The Art of Burlesque

Ever wondered what it's like to be a burlesque performer. Simi Gupta catches up with Shireen Ashton 

Posted: 23.07.14

Glamour modelling runs in your family...did you feel the need to follow this path? Was it an expectation?
I wouldn’t describe burlesque as glamour modelling; but it was something that I fell into. My passion is in theatre, and I was on stage for five years. There is a family history in performance; my nan was a cabaret singer and my mum worked as a Playboy Bunny. I’m privileged to have a strong support system behind me.

Where do you perform?
I mainly perform at jazz bars in Manchester under the name Cherie Bebe and at corporate events. I have had opportunities where I’ve performed in London and other parts of the country. I choreograph my own performances and I also teach burlesque which is popular for hen parties.

Who are your inspirations?
My inspirations are Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Women's empowerment is a matter that I strongly believe in. I want to move away from giving women the impression that being a size 0 should be their goal and encourage them to feel comfortable in their own skin.

What are your future ambitions?
I miss being in theatre, and would love to get back into acting again.

Being on stage can be a daunting experience. Have you had any issue with nerves or, in relations to burlesque, a fashion malfunction?
Nervousness isn’t an issue with me when I’m on stage. I’ve had tiny hiccups, but I can always act something out to cover it. The audience rarely see the odd mistake and besides, the audience are on your side. It’s always a good idea to add a bit of humour to act, to add to the audience’s interest.

Within the Asian society, burlesque may be seen as something quite out of the ordinary -have you had any issues with this so far? 
In terms of whether I’ve had any issues within the Asian society, I feel that I’ve received a positive response more than anything. I am aware that there are strict cultural traditions out there, however I’ve had a lady in a hijab who’s taken an interest in burlesque. My audience includes a mixture of men and women, to which you would think that it would be male dominated as burlesque has a strip tease element to it but actually it's a form of entertainment that can be enjoyed by everyone. If you've not seen it live before I recommend coming along and seeing for yourself - make your own mind up rather tha go with what you assume it to be. I guarantee it will be fun and open your mind! 

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