THR: You’re an actress, a singer, and even a burlesque performer! I know my audience pretty well, so let’s talk about that last part first. How did you become interested in burlesque?
SI: I grew up in a musical household, so singing, acting and dancing came naturally to me. After graduating high school, I went to Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts to become a "Triple Threat", and while in College my sister took me to see my first burlesque show at Lee's Palace in Toronto (legendary neo burlesque troupe "The Scandelles") and I was HOOKED! I put together my own little burlesque troupe at Randolph, and we performed a bit, but I then walked away from burlesque (and dance in general) about 6 months after graduation. I found that at the dance casting calls, no one wanted a fat dancer, regardless if I picked up the choreo the same, or executed the moves the same, so I assumed burlesque would be much the same. I chose to focus on singing, modelling and acting from 2007-2016, then I took a burlesque class with Toronto's own Belle Jumelles which reignited my passion for burlesque, and I haven't looked back since! Burlesque allows me to cast myself in rolls that conventional theatre otherwise wouldn't - it allows me to costume, to choreograph, to world build and to dream up and perform bite-sized conceptual pieces, while allowing me to flex my chops as a multidisciplinary performer in a way I otherwise couldn't. As a proud fat, queer, disabled woman of colour, the act of reclaiming my sexuality, my desirability and my autonomy onstage is revolutionary in and of itself- and doing burlesque has healed me, my self image and my self worth, in more ways than I can count. THR: Creativity comes in so many forms, and it seems like you have just about all of them! How do each of your talents help to satisfy your creativity?
SI: Great question!! Singing helps me heal my soul - I've oftentimes found that the act of singing when I am working through grief has physically helped heal my heartbreak. Dancing helps me celebrate - it is wild and sensual and primal and full of freedom and whimsy, something that I often lack in the day-to-day grind. Acting allows me to become things "other" than who I am. It allows me to walk in the shoes of neighbours, partners, siblings, strangers and friends, and pushes me to different creative limits than other disciplines and that's why I love it. Modelling allows me to make peace with my body, to find love and desirability and to heal my self esteem from the hits it took during being bullied during my formative years. Firebreathing/Archery/Axe Throwing and Equestrian allow me to embody my truest form, that is, a mutha-beepin -lady dragon EXTRAORDINAIRE!
THR: What was your experience like making Mind Leech? Did you enjoy acting in the film, and is it something that you want to do more of?
SI: Making Mind Leech was a HOOOOOOOT!!!!! The team behind this movie were all old hats in the film industry, but the atmosphere was so relaxed and inviting it was like hanging with a bunch of your buddies and just making some cool shit! It is ABSOLUTELY something I want to do more of, because it didn't take itself too seriously, and was still, seriously cool. THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
SI: Man oh mannn - WHAT industry tho? Film & TV? Music? Entertainment as a whole? I'm gonna go with Entertainment as a whole and say ALIVE: LIZZO - cause she's doing what I've been doing my entire career, just on a larger scale and platform, and I feel like the two of us (plus my partner in crime Belle Jumelles) would takeover the WORLD together. DEAD: Prince - cause he was just a sexy mutha and I know we would've made magic together
THR: A lot of your work involves the LGBTQ+ community. What is it about the community that draws you to perform there?
SI: Hmm... I think that as a straight presenting, queer person, I have a bit of a super power, cause I often get a seat at tables that otherwise wouldn't make room for queers. It's at that point that I'll (happily) out myself, and it's almost like that superhero mask reveal moment like "SURPRISE, SUCKAS!!! I WAS QUEER ALL ALONG MUAHAHAHAHAH". I'm all about kicking down doors and making space for us wherever I can. Also - performing for the queer community is like a homecoming - queer audiences are so incredible at making space for and holding space for other marginalized folk, so being a person with so many complex intersectionalities (bi-racial, bi-sexual, chronically ill and plus sized) it's wonderful to be in a space peforming for a community which celebrates your differences rather than penalizing or judging you for them. It's like, there's no having to convince queer audiences why I'm there or why I deserve to take up space [off the bat] which is not always the case with heteronormative audiences.
THR: What’s next for you? Are there any new exciting projects coming up for you?
SI: Hooo boy! I've always got amazing stuff on the go! I'm currently in Season 1 and Season 2 of 1 Queen 5 Queers on Crave TV, and often am a Guest Chair on CTV's The Social. I'll be performing March 25th at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre for CRIPtonite - a drag & burlesque show featuring disabled performers. I'll be headlining a burlesque show in Ottawa on April 14th, and another in Montreal on May 13th, and hitting the stage with Les Femmes Fatales, Women of Colour Burlesque Troupe on May 12th at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre for "Showbabes: We have always been here" You can keep up with my antics on IG/Twitter @pureivorydotca or on my website, www.pureivory.ca THR: Finally, how old were you when you stopped believing in Santa Claus? If you still do… I’m sorry.
SI: Ha! Umm..I think 9 or 10? I used to stay up late watching the radar broadcast of him flying across Canada (and I absolutely LOVED it!!) but I think it was when my sister and I left out the customary cookies and milk and carrots for the reindeer one Christmas, and I found the cookies had been put back into the Chips A'hoy box, and the carrots put back into the crisper, that the jig was up...