Wednesday, July 22, 2020 | 2 a.m.
Mariah Rivera moved to Las Vegas straight out of high school. The Colorado native had been accepted to several colleges including UNLV, but she traveled to the desert before school started to hunt for dancing gigs.
“I couldn’t decide where to go to college and my mom said, go to Las Vegas in the summer and find some auditions and follow your dreams, and if you land [a job in] a show, great, and if not, you can come back to Colorado or go to whatever school you want,” she says on this week’s Sun on the Strip podcast. “Lucky for me I got a job within the first month or two of moving here, the show in the Sky at the Rio. It was so fun and so cute. I was on the float and got to dance and throw some beads. It was a very good job for an 18-year-old, a good start.”
Rivera danced her way through many Vegas shows over the past 15 years, saying “sometimes I have to look at my resume to remember” her various roles in shows on and off the Strip, including touring productions that took her to China and Italy. One of her favorites was a revue called “Sin City Kitties” that played at Whiskey Pete’s in Primm 12 years ago. “There were only five of us onstage and it was a good time for me to develop as a dancer. That show really taught me how to be sexy and be the inner Mariah, the performer I wanted to be.”
For almost 11 years now, Rivera has been performing in the seminal revue “Fantasy” at Luxor. It might be a bit unusual for a Vegas showgirl and dancer to stay in one show for such a long time, but it’s more common in this show.
“Most of the girls don’t want to leave, ever,” she says. “We’re family. We’re friends. The only time people leave the show is to have babies. It’s most dancers’ dream job, so we’re not giving up those spots easily.”
The offstage camaraderie is a big part of why she loves performing in “Fantasy,” and the closeness of the show’s cast and crew makes it even more difficult to endure the current live entertainment shutdown on the Strip. But Rivera is working hard to stay prepared for the show’s return.
“All of our cast is ready,” she says. “The future is so unclear for all of us. It’s a scary time to be a performer or entertainer in Las Vegas and I’m sending my love to everybody in the industry.”
Listen to this and more on the Sun on the Strip, also available at Apple Podcasts.