International Women’s Day: the international woman who inspires me

We’re at Euston train station, London. Your pain is so severe we’ve requested assistance to transport us through the bustle. They take one look at you – young, gorgeous – and claim there is no transport available. It will be a struggle for me to carry all our luggage, but we’ll manage because we have no choice. You pull a folding walking stick from your handbag.

Shamefaced, they decide assistance is available after all.

My best friend suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Here she is:

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We first met at a burlesque class in Liverpool. I’ve never been much of a girl’s girl, so this incredibly hot human not only acknowledging me, but actively pursuing conversation, immediately had my back up. Why was she interested in me? On noting her accent I declared my weakness for Aussie blokes, before lamenting the standard of the 100% of Aussie blokes I had dated (3 – all c*nts, and not in the banterous Aussie sense).

We became friends.

Like me, you’ve probably never heard of EDS. Here’s what the NHS have to say about it:

‘Ehlers–Danlos syndromes (EDS) are a group of genetic connective tissue disorders… For some, the condition is relatively mild, while for others their symptoms can be disabling. Some of the rare severe types can be life-threatening.’

Symptoms manifest themselves in chronic pain, dislocations, digestive problems and many, many other issues.

From my view, it means she breaks like a China doll. This is her again, performing this time:

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EDS isn’t particular about when it strikes. A rib can dislocate in a steel-boned corset, or simply during sleep (pssst – she snores really loudly. I was delighted to have finally discovered her flaw).

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As an EDS suffer, there are days on end when interaction with the outside world is reduced to Facebook – if you’re lucky enough to have working fingers – or the seagulls who perch at your window. That henna business you wanted to launch and the costumes you planned to sew? Yeah, not gonna happen today.

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When doctors hear hooves they think horses, but the rarity of EDS means it’s often misdiagnosed as more obvious conditions – hence EDS sufferers likening themselves to zebras. Image by ChrisMPhotos81.

It’s painful hearing someone you love refer to themselves as a cripple. When pain has driven them to the depths of despair, the words to make it better don’t exist.

This person is, in effect, grieving for the loss of their mobility; this fiercely independent soul, who sometimes can’t even brush her own hair. She recently chopped off that lovely hair.

Feelings about the wheelchair range from embarrassment to relief at simply being able to experience fresh air. I try to make her laugh by singing Weird Al and Limp Bizcit songs as we whizz along.

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My fruity sis: you are so much more than your disability. You are the only person who will watch back-to-back documentaries about serial killers with me, and be enthused about Chilling Photos of Murder Victims Taken by Their Killers. You are humble, loyal and loving. You are someone who will stop the car on a trip back to Oz just to photograph some Big Things for me.

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The Big Marlin made my day

It’s hard watching you suffer with your family on the other side of the planet. I hope you know how many people love you on this (admittedly crappier – no Big Things, or Kylie, or blokes with Aussie accents) side just as much.

You may be ashamed of your walking stick, but you are every bit as strong and beautiful as you were without it.

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Little Peaches is a comedy burlesque performer and co-producer of The Secret Circus. Keep up to date with upcoming performances via Facebook and Twitter

 

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I finally did it: my first burlesque solo!

Phew! What a manic ten days. A trip to France, Switzerland and Italy, two performances in Liverpool, before rushing off to Cardiff to watch Meilyr Jones perform (again).

Now that I’ve had time to reflect, I want to tell you about Lemon Tart‘s first EVER solo burlesque performance, which took place at the Jazzesque Showcase in the Buyers Club, Liverpool.

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Being a writer by trade, I’m big on burlesque which demonstrates strong storytelling. For me, an act needs specific plot points which extend beyond ‘remove gloves/dress/bra’. No matter how visually pleasing the performer, I will inevitably get bored without a quirky story and a few laughs.

I started toying with the idea for my act back in August. A lifelong fan of fairies, I’d lusted over an extremely pricey pair of fairy wings at Green Man festival and after a few too many shots I finally caved. It was the perfect excuse!

I sat in my tent mulling it over with my friend Jonny, who suggested the song ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ by Björk  – GENIUS. An idea was born. Wouldn’t it be great if the tooth fairy fell in love?

I hadn’t shown my act to a soul before the big night, which I predicted would be a grave mistake. Although I’m reasonably confident in my acting skills and comedic ideas, the thought of showing anyone whilst not onstage made my blood run cold.  My fruity sister Little Peaches got a sneak peek that very morning, but as predicted, I fell to pieces.

There was just one thing for it – I would hope for the best.

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Mandatory backstage selfie

Being first and foremost a comedy writer, humour was a must.

On the big night my pal Mike stepped in (i.e. was bullied into) the role of a bloke suffering from toothache. He did a fantastic job of setting the scene by wandering onstage gesturing at his toothache, before knocking himself out cold with paracetamol and wine.

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Image by AB Photography

To make the tooth fairy suited to an adult audience, I wandered onstage drunk (partly acting, partly thanks to three glasses of wine for courage), clutching a bottle of 22% alc. Listerine.

Other props included a giant sparkly tooth brush I used as a magic wand, and chocolate coins to chuck into the audience.

During the act I became flustered and forgot SO MANY THINGS.  My timing went to hell, and I was so eager to do my big reveal – teeth falling out of my bra – that I whipped it off far too early – WHY ARE YOU TAKING YOUR BRA OFF PUT IT BACK ON RIGHT NOW!!?!!

Yep, things went wrong. But you know what? I bloody did it.

I got on that stage and I carried on until the end. My bra didn’t get caught in my hair, I didn’t slip on my skirt. The audience pissed themselves when I used a white g-string to floss my teeth (and other regions). I came alive on that stage.

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Image by AB Photography

Afterwards, I was still shaking as strangers congratulated me. One person said she really appreciated the small touches – glitter “fairy dust” falling out of my opera gloves – which meant a lot.

It was only later that I realised I FORGOT MY BLOODY FAIRY WINGS. Raging!

There are plenty of things I can improve for next time, but I’m proud that as someone with such low confidence I actually did it. It felt great standing up there practically in the nuddy, proving that women of all shapes and sizes can be creative, witty and beautiful.

Love and Lemons,

Lowri XOXO

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Image by AB Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How a Flirty Photoshoot Improved my Confidence

A couple of years ago, never would I have considered getting my kit off onstage or in front of a camera. I would literally rather make love to a cactus.

I’ve become somewhat desensitised to topless women over the past couple of years thanks to having them shoved in my face whether I like it or not.

I felt pretty having had my hair and makeup done professionally – that was, until my friend Rachael emerged after her makeover looking a right bird.

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As an actress, Rachael knows how to rock the camera. I wasn’t nervous about getting my kit off, but I was bricking it about the actual posing. I HATE photos. I don’t do seductive or sensual, it’s either smiling or no photo. I was literally shaking with nerves despite the glass of fizz and the photographer had to help me fasten my suspender belt.

The shoot was less terrifying than I’d expected. The photographer told me exactly where to place each limb, so I slowly relaxed.

Going back to view the 40 or so photos a week later was nerve racking. What if I was the exception to the rule and they really couldn’t make me look attractive/thinner/etc etc?

Some were terrible. Of the 11 I chose, I still wasn’t keen on them all. But I blown away by these two in particular:

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A few others were nice too, although they have a vague brothel vibe.

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I was so, so excited to get home and post the photos onto Facebook. I never thought I could look so nice.

For the most part, comments were positive. It was a huge confidence boost hearing how lovely I looked.

But by the next morning, I was contemplating taking them all down because of messages like ‘I just wanna take those god damn tassels off your nipples and lick them crazy!!’

Maybe I was asking for it by posting them. Becoming interested in burlesque has made me very liberal towards bare skin, but despite that I’m actually a right prude and too polite to tell anyone they’ve offended me in case I hurt their feelings.

People can appreciate my photos, but that doesn’t mean they’re entitled to me.

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People also commented that they were unprofessional and I would never be able to write for children’s television. My answer to that is: right now, I do not write for children’s television. Maybe I’ll get there someday, but I’m not going to avoid doing things I want to do now on the off-chance I’ll do something else great in the future.

An old (male) friend unintentionally upset me by asking what I got out of posting the photos online. Wouldn’t keeping them for myself have “fulfilled” my hobby?

I am personally not that interested in seeing them, therefore I’m not that arsed. You’re free to do as you please with your own Facebook. I appreciate that it’s part of what make you a more “free” spirit than most women… you seem to give the impression that you want other people to validate what you do, and am curious as to why.

Wasn’t it enough for me to know in my heart of hearts that I looked good? He was like a dog with a bone and I felt terrible about myself. Was everybody secretly calling me a slut? Or snickering about the airbrushing and how disappointing I looked in person?

After a pep talk from a friend, I decided: screw them. They weren’t there to see the 30 photos where I looked like a beached whale and wanted to die of shame.

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I am proud of my photos. I did something that scared me and felt empowered. I am 24 years old and probably not going to look this good again, so why should I hide my body? Why are women – who make up 50% of the global population – made to feel like their bodies are something to be ashamed of?

Showing off my figure doesn’t mean that I’m promiscuous and welcome creepy comments. It means that I can celebrate myself despite my flaws, and the only thing I would go back and change is to put a smile on my face – because regardless of spots, stretchmarks or cellulite – everybody is beautiful with a smile.

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Burlesque & Bubbly

Burlesque & Bubbly is your tasteful alternative to the conventional hen party, all powder pink and rosé champagne to match your lipstick. Rather than just getting trashed, it’s an opportunity to learn flirty techniques, shake your tail feathers and become a strong empowered woman who don’t need no man (unless you’re the bride to be – don’t dump him on my account).

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Hosted by professional dancer/nutcase Rachael Mellor and based in Fonseca’s at the heart of Liverpool’s gay town on Stanley St, it’s apt that her sessions should be sign posted with rainbows.

Guests are encouraged to dress up in all their Ann Summers finery (not the crotchless pants) and will inevitably flap about tightening corsets (‘TIGHTER!!!’) and applying more of just about everything. It felt a bit like the girly sleepover I never had because nobody wanted to be my mate, and many bosoms were squeezed in admiration._DSC9721 copyThe event is tucked away in a cosy curtained basement away from prying eyes. After being greeted with a glass of fizz the hens prepare a special sentimental keepsake for the bride. Then it’s on to an activity to devise your own sassy burlesque persona involving the name of a first pet (mine was a cat called Ben so it didn’t really work).

cerdiau.jpgThe dance lesson involves learning five key burlesque techniques which are incorporated into a routine in which the bride takes centre stage. The song comes from the film Burlesque and the routine is simple, but champagne makes most people tipsy so they won’t notice you being rubbish anyway.

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Rachael and our gorgeous Aussie bride Barbie Von Possum who definitely should have been named Kylie Down Under.

Afterwards hens receive three glasses of wine each, and the opportunity to play with Rachael’s box of props so Facebook can see just how fit you can be and why on earth didn’t they see it before?

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I’d never been to a hen party before and literally lower my voice to utter the word ‘penis’, so the thought of willy straws, willy piñatas and probably an actual well-oiled willy had me a bit scared. However, this was a lovely alternative to the traditional last night as a free woman.

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received_10156532930965374It’s a safe environment to explore your sexuality away from the prying eyes of strange men, except for barman Niall who’s a bit strange in that he wasn’t paying any of us attention. Gobshite.

It also isn’t strictly for hen parties. Finally turning 18 or 80? Just want to get together with the girls? Divorce finalised? It’s all good – various styles and themes are adaptable to your shindig.

Regular readers already know my take on burlesque; it’s not about what flesh you’re flashing, but what you aren’t. It’s about expressing another side to your personality through narrative and costume, and propping other women up with admiration and encouragement. It’s about being proud to expose your vulnerabilities.

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Rachael also runs weekly Jazz-Esque classes which fuse jazz routines and burlesque techniques. She’s a boss teacher and I’ve grown to consider her a close pal. She recognises that it’s all in good fun; we aren’t trained dancers and some of us aren’t comfortable getting our knockers out (as you can tell, I am!). Beginners classes start in March.

kairiEasy going and an all-round good egg, Rachael is supportive even when you’re rubbish and always has a massive grin. I know we’re biased, but Burlesque & Bubbly is a genuinely great event. There’s no penis paraphernalia in sight, and you might even learn a few moves to impress potential roosters. You’re guaranteed a clucking good time (sorry).

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Photography by Mina Bihi

Meet my Jazzesque sisters!

I’ve been part of the Liverpool-based Jazzesque troupe for around a year now. A fusion of jazz and burlesque dance, we have performed at various variety and burlesque events.

Now there’s little more than a week to go until we give our take on the Postmodern Jukebox cover of Seven Nation Army, and most of us go down to tassels for the first time! We’ll kick off the Valentine’s festivities at The Secret Circus on February 13th and the Richmond hotel the next day.

Then in March there’s not one but TWO performances at Threshold Festival, and in June a showcase of all our work including debut solos.

Time you found out who the birds behind the boobs are, no?

 Scarlett Adelaide

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Meet Scarlett Adelaide, AKA Mandy. Scarlett represents her most notable, asset whilst Adelaide was the Christian name of her great aunt, also a dancer in the 40s.

An optical assistant, Mandy is the one who makes you stare at the hot air balloon then blows in your face like the monster she is and has heard her fair share of jokes about blowing old geezers in the dark.

Mandy is also an experienced alt model and has done shoots ranging from latex to pin-up for the likes of Lindy’s Boutique.

She has the sweetest, softest Scouse accent I’ve ever heard and almost makes wools sound sexy.

She loves a good rabbit (not that kind, ya filthy animal) and her big-eared baby is called Heisenberg. Her confidence has grown so much over the past months and I can’t wait for her Jessica Rabbit inspired act!

 

Zoe LaSparkle 

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Meet our little French Fancy! Justine, i.e. Zoe LaSparkle studied English at the University of Leeds, and was so good at it she never left the country.

Now a background actress, her latest project was Peaky Blinders.

Animal lover Justine also dabbles in photography and probably enjoys the Eiffel Tower (not to be confused with being Eiffel Towered) and baguettes.

 

Little Peaches 

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Meet Little Peaches, all the way from Down Under.

Model and burlesque performer Kairi trained and competed as an Irish dancer after seeing a display on St Paddy’s Day when she was five (Aus has a decent scene – who knew?)
This talented possum has designed and made costumes, sets and props for theatre and film since the age of 16 and a film she made costumes for was actually short listed for the Cannes Film Festival.

She even makes steel-boned corsets, so no worries if she ever loses the model bod!

A serious medical diagnosis encouraged her to grip life by the bollocks and sign up for burlesque classes.

She got her start in the The Silk Stockings, an Aussie burlesque troupe. She was known as the clumsy awkward one and once kicked a shoe into someone’s dinner – they thought it was part of the act and lapped it up.

One of her most notable career moments involves being the support act for world renowned DJ Freq Nasty; she and a fellow dancer performed a duo in mud from a nearby croc infested swamp – our Kairi is dead exotic.

In her spare time you’ll find her scouring Camden market, often wearing her own reworked vintage outfits.

She’s allergic to practically everything, including latex (soz boys).

No, she doesn’t know Kylie.

Kairi is cute as a button and I’m happy she’s my neighbour (practically), and life will be a little less peachy when she goes away to become a henna artist and wife-to-be in Brighton after a whirlwind romance. Phew!

 Sassy Violette

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Sassy Violette is a long time party girl and can-can queen. The phrase YOLO was probably invented for Teena, an ex punk rocker who had a full mohawk before shaving it off entirely and still wears a Levi’s 501 jacket she’s owned since 1981.

She started playing rugby aged 47 and loves her snowboarding but has yet to gain a certificate because she’s not so good at it. She’s set her house on fire twice and now has her eye on learning to fire dance. Her greatest ambition is to see the Aurora Borealis and she’ll never leave the house without factor 50 on her face (ginger person probs).

Our Teena has seen it all so is a wise but young at heart owl, although if any of us were gonna end up in jail I reckon it would still be her. However, she’s a right good egg and recently popped down to Calais to help those folks in need – nice one Teena!

 

Venus Von Trix

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Venus Von Trix AKA Lydia is an actor, dancer and performance artist who loves to create and devise new material, collaborating recently with Paperwork Theatre company to create Shortcut to Bliss.

A free spirit with a chaotic past, she’s ‘just tumbling through this amazing and overwhelming journey of self discovery’.

She has a long haired ginger Chihuahua called Coco and thinks men look fabulous in guyliner and glitter. She has a rubber fetish and loves latex.

In March she’ll be running 10k obstacle race Chain Runner whilst chained to another runner and then to work American summer camp.

When there’s time she loves to bake and make jams/pickles.

She loves nature and being outdoors away from the madness, it soothes the introvert in her.

She doesn’t really sit still and is a member of fight club, shhhh.

Venus has an intergalactic feel, living with captain Kronos somewhere between a black hole and the Andromeda galaxy. Venus is forever shaking her pulsar nipple tassels, bringing a little sparkle to dark matter!

Alex Spragg

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Alex, or Spraggs, is like Courtney Love’s better looking sister and from BOLTON!!! Yay!! (Nope there’s no way to make that sound good, sorry.)

A politics student who now hates politics, she did a year at the University of Bristol but wasn’t impressed by the cast of Made in Chelsea swanning about.

She loves cheese, punk and thinks 2pm in an early morning. My favourite memory involves us trying to awaken the spirits with an ouija board and Spraggs being quite socially awkward with it.

Leather Lacey 

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Pint-sized Jemima is the youngest member of our troop. The name Leather Lacey is inspired by a Stevie Nicks song, so she has pretty good taste considering she’d be forgiven for still liking 1D.

She loves mod fashion and Fred Perry, funk, every kind of tea and fringes, so her fave pinup is obv Bette Paige.

Her entire house is pinup themed with a rockabilly style kitchen diner.

She says ‘fabulous’ and ‘snazzy’ far too much, although she is both fabulous and snazzy so gets away with it.

Her modelling alter ego is Jacky Daniels.

She loves a drop of gin, probably because she hasn’t had enough time for a bad experience.

 

Alluring Alice

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Ally the model by day, Alluring Alice who’ll take you to Wonderland by night.

You’ll often find Ally strutting about on stilts and covered from head to toe in body paint at events.

 

Ruby Von Strudel

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Nicola is one of our newest recruits. She studied Creative & Performing Arts at university and it was there she began researching burlesque purely for her own needs as opposed to an assignment set by a subject tutor/lecturer after coming across it while studying dance and choreography in my first unit.
More interested in researching burlesque than an assignment set by a tutor, she became fascinated having watched Dita Von Teese’s martini glass routine online.
She watched a burlesque show at the Bluecoat staged as part of Dadafest, a festival run by those with disabilities. It included Diva Hollywood who began performing 10 years ago after being diagnosed with MS, and she became well & truly bitten by the burlesque bug.
She came across Jazz-Esque and Ruby Von Strudel was born. Dealing with issues about body confidence and self-esteem via counselling, she credits Jazzesque for making a significant contribution. She herself is the Group Facilitator for a self-injury support group.
Her burlesque inspirations include Barbara Stanwyck in ‘Lady of Burlesque’ and Marilyn Monroe in ‘Ladies of the Chorus’.

 

Meg McFarlane

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Meg LOVES the forties when all that good stuff like Slinkys and WW2 happened.

On the subject of the forties, did you know rationing laws ordered the trimming of beachwear fabric by 10 percent, so designers introduced two-piece suits that exposed the midriff but covered the navel. Although the shrinking swimsuits were controversial among mainstream Americans, starlets and beach vacationing teenagers embraced the original version of the bikini.

Meg is an actor but prefers directing because she’s really quite bossy (her words not mine). She swears like a sailor but only because she’s so passionate about things/lacks self control.

She’s a film geek with a quote for every situation, especially Tarantino’s because most of them are full of swearing.

She loves dancing although her body disagrees.

‘In my head I’m like ginger Rogers. ..the outside just isn’t the case.’ Shut up Meg.

Ferrero Rochelle

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Rachael is our teacher and reminds me of a demented fairy.

Graduating with a degree in Dance Drama and Physical Theatre, she pursued a career in all three arts forms; ranging from touring pantomimes, dance shows covering a range of styles, and educational children’s theatre.

Ferrero Rochelle is both a performer and a choreographer. She runs her own company Rachael Mellor Dance, first and foremost teaching Jazz-Esque to “a wonderful and inspiring group of women” (aw, we know).

She has big plans for the dance troop this year as well as beginners classes for anyone who wants to be part of the fabulous Jazz-Esque gang. 

Then there’s the contemporary dance where girls probably let out their inner Bush (Kate! You are just filthy today!), first wedding dances and hen parties.

Besides all that, she’s a film and television background actress and hosts princess parties as Elsa and was an entertainment host on the Disney Cruise Line. WHY wasn’t Elsa around to drown yet?

She also cooks a mean breakfast at 81 Renshaw (please only stalk if you plan on killing Elsa).

She loves a good flapper dress, Audrey and Marilyn.

 

And here are some retired sisters that we all miss…

Naffrodite

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Nobody quite knows who Naffrodite is. Reverse drag queen? Oedepian Freudian Frankenstein? Hostess of Romantic Horrors?

I tend to think of Frankii as one of the “movers and shakers” of Liverpool who has her mitts in many pots. She’s a compère and singer, hair stylist and performance artist, life model and event organiser.

Last year she shaved her head in aid of CALM in memory of a pal.

Jacqui Bevington

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What I love most about Jacqui is she’ll try absolutely everything once, be it burlesque or drum circles or fire dancing. It just isn’t the same without her.

Kayleigh Jayde

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It was short lived but we still consider her a sister. Good luck with your contemporary dancing!

Selina Dunne

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Selina is a proud mumma but also a twin, and I still hold out hope they’ll do a Cheeky Girls duet.

And finally, it’s me!

Lula Limonada

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It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that my solo ‘When Life Gives You Lemons’ involves a cross between my fave fruit and that Katy Perry bra.

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Yeehaw!