As she makes her final preparations for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Miss Glory Pearl tells 21st Century Burlesque Magazine about what led a burlesque artist to try her hand at stand-up comedy…
Taking your clothes off in public for money does something to you. The assumption is that you possess confidence and self-love in buckets, and this allows you to break convention and publicly reveal your body to an audience. For a while I believed this too, and perhaps, once upon a time, when I was at my slimmest, fittest and strongest, it was true for me. But not any more. Regardless, for all the years stripping has been my job, no matter how good or bad I felt about my weight, my cellulite or the southwards trajectory of my rack, bills needed paying and so I got up on that stage and did my job.
On the days I felt rubbish, before stepping out I’d tell myself, ‘Well there’s nothing you can do about it now, so just get out there and do your best.’ As a mantra, it’s not a bad one. And I think what I really learned was to ignore my inner critic. Her whining, neurotic voice never left me, but I recognised her for the drama queen she was and carried on regardless. Pragmatism became my guiding light, and as I found myself surrounded by ever younger, ever hungrier performers, I quietly trod my path, feeling the weight of my sense of physical inadequacy grow.
And I was not alone. Many of the young and hungry would fill the dressing room with talk of plastic surgery, extreme diet and exercise regimes and how much they hated their [insert random body part here]. Unlike my peers when I began burlesquing, who came from all walks of life, finding burlesque either through watching it, a workshop, or traditional strip work, these young women were often straight out of dance or drama school, and determined to forge a career for themselves at any cost.
As one gets older, one’s sense of identity solidifies, settles and forms a beautiful golden hook from which we hang our accomplishments, but I do recall that twenties sense of feeling I needed to be all things to all people, and conform to someone else’s idea of what was ‘perfect’, to have any sense of achievement. Somewhere along the way, that changed for me, and once that ball started rolling, there was no stopping it.
I think I was vacuuming the day I had the idea for The Naked Stand Up. It was the title that came to me first: ‘The Naked Stand Up: Live and Undressed’. It made me laugh and it sounded like a great stepping stone for talking about the things that really bothered me, that were ridiculous, irritating and indeed saddening about being a woman in the first half of a shallow, image-obsessed twenty-first century.
“…what I really learned was to ignore my inner critic. Her whining, neurotic voice never left me, but I recognised her for the drama queen she was and carried on regardless.”
Appearing nude in front of an audience was not new for me, having done traditional strip work, and more recently appearing regularly in Sophia St. Villier’s London chapter of Naked Girls Reading. But it has always fascinated me, the effect nudity has on an audience, particularly in a performance where there is no fourth wall. It seems to create an intimacy and a closeness that costume interferes with. And I felt it would give me license to really share with the audience, matching my perceived physical vulnerability with an emotional and verbal one.
My biggest fear has always been that the show isn’t funny. But as I find myself heavier than I have been in a while due to injury, exposing my failing physical form feels pretty scary too. The moment before I step out on stage, completely naked but for a pair of heels and a hat, I ask myself, ‘Really? Are you really going to do this?’ but then I remind myself, ‘Well there’s nothing you can do about it now, so just get out there and do your best.’
Miss Glory Pearl’s first one-woman show, The Naked Stand Up, debuts in The Wee One at Just The Tonic at The Caves, 1st – 24th August (not 12th), 10.20pm. Click here for details…
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.