It gives me such delight to introduce this month’s graduate student guest blog by Betsy Bop. Betsy shares the most inspirational journey. From loathing her body to total body celebration. Betsy took on an adventure of pure courage and by doing so unleashed the most free, hilarious, sassy and heartfelt charming woman, who was no doubt always there but by choosing ‘Yes’ to her life, she allowed her magic to happen.
Betsy is not only a real talent but has a heart of gold and hasn’t missed a graduation show since she first performed, determined to support her fellow sisters with her wonder and wisdom. And of course there’s barely a cheekette in London who doesn’t own a pair of Betsy’s handcrafted Nipple Tassels, they simply are glittertastic. Betsy I am so proud of you, thank you for sharing your journey and story with us. X
My entrance into the glittery world of burlesque
My entrance into the glittery world of burlesque was greeted and welcomed with a big comforting hug. Like an old friend that you know will always support you through triumphs and tribulations. My journey however that got me to that stage I can’t say has always left the same shimmer in my soul.
Body confidence has always been an alien concept to me. I just never quite got it… my god, I tried but through my teen years, I failed on a huge number of occasions. I mean I eventually found ways around it, coping mechanisms lets say and a false visage in the comfort of a push-up bra and thick tights.
I was raised by a single mother
A woman who was both the feminine and the masculine in my life, a woman who showed me that strength comes from within and you can if you persist and a with a dash of lippie and a smile always get through anything. When faced with an abandoned husband and three young children she threw herself into the spotlight and joined the operatics. She was a backing dancer then lead then she’d sing, my god it fascinated me. This woman who I never saw cry until I was 11, this woman who was, no doubt in so much emotional pain, no doubt drained and exhausted was on stage in character as the most glamorous woman I have ever seen.
This carved a path in my mind, my idol and my goal was to be like her. At a young age I’d dance around, ‘shoulders back’ my mum would shout, I’d strut, I’d sing, I was 9 years old and I was invincible.
Then puberty hit….
I was what you’d call a late bloomer. I grew taller, but I didn’t seem to grow anywhere else. I just got skinnier. Or ‘lanky’ as the school kids would tease. With my boyish figure I’d shrug it off and think it will happen, I’ll get hips, a bum, maybe even a good pair of boobs… but it didn’t. At least not for a while. I just stayed thin. Now I know this sounds like it’s all part of growing up but what happened through those years haunted me and played on my mind for years after, even still now. I was teased endlessly for being thin, kids would yell, ‘anorexic’, ‘lanky legs’ ‘stick insect’.
As I got older I did start growing into my shape, which was fab. It arrived late but I was finally becoming a woman. But the damage was already done. In my mind when I looked in the mirror all I could see was the skinny vulnerable teenager. I’d wear two pairs of tights to make my legs look thicker, I’d wear baggy t-shirts to make my look wider, I’d hunch my shoulders to make me look less tall, I’d never ever wear heels because why would I want to make my legs look longer. And don’t get me started on the arms. Long sleeved tops were my best friend.
I couldn’t even channel the operatic character of my mum anymore. My body confidence was gone. Lost.
Relationships began great but they’d eventually turn sour, usually down to my lack of confidence that eventually set me into paranoia. I’d forever think they’d leave me or be less interested because I wasn’t ‘sexy’ enough.
That’s when I met him.
He was older than me, his age intrigued me. He was charismatic and charming. I was sucked in.
A whirlwind romance began.
So did the emotional torment.
It was a short few months of time together but what happened during that time completely broke me.
I guess he caught me in a window of vulnerability and I was eager to be loved and wanted. I thought he wanted me. But he just wanted to use me. After sex, he’d rip me apart by telling me how unattractive my body was. During sex, he’d point and laugh. But I kept going back. I told my friends the things he’d said and they were shocked that I continued to see him. I had rose tinted glasses on though, I laughed it off and said ‘Oh it’s fine, he doesn’t mean it, it’s just a joke”.
I should have listened to them and gone with my gut.
The last time I ever heard from him he’d asked me to go to his, he was cooking, I was going to bring the wine and wear my sexiest lingerie. I was excited and went straight there after work. Only when I arrived the lights were off. I rang the doorbell, no answer. I called, no answer. I text, no answer.
He’d stood me up.
I walked all the way home that night. It took me two hours, I drank the bottle of wine and arrived home a mess. I was completely humiliated.
I never heard from him again. Months past and nothing. No explanation. Nothing.
I slumped into a dark place, I felt I’d never be able to trust another man. I couldn’t imagine taking my clothes off in front of another person. I hated myself, and I hated that I had let him win. I contemplated suicide.
One night after a long walk
One night after a long walk my brother found me and took me to the local pub. I poured out my heart and cried. He went to the bar looked me in the eyes and said “You are worth more than gold. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like that. If mum can bring us three up and stay strong you can get through this.”
Like a light had been lit, it clicked I knew he was right. No way in hell was I going to allow that piece of shit to make me feel like I did.
It was a new me. I got rid of all my baggie clothes. Out went the black, in came the colour. I didn’t care about anyone anymore, I just cared about myself. Inside I was still healing but on the outside I created this confident character. I would strut, I would smile, I would even give cheeky little winks to passer-bys. One guy even ran after me to ask for my number. I was on cloud 9 of self-acceptance.
I knew it was just the beginning
I knew it was just the beginning and that scars were still there. But I knew it was the start of something.
I didn’t want to meet another man, I was happy to stay single for the rest of my life. But that’s when the love of my life came along. He danced into my life, and treat me like a princess. 5 years on and he makes me feel so utterly and completely adored.
About 3 years into our relationship though I began slipping into my previous self-conscious mindset. Knowing this had happened before I knew I had to do something. I joined a yoga class, thinking if I got fit and flexible I’d be at one again. It wasn’t for me. No one chatted, I couldn’t make friends there it was too serious.
Then, I found The Cheek of It! website, I spent hours reading everything on the website, watching Lady Cheek on youtube. I was mesmerised. I was in complete admiration. Inside I was thinking “I want to do that, But I can’t… no you can…” I emailed Lady Cheek, scared of her response, frightened I’d get laughed at again I took a deep breath and sent.
The next day
The next day Lady Cheek replied, I had goosebumps everywhere, she explained how The Cheek of It! is a safe place, a creative place, a place for fun and giggles. I signed up. The first day of class I arrived and met a few of the girls equally nervous outside, we went in and was greeted with the warmest smiles from Lady Cheek and Lady May. While we quickly got changed and popped on our heels Lady Cheek was politely introducing herself, Lady May was in the mirror touching up her pin-up red lips. I’d never met women with presences like it. I was in awe.
The first class
The first class I was so nervous I think I spent the whole class shaking and flushed from top to toe in crimson red. But I was hooked.
I completed my Showtime troupe course as a golden goddess. I then went onto Spotlight and brought out my inner minx and did my first ever solo. A classic routine to one of my favourite 60’s RnB records. As soon as that was done I dived straight into the Sirens course and embraced my inner comedienne and created an abstract act about gravy!!!
I’ve entered various competitions, Infinitease, Burlesque Idol and even won best newcomer in the Bump & Grind category at EEBF. I’ve been able to perform at some great venues in and around London. I now even have my own tassel making company which is thriving and introducing me to some amazing people around the world. And on top of that I have made some of the loveliest and most supportive friends.
I’ve learned so much
The Cheek of It! has taught me so much about myself, showed me how strong I actually am and given me the drive to pursue and do anything with my life. I am in control now. I can now look at myself in the mirror, pose in front of a camera, strut on stage and be proud of who I am, what I am. And with every glittery strut and gravy pour I’m giving a big fuck you to anyone who made me feel I was worth anything less.