For burlesque performer, it's all about the art

WITH nothing but a handful of feathers covering her modesty, Missy Malone exits stage left.

Another sexy burlesque stiptease is over and while she gets dressed backstage, the crowd is still clapping - including her parents.

Staring up at their 25-year-old daughter as she treads the boards in skimpy outfits, thrilling the crowd with her glamorous and theatrical routine, is hardly most parents' dream. But they try not to miss a show.

Hide Ad

"Some dancers' families won't come to the shows," the Edinburgh College of Art graduate explains. "But mine have always supported me. There is a great misunderstanding about burlesque - people make their minds up about it without even seeing it, and sometimes they're wrong. I have nothing to feel embarrassed about. It's striptease, but there is no nudity - and I like having my family there."

Her parents even help their only child prepare the set and props for her performances, allowing her a chance to perfect her routine, down to the final feathery wave, for her fans across the world.

But perhaps it's no surprise that Missy Malone - who laughs at the slightest suggestion of using her real name, or even revealing what it is - got into the burlesque scene, never mind becoming one of the most sought-after performers on the international circuit.

As a teenager in Livingston she would stare with fascination at the images of 1950s showgirls plastered across her bedroom walls. Admiring their curvaceous figures, their confidence, the glamour of their outfits and dance routines, she decided that one day she would "love to look like that".

Obsessed with drama, she played a keen role in the West Lothian Youth Theatre while at Deans Community High School, all the while developing her own unique fashion style, based on the dark, striking locks of Morticia Addams and her own "super-glam" mum, who boasted dramatic long, red nails.

And then Missy ran off to join the circus. Leaving home at 17, she went to Glasgow to learn how to perform professional trapeze, before enrolling at Edinburgh College of Art where she graduated in 2007 with a degree in costume design.

Hide Ad

"I've always loved performing. I started off acting when I was really young. I was obsessed with pin-up art, and pin-up girls on the side of planes. I thought they were more beautiful than anyone could ever be.

"None of this has ever been planned though. Honestly. I've always had an interest in clothing, music and drama, but I could never have planned what I am doing now."

Hide Ad

Despite her lack of a life plan, the fact is Missy Malone is in demand. Making her mark on the burlesque scene at just 18 years old, she quickly developed a strong reputation, not only as a class act, but as a competent businesswoman, allowing her the financial success to survive solely as a burlesque performer.

She is the first to admit, though, that her timing could not have been better. The burlesque scene has exploded since she decided to give it a go, believing there was a market out there which would allow her to combine all her artistic passions into a humorous, dramatic and sexy performance.

"I had researched everything to do with burlesque when I was 17. The week I turned 18, I bought myself a pair of fans, practised in front of the mirror and recorded it to make sure it looked good. Probably about a week later I was looking for clubs and started to perform, working in group acts in Club Noir in Glasgow."

A year later she had gone solo - and Edinburgh audiences may well have seen her stripping skills at Vegas.

"My interest is in the 1940s/50s when burlesque became more striptease.

"A lot of performers do straight-forward classical striptease but I incorporate humour and entertainment."

Hide Ad

But with the growing interest, burlesque has changed, going down a road more associated with pole-dancing and out-right nudity. "A lot of shows do promote 'bad' burlesque," Missy explains. "I want to correct that with mine. There is definitely a new burlesque movement, with a lot of people copying the style. It's a more modern take though, but I like the classic form. I don't want to be labelled with this new type. There's no nudity in my act."

Back in Edinburgh for one night only later this month, Missy now lives in Cheltenham with her boyfriend Dave, a 30-year-old drum technician she met while touring with The Damned. Being based down south has given her the opportunity to travel more easily, with gigs in Europe, and recently in India where she danced for a Bollywood film, shot in Mumbai.

Hide Ad

"When I met Dave he had no idea what burlesque was and saw it for the first time when I was on stage. He enjoys it though and is proud of me. Around half of my audiences are female anyway," she explains. "It depends on where I perform, but usually there are a lot of professional couples and theatre-goers, who want to see what the show is about.

"I think women realise that with burlesque the performers come in all different shapes and sizes - there is no need to feel intimidated, unlike the images you see of women everywhere else, often looking like man-made perfection."

So can a woman who takes her clothes off for a living ever feel self-conscious? "Of course. At the start . . . especially because I am quite flat-chested," she jokes. "But I just got on with it. When I first looked back on performances, I thought it wasn't how I imagined - I looked great!

"There is no perfect body. I see all shapes and sizes in this industry and have decided every body is beautiful in different ways."

Missy says she does not go to great lengths to maintain her shape - simply watching what she eats and cycling, but admittedly performing three or four times a week - but she will never let herself down when it comes to her appearance. "I don't own a tracksuit or a hooded top," she says. "If I am watching a film, I'll wear my pyjamas, but my casual clothing is jeans, high-waisted with turn-ups, along with checked diner shirts.

"And I wear make-up every day - it makes me feel attractive. I've been doing that since I was 14. It's just who I am."

• Missy Malone's theatre show will be at Edinburgh's Voodoo Rooms on Saturday, August 28, Visit