My ex fiancé Sean looked me in the eye and said, “April, it’s me or the puppets.” I felt a knot in my stomach and the vomit come up my throat. In a courtship that seemed so perfect I didn’t see this coming. He had begged to be my boyfriend on the first date and then by the third we engaged. What could possibly go wrong?
The crisis had me torn. Since the age of 13, I wanted to be a ventriloquist after seeing an Edgar Bergen TV special and every second of my life had been sent chasing a career in entertainment. But Sean was the first man who wanted to be with me without the wishy washy games. Being a professional ventriloquist was nice, but being a wife and mother was practical. With a heavy heart I said goodbye to my puppets and put them under my bed and prepared for married life.
From that point onward, Sean revealed himself to be a complete gaslighting, abusive narcissist. My life began to fall apart because he selfishly demanded all my time and energy. As my life became a combination psych textbook and lifetime movie, no one was shocked at the trajectory except myself. Months passed and I became increasingly unhappy. Sean’s mood swings were scary and dangerous. My self worth was at floor level. And I was drinking, taking diet pills, not eating and my hair was falling out. Sean couldn’t keep a job so he started taking money from me too. I was alone because Sean had isolated me from my friends. I was tired, alone and scared. If I stayed I knew this relationship would kill me.
One day I had an idea. I went to my bed, pulled out my suitcases and started to work with my puppets. I call this next part a no brainer, because this was the first time I used my brain in months. My puppets made me happy and I remembered my dreams of becoming a professional ventriloquist. So I told Sean it was over. He said, “Good luck! You will never find anyone who loves you like I do. And anyone who tells you that you could be a ventriloquist just wants to sleep with you. I can do better than you anyway.”
I said, “Then do it!” And left. For as sad as I felt about leaving-because even when things are bad-you still do-the relief and clarity I felt after leaving was amazing. Two days later, I found out Sean had been cheating on me. My ex was trash, but this was further proof I made the right decision by not letting him stink up my life any longer.
I decided I was going to spend every second of every day working towards my goal of becoming a professional ventriloquist and nothing and no one was going to stop me. My children-my term for my puppet family-performed whenever they would let us. We did shows at comedy clubs, bars, open mics, flea markets, rock shows, strip clubs and even did our share of street performing. Some nights were better than others of course, but with each show our act got better, and my life got better too.
At the urging of others in the comedy world, I was urged to reach out to burlesque producers. To my pleasant surprise they agreed to put my puppet partner May Wilson and myself up. We did well and not only found ourselves rebooked, but other producers reached out too.
I was also introduced to the pinup community. These were women who loved old film stars and vintage clothes as much as I did, but were redefining the standards of beauty with body positivity embracing all shapes. This was the energy I needed in my life after everything I had been through. One day after a show a photographer said, “You have a great look. Do you want to shoot?” I was pleasantly surprised and jumped at the opportunity.
Never having done a pinup shoot before I didn’t know what to do or what to expect. Actually I was terrified but when I got there and started to pose I had fun. To my shock, my pictures not only looked good, but people have me mostly positive feedback. That is everyone except my mom-but sigh, you can’t please everyone.
My first shoot was a success and I posted the photos online. The support I got was amazing and I found it helped shape my brand as a ventriloquist as I booked more dates in both comedy and burlesque venues. Everything was coming up roses (and my mom almost liked the pics, win win).
Not everyone was pleased with my transformation though. Sean was venomous that I had dumped him, was following my dreams and my life was getting better. In order to get me back Sean threatened suicide. I thought I had to help him but other pin ups and photographers encouraged me to block him and stop communication because this was just another manipulative maneuver. For as miserable as he made me, I didn’t want Sean to die either. It took every nerve but I blocked him online.
Suffice to say they were correct. When the threat of suicide failed, Sean began to get his friends to troll my photos and write nasty things about me. He then posted them on other sites with words like “whore” and “slut” written on them. When this failed Sean started an “I Hate April Group” where his friends wrote vitriolic things about me and how they would murder me if they could. Sean then got his friends to come to my shows and heckle my puppets and I. The bullying was embarrassing, horrible and made me want to crawl into a hole. I didn’t know what to do and felt like it was all my fault.
One day, after feeling particularly low, I told a group of performers what happened after a show. To my shock they didn’t treat me like it was my fault but were angry I was being treated this way. Having my back, whenever Sean’s friends wrote something nasty on my photos they clapped back. They also reported Sean’s I Hate April Group as being harmful and it was deleted. And whenever Sean’s friends came to my show to heckle, producers were warned beforehand and his friends were told to behave and leave. When they didn’t they were escorted out. My new group of friends encouraged me to focus on myself, my dreams and to ignore Sean. Eventually he burned himself out as the Sean’s of the world always do.
Since that time I have pursued my career as a pinup and ventriloquist, and have appeared in clubs, theatres, movies, network TV worldwide and did nine months as a part of a show in Las Vegas. I wrote “Don’t Read My Lips,” a how to book on ventriloquism, and host “April in Vegas,” a chat show from the poolside of The English Hotel in the downtown Las Vegas Arts District. I also have released three pinup calendars and an adult coffee table picture book called “April Unwrapped.”
Now I am just desperately seeking Mr. Okay, but my condition is that he must like ventriloquism. People say why do pinup. I say, why not? You redefine the standard of beauty, give the middle finger to bullies and it might save your life. I know, if saved mine.