Madame Sapphire: A Burlesque Gem Amongst Gems January 19 2013, 0 Comments

WHEN Madame Sapphire Rox of burlesque and cabaret agency Agent Burlieque came to Dolly Mixture Clothing to buy a last-minute outfit for a show, we couldn’t resist the urge to find out more about her world too. And, after attending a fantastic burlesque event in Ipswich, we were delighted when Madame Sapphire agreed to an interview with us.

The explosion of interest in burlesque as an art form shows no sign of dimming, and agents like Madame Sapphire are always on the look-out for daring, amazing and jaw-dropping acts to entertain the crowds. Here, she talks about her motivation and inspiration.

How did you get into burlesque performing?
Having spent a lifetime in the arts, including studying dance at university and drama at one of the UK’s finest theatre schools, it was a fairly natural progression. Burlesque gives you the ability not only to perform, but also to devise and be creative. As a performer you spend most of your time taking direction from others, and burlesque gave me the ability to put my creative stamp on my own work.

What was your first time performing like?
Weirdly my first time was like coming home. It was through burlesque that I developed a true and deep understanding of femininity and expressing it on stage, as well as a new found comfort in my own skin. It was natural and powerful at the same time. Luckily, with burlesque there is no fear of messing up; if you miss a move or forget something, a kiss blown to the audience can easily replace the so-called mistake and this lessened the nerves before I went on stage the first time. Knowing I was a good improviser kept me calm!

How do you have the courage to stand up in front of a full crowd and give a great performance? Are you not scared?
I love standing on stage and performing, showing myself off as a curvy girl and being confident just as I am. I have the courage because I hope to inspire people to feel the same way I do about myself since finding burlesque. I am lovely just as I am. And no, I’m never scared, just excited!

Like many women, especially those on stage, I’ve spent a lifetime obsessing about my weight and the way I looked. I counted every calorie and did every diet. And then I saw my first burlesque show. I sat back and I took in what I was being told – that it’s OK to be you. You can eat, and you will be loved for it. Not for a moment before then did I believe any of these things to be true, but they are. For all of us – not just me.

Had you always wanted to run your own business?
I grew up swinging my legs from the side of a market stall in Camden while my dad flogged antiques. I’d look after the stall and I loved it. I loved meeting people and seeing new faces. I think my childhood had a lot to do with what I do now. I understood business and exchange from an early age, and had a deep love of people in alternative scenes and lifestyles.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of running Agent Burlieque so far?
The most challenging thing has been not to expand too quickly and to understand each opportunity as it appears. I find business fairly plain-sailing and it’s in my blood. I think it is for most creative people, hence the reason you have so many in desk jobs trying to figure out how they could go about making a living out of playing the guitar or something. The answer is simple – you must live and breathe your creativity and not allow society’s norms to dictate what you should do for a living. Taking less money is always worth it if you are doing something you love.

Do you have any advice for women wanting to start performing in burlesque shows?
Get creative. Think about who you would like to portray on stage and name her. Find out what she wears, what she eats, where she plays, everything about her and develop her character. She is the ‘you’ you always hoped you would be.

Watch as much burlesque as you can, research it and know who is successful in this game and why. Attend a workshop and get your mates involved. It’s a great way to bring you and your friends together, designing costumes and brainstorming ideas.

Most importantly; don’t conform! Do not try to be better than anyone else on the scene, just strive to be yourself. And be original. Promoters are looking for acts that are not the same as everyone else’s. I for example always look for non-showgirls and performers who have a fabulous and unique theme with a mighty ending. All promoters differ. They are unlikely to put on a whole show of fan dances.

Get networking. The burlesque industry is very supportive of newcomers, giving newbies showcase time on stages at current shows. Once you have a well-developed act, get it filmed, get pictures and start putting yourself out there.

Have you made any mistakes along the way?
Constantly! Starting a new business is a lot about finding your feet and seeing what works and what doesn’t. There haven’t been any major mistakes, just things that can be ironed out. But with your own business no one hands you a job description. You discover what needs to be done by yourself. But then that’s all part of the excitement of working for yourself – never really knowing what’s around the corner.

How do you schedule an average day? Do you have routines, or is every day different?
God no! I hate routine. It kills me every time. I like to work organically. Sometimes I’m rehearsing, other times I’m planning workshops or hen nights. I spend time coming up with new burlie names for girls, or adding to the agency books. Mostly I deal with work as it comes in, and if it doesn’t come in I go and find it by booking in events! You rarely find me keeping up with my administration or my tax returns – bring on the PA!

Who inspires you and why?
I am so easily and often inspired. It’s everyday people who do it for me – people who realise the power of life, and that it’s just a game that needs playing. Creative people inspire me: graffiti, free running, amazing bike stunts, people who break the barriers of the norm. Those who say ‘it might be hard, but fuck it I’m going to do it anyway’. I love them with a deep passion. They embrace life, where so many just throw theirs away on what they feel they ‘should’ do. Life is amazing, and we get to do whatever the hell we like with it. People who break down social norms show the rest of us that everything is possible and that you can lead the life you want.

When things get difficult how do you stay motivated?
I have been described by friends as the most motivated person they know. Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not sure! But if I ever do feel a little under-motivated I probably get a bit of love and reassurance from those closest to me, have a little dance and find something to laugh at: People falling over always get me going. And then I just get back on with it. It’s not one of my stumbling blocks, like choosing between amazing performers for example!

Do you have any unusual or quirky habits or traits?
I am annoyingly late. Most of those I work with in the industry know to lie to me when making plans to meet up. They tell me we’re meeting at seven when we’re actually meeting at eight. That way I’m always on time, as I’m never quite sure if they are doing it to me or not!

What have been your proudest moments?
There have been so many. But I think my most proud would be watching my dearest (almost sisterlike) friend Vivienne Bordello blow the crowds away at our shows. Vivienne started her burlesque career in July last year and her creativity and power as a performer is breath-taking. She is hilarious, authentic and glamorous and has such a fab rapport with the audience. Every time she is up there and I and am watching, I realise just what we have created in Agent Burlieque, and I feel so proud of her and the business.

If you fancy checking out one of Agent Burlieque’s shows then take a look at their website and facebook for upcoming events.

You can also Follow Madame Sapphire Rox on Twitter

Agent Burlieque is a burlesque and cabaret agency specialising in providing burlesque performers, musicians and side show artistes for events.