A couple of years ago, motivated by my interest in corsets and glamour and girliness and my curiosity about dancing, and encouraged by the irrepressible MrsC and her desire to vicariously live out her own frilly knicker desires, I signed up to a burlesque class run by the fabulous Busty La Belle.
I instantly had the biggest girl crush on Busty La Belle (now mostly known as Miss La Belle due to Facebook’s refusal to allow her to have Busty as a name). She was playful and funny and confident and her eyes sparkled and she was only not smiling when she was laughing and she laughs a lot, an infectious laugh that makes the world better. I instantly decided I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.
I enjoyed her classes so much. Her 6-week level 1 class, which focuses mainly on posing and strutting and looking confident, with some glove removal and a little bit of extra in the last week for those who want, was So Much Fun I did it three times in a row. Then she released a level 2 class, which included stocking and robe peels, small props like fans and boas, and bra peels. I did that and loved it too. Then she hosted a tassel twirling class, and yep, much to my own shock, I did that too! Then we were asked if we wanted to perform on stage and I said no. About half of my class went of to take the stage in Miss La Belle’s first graduation show, Frolic Lounge, and one or two have since gone on to be local starlets.
I didn’t perform because I didn’t start burlesque out of an unfulfilled desire for fame and stage time, but a desire to play with pretty things, but also to do something different and challenge myself.
And I did all of those things, and loved it. I discovered a whole new approach to body positivity that I could rave about for hours (and might in its own post one day when I’m feeling particularly in the mood for a feminist rant on society and beauty), thoroughly improved my relationship with my own body image, and improved my somewhat lacklustre social confidence. I discovered an entire community of lovely women and made a couple of great friends. I discovered these things called vintage and pin-up and rockabilly and realised they were the words to capture things that I already loved but didn’t know about. I took on my lifelong terror of photos by booking in for a pin-up photo shoot. I discovered a new love of burlesque and go to as many shows as I can afford, and enjoy them immensely.
Busty La Belle remains my favourite performer because she is beautiful and confident and witty and captivating. I was very very lucky that over time the woman behind Miss La Belle became a very special, very dear friend. She truly is a remarkable woman and being around her still makes me want to be her when I grow up. As I can’t be her when I grow up (grumble), I’m thinking about how I can learn from the things I love about her and apply that to myself. She makes me want to be a better person. She makes me want to be playful and open minded and confident and strong and happy and do it in red lipstick and curls. I’m not sure I’ll ever attain her stellar levels of confidence (of her mastery of faking it, whichever) but she gives me something to aspire to.
This year, I decided to relive the glory one more time and am repeating level 1 and level 2 simultaneously. And it is still So Much Fun! I still feel like a graceless duckling standing in adoration of Miss La Belle’s swanlike glory, but every time I go there I laugh, non stop, for an hour, listening to her hilarity and watching her amazingly expressive face run the gamut of every type of happiness, cheekiness, sauciness, and delight known to humankind. And who knows. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll decide to perform on stage, just once, just for the hell of it. Once you’ve taken your clothes off in public, surely other life challenge’s get easier!
If I do, you can be sure all the costuming details will go here! It’s amazing what you can make with a cheap bra, a glue gun, and a metric crap tonne of sequinned trim.
And in the meantime… I need a burlesque name! I’m open to suggestions!