“Burlesque has the ability to transform our thinking about what we should look like.”

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According to Sapphire Rox, the creator of Suffolk-based burlesque outfit Agent Burlieque, that is.

The gorgeous Sapphire isn’t afraid to speak her mind, championing the cause of the plus size woman and bringing the delicious fun and freedom of burlesque to the East Anglian audience. I caught up with Sapphire and asked her to tell me more.

For those of us who might not know, what is burlesque about?

“Burlesque has many different faces. Mainly it’s an art form used to express a theme along with feminity; done well it is a tantalising expression of the female (and more regularly male) form.

“At Agent Burlieque we like to work with performers who have highly expressive themes which have audiences on the edge of their seats. Burlesque appeals to women on a grand scale as it inspires and empowers them.”

What was it that got you fired up to start your own troupe?

“I’m a Londoner born and bred and moving to Suffolk to raise my young family meant that I was leaving the creative scene in London.

“I expected  Suffolk tohave an established burlesque scene and was blown away when I couldn’t find burlesque at London standard. I took it upon myself to do something about it, and that’s how Agent Burlieque started. We’re a burlesque troupe and also a booking agent, an events company that holds hen nights and workshops.”

The outfits are amazing – where do you get them from?

“Thank you! Each performer carefully selects costumes that reflect the themes of their acts; and of course they need to be easily removable! We all scout high and low for pieces, in vintage markets and car boot fairs, burlesque swap shops and high street stores. Then we customise! Burly girls are known to stay up all night carefully rhinestoning and glitzing up outfits, trimming with beads and making props by hand.”

Agent Burlieque is made up of women from many backgrounds – can you tell us a bit about them?

“The core troupe of Agent Burlieque changes, as does the burlesque scene. We have around 40 performers from all different walks of life, most of them with day jobs. We currently have a call centre worker, a hairdresser, a fire fighter, a tattoo artist, a mum, a prison officer and a stay at home father!”

Let’s be honest – women who are big, curvy or fat are derided constantly in the media at the moment. Do you think that burlesque can help a bigger woman feel more confident in a fat-phobic world?

“Isn’t it terrible? That we as humans are made to feel constantly terrible about ourselves? And it’s not about being different; we all know size 16 is average in the UK and yet we are made to feel singled out; that we are to be ashamed of our body shape. Burlesque fights that to the very core. The following burlesque has I think is largely down to the sheer love of the human body and the empowerment found by both men and women when they watch burlesque.

“Burlesque has the ability to transform current thinking about body shape and what we should look like.”

What’s your take on the way fat people are bullied by the media?

“You know I really am up for celebrating curves, but also thin people, gay men, everyone. None of us should feel ashamed of who we are simply because the advertising agencies want to make a mint out of us. To be ashamed gives the diet, media and fashion industries a financial gain.

“There is a different way to live and that is to accept and celebrate who you are as an individual; and sometimes it can be hard to do that. But find burlesque and you will find you are happy just the way you are.

“I think it is the only industry I know of that can positively transform the media’s harmful message about the female form.  After shows both men and women thank me for bringing them peace…peace that they are just right however and whoever they are.”

Do you have any advice for curvy girls on looking and feeling fabulous?

“Yes!! Show it off! Be confident in the way you dress, don’t hide. Put your red lippy on, do your hair, wear high-waisted skirts and show of that backside! Put on your heels when you go out and paint a ‘look at me’ expression on your face.

“We’ve been told by the media that people only want to look at us when we are thin and model like, but we want to look at them because they are confident and happy in themselves, not because they are thin.

“Once you start showing off your curves instead of hiding them under loose clothes you will also attract the positive attention you deserve and you’ll be sending out the positive message to other curvy people that curves are sexy!”

Lastly – do you have any plans for performances in Essex, especially Chelmsford? Would you be available for booking in the area?

“We are due to perform all over Essex and would very much like to do a show in Chelmsford soon.

“As well as our shows, burlesque hen nights and workshops we also perform at birthday parties, weddings, festivals, vintage fairs, pubs, clubs and bars.”

If you would like to know more about booking Agent Burlieque for an event or would like to know about training or performing please visit www.agentburlieque.com

NB: This interview was scheduled to appear in the March issue of Inspired Essex magazine, but as that didn’t get published, I didn’t want it to go to waste!

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10 Comments

Filed under Fashion, Viva Voluptuous

10 responses to ““Burlesque has the ability to transform our thinking about what we should look like.”

  1. Hooray! I could bang on all day about the negative impact of advertising etc, and you just summed it all up nicely in a couple of paragraphs. This is such an important message, and we all have a right to be happy and love ourselves. Thank you!
    Charlotte
    x

  2. The credit goes to Sapphire Rox…hopefully her wise words will leave a few people feeling a bit happier about themselves.

  3. Pingback: Tails of a Bottom Filled Pit | A fabulous interview with the Madame of Agent Burlieque on Curves

  4. What I love about burlesque (and belly dancing) is that it’s about celebrating feminity (and, although I have never seen a male burlesque dancer, I guess masculinity too!) – celebrating the female form, instead of demonising it. Anything that helps you feel great about yourself, whatever ‘size’ you are is awesome. Thanks for posting this Sarah. x

  5. Cyn

    It’s really too bad that women feel that objectifying themselves is positive in any way. Yes, fat girls can strip too… That doesn’t mean they should! Have some respect for yourself. Burlesque is a joke! Sad women use it to “empower themselves” when really they are just looking for validation and are selling themselves short thinking they have to show their tits to get it. I have no respect for women who do burlesque or in any way compromise the equality women have achieved so far by reducing us, once again, to simply images displayed for titillation. Disgusting.

    • Aimee Davey

      I’ve just attended a burlesque course, run by Sapphire Rox. It was attended by about 10 women, none of whom had performed burlesque before. We learned on our first day what the course would entail and that at the end we would be performing out own act which we had invented ourselves individually. Well we were all completely terrified. Of course all women are body conscious we cant help it its in our nature and we were all different ages and sizes of women. We learned what burlesque was really about, and Sapphire helped to dispel any myths and legends, we were introduced to other professionals in the industry with their own knowledge and experiences, which we very interesting and at times eye opening as well as very amusing. As the weeks progressed we all found we were all improving in our confidence, helping each other with ideas and moves. At the end of the course just as Sapphire said, would happen- put on a ticketed event and each in turn performed our own individual act, on a stage in front of a crowd of about 60 people. We absolutely loved it, it was so much fun, we were performing for ourselves, not for anyone else. some were beautiful and teasing and some were very funny. (I myself performed in an overall with curlers in, rubber gloves on and falling down stockings which were baggy round my ankles ! and received an amazing round of applause) Since the end of the course we have all become very good friends and we cant wait to perform again. We are talking about our next acts, and even some of us doing a duo act. One of the ladies still talks about how she has gained in confidence in all areas applying the things learned in the course to her every day life.

      • Thank you so much, Aimee. It’s brilliant to hear that you had such a fabulous time, and it’s boosted your confidence too! While Cyn is perfectly entitled to her opinion, I think burlesque sounds like great fun, just dressing up and dancing, so much more than tacky stripping. I doubt that Dita von Teese feels exploited or oppressed…

  6. cyn

    I didn’t say anything about feeling exploited or oppressed… but the only thing Dita is good for is getting naked. How is that something to be PROUD of… how is that deserving of ANY respect? She validates the idea that women are meant to be viewed as objects to be looked at. I throw up in my mouth a little every time someone uses the word “classy” to describe her. I find it sad that women EVER feel that they need to take off their clothes to feel validated; they glue sequins to their nipples and put time and energy into a dance centered around “revealing” their bodies to an audience and hoping for applause and that is heartbreaking. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if women felt empowered by volunteering at a battered women’s shelter or food kitchen? Or if they felt empowered by taking a kickboxing or self defense class… Or validated by helping a child to read? There are so many options for improving ourselves and being better women! Burlesque is detrimental to the equality women continue to be denied; not only are you allowing yourselves to be seen as purely sexual objects to be viewed for enjoyment, you are encouraging it… You are doing it to yourselves! “You can see our tits but only if we get to dress up and make up our own dances and design our own costumes!” No, you aren’t strippers because you’ve demanded the right to accessorize and all the girls get to play… not just the skinny ones! Seriously? I could keep going but I’m fully aware that I’m wasting my time.

  7. Can’t they do both, though? And do you have an issue with actresses, cabaret, ballet danders, gymnasts, belly dancers…they all dress up to some extent and don’t all wear very much. And the Agent Burleique troupe has MEN in it, too. Do all burlesque dancers show their tits, as you put it? I don’t think they do, but I’m no expert.

  8. cyn

    Can they do both? Sure. I’m sure there are strippers who rescue puppies or prostitutes that give to charity. People can do both positive and negative things with their lives. I see burlesque has a huge negative and a roadblock to equality for women. I’m aware that men do it too… which just makes me laugh. Those boys want to be seen as sexy too, however most men won’t allow themselves to be objectified in that way. That is why women will never enjoy the respect and privilege awarded to the male gender. We allow, even encourage, others to look at us and desire us and we find our value in that. Yes, I take issue with actresses who perform gratuitous nude/sex scenes. Ballet dancers, gymnasts and belly dancers all remain clothed and the focus is on the dance or routine. I’ve never seen a cabaret performance so I can’t comment on that. But I take issue with strippers, porn actresses, burlesque dancers, and prostitutes… anyone who furthers the idea that women’s nudity is for the enjoyment of others. No, I have heard that not all burlesque dancers show their tits… I applaud those who don’t!

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