Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Burlesque Performers of the South West - Final Part

Here, in the third and final part of our 'Burlesque Performers of the South West Profiling' we are taking a look at the A-mazing Diva Hollywood.  We may have cheated a little here as Diva is actually from the North West, but we’ve seen her perform a few times at the fabulous Coco Boudoir in Bath and we just had to include her!

Photo by Steve Angstrom

Diva Hollywood, "evokes the sultry sirens of Hollywood's classic films, with her curvaceous Marilyn-esq charms and Bette Davis looks.  She was recently voted one of the world's top 50 burlesque performers by 21st Century Pin Up" and here she is to answer a few of our questions

Diva, as a well known Burlesque performer, your costumes are an integral part of your performances and they never fail to have an impact. When you are off stage I can imagine you give the same amount of attention when dressing for a night out.  What would you normally where for a night out on the town?

I love my Stop Staring dresses. They fit me really well and are designed for ladies with curves, so I have got quite a big collection now. Last year in San Francisco I picked up a couple of lovely Betty Page dresses from their shop, I spent about five hours in there trying on everything!  I would definitely like more of their dresses because I feel great whenever I wear them. 
If I don'' wear a dress I love a pinstripe suit, and I have a few which I usually I wear with boots, a fitted blouse and a corset.  I like to mix the masculine with the feminine.

As a finishing touch I wear a lovely ponytail or bun from Annabell's Wigs, because it's an easy way to add some drama.

Also a hair flower is always good, my favourites at the moment are from Tiki Tearaway. They are lovely ladies and really have a great range of hair accessories, they even have a very cute little clip on lobster!

I do love my heels but on a night out I normally will wear my flats on the way, and then slip my heels on when I get to the venue. I hate being the girl trailing at the back of the group that can't walk across the cobbles in her heels!

All of us girls know how important it is to have a great make up collection, what is your ultimate makeup must have? And why?

Oh I can't just pick one thing; it would have to be a combo. Base is really important if you get that right then your make up should look really good.  I think sun cream is a must if you want to have healthy and younger looking skin for longer, so I always start off my day wear with a factor 50.  Mac do a lovely serum that I think is a factor 25, I use that a lot, for non sunny days.

Then it's finding the right foundation for your skin type. I have noticed as I get older I have had to keep changing foundations. For day I use a Chanel foundation its very light and gives your skin a great glow and I love the smell. For evening and for stage I used to use Mac but found it too drying for my skin for every day wear. I have been using a compact from the Body shop but sadly they have stopped making it, so I am back on my hunt for an evening foundation, if anyone has any suggestions for a full cover foundation please do get in touch!

Most of the time when I am not performing I don't wear that much makeup, only what I have said above, a light lip gloss and mascara.

I have just treated myself to a lovely oil based Eyeshadow palette of colours from Kryolan and I'm very impressed with the blending and final effect. I had a photo shoot at the weekend and I mixed these with some fab pure pigment pots from Rickys in New York  the combination was amazing and did not flake off under the hot lights.

As for Lips I have moved from Mac to Rockalily .  I love her shades! It’s a relatively new range run single handily by ReeRee Rocket. I think that as she is a one-woman organisation who has a passion for sexy lip colour for ladies, we should all support her.

'Burlesque' covers many era's of clothing, which would you say is your favourite era of clothing? and why?

I love my 50's style it really suites my body shape. But I still like to mix and match and if I find something amazing that’s modern I will still wear it. I just bought a very well cut little black woollen dress by 'Firetrap' which is perfect for the freezing summer days.

When I was young I had no boobs and was stick thin, so I went for the punk girl look with tartan kilts and big boots. But as you get older you have to dress in a way the works with your body shape.  I hate to see an older woman wearing cheap clothes, that don't suite or fit them!

I love well made clothes that have had time and effort gone into them. I can't walk by a charity or vintage shop without a little look around for forgotten gems.

Have you ever had an Idol?  Who was it and why?

I think one of my biggest idols was the formidable talent that was Bette Davis. I love the passion she had for her craft and her no-nonsense attitude, both on and off the set.  I have often been told I look like her, and when I was younger I would dress in similar ways to her. I used to get very funny looks because I grew up on a farm and insisted on wearing a little hat or gloves. I think Bette is the main inspiration for the creation of Diva Hollywood, to be the best and strongest woman you can be, always pushing yourself as an artist to discover new things, and enjoying the glamour and style even if you are not a conventional looker.

We've seen you perform at the fabulous Coco Boudoir in Bath a few times, what other projects do you have in the pipeline?  Where can we see you next?

At the moment I have two really exciting new acts that I am working on. I love this time when you are building a new act and you can have all the ridiculous and crazy ideas. Then you slowly pull it back in to reality, and work out a realistic version ... something that is possible to do without needing a herd of elephants and a troupe of fire eating walruses to make the act work!

You will next see me perform in August at few private parties then it's up to the Edinburgh Fringe for me. I can't wait it's my first ever Fringe and I get to take my whips with me!

My partner and I also have a few shoots and mini films that we are planning.  I am stepping back into the art world and loving it.

We also have a huge project being planned for next year.  I am so excited about the project and really want to shout about it but can't.  Just please keep your fingers crossed for me and I promise as soon as I can I will let you know what it is.

Photo by Paul Wright at Headline Honey's

Renowned for your quirky and unexpected props, which is the most treasured of all your collection? and why?

I don't think I have one favourite but I can give you my top 4.

First, I love my whips as they were specially made for me and learning the craft of whip cracking has been an amazingly fun challenge that I will have for the rest of my life. Also the target board was designed and hand painted by me and my partner. 

Second come my white five foot ostrich triple-layered fans with the lights built in. They will always have a special place in my heart as they and the act are dedicated to a friend of mine Mike who died. He was an amazing artist with a great imagination and he created light shows and installations at events all around Europe. He like me, loved adding lights to unexpected places, except mine are with a Busby Berkeley glamorous twist.

Thirdly, for being such a bargain and getting a lot of laughs, it would have to be my inflatable binoculars for my Mermaid act. I got a two pairs and they were only £4.99 but they are the turning point of the act, the point where it goes from being very pretty, to being pretty funny.

And lastly, is my Black swan which was made for me for by my boyfriend. The swan is called Burt and he represents the dark spectre in my life that is MS, troublesome and unpredictable. I love the act as it represents me coming to terms with my illness and having fun being a performer, It gives me strength every time I do it. But Burt can be a little difficult to work with and really does like to try and steel the lime light. Saying that I do love working with puppets, they bring another character, story, feeling and mood to the stage.

How did you become involved in the Burlesque scene?

It's a funny story really. I met a few performers in the early Naughties and was so impressed by what they were doing, but I didn't feel confident about doing it myself and starting something which I thought required me to be a size 0, or to be much younger than I am! 

Then in 2005 I got a phone call from a friend. He had recently started to date a trapeze artist who was making a new show for the Green Room in Manchester called 'Serenade'. In it he played a Russian trapeze artist who has fallen on hard times and has become a bit of a drunk. He needed a film made to work as a dream sequence in the play. It was about how his girlfriend who ran away from the circus, him and a life of poverty to New York to become a burlesque star and gets involved with a bad rich man.

The girl who they had planned to work with dropped out at the last minute, so they gave me a call and by luck I had that week off, so I went for it.  I had to work really quickly, with James Stevenson, the choreographer, but the instant we started to work on the routine I started to fall in love with burlesque. When it was nearly done they whisked me away for a wonderful shopping trip for all the bits for the costume, then straight in to filming. The film was a success as was the show.

But I was left with a routine, a costume and my first taste of burlesque! So I thought "I can’t let this go!" Later that same year I was actually going to New York to take part in an art residency with a contemporary dance company (called Troika Ranch) who use electronic triggers in their productions. So I wondered if I could make art imitate life a little and perform my burlesque routine in New York.

I did a lot of research before I went and found out about a few clubs, the most popular being the Slipper Room. So the first weekend there I persuaded my fellow artists to come with me to the Club. It was the first burlesque show I had seen and boy had I come to the right place! On the bill that night was Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz, Little Brooklyn, and hosted by The Big Blue Bunny himself Scotty. After the show I got up the nerve to speak to James, who runs the Slipper Room, I told him I was a performer from the UK and would love to take part in one of his shows. He gave me a slot two weeks later! The next two weeks were a blur of creating art by day, going to parties in New York and rehearsing my act. The New York burlesque scene is so helpful and welcoming and with a chance meeting of the lovely Darlinda not Darlinda, I was put on an email list that helped me shop for any bits of costume I needed.

Finally the day of the show came and I could either chicken out or stand up to be counted. It's still all a bit of a blur to me but I did it. I think it was probably a little tame for the New York audience but I was hooked. I was so lucky to be on the same bill that night as amazing performers such as Tigger and Pinky Special, who to this day we are still great friends.

Your shows are incredibly unique, where do you get your inspiration from when choreographing a new act?

I come from an art background so I have always naturally looked for the unexpected in life. I always carry a note book around with me as inspiration can come from the strangest of things. 'Evolution of woman' one of my signature acts came from a conversation with lovely French artist. We had this very heated conversation about the difference between English and French humour and the use of hair in French comedy.  Which, then made me think "how could I use this to make a British audience laugh?"

My 'Ruthless love' act came from my long time interest in the story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hung in the UK.  It's a fascinating story and probably not one that other burlesque artist’s might tackle! I was so lucky that while I was making it I was back in New York and was able to get a perfect rubber noose form The Halloween store.  It’s a great store with 3 levels of amazing things.  They also have a performer discount!

Music of course plays a big part in inspiring me, but I have learnt that if you use a piece of music that you love in an act then it's a sure fire way of never being able to listen to that particular piece of music every again!

At 'The Bizarre Summer  Ball' taken by Johanna Spiers

Is there a particular brand of clothing or designer you prefer to wear?

I love Stop Staring and Betty Page but to be honest I am not a huge lover of "labels!" If something is well made and it fits then that is good enough for me. When it comes to rubber though, I do love the designs of Anatomic Bomb. They are so feminine and designed to fit a woman's curves. I was so pleased to have one of her dresses for my 'Ruthless Love' act and also a set of underwear.  As the designer Bunny Warren is a performer herself, she understood my needs and tinkered with the design of the dress for me.

How many pairs of shoes do you own? and which is your favourite?

Oh gosh! I don't think I should count, I know that they all sort of fit into 6 large containers in my bedroom and about 10 shoe boxes!

I did recently count my bras and I had over 50!  So I am guessing that I will have many more pairs of shoes. They are mostly red, because I really have a thing about red shoes. I have two favourites at the moment both of them were from Faith, a shop that I miss so much. A ridiculously high heeled, red, mock snake, leather pair with a peep toe. The second are just as high, leopard print with a red heel and peep toe. They go with so much and have been all over the world with me. I do love Kurt Geiger though and I have a few pairs of those which I wear in my acts, as they are so comfortable to dance in.

And finally

What style advice would you give to anyone wanting to achieve the Burlesque look?

Although burlesque is often thought of as a retro style of elegance, to me it’s more than that.  I think a modern burlesque has a sense of humour to it and a saucyness! The old-time burlesquers were the naughty women who lived fast and hung around with bad boys, so it's worth bearing that in mind.  For me it doesn't matter if your hair is less than perfect, I think the essence of this style is personality and if you can carry off a devil-may-care retro sexiness then that's burlesque. The best practical advice I can give to anyone, is to dress to suit your body-type.  Burlesque, for me is about being 100 percent woman so just go out and enjoy being a woman and being sexy.

Photo by InaGlo Photography

Thank you so much to Diva Hollywood, Geigha Go Disco and Fifi Fatale for taking the time out of their uber busy scheduals and being part in our incredibly popular 'Burlesque Performers of the South West" blogs.

We hope to do another one soon and bring you more glamour and glitz from the Burlesque scene around us.


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