I'm going to be stepping away from Burlesque for a while; not quitting, as such, just not getting involved in the hustle any more. I will be honouring bookings I've already got in my diary and I'm still available for shows but I'm not going to be travelling much outside London, and I'm not going to be pushing for constant work, work, work.
I went back onto my 'real-life' profile and deleted everyone I didn't know or didn't care about (I set it up when I was in college and got carried away, accepting friend requests from all and sundry, whether I knew them or not, whether they were current friends or people I went to primary school with!). I made a conscious choice to only add people from the industry if I considered them, what I call 'Coffee Friends'. That's not to say that I don't class a huge amount of people I work with as friends, but if I can't hang out with them and drink coffee, and talk about things *other* than Burlesque; if I'm 'Mia' to them; if I couldn't call them with a personal problem; if they don't know much more about me than the bare basics, and if the only things they post on their pages are related to the industry, then, with the greatest respect and love, then I'm not going to add them in my real life. If I loose 'friends' over this, then it kind of just proves the point that we're obviously not 'real-life' friends in the first place.
In real life I'm moving on; I'm growing up I guess (gasp!). It was bound to happen. As much as my stage age might be one thing (and I still, sometimes, get ID'd at bars, in supermarkets buying wine, and, once or twice, for lottery tickets!) I'm no longer a spring chicken, and sometimes I feel downright old! I have some wonderful things happening at the moment: I have a new job - a proper, grown-up, full-time job, that I'm really excited about and want to give my all to. I have also been accepted into University in order to take a course which will top-up the vocational qualification I already have into a full, BA(Hons) Degree. My significant other is also moving on with new projects and circumstances are changing for us. In the context of all these events, Burlesque can no longer be my priority and I no longer, really, want it to be.
Growing up is scary!
When I first started, Burlesque was still relatively underground and exciting. There were hardly any shows or clubs outside London and small, emerging groups of performers in a handful of the big cities. Back then the newer performers worked for free, or expenses, or, excitingly, around £50 cash; and the top performers were earning hundreds or sometimes thousands of pounds for corporate events, launch parties and private shows. Nowadays the newer performers are demanding to be paid for every single show, and the established performers are being asked to work for free. The Burlesque Bubble burst many years ago; it's rare to get a huge paycheck for anything these days yet the standards are higher and the competition is fierce. Where are all these performers getting the money for their costumes?! Why should performers think that swarovski equals talent... and breathe. I blogged about all that crap a year or so ago, and I don't want to care that much any more. There are much more important things to occupy my brain space with than glitter and fairy dust.
From my first ever Burlesque performance
I've had a couple of setbacks anyway that have forced me to rethink my choices. I blogged about one of them when it happened. And recently I've heard things about myself, read something about myself, and been told things to my face that, while I may appear to be unfazed or nonchalant about, have actually really got to me in the end. I no longer want to be made to feel bad about myself. I no longer want to be sat at home thinking "why did that person get that job?" "how did she get that gig and not me?" "what do I have to do to make people book/want/like me?" That kind of thinking is pure evil and I refuse to allow it in my head any more.
I don't want to be made to feel like I'm not a good performer because I can't afford a custom-made eight-thousand ply ostrich feather boa. I'm not less of a person because I buy my underwear from Primark and not Agent Provocateur. And, elephant in the room, I may be slightly curvier and less toned than some of the gorgeous ladies I share a stage with, but I am, by no means, fat. I am size ten, with a bit of a belly and some cellulite. And nine times out of ten, I'm fine with that. I want that to be ten times out of ten. It's funny that Burlesque gave me the confidence to be happy with my body (after being massively overweight as a child, followed by years of eating disorders, I've tipped the scale at both ends!), yet has ended up almost destroying my body confidence in the end. I've said it before and I'll say it again: As Burlesque becomes more commercially acceptable, there is a lean towards a more commercially accepted ideal of beauty. And I don't fit that. I know that, and I've tried to. But you know what? I like food. I like ice-cream and the occasional take-away. I like wine. I really like wine. So that's that.
I still love performing; I love being on stage, I love creating new acts, dressing up, putting on make-up; I love the adrenaline rush of being in front of an audience, the feeling of doing an act really well, of accomplishment. And I love it when the audiences members tell me afterwards that they loved my act or that I was their favourite (even if they say the same to every single performer on the night!).
I've made so many friends, real friends, had some amazing experiences and incredible opportunities that would never have happened without Burlesque, and I don't regret it for one moment. But all good things must come to an end, and a lot of the things that made Burlesque good for me have ended - whether actually ended or just come to an end in my mind.
And you know what? The last couple of weeks, I've been really happy. Actually, real-life happy. I'm not constantly comparing myself, my life, my choices or my body; I'm doing things and seeing things and being with people that I really, genuinely want to do, see and be with, and it's flippin' wonderful.