Develop a system for perfecting your performances. In order to make your performances look easy, you have to do your homework. You have to put in the rehearsal time so that when you hit the stage you don’t even have to think about your performance, it’s all in your blood. The best compliment we receive is when a person from the audience, who has never performed before an audience and has written one poem in their life, asks if they can perform at the next Sweet Spot show. It’s hilarious, but it is also complementary because it means that we succeeded in making the performance look so effortless that literally anyone thinks they can do it. I would couple this with always holding the intention to GIVE in your performance; be there for the audience, not for yourself.

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ainsley Burrows and Laurielle Noel.

Meet Ainsley Burrows and Laurielle Noel, the dynamic duo behind The Sweet Spot Burlesque. Ainsley, the visionary founder, has revolutionized burlesque entertainment for 17 years producing mesmerizing shows and thought-provoking storytelling series. Celebrating sensuality, empowerment, and inclusivity — pushing artistic boundaries and inspiring authenticity. Laurielle, a first-generation Haitian-American and CEO of The Sweet Spot, accelerates the show’s success, making it the largest Black burlesque production in the country. With her vibrant leadership, she creates empowering artistic experiences, captivating audiences in 30+ cities nationwide. A beacon of inspiration, she breaks free from societal constraints, offering safe spaces for sex-positive “edutainment.”

Together, Ainsley and Laurielle’s passion and vision have redefined the landscape of burlesque entertainment with their spirit of liberation, challenging social norms and igniting conversations through inspiring artistic experiences.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Ainsley Burrows: I grew up in Kingston, Jamaica; spending my summers tearing through the beautiful Jamaican countryside with a pack of rambunctious cousins. During the school year I took pride in doing well in my studies and I loved playing soccer. At 15 years old I moved to the states, Brooklyn NY. I attended Boys and Girls High School and played varsity soccer through college at SUNY Oswego.

Laurielle Noel: My life growing up was all about family and church and I was very happy in our little bubble. Although I grew up in a religious and sheltered household, my parents taught us to think critically and to prioritize emotional well-being and happiness. My parents immigrated from Haiti in the 60s and taught me to speak French before I spoke English. I was born in Brooklyn, NY and my family lived in Queens until I was 12. We moved to Massachusetts where I completed high school and college — always knowing that New York City was my home and that I would return.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Laurielle: During my college years in the 90s (and for a decade after) I struggled with choosing a career path that I was passionate and excited about. I studied History in undergrad, which led to law school at Georgetown Law and a budding career at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. But I was very unsatisfied and moved to Paris for two years to shake things up. And that is exactly what happened… after an exciting two years I left the corporate world and moved back to NYC to figure it out on my own — I had finally come to understand that I wanted to work for myself and that I was passionate about business development. Over the next couple of years I dabbled in a few businesses as I was leaning toward the entertainment industry, taking a few courses at NYC in Entertainment Media Management. Enter November 2010, I met Ainsley at a nightclub at “Trump Soho” in Manhattan. It was a Thursday and we were inseparable from that first night. Thinking back, our very first encounter was the beginning of this career path for me… We talked easily for hours as Ainsley described how he built his career in poetry and produced events. That conversation ignited all of my business development senses and I went to one of his productions three days later; a production that was eventually renamed The Sweet Spot.

Ainsley: I was in an MBA program and fellowship at SUNY Oswego when I was involved in a car accident that changed my life. After the car accident I decided that I had just almost died, so this was my chance to live the life that I wanted to live deep deep down. I was studying business but all my activities were around art. So I left school and started on a journey to make art for the rest of my life.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Laurielle: It may sound corny, but I am eternally grateful to Ainsley for helping me get where I am. My family, especially my sisters have always been supportive, but being with one person day in and day out who reminds you often of your greatness is invaluable.

Ainsley: There are many people who have helped me over the years but one person that I felt like validated what I was doing was Marc Ecko. Long story. He saw me perform a poem at an art opening for Doze Green, and right after my performance we spoke and he said he would love to support the work I was doing. I was two years out of school and things were getting dire. So when his company Ecko Unlimited started sponsoring my tours across Europe and America it was the first time I felt like, yeah, things are going to work out.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Ainsley: The most interesting story that has happened to me since I started my career was sharing stages with one of my idols. I had the chance to open for Toots and the Maytals. I met him backstage and we spoke for a few seconds. I was not starstruck, but I was keenly aware of the history I was interacting with; I was connecting with a part of history that not many performers get to connect with. Here I was, talking to a person I had heard on records since I was a child in Jamaica. After my performance I went out into the audience and marveled at how crazy life can be when you lean into your dreams.

Laurielle: In addition to running the operations of The Sweet Spot, I am also a performer. I perform “readings” from erotic novels (A Summer of Sin in Brooklyn & Sex Addiction, written by Ainsley Burrows). Although I was performing at every show with my castmates, it took me many years to consider myself a “performing artist” since my spoken word castmates had been honing their craft for over a decade before I started. Being in conversation with an audience is my favorite part and one of the most fascinating experiences happened when my reading moved an audience member so much that he literally threw himself onto the stage and rolled around — like he had caught the spirit! It was super entertaining and thrilling for me. From that point I began to build more confidence in my ability.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Ainsley: On my first trip to perform poetry in Germany, I missed my flight because I did not plan my travel from my home to the airport correctly. When I got to JFK (in NYC) I missed my connecting flight. At the time there were no cellphones that I could just call the person in Germany who was supposed to pick me up at the airport. There were no other flights to Hamburg that day but I had to get to Germany that day because the show was the following day. So I had to get on a flight to the nearest city they had a flight to, which was Bremen. I was not able to contact the person coming to pick me up at the airport in Hamburg, so they went to the airport and left. When I got to Bremen, I had to take a train and then a taxi to the person’s house… the funny part was figuring out how to get to my host’s house. I do not speak German and the people I encountered did not speak English until I met a person who was also traveling from Bremen to Hamburg. He helped me find my way and accompanied me for most of the ride. As I could not speak German, he communicated with me using rap lyrics! It was hilarious, but worked! We talked the whole way. Although this encounter was entertaining, I learned that I went through so much unnecessary stress simply because I was late. Since that day I have never made that mistake again. I get to every appointment at least 15 minutes early since then.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Laurielle: At the moment we are excited about taking The Sweet Spot internationally. We have been in conversation with a company in South Africa.

Ainsley: Bring The Sweet Spot to International destinations is probably the most interesting thing we are working on, but also we are working on the final book of a trilogy of erotic novels, Almost Celebate. It will be so delicious.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?

Laurielle: I would say that any career path is challenging when your intention is to be the best. So the advice that we often hear and quickly dismiss or forget is actually the golden ticket… When you get knocked down — get back up. Even with a decade of experience, I really struggled post-pandemic and the only thing that kept me going was Ainsley reminding me to “get back up” — and he wasn’t always gentle! Getting back up means actively looking for and accepting support; the life of an artist is often misunderstood and even the most loving, well-meaning friends can unknowingly dismiss your efforts and successes. That’s why it is of utmost importance to seek and find an artist family and community. Getting back up also means putting one foot in front of the other every day and finding satisfaction in every small task completed. Be consistent in everything; if you send out weekly newsletters, be consistent; be consistent in how you treat people, whether a person is a VIP or the coat check person at a venue; be consistently early for all appointments; being consistent makes you reliable and EVERYONE wants to work with reliable people.

Ainsley: The people who succeed are the ones who learn from their mistakes, adjust their paths and make improvements as they move along. Sticking to the thing you are doing will eventually make you so good at it that people will pay you for the thing you do.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Ainsley: Take breaks, give yourself time to recover, enjoy your wins, work hard and play hard, foster family and close friends. Touring can be extremely stressful, learn how to make HOME the place where you are. And most importantly, learn how to say NO! Learn how to say no to that one gig you know will push you into exhaustion; say no to that after party that’s going to make you feel like shit for your performance tomorrow; say no to drugs lol.

Laurielle: Get help, try not to do everything on your own. This can be a struggle because you need money to pay for help, but the help is what will bring in more money. I still struggle with this as the company grows, but it is so important to avoid burnout.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Ainsley Burrows & Laurielle Noel:

1. Develop a system for perfecting your performances. In order to make your performances look easy, you have to do your homework. You have to put in the rehearsal time so that when you hit the stage you don’t even have to think about your performance, it’s all in your blood. The best compliment we receive is when a person from the audience, who has never performed before an audience and has written one poem in their life, asks if they can perform at the next Sweet Spot show. It’s hilarious, but it is also complementary because it means that we succeeded in making the performance look so effortless that literally anyone thinks they can do it. I would couple this with always holding the intention to GIVE in your performance; be there for the audience, not for yourself.

2. When things go wrong do not panic. We had a venue shut down three hours before doors were supposed to open in Washington DC. 700 people had purchased tickets for that night and another 700 purchased for a second show the following day at the same venue. One of the reasons we work well together is because we both work well under pressure and have a can’t lose attitude. The first thing we did was agree that we would not cancel the shows — that option was not on the table. That agreement allowed us to focus all our energy in a singular direction and we jumped on the phones, calling anyone and everyone that might be able to help us get a new venue in three hours. We found a new venue, rescheduled all the seating for the event, re-routed all the patrons and had doors open at the new venue only five minutes late. The ordeal was pretty intense!

3. Avoid the substances. Or at a minimum be very careful with alcohol and drugs. The allure of taking substances to bolster your confidence, to disconnect from fear, to continue the celebration while you’re high from the dopamine of performing, or simply to wind down after a performance — is very real. To be a performer is to make yourself vulnerable to audiences on a regular basis and that comes with a lot of intense emotions. Both of us are drinkers so we are the last to preach abstinence, though we are very mindful and careful with our indulgence. We know first hand how overindulgence can ruin not just a performance, but also relationships. We’ve had to let go of performers who thought they needed to be on some kind of substance to perform. You don’t. Dig deep and you will find the version of you who thrives in the spotlight without those kinds of distractions. We once had a poet on stage who tried to get through his performance drunk. That was in the early days of the show, he made a mess of his performance and needless to say we never invited him back to our stage.

4. Create a brain trust, have a group of people around you who will be honest with you about your art. One of my dearest friends is a person who years ago told me that the art I was creating was not as good as I thought. At first it hurt a bit but then I went back to the drawing table and worked harder than I ever did before. His comments forced me to push myself to a place where my work was able to connect with people on a level I did not have before. Everytime I make new work I go to the people I trust to be honest and get their feedback. In fact, we created a process in our team rehearsals specifically to encourage critical and honest, yet gentle, feedback. It’s simple, when giving feedback first say one positive thing about the performance — make sure it is relevant and honest. Then say two things that could be improved or make the performance better.

5. Show up for EVERYTHING on time. My nephew, who is an army officer, made this point even better… in the army he learned that arriving 15 minutes early for an appointment is considered “on time.” Arriving at the time agreed upon, is late. Being on time is not only about being professional and courteous. If we had been late to arrive in DC when the venue shut down, we would not have pulled off getting a new venue for the show that night. Any stage production includes high pressure, which is only aggravated by lateness. Also, there are extra perks to being on time and we have used this fact strategically for our business. Being on time changes the stress level that is inherent in any production — it allows you and your team to work from a relaxed and confident space that translates into a spectacular show. Being on time often means you will meet “operational” staff which comes in handy when you need things under pressure. Being on time makes you the “go to” person, particularly when a production is experiencing last minute challenges. Being on time is the secret sauce!

6. Love what you do. 
To be a performer on stage is a privilege that very few people get to do. So treasure it while you have the opportunity or the ability to enjoy it. It will not last forever.

For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theater performance are different than the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?

Laurielle and Ainsley: The skill-sets are similar but live performance takes another level of focus. TV and film are like recording sheet music in a studio. Live performance is playing improv jazz, it’s all in the moment and you do not get to say cut and start over. You have to learn how to move with and for the audience. You have to capture the audience’s energy and use it to take them places. You have to be quick on your feet, you have to learn the audience in real time and give them that thing that will take them to an unexpected place.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Ainsley: If I could inspire a movement it would be a movement that focuses on confidence. Most of the world’s problems stem from insecure people doing awful things to feel good about themselves. If we can teach people inner confidence they would not have the need or desire to put other people down to feel good about themselves. That’s a part of our mission as The Sweet Spot; to build a nation of people who are confident in their sexuality that way they don’t have a need or desire to put down or oppress others whose sexuality or sexual orientation is different than theirs.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Laurielle: Many years ago, in my first job out of law school, I was struggling with understanding what was required of me and how to do my job well. I had been trained as a lawyer, but took a job in a corporate setting where MBA graduates were a better fit with the job requirements. Almost two years in I was just getting by until a manager sat with me and said something I will never forget. She said, “your only job is to make your boss’s job easier,” even if that meant “managing from the bottom.” I improved immediately in that space and I have applied that jewel in every business since then. Even as the leader of a company now, I understand that my job is to empower people so that their job is easier and that’s part of what I look for when I hire. Will this person make my job easier?

Ainsley: “Everybody’s dreams are not the same size” — a quote from Laurielle Noel. This became my life mantra because I am always pushing people to go beyond their limits and sometimes when they decide that they are ok with where they are, I get disappointed. One day while talking to Laurielle she said, “Everyone’s dreams are not the same size.” That quote gave me the clarity I needed to be careful about my needs for people and people’s needs for themselves.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Laurielle: Tiffany Haddish. I have a great admiration for people who achieve a high level of success in their creative profession coupled with great success in business ventures. I can think of many people who fit this description, but I would love to meet with Tiffany Haddish because I imagine a conversation that sparks all my entrepreneurial pleasure zones, infused with humor and laughter that will have me falling off my chair. Those are the moments I live for!

Ainsley: I would love to meet Jay Z. He has a way of moving culture. With everything I do I have a similar intention so it would be great to sit down with someone who does it all the time to see what skills or strategies I can pick up to help me on this journey.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

IG & TikTok: @ SweetSpotNation

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.