In a new series, Isabelle L’Amour shares her experiences from her first two years in burlesque…
February 26th 2012 is a date that will stay with me for the rest of my life; the day that I made my burlesque debut in a tiny bar on the Isle of Wight, on an even tinier stage, with a group of friends who were equally as fed up as I was with ferry prices and timetables to go and see shows in London.
It wasn’t without its slip-ups; the place was so full I think we had well exceeded the maximum capacity for the venue, and on kicking off my first shoe it promptly flew into the feet of the front row, where it smashed a woman’s drink to smithereens. To this day I’ve not known who she was to apologise and buy her a new one, so, if you’re reading, sorry about that…
Little did I know at the time that, just under two years later, I would quit my string of various different jobs and travel all over the country, meeting countless talented people that I would later call my friends, not to mention run my fifth sell out show – The Blue Moon Revue – as a promoter. I’ve walked on Haute Couture catwalks, been on television, was first runner-up in the Ministry of Burlesque’s Battle of Burlesque in 2012, taught hen parties, been in newspapers… The list is endless, but I’ll spare you the self-indulgence.
So really, you could say my first year in burlesque has been quite the journey. As well as the glitter, rhinestones, and near euphoric moments on stage, there have also been friendships won and lost, and countless lessons learnt in love, business, and trust. It’s changed me as a person in more ways than I could have ever contemplated when I was lacing up my plastic boned corset from eBay in the Wight Rock toilet cubicle back in February 2012, but you know what? There is nothing in this world that I would rather do instead. (Apart from perhaps being Chris Hemsworth’s personal baby oil attendant, but that probably wouldn’t put me in the good books of Alex, my resident compere, manager and, most importantly, boyfriend.)
One of the most nerve-wracking things I think I had to do during my first year was telling my extended family that this was what I planned on doing for a living for the foreseeable future. The Isle of Wight is hardly a hotbed of recent cultural activity at the best of times, so I wasn’t sure they’d even know what burlesque was, let alone know what it entailed, but I really needn’t have worried, as at the next large family gathering I was inundated with praise from Cousins, Aunties and Uncles, one even saying, “You used to be just a pale, pasty waif of a thing, and now look at you – you’re a glamour puss!”
All the while my Mum and Dad sat in the corner, as they’ve become accustomed to doing, watching me flit around the room trying to talk to everyone, with proud looks on their faces. Well, my Mum looked proud; Dad was alternating from looking bored to keeping one eye on the buffet table. Sometimes I think he only offers to drive me to shows when he knows there’s a Burger King en-route…
I’ve been very lucky, as my parents are incredibly supportive; my mum makes a lot of my costumes and watches burlesque documentaries with me, and my Dad can usually be relied on to pick me up from the ferry port at 4.30 in the morning, with baby wipes in the glove box to scrub my makeup off with so I can be in bed that little bit quicker. I know that not all girls in the industry have this luxury; I know friends whose mothers have threatened to kick them out of the house for performing, and others with strings of short-lived or troubled relationships because the guy just didn’t understand why she did burlesque, so I count my blessings on a very regular basis.
The fact that Alex, my other half of almost three years, is not only supportive but regularly gets up on the stage with me is a great comfort and honour. Don’t worry, I’m not about to get all Oscar-worthy sentimental on you all; he knows how special he is, and his head is quite big enough already, thank you!
In most people’s eyes, I’m very much still considered a ‘newbie’, which is fine by me. I don’t claim to know it all or have any delusions of grandeur after this space of time, but I get a real buzz from looking at the list of places I’ve performed in the past year and looking at all the posters bearing my name or face on my wall. I’m getting there, and I know that the most exciting things are to come: I have my first international performance booked in Paris at the start of March 2014, and seeing as it is the bona fide home of L’Amour, I’m hoping it might be the first of many.
I’m going to share with you all what I hope is wisdom, and advice from my journey so far in these articles. I take a lot of joy in teaching and preaching my love of burlesque to others, so take a seat, put the kettle on, and we’ll have a good old chinwag.
Pass the biscuits, will you?
‘The South Coast’s Sweetheart’, burlesque performer Isabelle L’Amour, 23, from the Isle of Wight, has been performing for almost two years all over the country. From humble beginnings, she has founded her own highly acclaimed Burlesque and Cabaret show, The Blue Moon Revue, which has now travelled away from its home on the Isle of Wight and has regular shows in Guildford. Her performance style pays tribute to the great glamour icons of the 1950’s, such as her ultimate inspiration Marilyn Monroe, but also takes the best of the modern music world too, using music from Jessie J, Christina Aguilera, and even Aerosmith.
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.