Sunday 9 February 2014

An Interview with Singing Showgirl Bexi Owen

I met Bexi in December when she came to sing at my debut burlesque show for Appleton Productions which I produce and manage. It was my first show and out of all the many applicants and videos and options I knew I wanted Bexi to be a part of my first show. She oozed glamour and looked and sounded every inch the 1950’s showgirl! It was an utter pleasure to work with her. Not only does she do a fabulous job on stage but she’s very sweet, kind, a real pleasure to have backstage and in the dressing room.  You need to all know about this lady and to help that I have interviewed her! She has lots of exciting news from performing for Hollyoaks recently and even writing this on return from a wonderful show she attended in Switzerland. 
Winner of The National Vintage Awards 2013
'Best Musical Performer'

Bexi is a swing and jazz singer/dancer who performs music from the 1920s through to modern classics. She performs at vintage fairs and festivals across the UK and also at many burlesque and cabaret nights, has modelled for numerous companies including Vintage Girly Whirly and Dr Sketchy's. She loves everything that encompasses vintage including music, clothing and film, all aspects of her life are in some way connected to this passion.

Bexi's beautiful vintage costumes and authentically reproduced handmade dresses that she wears on stage enhance her unique style as do the bespoke song arrangements that are made specifically for her performances.
Bexi has worked at many large vintage and rockabilly events across the UK including The Festival of Vintage and Speke Hall Vintage Festival. Burlesque and cabaret shows are also a large part of her singing work and she has performed at shows including The Frou Frou Club, Looking Glass Burlesque and Carny Cabaret.

How did you decide you wanted to become a singer?

I began singing in school and started taking it seriously as a teenager, having private training and joining everything that involved performing. When I went to University I lost a lot of confidence in myself so it wasn't until a few years later that I returned to it and I'm very glad I did!

Is performing as a singer your full time job?

I'm lucky enough to say that it is now, yes! It took a long time to build up to that point but I had such a supportive workplace (Britain's Best Bakery Finalists Mad Hatters Tearoom in Chester) who allowed me to be very flexible with my working schedule. Gradually we cut my hours down to the point where I could leave and concentrate on singing. I held the launch of my tour there and it was wonderful to be back where I feel I started with them. I love all aspects of what I do from rehearsing, arranging everything and then actually performing so I put all my energy into every facet.

Do you have a favourite song or genre to sing?

The 1950s is my favourite era to choose songs from, both for the music and I'm also drawn to the styling of the decade too. I like singing upbeat songs that people can dance to. One of my favourite performers from the era is Diana Dors as she was representing Britain at a time when everyone looked towards Hollywood for their glamour. She was a talented actress, singer and comedienne as well as being blindingly stunning!

You have performed in a huge amount of places. Do you still get nervous about going on stage?

Definitely! I used to get nervous to the point of feeling I was about to collapse but over the years I've developed strategies to cope with this such as making sure I'm breathing steadily. I wish nerves didn't have to be a part of performing but I always tell myself if I'm not nervous it likely means I don't care about what I'm doing so I hope I'll always have some butterflies before stepping on stage.
I don't get worried about things going wrong though as most things that could have done have! Music skipping, tripping, revealing too much- all have happened so I can cope now if things do go a bit awry and cover it so the audience either don't notice or can laugh with me about it!

It was an absolute pleasure having you a part of my very first show for Appleton Productions. Working with you first hand I know you’re ever the professional, stunning in person and a great singer. How much of your time is spent travelling out of town to shows?

Thank you very much, it was a joy to be with you on your first and highly successful debut as a producer! I really enjoy the travelling aspect itself, the only downside is having to leave my partner and kitty behind. I'm based in the North West so I to travel to London a lot for work but there are some brilliant shows situated all over that I've been involved with too.

It must be difficult travelling around with a suitcase a lot of the time.

It can be tiring but whose work isn't?! Last week I performed in Switzerland so that was even more travelling on top but I'm very lucky to be able to see so many wonderful places that I might not have visited if it weren't for singing.

What are the staple items you never leave home for a show without?

All the usual showgirl clich├ęs of course...false lashes, red lipstick!

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?

I work with so many inspirational women (Appleton Pin Up Girl included!) who possess multiple skill sets. For example, they might not only perform but also produce, design or utilise other skills they have in some way and I find that very motivating as they're aiming to be the best they can be whilst doing something unique too. I love working with such creative people and feel very lucky to call so many friends.
In terms of inspiration for performance, I take a lot from past performers- 1950s musical stars mainly but also literature and art (Bexi completed her first year of a Literature based PhD  but is currently taking a break to focus on performing). I'd love to develop this in the next year as I really want to work on the aesthetics as much as the sound of my shows.

What do you like to do with your time off from being a singing, swinging showgirl?

Being self-employed, I feel extremely guilty if I have any days without doing something performance related whether that be admin, rehearsing or an actual show itself. So I try to do something everyday even if it's just replying to bookings, the world of entertainment moves so quickly so I like to be moving just as quickly too!

As a huge Hollyoaks fan myself I was excited to hear that you have recently been filming for them! What exactly was your role?

Yes, it was a lot of fun! I played the part of a showgirl club dancer and was part of a few comedy scenes. I was on set for a whole week and the cast and crew were lovely.

How did it all come about?

It was all very fast, I was asked to do it on the Sunday night and was on set 8 am the following Tuesday!

What was it like performing on a TV set?

Performance wise, it felt slightly unnatural as it was take after take as various scenes were setup and so the spontaneity and excitement of a live performance was lost but on the other hand, it meant that any mistakes that were made were able to be erased which can't be done on stage!When are your scenes due to air?

Not too sure of the exact date but I believe later this month!

More exciting news is that last year you won The National Vintage Awards 2013 'Best Musical Performer'! Congratulations! How did you feel to win such a great award?

Thank you, it was an amazing night and such a great experience from start to finish! I genuinely didn't expect to win, I was just happy to have reached the final so I could attend the awards ceremony. It was such a glamorous affair, with everyone dressed exquisitely. When my name was called I was in such shock that I didn't make any speech other than a quick thank you! I'm looking forward to this year's awards night as I'll be performing!

Do you organise events yourself? If so what type and what do you try to create with your events?

I'm very much involved with the organisation of my upcoming tour, "Shake, Dazzle and Roll" as I want to help my tour manager (Vintage events specialists Happy Heritage) as much as possible so we both know were happy with everything. Laura, the director, is great to work with though and is a bit of a super woman juggling her own business with three children under 5! So it's great to work with such motivated, inspirational women like her.

What type of gigs do you enjoy performing at the most and why?

I love most of the gigs I do for different reasons. Burlesque shows are great fun as it's a team effort and it's great catching up with everyone backstage. Then vintage fairs are lovely to do as well as I like chatting to the stall holders afterwards and seeing what lovely things they have.

What would you say makes a well-run show?

Having a friendly crew and venue helps so that the performers and audience feel welcome. I don't mind if things aren't perfect as long as people are nice. I'd rather have a toilet sized dressing room and a smiley stage manager than a palatial boudoir and a frosty atmosphere!

You are on stage and being photographed a lot of the time. Looking after yourself must play a big part in your life. What are you favourite beauty products and why?

I like a mix of budget and higher end products. I wear factor 50 sun cream without fail every day even if it's the middle of winter and I'm only popping out for half an hour, I've done so since I was 12!

Do you have a set beauty routine?

I remove makeup with Clarins Cleansing Milk as I have quite sensitive skin then moisturise. I also apply pure vitamin E to my skin every night. I make sure I drink a lot of water and sleep as much as possible as I can tell the difference in my skin if I haven't.

On that note how to you keep yourself in shape for your performances?

I try and do some form of exercise everyday. On days when I'm quite busy I'll fit in at least a 30 minute walk on top of rushing about. When I do have more time though I'll alternate between interval training, full cardio and strength training. I do a lot of dance classes, not just for fitness but also to try and improve my performing style too.

What is your diet like?

I would say fairly healthy! When I'm busy I don't have regular meals so I try and focus on eating small amounts throughout the day. I'm a vegetarian so I have to be careful to eat enough protein. I'm not a big fan of meat alternatives like quorn as they're very processed.

I actually do love healthy food though and enjoy the challenge of making each meal as highly nutritious as possible with as much veg as I can fit on a plate. A typical pre show dinner might be a big salad with seeds, goat’s cheese and hummus for extra protein. I also like drinking a lot of herbal teas.

That said though of course I like treats sometimes too, when I worked in the tearoom I loved trying all the cupcakes there!

What are your must have pieces of make up?

I've just discovered Dermablend which is great for evening out skin tone. It's a bit heavy to wear all the time so I mix it with moisturiser during the day but it's perfect for stage. MAC products are great for stage too. When I won the NVA, as part of my prize I was given a lovely make up set by Le Keux cosmetics and it is fabulous, I hope they expand their range soon!

What is your favourite perfume?

I've worn 'Romance' by Ralph Lauren since I was 15, I love it!

Do you style your own hair yourself?

Yes, I like big wild curly hair! I did bleach my own hair for a long time too but had to admit defeat and hand myself in to a professional who gave me a good telling off.

Where are your favourite places to shop both online and in store?

EBay! Even though I'm lucky enough to have my stage dresses handmade by a brilliant costumier (Christine Edson of Costumes by Christine) - I love finding a £1.99 vintage ball gown! This is why I also love Charity shop wandering too. My favourite vintage shop is Vibrant Vintage based in West Houghton.

What is your approach to fashion?

I don't think I'm very fashion conscious in a modern sense as I wear things that I like whether they're 'in' or not. It took me a long time but now I know exactly what suits my figure and definitely what doesn't so I haven't worn trousers or jeans in years!

How do you go about making/creating your costumes?

I love customising my stage outfits by adding crystals and beading. I've improved since I first started but I leave anything that needs proper skill to the professionals! My official tour costume maker is Christine Edson of Costumes by Christine who also makes authentic Hollywood reproduction dresses. I knew I wanted her to design my dresses as her style is so glamorous. She has recently joined forces with the wonderful Andrea from Petticoats-a- Plenty and I'm delighted that my dress will be their first joint collaboration- expect it to be big!

What else is coming up for you?

I have lots of exciting things planned, gigs in Marbella and Las Vegas coming up and then the start of the tour as well as lots of lovely gigs in between, including performing in one of the most beautiful Ballrooms in the world- The Tower Ballroom as featured on Strictly Come Dancing- which I'm really looking forward to. I've had so many amazing opportunities given to me so far and I aim to continue working hard so I don't let anyone down!
I'm also trying to write more, starting with a regular column in Speakeasy magazine which will be a challenge but I'm finding it fun so far!

What advice would you give to a girl reading this interested in getting into this industry?

No one will tolerate a diva however talented you may be so work hard and be nice to people!

I would like to thank Bexi Owen for her time with this fabulous interview.

To keep up to date with Bexi head to her Facebook page

Stay tuned for more!!


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