A SUGAR Centerfold: Mars & Arkedabar of Octopussy Lounge
Mars and I have been online friends for a while, probably since the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic forced all of us to rely completely on digital spaces to host our events, work and communities. I was quickly welcomed with open arms to my first Octopussy live show where I met more of the Octo community from not only Miami, but all over the world. Mars' Co-Founder, and fellow performer Arkedabar, was an integral center piece of these events, and seamlessly we formed a friendship and bridged our communities, the physical miles between us seemingly minute compared to the love we shared through the internet. Earlier this year, nearly two years after our mutual IG follow, I was lucky enough to capture Mars and Arkedabar in NYC for a Centerfold feature, where they discussed the inception of the inclusive Burlesque party known as Octopussy Lounge, their cosmic relationship and what's next for the troupe.
Okay, first of all, for those who don’t know, what is Octopussy Lounge and how would you as the founders define it?
M: Octopussy Lounge is a strip-burlesque platform centered around queer SW joy, and re-vindicating the sacred right to strip. It is an opportunity to gather and grow together outside of the traditional strip club, while creating an autonomous space to entertain ourselves, clients and community.
A: Octopussy is a Queer SW based and centered, Strip-Burlesque all inclusive collective and party that promotes SW education in autonomous spaces, giving the performers a space to safely practice stripping and performing (singing, fetish, etc) to delight our audience with a diverse artistic output.
How did it ultimately come to fruition and what was the moment that you knew you wanted to create something like this?
M: I had been dancing in NY for a few years, and was craving a place to mingle with other sw’s, somewhere that would be pleasurable for us, out of our work places/clubs…but also somewhere we could monetize off our favorite clients while building our community. When I moved back to Miami in 2018, I felt that it was the right time to start Octopussy Lounge, as I’d noticed there were no queer strip platforms in this city yet.
A: I was invited to perform for the first Octo with my (at that time) club wife and felt at home.
How did you two meet and what are your individual backgrounds in sex work or burlesque?
M: I met Ar Kedabar at the first Octopussy that I had hosted at a small dive bar called “The Club”. Ar Kedabar’s energy was/is so lovely, fun & professional, I felt really aligned with her and our collaboration seemed to start the moment we met.
I’d trained as a dancer growing up, performing has always been a part of my life so transitioning into strip clubs didn’t really intimidate me. I was 20 and living in Brooklyn when I started working the club & doing erotic performances at various pop-up events in BK.
A: We met at first Octo at this bar where first Octo happened and immediately felt a sister connection with Mar. I started dancing at different clubs in Miami, but been doing and immerse in burlesque since I was 17 back in Perú.
How do you think Octopussy has impacted the sex work community in Miami?
M: I think and hope it’s impacted the SW community here in a way that the movement continues to grow. I think it’s brought some people together and projects have formed that have made efforts & movements towards destigmatizing our work.
A: Definitely in an empowering way. Performers and audiences always give us feedback on how safe, welcomed and delighted they feel after the show. Being the first queer sw collective in Miami is definitely a responsibility. Mar also has been teaching sw education in California. The mission is definitely being expansive to create awareness around the country and who knows maybe internationally too!
Do you feel like there is a strong sex work community in MIA currently and have you seen it grow or change over the years?
M: I think right now it’s a strong but small community still, of course there’s many SWs in Miami, but getting them together can be a challenge. Miami doesn’t have the same resources or major movements around our type of work that other metropolitan cities have, so I think there’s still a lot of growth that needs to happen.
A: I feel like we are that strong sw community. Definitely seen it grow, but there’s also many clubs and parties ripping off sw aesthetics.
How has the digital space and utilizing platforms like Instagram helped you expand your Octopussy community? Has strict censorship impacted that or either of you individually?
M: IG has had me personally shadow banned before, as well have had my account threatened to be removed multiple times, however it is the platform I still for promoting my personal work and Octo. Octopussy we are pretty careful with how and what we post; but are aware of the risks of a page shutdown.
A: Without IG I’m not sure how much we could’ve grown and expand. It’s our main media to promote. I don’t think any of our content has been shadow banned. (Maybe Mar refresh my mind?) but mine personally YES. I’m not able to post anything Octo related on my feed because I was threatened to have my account taken down, just for shaking ass in front of the pole.
What has been the biggest challenge for you both as business partners and friends in building something community-based from the ground up?
M: I think a big challenge is maintaining consistency of how often we can host these events. It’s a lot of energy that we both pour into it, physically & mentally. & since we do everything ourselves & out of pocket, sometimes we need a moment to reboot.
A: Taking Octo outside of Miami was hard (but so rewarding!), because we do everything on our own and there’s equipment to carry. I don’t drive so definitely we need hands to assist on pretty much all of our events. We manage to always do everything on our own. Another challenging project was coordinating the calendar photo shoots or rehearsals when we have to film a show to sell it online.
What are your visions for the future of Octopussy and where do you see it in 5 years or even 5 months? It’s hard to even think that far in the future anymore with how unpredictable today’s world is. Is there a dream project or something you would like to do that you haven’t yet?
M: Owning a more official space for Octopussy is a main goal, as well as performing on tour & in other sexy spaces.
A: Definitely owning that building that Mar once showed me (she can confirm ;) ) and we’ve been manifesting. Owning a bigger building/hotel/house where we establish our club and art space. Doing Octo tours around the globe.
What is something about each other that motivates or inspires you?
M: Ar always has been an incredible friend & collaborator, she is so wise and I truly appreciate how direct she is not only in our conversations but our projects. Any time we’re together we’ll brainstorm & plot our next moves. I’ve had the pleasure of working on multiple other projects with her outside of Octo, as well, and she’s truly one of the most talented artists I personally know, with original ideas and unique references in all that she does.
A: <3 Mar has such an exquisite taste and determination. I love to “scheme” our slutty agendas together. Her references definitely are one of my favorite aspects to define the aesthetics of the parties. I love her and love working with her because she’s reliable and loyal and a great multifaceted artist.
And final question I like to ask everyone I interview: Do you have a fantasy, or maybe a version of Utopia, you can picture where we live in a sex-work-positive society? What does that world look like to you?
M: A utopia for me is a place without shame, stigma, fear or violence.
A: Rape and sexual assault wouldn’t exist in my Utopian world. Sw would be respected by civs and not feared by sws for the risks it currently comes with: being killed and abused. I constantly dream about it as a possible reality. Utopia where sw is not a stigma. Where we shouldn’t have to hide and being in fear for embracing our sexual selves in the most individual and raw way.
Photos by Erika Flynn
Interview by SUGAR Worldwide
Follow on IG: Mars (@discosexo), Arkedabar (@arkedabar) and Octopussy Lounge (@octopussylounge) for virtual and IRL events!
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