I've always loved dancing. I was one of three girls and being a performer seemed to go hand in hand with dressing up and having fun - who wouldn't want to pursue that as a career? But, I have to admit, my road to burlesque wasn't exactly 'bump free', I like to think of it as more of an undulating path...
I studied law at university and, although I could dissect the intricacies of contract with the best of them, becoming a solicitor didn't really satisfy my craving to entertain (that said, I think having a sound commercial brain has helped me get this far in my career). To offset the mundane I joined a university dance class - it seemed to me the perfect way to stay healthy, indulge my performance cravings and have a lot of fun whilst I was at it. A friend from the group suggested that I audition for a dance troupe she was involved in - the criteria was simple; you had to look sexy in a corset, have an interest in vintage fashion and be able to move well. My burlesque life had begun!
I danced with the girls for almost four years before forming another burlesque group, The Folly Mixtures, almost three years ago. By this time I had completed my degree and was in training to become an underwriter. Let's just say the allure of the stage took over and my insurance life was short-lived. I now work fulltime as part of The Folly Mixtures and also on my solo act.
I'm often asked 'why burlesque?' but why not? I love the way it makes me, and my audience, feel. It's empowering, entertaining, risqué - and who doesn't want to feel like that some point in their lives? The reaction I get from an audience - both male and female - is phenomenal and I love that. Everyone should enjoy that feeling at least once in their lives.
That said, being a burlesquer takes a lot of hard work - you need to keep fit, work on routines, try new things and constantly push the boundaries to improve your performance. If anyone wants to get into this industry, I'd tell them to work on their striptease - no-one likes a messy performer. There will undoubtedly be wardrobe malfunctions, we all have them, but the more you practice things like corset removal, the more you'll be able to pretend it's all part of the act!
Like everything in life, you've got to play to your strengths - can you sing, are you an exceptional dancer, are you funny - all these skills can be put to good practice in a routine. The best advice I can give is to just be yourself, work out what is best for you and what you feel comfortable doing; not just what you think you should be doing. But it's not only about the dancing - I spend hours on my outfits, crystalising and bespoking a particular dress, corset or feathered gown - people are paying good money for a show and that's what I'm going to give them! Just look at some of the greats - Blaze Starr, Tempest Storm, Dita Von Teese and the phenomenal Satan's Angel - strong, inspirational women who light up the stage and look damned hot doing it. That's how I hope to be.
I perform a lot in London - we have a residency at Madame JoJos and I've been lucky enough to perform in some of the capital's most luxurious spaces - which are just fabulous and always guarantee an amazing evening. Londoners who appreciate burlesque are the best - them and the Italians, who always go wild! Some of the best audiences are from the UK, but also some of the toughest crowds. Sometimes when I tickle a lady with my feathers, or stroke a man's face, you're never quite sure what their reaction is going to be. That said, I like the challenge - you've got to win over the quizzical, the shocked and the shy.
One thing I love about my job is the access it gives me to people and places. We were recently flown over to Russia to do a mix of group acts and solo performances for a night. We stayed in the most amazing 5* hotel and were treated like royalty. The thing that I'm most excited about, though, is my latest project, 'An Evening of High Tease', which has just launched at The Grosvenor Hotel in Victoria. The hotel has just re-furbished its Victorian Lounge, which is the most beautiful space in the heart of London - with chandeliers, exotic palms, Asian-inspired screens and designer furniture. There are portraits of powerful, inspirational women on the walls, including the first ever female MP, Nancy Astor, and the Hotel's most famous former visitor, the Parisian Courtesan Cora Pearl (in fact, there is even a Suite named after her at the Hotel).
I read recently that London was voted one of the coolest cities in the world. With events like this, and an open appreciation of the art that is burlesque, I think they were right.
Follow Bettsie Bon Bon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BettsieBonBon