Jezzy Belle

1. Please introduce yourself.

Hello! On stage I am Jezzy Belle, but pretty much everywhere else I am Jodi. I’m 36 and I’m currently a full time student doing my Masters in Social Anthropology.

2. When did you start attending burlesque classes and performing burlesque?

I did my first 8 week burlesque course with Lady Magnolia in 2010, but I only started attending regular classes in June 2012 after watching the first studio Showcase. I performed in the very next show in July 2012 and did my first solo a few months later.

3. How did you discover burlesque?

When I moved to Cape Town at the beginning of 2010, I was very involved in Belly dancing, and my teacher at the time, Anne Knowles of Raqs Sharki in Pietermaritzburg (yup, I’m actually a maritzburra farm girl) recommended Tenille who ran The Feminine Divine and was also just starting to explore burlesque. Shortly after starting classes with Tenille she invited me to come watch her perform burlesque at a club called Kink. I watched her and thought “I WISH I had the courage to dance like that!” I didn’t think I would ever be brave enough to take my bra off in public, but I was completely enthralled by the idea.

4. What attracted you to burlesque?

I was initially attracted to burlesque because it offered the opportunity for me to explore something a little more risque than belly dancing. I had already started on my journey toward body-positivity and accepting and celebrating my body, femininity and sensuality through belly dancing, but burlesque provided the challenge of digging even deeper, allowing me to explore and face my own sexuality and empowerment.

5. Did you have any reservations about starting burlesque?

Not one. Burlesque and I fit like old lovers.

6. How did/does your family, loved ones react to you performing burlesque?

My family are proud of me, they have come to a few shows, and even though they don’t attend regularly, they are always very supportive. My friends and partner(s) are the same. There isn’t anyone in my life who disapproves. If they did, they wouldn’t last very long. This is my passion, love me, love it. Simple.

7. How do you cope with pre-performance nerves?

Hmmm, it depends. I do still get nerves a little, but nowhere near as badly as I used to. I think it’s just a case of havig had enough stage time that I’m used to them now, they’re like old friends. In saying that, though if I have a new act or I’m at a new venue/in front of a new audience I do sometimes still get quite nervous. It helps to be prepared, do a little deep breathing and find a little space ahead of going on stage to focus and let myself sink into the character I want to express in my act. I try not to drink too much before I go on stage, specially not if I am doing something new. One drink maybe, none if I am nervous.

8. How do you reconcile your burlesque persona with your ‘day job’, do they ever collide/compliment or detract from each other?

I’m lucky, I don’t need to keep my burlesque activities separate from any other aspect of my life at the moment. I’ve sort of designed it that way. Burlesque is very much a part of who I am and I don’t want to have to hide that or tiptoe around that fact for anyone,; not family, friends, partners, colleagues or employers. I was in a corporate job before I went back to university, but they knew and were fine with it. At university, my department is very accepting, enthusiastic even. And my research interests are such that burlesque and what it stands for align pretty neatly, so I don’t foresee it being a problem, but I’ll let you know if that changes.

As for my persona, Jezzy definitely compliments my day to day. I draw on her strength and “give no fucks” attitude all the time. She is my permanent courage reference.

9. Please mention your burlesque inspiration, one local and one international performer and motivate your answer.

Golden Delicious is my local inspiration. Her raw sensuality, self-containment and poise on stage are completely mesmerizing. Internationally I don’t really have a specific burlesque inspiration, but there are a number of artists I enjoy following including Victoria Vermouth, Roxy D’Lite, Medianoche, LouLou D’vil, Immodesty Blaize, Dirty Martini and Lila Luxx. – Check them out!

10. What is your favorite thing about burlesque?

Oooo, um, everything? I love all the accoutrement, glitter costume, shoes. I love being on stage, being so completely and unashamedly yourself, and holding the audience rapt in that space with you. I love all the people I perform with, their stories, courage and vulnerability, being able to celebrate in their achievements with them and support them through their trials. And I love knowing that my performance and persona often makes a positive impact on people in the audience, showing them a little insight into themselves, giving them courage or providing a role-model for self-worth and self-confidence.

11. How has burlesque had an impact on your life outside of time in class and on stage?

Burlesque has had a huge impact on my life. It’s helped me shift the way I look at myself, women, life. I have met some of my closest friends in or through burlesque whether directly or inadvertently. Its my community.

12. Do you have any rituals you do before you perform?

Probably doing my hair is a ritual I’ve embraced for getting into character. And also packing my suitcase, getting all the costume pieces, make up, props and odds and ends out and packing them up for use is a bit of a ritual. I’ve been using the same suitcase for 5 years now.

13. How do you start the choreography for a dance?/ Create a solo?

For me everything starts with the music. Music is everything. I find a song that speaks to me and I build the feel, costume, choreography, everything from that.

14. What, to you, is the worst thing that can happen during a performance?

Um, probably having an unresponsive audience. I’ve had all the usual disasters happen. I’ve had sound, costume and prop malfunctions, I’ve fallen down, forgotten my choreo, collided with other dancers. I can cope with all of that, but having an audience that doesn’t connect sucks.

15. What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you regarding your performances?

You’re the reason I started burlesque. 🙂

16. What has been your funniest experience as a burlesque artist?

Oh gosh, there have been a few. Once I arrived at a gig and realised I’d packed 2 right shoes. I did the act barefoot. I’ve had an on stage fall immortalised on film in the No strings Attached Burlesque documentary trailer. The voice over literally says something about facing challenges and there’s me, falling over and taking Lady M’s corset with me. And once I was photographed naked for an article on Naked Girls Reading which went into the Sunday Times, the next day one of my colleagues in the corporate firm I worked in told me shed seen my picture and choked on her coffee.

17. If you could perform for one person, dead or alive, who would you invite to be in the front row for your performance?

My dad. or my grandmother. They both died a long time ago but I think they’d have been pretty proud of me.

18. If you could go back in time to your very first show, would you do anything differently?

Nope. Nothing.

19. Who are your go-to’s in Cape Town for costumes and props i.e. Lingerie, stockings, gowns, fans, props etc.

The Velvet Letter, China Town, Woolworths, H&M, YDE (for shoes – just sayin) Fabric world, Bargain Corner, Bra’s n Things, Ambra creations, Peter Brophy. But I make a lot of my own costuming. Have sewing machine, hot fix machine and glue gun, will sew and bedazzle.

20. Please send a link to a youtube video of your favorite track to listen to at the moment.

OMG I can’t choose one!!!!! here. have four.