Recently seen at the Urban Voodoo Machine’s tenth anniversary gig, the model and burlesquer Miss Miranda will be heading off in September to perform at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. Sounds like a good time to say konichi wa, moshi moshi and hello, no?
What would surprise somebody who has only seen you on stage?
I read write and speak Japanese to AS level and I can also play the musical saw.
That’s certainly different. So how did your burlesque career start?
When I heard about this new, exciting, clandestine “burlesque” scene emerging in London in 2003, I was instantly attracted. I was just 17 when I attended my first burlesque show at The Whoopee! Club and I went alone.
I had developed a pretty distinctive personal style through my teens having made my own clothes patterns from the age of 12 and I was very into Victoriana. I turned up wearing a homemade Victorian style floral and lace dress, carrying a doll in an identical miniature dress I’d made for her and caught the eye of the cast and producers and I quickly made friends with them, coming to all the subsequent shows. Soon they were encouraging me to start putting together my own performances which I took to with a passion, and have never looked back!
You come across as quite a creative person. Where did that side of you come from?
I think I’ve always been drawn to performance – my granny was an actress in the 20s, 30s and 40s and studied at RADA so my family strongly encouraged that impulse in me! My great, great, great uncle on the same side was J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, so perhaps it’s in my blood. I have always had my creativity nurtured and encouraged at home, I am extremely lucky and grateful for that. My favourite thing to do when my age was in single digits was to cut things up and make animal masks for myself, and do face painting – thankfully, my parents were very supportive!
While at school I trained in Jazz dance and took out of school dance and theatre classes for many years too. I came close to going to theatre school, but after careful consideration I went for art college instead. I did a Foundation course at Chelsea College of Art and stayed on for a degree in graphic design, something that comes in very handy, I can tell you!
It was often difficult fitting my performance work around my studies, but I managed it. For my degree final major project, I produced a burlesque event and performed alongside friends and legendary performers Vicky Butterfly and Kitty Bang Bang.
You certainly have a deep devotion for all things burlesque but what do you love most about it?
Being able to choose exactly who I’m going to be. Ever since I was a tiny child I’ve been fascinated with costumes and masks and anything that can transform how you look as well as feel. Burlesque allows me to play any character I want and to share it with other people and let them enjoy it too. I can transform myself into anything I like, live out any fantasy I wish to.
I’ve heard many people say that you need to be a bit of a control freak to do burlesque, and I think that’s probably true but that in a lot of ways it is a very positive outlet for that impulse. Being able to express an idea fully through music, costume, movement and choreography; lighting and props; personality and performance – to share a vision in multiple creative media – is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever experienced.
You’re well known as a model. How did you get into that?
Since my modelling work has tended to have more press than my burlesque, many people assume that I got in to performance through modelling. It was in fact the other way around. About seven years ago, I was asked to model for international faux vintage lingerie brand What Katie Did after being spotted on stage at the Whoopee! Club in London.
And how does your burlesque performances feed into your modelling?
Understanding how to play a role and knowing what role or personality best suits a given “look” is a vital part of being a model, and I do feel that my success in modelling has been largely due to my performance ability. I love being able to play different roles when I model – to create the character and personality that fits the brief. I also do my own styling for many of my shoots which means I have more control and I get to choose exactly what kind of character I get to play – just like I do with my burlesque acts!
So what do you have coming up?
To keep doing what I love, working with the people who inspire me, and move onwards and upwards! I feel very focused right now on cultivating the career I’ve built for myself and bringing what I do to a wider audience. I have just been accepted to perform at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival this September, and have some very exciting plans for 2014 that I’ll be able to announce later this year. I can’t wait for September: New Orleans is my favourite city in the whole world and this will be my third time visiting but my first performing there. It’s going to be amazing!
Miss Miranda’s domestic and foreign adventures can be followed on her official website.
Photos supplied by artist.