According to Sapphire Rox, the creator of Suffolk-based burlesque outfit Agent Burlieque, Burlesque can transform our vision of ourselves, bringing confidence and an inner sparkle to anyone who takes part – as well as those who watch the group’s fantastic cabarets and performances.
You can find out for yourself if you’re in Suffolk around 6th and 7th December – the Christmas Burlesque Cabaret is hitting the town and painting it unashamedly glitzy. Starring the internationally acclaimed Hot Cake Kitty and hosted by songstress extraordinaire Lili La Scala and more, the show will be full of Christmas glamour and celebration.
I spoke to Sapphire about why she thinks burlesque is such a fabulous show both for the entertainers and the audience.
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 femininity; done well it is a tantalising expression of the female and sometimes male form.
“At Agent Burlieque we like to work with highly expressive performers who can captivate audiences and keep them 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, but I moved to Suffolk to raise my young family and I had to leave the creative scene in London behind.
“I expected Suffolk to have an established burlesque scene and was blown away when I couldn’t find anything like 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. Do you really think that burlesque can help a bigger woman feel more confident in a fat-phobic world?
“I think it’s 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 the average woman’s size in the UK and yet women of this size and bigger are singled out and encouraged 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!”