Bum tassels, twerking and body confidence - meet west London's rising burlesque stars; A "fancy stripper", a funny girl and a twerking instructor are among west London's rising burlesque stars.
The word burlesque was first used to describe a literary genre but it's nowadays mostly associated with "fancy stripping".
Stripteases, nipple tassels and sequins galore, whether you see burlesque dancers as glorified go go girls or true artistes, it's a profession and a pastime popular with women worldwide.
Comedy is key to many burlesque routines which normally, but not always, involve women in risque clothing stripping down to g-strings and nipple covers in imaginative ways - think Dita Von Teese and that huge cocktail glass.
We spoke to three west London women in the first ever final of Miss Burlesque UK - a competition to find the nation's best burlesque dancer, which has been running for years in Australia and Ireland.
From a self-professed "funny girl" to a performer who teaches twerking on the side, these are west London's rising burlesque stars.
Valerie, 27, is originally from Australia but moved to London three years ago and currently lives in Kilburn.
The self-confessed "funny girl" works part time as a charity fundraiser but her true passion is the burlesque world.
Speaking to getwestlondon, she said: "Performing is my ideal job but it's a gruelling industry which is why I work part time as a charity fundraiser. I chose to have a day job so I didn't have to feel like I had to take every gig that comes - just ones that interest me.
"My routines are very like the old 1950s MGM musicals, so they are big and showy but not necessarily dance numbers - I'm not amazing at dancing so I stick to theatrical slap-stick stuff.
"I strip but I make it funny. I have one act where every time I take a piece of clothing off another joke gets revealed in my next layer of costume. "
She added: "Historically burlesque hasn't always had stripping in it but I think it's what a lot of people do now - I think it's a lot showier nowadays."
When asked about her on stage look, Valerie said: "It really depends - I've got a couple of acts when I've got really fancy gowns but then I've got a Netflix n Chill act when I'm wearing a onesie and then I strip into pyjamas."
Valerie's family know she does burlesque and her mum even makes some of her costumes but she says with the exception of a few colleagues, it's not something she's open about at work.
She said: "I don't mind telling people I do burlesque but although I occasionally talk about it with people in my immediate office I don't want the wider workplace to know."
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When asked about how burlesque pays she said: "My issue with people calling it fancy stripping is that I would make way more money if I was a stripper but as a burlesque dancer I spend it all on costumes.
"The most expensive costume I own is a Marie Antoinette one that cost around [pounds sterling]1,000 but you could easily spend more - and people do.
"But I really like the DIY spirit of burlesque - I'm currently trying to make a headdress out of papier mache for the competition."
She added: "I stuck with burlesque instead of acting because it's more accepting - I found with acting you could not be given a role for a very arbitrary reason; if you didn't look right or you were too tall.
"Whereas in burlesque you fully create the act from start to finish and you put that out there and it's a very inclusive scene."
Twerking instructor, burlesque performer and actress Bunni Morretto, 26, was born and raised in Richmond and has been on the scene for less than a year.
Her Jamaican heritage plays a big part in her performances which include twerking and her signature assels (bum tassels).
Speaking to getwestlondon, she said: "My favourite costume is definitely anything with assels on it - assels are like nipple tassels you wear on your butt and I wear them when I'm twerking (a sexually provocative dance which involves thrusting hip movements and bum shaking).
"They go round really, really fast - assels and twerking are definitely what set me apart from other burlesque performers.
"My act is very fun and very high energy and I incorporate a lot of my culture into it. My parents are Jamaican and there's a lot of Caribbean dancing and twerking - it's very comedic, cute and out there.
She added: "I first saw cabaret and burlesque at the Underbelly Festival where I've been working since I was 18. I always thought 'Oh my god I wish that was me' but I didn't try it until last November when I just thought - you know what I'm just going to go for it.
"The first act I ever did, which is still my favourite, is based around a sex education class - it's about a girl who's a bit shy in her sex education class and then she has this sex book which is dragging her to the dark side (Bunni laughs). And then I strip tease down to nipple tassels."
Bunni is not just a burlesque dancer but also teaches women how to twerk.
She said: "I do twerk classes, so I teach people how to twerk and embrace their bodies - they're body confidence twerk classes and workshops. I started the classes in east London but I'm going to take them all over and am hopefully teach them in Cardiff in September."
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When asked whether her parents and friends know about her doing burlesque, she said: "Everyone knows - I'm really proud of it. I've had a few people who are now not friends because of it.
"They're from the acting world which is very snobby and thought what I was doing wasn't OK.
"But there are so many women who want to be sexually liberated and embrace their sexuality and they have people around them telling them it's wrong.
"For me I'd gone up two dress sizes and was slightly uncomfortable with my body but doing burlesque has helped me embrace it - it's an amazing platform for women of all different shapes and sizes and colours to become comfortable in their sexual selves."
As the only black finalist in Miss Burlesque UK, Bunni says work needs to be done to promote more diversity in the burlesque scene.
She said: "There's a great club called The Cocoa Butter Club which promotes cabaret and burlesque performers of colour and is doing amazing work.
"But I feel like the scene needs to be a lot more diverse, especially with who they book. I twerk in my performances and there have been a few times when I haven't been booked but then they book a white girl with blond hair who twerks, because that's something they know. I just think the bigger companies need to book more women of colour."
When asked about pay, Bunni said: "I've been really surprised at how well it's paid considering I've just started - I've done performances when I've earned a month's rent in one night - but it's not all like that."
Known as the "Antipodean temptress" full-time burlesque dancer Duchess de Berry has no issue with calling burlesque dancing "fancy stripping".
The 29-year-old moved to west London from New Zealand just one month ago to further her career.
Speaking to getwestlondon, the Harrow Road resident said she first tried burlesque as a "fun hobby".
She said: "I've always had a background in musical theatre and dancing and it was something I just did because it was interesting - then I realised I was OK at it and decided it would be good to pursue it full time - I always wanted to be an enterntainer.
"In New Zealand I was known as The Antipodean Temptress, which I guess is my tag line. My style is very avant-garde, very sensual. My hair is purple, my outfits are very high-end and luxurious. I wear lots of rhinestones and silk and feathers."
She added: "All my routines are different - I've brought 10 different routines with me to London and they've all got different costumes - all custom-made.
"I strip but obviously within the boundaries of burlesque the most you ever get down to is a g-string and 'pasties' - which are the nipple covers, sometimes with the tassels, - that's as far as you go."
She added: "I call it fancy stripping - I mean we use our costumes and our art to tease and take the audience on a journey with us. My routines aren't about sex but about the idea of sex; the tease and the build up and anticipation.
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"I don't get upset when people associate us with strippers - we are taking our clothes off for money, which is what a stripper does, it's just we do it in different venue for a different audience.
"Mostly I perform in bars, theatres or cabaret venues but you also might do private events like parties or corporate events - it's really quite varied - I've performed on a yacht."
When asked about pay, Duchess said: "It varies - it depends on what you're doing and who you're doing it for. I'd rather not say exactly how much I was earning but I'd say in New Zealand I was earning an average salary."
Duchess will be performing her favourite routine "Galaxy" at the Miss Burlesque UK competition.
She said: "It's more conceptual than the classic bump and grind burlesque - it's basically about an alien queen deciding she doesn't want the restraints of duty and expectation any more and she just wants to express herself.
"So I wear this custom-designed corset that looks like a cage which is metaphorical and it's a still a strip tease but as soon as that corset comes off the movements become a lot more open and free.
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"The routine is four and a half minutes long. The thing with burlesque is there's only so many items of costume you can take off in an interesting way."
Miss Burlesque UK will be held at The Tabernacle, in Notting Hill, on September 1.
You can buy tickets to Miss Burlesque UKhere.
Credit: Retro Photostudio
Valerie Savage enjoys the comedy of burlesque
Credit: JME Photoart
Valerie has a "Netflix n Chill" routine
Credit: Rob Brazier
Bunni says her bum tassels and twerking set her apart from other burlesque performers
Credit: Orlando Myxx
Bunni's favourite act is based around a sex education class
Credit: Black Friday Photography
Duchess wears a cage corset for her favourite "Galaxy" routine
Credit: Rachel Mia
Duchess is known as The Antipodean Temptress
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|Publication:||Get West London (Watford, England)|
|Date:||Aug 19, 2018|
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