Meet Kate Middleton’s Cousin: Burlesque Star Katrina Darling

The British beauty talks to Maxim about her royal family ties, crown-shaped merkins, and more.

First the world fell in love with Kate Middleton, then with her sister Pippa’s derriere, and now with their cousin (well, technically, second-cousin), burlesque star Katrina Darling.

So, how did you first discover you were related to the Duchess of Cambridge?

Two years ago I was performing in Scotland when I got a voicemail saying, “Oh my God, you’re related to Kate Middleton!” I was like, that’s bullshit, and it was actually April Fool’s day so I thought it was just somebody winding me up. But I called my mom the next day and she was like, “Oh yeah, some reporters from the Daily Mail came around the house the other day and said they were investigating the Middleton family tree and it turns out you are second cousins.”

And were the British reporters already aware of what you do?

No. My mom said they were asking about the family and she started telling them what her children did. My brother and sister are in university so my story was definitely a little more interesting to them. And of course, after a quick Google search and seeing photos from my “God Saves the Queen” act where I strip down to little crown pasties and a merkin crown, well, it was all over the papers. I actually felt kind of bad for Kate! It’s her wedding and all of a sudden there are photos of this stripper girl all over.

You had already been doing burlesque for a while when this news came out, but would it be fair to say that it’s helped you gain exposure?

It certainly opened a lot of doors for me. One night after that I was sitting on my terrace having a couple of drinks with friends and one of them asked if I would ever do Playboy. I mean I’m a pin-up, so that’s sort of the epitome of what I do. I was like, yeah, sure – like I would ever be asked to do that – and then literally a week later I got a call that Hugh Hefner wants me for the cover. I did that last year, I did the Life Ball in Vienna for Bill Clinton and Elton John; I’m doing private shows for the Prince of Norway. It’s insane, and I love every minute of it.

If the Palace ever requested a private show would you take them up on it?

Of course! It would be fun and you don’t really say no to things like that. And they’ve had burlesque performers before, like Sukki Singapora, who’s basically the burlesque ambassador for Singapore. Plus a lot of royals go to The Box, which is kind of a cabaret club, so it’s not like they’re not familiar with what I do.

How long before you’re sick of the Kate Middleton thing?

It is what it is. Honestly, it just pushes me more to prove that I have my own worth as an artist and performer. If I photographed terribly or if I had no rhythm or talent, I wouldn’t even have an act to share with people. I was working extremely hard before all this happened and was just starting to make a name for myself in Europe when this just caused things to blow up, which was amazing. Kate and I are related, it’s a fact, and people use it as a gimmick, which I don’t mind. She’s a philanthropist. It’s not like I’m related to Charles Manson.

So what’s next for you?

I want to start touring more and producing my own shows, something that’s a mix of circus acts and burlesque performances. I sew my own costume and I used to work as a makeup artist, so I am also interested in fashion and creating a makeup line. I do fire; I did gymnastics for 10 years, so right now I’m learning aerial hoop. I do so many different things it’s unreal, and I’m just going at warp speed right now. I’m only 23, so I’m just having fun with all of it.

Photos by Dale May