At the beginning of the year I was treated to a private burlesque performance as a special birthday treat. What was originally intended as a prequel to the event resulted in stealing the entire show and primed the elite few I had invited, leaving them reeling for the rest of the night. The performer (who I shall call Ruby Woo after her favourite shade of Mac lipstick, as she prefers to remain anonymous) was a strikingly beautiful and vivacious redhead. She sashayed into the candlelit room to a sensual 50s number and titillated my guests, who were mostly all experiencing burlesque for the first time.
After the performance each female guest conveyed their admiration of Ruby to each other and their envious compliments weren't just limited to the superficial. They (myself included) were overwhelmed by Ruby's confidence and wanted to know how to emulate it for themselves.
Of course this desire to be a more sensual woman raised a lot of questions. Was this just due to theatricality? Can amplifying the sexy streak in your persona really shed your insecurities? I decided to find out by talking to Ruby herself.
Dirty Knickers: How do you rehearse, and how much of your performance is improvised?
Ruby Woo: I listen to the song(s) over and over again and pick out the really fun parts which I try to incorporate a shimmy, butt shake or boob wiggle to! Apart from that I love to be in the moment and express myself through the movements. I don't like super choreographed routines because its too forced and loses the magic.
DK: Do you ever get nervous before you perform? And if so, how do you combat that?RW: I get "good nerves". I find it really exciting rather than daunting. I think because you're all dolled up and are able to show bits you like and hide things you don't like its a real thrill to get up there and shimmy about. Sometimes a stiff drink helps too! At the shows one of the girls used to chant "everybody wants to fuck me, everybody wants to fuck me" over and over which I adopted a few times! It's good to get in character and let go.
RW: In the burlesque world I love Immodesty Blaize. I saw her headlining the first show I ever went to and have followed her career over the years. I am inspired by so many women and have a lot of girl crushes.
DK: What are your must-have items for completing your look?RW: Well I certainly wouldn't feel ready for burlesque without bright red lipstick. I love MAC's Ruby Woo and Russian Red and of course black eyeliner flicks. I also love all the pomp and flamboyance, I don't usually do much with my hair but I love trying out vintage styles and adding feathers or a bow. Getting ready is an opportunity to extend into a much more grand version of yourself .
DK: If you could name one thing which makes a woman sexy, what would it be?RW: Confidence is the first word that springs to mind but I don't want to sound wanky. Some women's confidence can be totally unsexy. I think it can be a combination of things and can even be just a moment like the way she flicks her hair or raises her brow. I think its different for every woman and for every beholder. Its definitely a feeling and an energy rather than a thing.
DK: A lot of women have trouble combining glamour with sexiness. What advice would you give to women who want to find this balance which you maintain so well?RW: I think its about attitude. Like I was saying before about sexiness being a feeling and an energy, so thats whether you're dolled up to the nines or just hanging out in your pj's. Have you ever got all dressed up but not felt like going out and you just kinda plod along anyway and go through the motions? I think glamour and sexiness can only go together when theres the feeling and energy, attitude, confidence and a bit of sassiness in the background.
DK: Are there any local burlesque nights which you can recommend? Or perhaps you’re considering putting one on yourself?RW: Having lived in Bristol for almost three years I'm totally out of the loop with Cardiff events, here there is The Hoochie Coochie Kabaret which is a big big show. I'm thinking of starting another night up so watch this space!
Ruby's approach to life is enlightening as it is encouraging: feeling sexy is about being bold in an understated way which is truly your own. It's about amplifying that streak of your personality which you mainly keep hidden and demonstrating your belief in yourself through humour, glamour and subtlety. If we all implemented this hint of burlesque to our attitudes we would soon ebb away at our inner critic, which is the only critic who matters and often is the only one who really exists.
Picture source: Female First