Thursday, 6 December 2012

Interview - Coco DuBois

Coco Dubois is an internationally acclaimed Compere, Singer, Actress & Burlesque Performer hailing from London. She has been performing as Coco for just over two years and has performed for National and International theatre tours, the West End and countless cabaret clubs and private events. She can currently be seen at the Menier Chocolate Factory in Stephen Sondheim's 'Merrily We Roll Along'

Coco DuBois at Proud Cabaret: Tigz Rice Studios

What was your first experience of Burlesque or Cabaret, and what convinced you to start yourself?

I always knew about ‘Cabaret’. I used to sing on my landing at home as if I was on a balcony singing to a crowd of people in a big theatre. As for Burlesque, my first real live experience was only a couple of years ago when I went to Proud Cabaret for my cousin Sarah’s hen do. We went to a class first and everyone was giggling and messing around and I remember thinking to myself “I find it really hard not to take this seriously” because I loved it so much and wanted to do it properly. In the evening we headed off to Proud Cabaret. It was a Tassel Club show and I remember that Banbury Cross was performing (still my favourite performer to this day). I was pretty tipsy and as the night went on (and egged on by my Mother) I went marching up to the hostess and told her that I would like to sing in her show. She gave me once over and told me to come back next week and audition in the show. It all went swimmingly and after time I grew in confidence and was approached by Proud Cabaret to host.
So Coco was born. And Sarah (our hen) went on to create Burlesque Bible (international Burlesque magazine).

Photographer Credit: Tigz Rice Studios

How did you choose your stage name?

I had to pick very quickly because it all started up very quickly. Dubois is the surname of one of my favorite characters in a play – Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. I also later realized it meant ‘Wood’ which matches my real surname (Woodward) – a happy coincidence. As for Coco, it just kind of fitted. When it was suggested, it felt right. Helped of course by my utter love for Coco Chanel perfume!

Photographer Credit: Tigz Rice Studios

You have recently moved from hosting shows into performing Burlesque acts – what brought about this move?

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, for myself more than anyone else. I’ve only created one act so far and I hope to do more in the future but want to seriously take my time in creating them.
One of the main reasons I created a burlesque strip tease is for my own confidence. I adore how burlesque holds high the curvaceous woman, burlesque should be a celebration of whatever body you are blessed with.
I grew up wanting to be a popstar or a famous actress and everyday came face to face with the washboard abs of the Britneys and the Christinas and I used to give myself a hard time believing that I could never be like them. I struggled with eating disorders and a warped view on health. I like to think that my stepping into burlesque was a final ‘BOG OFF’ to all those feelings, that I can be ME onstage and I can look HOT, whether it’s the day after Christmas lunch or the day after a month of exercise.
I don’t think the striptease side of things is necessarily a career change of path for me, I’m just dipping my toes in everything to see what I like. And how blessed am I to be able to do that?!

Photographer Credit: Tigz Rice Studios

Who are your biggest influences/inspirations?

Oh zillions. Of course, Marilyn Monroe, she helped me believe I could be sexy and she’s so FUNNY. People never remember that. She has me in stitches in every film. That girl knew what she was doing in front of a camera. When she sings ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ in an oversized sweatshirt – PHWOAR!.
Liza Minelli is a HUGE inspiration to me, particularly for her acting/storytelling through song. Within a 3 minute piece of music she takes you on a complete journey. And her vulnerability is divine. Even at her age now. I saw her at the Albert Hall last year (on my own, I’m very sad) and she was incredible. And happy to take the mickey out of herself too.
Non-performer wise I worked with a great man who has now unfortunately passed away, Professor Bruce Kirle. He was a musical director from New York who used to play for the likes of Chita Rivera in LaMamas back in the day. He taught me all about the intricacies of acting through song, telling a story, making your audience feel something and that everything leads back to either sex or food. That’s what we humans live for!

Marilyn Monroe ** Liza Minelli

Professor Bruce Kirle

Tell us a little about your favourite experiences so far

Oh there are lots. An unbelievable one was when I hosted to 2000 people in Milan in Italian. And no, I don’t speak Italian. I got my script translated and off I went. I broke up with my fella the night before and had had no sleep. It was all a crazy blur. I remember the words coming out of my mouth and the Italians laughing at my jokes and I couldn’t believe it. I also remember looking to the wings and seeing a gaggle of British burlesque performers with their mouths wide in disbelief that I was actually pulling it off!!!
Another favourite time was hosting The Hurly Burly show in the West End this summer. I had an excellent time with some fabulous ladies including the divine Miss Polly Rae. I loved being her little fire cracker, getting them all pumped up for her entry and performing skits and comedy songs with the girlies.
Sometimes though, the best nights happen when you least expect them to. Sometimes a random Thursday night in the basement of a club in the city can result in the best show ever. It all depends on whatever line up you have that night, and most importantly, the eagerness of the audience.
Another amazing experience was filming the ‘Too Cabaret’ video with Frisky and Mannish and many other Cabaret greats. We have such a hard-working flourishing BLOODY LOVELY industry. When I’m older and rich I’m going to open an old peoples home for ex-cabaret performers. I want Mat Ricardo whipping off the table cloth under my porridge and Betsy Rose tassel twirling in the kitchen and the Incredible Hula Boy hula-ing while we watch Come Dine With Me.

Coco DuBois, Polly Rae, Rachel Muldoon and Peggy DeLune: Hurly Burly Press Night 2012

Have you ever had any stage nightmares?

Oh I’m sure there’s been a few. Some I can’t actually mention on here ;-P.
One of my favourite times was when I was singing ‘Stormy Weather’. I’d told the audience that I was single and this was my song of grief and longing. As the song reached the climax, my gorgeous sound guy pressed the wrong button and ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyonce came BLASTING through the speakers. Needless to say I was in stitches. I can’t even sing a song about my failed love life successfully!
Saying that, that’s what live cabaret is and that is the utter JOY of it. And us performers would be nothing without our incredible tech team and stage kittens. So THANK YOU.

Coco DuBois and Taz Zebrowski: London Cabaret Awards 2012

Tell me something no one would suspect about you

I am terrified of hosting! (I probably shouldn’t mention that on here!!!) I mean, I’ve been performing my entire life and it’s rare that I get nerves but MY GOD, hosting is a scary thing to do. At the moment I’m in quite a good place where I feel I can handle whatever is thrown at me, but it’s taken me a long time to find that ‘happy place’. It was never something I wanted to do! When I was just singing at the beginning of my 'Coco career' I had one gig a week and the rest of the time I was waitressing or balloon modelling while dressed as a mime on the streets outside Madame Tussauds. Yes. So when the email came along asking if I could host, what do you think the answer was!?
I’m a firm believer in ‘Do one thing every day that scares you’ so I guess I’m on the right track…

Photographer Credit: Tigz Rice Studios

Finally, any words of advice for newcomers to the scene?

Take your time, nurse your craft, find what it is to be you and what you want to present. Never rush an act, and storytelling is the best way, be it through song or movement. Saying that, don’t take TOO long, come on in! Welcome! The more the merrier, and the water’s lovely.

Photographer Credit: Garry Lake
More Coco

1 comment:

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