|Photo by Charis Talbot|
I am very excited to bring you an interview with top international burlesque starlet Eliza DeLite! I have been wanting to interview this lady for some time and if you keep reading you will see why! As you all know, I produce burlesque shows in Basingstoke my home town and I am proud to be the first and only show of its kind in the area (outside of An Evening of Burlesque held at the Anvil). I bring my kind of burlesque to the area which basically means you can locally see a top show with performers from around the country that typically you would need to head to London to see, right on your doorstep. Well Eliza DeLite is Basingstoke’s first top burlesque performer, born and bred in our town! Between myself and Eliza I hope to bring Basingstoke a show where for the first time ever the audience locally will be able to see this beauty perform live! This will show why Basingstoke should be proud be have a performer of this caliber who has come from a town that up until my shows had hardly heard of the word burlesque! Let me tell you more about her…
How did you get into the burlesque industry?
I started performing half way through my degree at the age of 20 – although I was studying photography, a little bit of me still ached for the stage (which I had spent my youth on performing in pantomimes). It took me a couple of years before I considered it a viable career option – although I was lucky enough to be earning money from it I still had hopes to become a fashion/editorial photographer.
About 2 years in, I found myself performing at the London Burlesque Festival and suddenly people were showing an interest in me. A year later I went back and took home the British Female Crown, which was really the catalyst for me landing much bigger and more regular bookings at reputable shows.
I have never fully relied on that award though and have always continued to work hard – I could have just taken it home, put my feet up and waited for the work to come to me but I don’t feel I’d have gotten half as far as I have without the hard graft.
It’s been over two years since that happened and since then I’ve ended up all over the world – life isn’t slowing down and I’m still enjoying every minute of it.
|Photo by Charis Talbot|
How did the name Eliza DeLite come about?
Eliza – is short for Elizabeth, which is my actual middle name (after my great granny). DeLite was just one of the many possible ideas that were bounced around and I felt it was the best option. I wanted something that would work well with my “English rose” image and being from the south (Basingstoke) I have a slightly posh accent (apparently… so I am told) so it sounds right if you say it in a southern English accent. I was teased as a child/teenager for being “posh” – this was just my way of accepting and embracing it!
You have performed in a huge amount of places. Do you still get nervous about going on stage?
Of course – I care about giving a good performance so my concern is always about being on top form. But it’s always part nerves and part excitement. Of all the hours spent creating, rehearsing, preparing, marketing & travelling – performing is that ultimate culmination of all those efforts and I want every performance to count.
Who is your favourite burlesque performer to watch?
There are many performers I admire for many reasons but for me, one of my top performers who I am also honored to call a friend is Velma Von Bon Bon. That girl is entertaining on so many different levels and just continues to push her performance boundaries. We work together fairly regularly and she’s always telling me about her next crazy idea – it’s so great seeing them become a reality.
Other performers who’s work I enjoy would be Russell Bruner, Kitten & Lou, Vicky Butterfly, Lada Redstar & The Stagedoor Johnnies. All of these performers have a great sense of theatrics in their performances, which for me is hugely important.
What did you do to earn a living before you started burlesque?
Before I started performing for a living I was working in a chocolate shop and studying for my degree. I was lucky enough to land my first paid gig only a few months after my first performance back in 2008. Burlesque has been a source of income for me almost right from the beginning, which has been beneficial to me in terms of me treating it as a business from very early on. Along the way though I have had a wide variety of jobs – in a prison, in a pub, on the reception desk at social services, as a photographer & videographer (my original career plan), I even recently spent a day pattern cutting for my friend Catriona Stewart who had a very large order for patterns for men’s PVC catsuits!
The most interesting job was the prison job – where I was screening letters and phone calls both to and from the prisoners. I had to make sure they weren’t trying to make contact with certain people on the outside… most interesting!
What do you like to do with your time off from ‘Eliza DeLite’?
I don’t really get time off from ;’Eliza DeLite’ – it’s a 24/7 business! I am terrible and switching off and am always doing something, whether it’s working on a new act, rehearsing, sewing bits of costume, setting my hair, managing my website and social media outlets, shooting new photos, travelling or performing!
When I do get to relax though – I love just curling up on the sofa with Dr DeLite & the cats to watch a movie. I’m also a big fan of cocktail bars, a night out is a rarity for me these days but if given the chance – I’m there!
This summer was my first with my own garden so I really enjoyed transforming it into a little outdoor haven with lots of colorful flowers & fairy lights – somewhere nice to sit and chill with friends in the evening.
I’m lucky enough to live in an area that is thriving with good vintage clothing & homeware shops, some good second hand bookshops and lots of little cafes & places to explore – so if I get a spare afternoon or I get sick of being sat working on my laptop I take myself out for a little “me time” rummaging for treasures! That for me is one of the best things to do and gives me such a buzz!
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?
A lot of my favorite beauty & skin care items are from Lush. I’ve worked part time at Lush for 3 years now (as a necessity to support my self employment income but also as a means of keeping myself grounded and integrated in “the real world”). For my face, I love Lush’s honey and beeswax cleanser Ultrabland. It’s very nourishing & softening whilst being a fabulous cleanser & removes even heavy stage make-up. I also swear by their King of Skin body butter bar & Olive Branch shower gel (I promise I don’t work on commission… the products really are that good!). I spend a lot of my time travelling and the air conditioning on trains and being on aeroplanes can be very drying on the skin so I need products like these to keep it nice and soft. There’s nothing better at the end of a long day travelling & performing than being able to take off all the make up and know that my skin is getting a good moisturize!
Do you have a set beauty routine?
I always moisturize! I have done since I was about 12 and am ever so glad I did. I get a lot of compliments on my clear completion and soft skin and I owe it to moisturizer.
I tend to wear make up most days (if I’m leaving the house) – it just makes me feel more efficient and capable of facing the day’s challenges without the worry of running into someone without my make up on. I love idea of the whole “natural beauty” thing, but – honestly, it’s not for me. I like a bit of theatrics & illusion on a day to day basis. “Eliza” isn’t a façade I put on just for stage… that’s who I am every day.
My hair is my biggest regular challenge. I have to regularly wet set it for any shows or photo shoots, which can be very time consuming. I’ve been setting my hair for a good few years now and I still hate doing it but the results and longevity of the set are well worth it. One wet set can get me through a whole weekend of shows and shoots if I need it to. If I’m really lucky I can make it last about 5 days!
My biggest beauty downfall is not always remembering to remove my make up before bed. Obviously if it’s heavy make up (lipstick & the works) I’ll take it off… but I am prone to leaving mascara on and waking up all panda eyed. I recently started using a nice moisturizing night serum (yup, from Lush), which I love the feel of, so that gives me the incentive to remove my make up before bed.
|Photo by Grace Elkin|
Who is your beauty idol?
Any of the old Hollywood starlets! Hedy Lamarr, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor!
On that note how do you keep yourself in shape for your performances?
I’ve recently thrown myself back into attending regular dance classes. I’ve gone back to taking weekly ballet & tap dance classes to help build my strength and polish my poise and dance ability. I’ve had numerous comments over the years from audience members about my clearly being a trained dancer… which actually, I’m not (though it’s very kind of them to think that)! The reality is that I quit my dance classes when I was 12 (I hated the girly pink leotards). I dipped in and out of various informal classes during my teens and then eventually took an A level in dance, which was mostly contemporary based. Until recently, it’s been about 8 years since I was doing any proper regular strenuous dance classes and it feels so good to be back!
My body is remembering a lot of things and I’m really excited to see how attending these classes will change my abilities and overall presentation on stage. All around me people (other performers) are taking up new performance skills – hula hooping, fire breathing, circus tricks, areal etc. I hugely admire their dedication and desire to try something new, but for me… what I want to do is re-visit something I bitterly regret giving up and that for me is ballet. I already feel that poise and elegance are my strong points on stage and I plan on really improving those things to help me up my game. I never made it onto pointe but that for me is a goal – I don’t know if I’ll ever reach that stage but I won’t know if I don’t try. Depending on how the classes go – I might consider taking some private tuition next year.
In between classes I keep up an exercise regime to help build strength and stamina. I’m not a fan of running so I do a lot of exercises at home that have been put together for my by my friend & personal trainer Sophie (of SophFit).
What is your diet like?
That’s quite an interesting question as I’ve recently been re-evaluating my diet. All my life I’ve been pretty lucky in being able to eat what I want without facing the consequences but as I’m get older I’m becoming more aware that I’ve now reached a point where I’m going to have to work a little harder to maintain what I’ve got. I’ve been lucky enough with my small figure so far, I don’t want to push my luck! My biggest challenge when it comes to healthy eating is that I’m pretty fussy about what I like, so it’s been a little bit challenging but slowly I’m discovering new things which are both healthy and actually very tasty. I have a bad habit of finding something I like and then eating it constantly for a fortnight (rather than mixing it into my existing diet) – I’m trying to break that habit. A while ago it was asparagus… now it’s avocados. I think I’ve eaten an avocado a day (almost) for about a month! I like them very much in smoothies, salads and in bagels some crispy bacon & cheese… I’m still not so keen on guacamole (but that’s more a textural thing).
My biggest food weaknesses are cured meats – chorizo, salami, prosciutto, jerky… you name it! I have developed a little bit of a reputation for being quite the carnivore (hence my efforts to widen my palette when it comes to the green stuff!). I also love a good fillet steak, medium rare with peppercorn sauce please!
But back to the healthy eating… It’s something that I’ve recently embraced and am really enjoying. I have a good friend who recently qualified as a personal trainer (as I mentioned above) and she’s been a great help both with my diet and exercise regime. It’s not something that comes naturally to me so her help has been great.
|Photo by Charis Talbot|
What are your must have pieces of make up?
A good foundation (I’m very pale naturally and it’s taken me years to find the right shade of foundation).
Blush – because I’m pale, I need a little blush to stop me looking ill, I have been using the same shade of blush from Bourgeois since I was 18 (when I first starting using it). Liquid eyeliner (I like a brush applicator best). My Dior eye-shadow pallet – I use it both on and off stage. Mac lipstick – either in Russian Red or Cyber (depending on my mood). Mac lip liner (in varying shades). I always use a lip liner before my lipstick to keep my lips neat and well shaped. Also the lip liner I choose for my base can massively alter the end shade once I put lipstick on top and I have quite a lot of fun experimenting with different combos. Mascara and the right shade of eyebrow pencil are also essential.
Do you style your own hair yourself?
Do you have any hair tips to share to get your glamorous look?
I suffer from straight hair (I do consider it an affliction!) so I have to work extra hard to get any volume and shape into it. So for all those ladies out there with straight hair, if you want a long lasting volumous vintage style – I recommend a good strong wet set. Some people prefer pin curling, I prefer a sponge roller set. It takes a lot of practice but is worth it in the long run. And if you are going to wet set, be sure to properly brush it out. There a loads of really helpful tutorials on youtube to help you find what works for you.
I also have my haircut in the right style for a 40’s wet set. It’s taken me years to find a hairdresser who understands what I need but it certainly makes all the difference having the correct cut.
|Photo by None More Negative|
Everyone no matter what shape or size wants to feel confident and happy about themselves. What advice would you have to feel glamorous and boost your own confidence?
It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life but my main advice to anyone looking for a confidence boost is to simply make sure you are well presented before you leave the house. I know you may be thinking “that’s easy for her to say… it’s her job” but even if it’s just sweeping your hair in to a neat bun, or a swish of lipstick before walking out the door – people you encounter throughout the day will generally look at and treat you more respectfully, thus making you feel better about yourself.
My cheat’s tip is that I have a wardrobe full of black clothes, I wear black most days but it gives off the instant glam factor. Even if it’s just leggings and a long drapey top – head to toe black is a winner! I also layer up, have a few key glam items you can easily throw over the top of comfortable clothes. I always travel to shows in comfy clothes but make sure I have a nice kimono or piece of statement jewelry on so that I arrive to work looking neat and professional.
|Photo by Charis Talbot|
What is your favourite perfume?
“Pure Poison” by Dior
What is your approach to fashion?
Timeless elegance – I don’t follow many fashion trends (though the disco pants fad did break me!). I’ve spent a few years curating my wardrobe and developing a look that works for me. As I mentioned above, for day wear I mostly wear black – it’s effortlessly glam and opens up many options for accessorizing. I probably put more effort into my daytime look than is really necessary but I do view myself as my own brand and I like to attain a level of consistency in my appearance.
My key fashion items are my kimonos & turbans. I adopted these items into my regular wardrobe about two years ago and teamed with my usual base of black clothing – give me my staple look. To my advantage both these items have become hugely popular within high street fashion of late which means they are even easier to get hold of (though I’m pretty picky!).
I have also built up an immense collection of evening-wear through my clever “rummaging” (though it’s still not a big enough collection by my books)! This is where you’ll find most of my vintage items, sequined evening dress after sequined evening dress! You never can have too many, and they’re ideal for curtain calls or post show socializing.
Where are your favorite places to shop, both for burlesque goodies and for yourself?
That’s a tricky question. I don’t have ONE place that I go to for burlesque goodies – but a whole bank of different places depending on what I need. I buy a lot online when it comes to costuming items, trimmings, crystals etc. My costumier Erica and I tend to go to one particular fabric shop when ever it comes to sourcing fabric for a new costume – it’s a little bit of a trek for us to get to as it’s outside of Leicester (where we both live), but always a fun and exciting experience when ever it happens. We burlesquers can be quite secretive about where we source our costuming items from but most of us are happy to share with each other and help each other out from time to time.
For myself, my favorite places are vintage shops, not just for clothes but for beautiful nic-naks. I also love a good flea market – one of the best I ever went to was in west Berlin. It was a cold January day but it was absolutely full to the brim with stalls selling all sorts of old and wonderful things!
|Photo by Fottoo|
What are your biggest inspirations and why?
Having been an art student for so many years, I have learned to take inspiration from many different sources. I’m mostly inspired by anything particularly opulent & detailed like beautiful church art work of historical architecture. I recently stood outside the houses of parliament for the first time and it just blew me away! Seeing all that beautiful detail was just magical. When I was in Berlin I visited the Berliner Dom – I had to sit down for a good half hour just to take it all in before exploring other parts of the building.
I also was lucky enough to catch the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition in London before it closed which was one of the best exhibitions I have ever been to. His work is just astonishing. I was particularly pleased to be there to also see some of Pierre et Gilles work on display, which for years has been one of my biggest inspirations (see my Virgin Mary act!).
I am also hugely influenced by the costumes of the old MGM musicals and designers such as Adrian who really shaped the look of the Hollywood musical showgirls.
Recently I came across the work of costume designer Nolan Miller who’s work inspired the luscious velvet opera coat I had made for my latest act “Rhapsody in Black”.
Other inspirations are Matthew Bourne – I’ve been a fan of his ballets since I was studying my dance A level. And also the work of Alphonse Mucha, when I was over performing in Prague last year I was able to view some of his work up-close in a Gallery, it was incredible.
The list is endless… but those are just a few!
|Photo by Paul Green|
How do you go about making/creating your costumes?
The creative process can differ from costume to costume but on most occasions I spend a few months researching and gathering visual influences and put them all into a folder on my computer or a little box if I’ve been colleting paper clippings. I do tend to spend a very long time mulling over what would work best and always consider practicality as a major factor. I do find sometimes I get frustrated as there have been so many great aesthetically ideal costume plans but at the end of the day, if it can’t be easily removed or danced in then it just can’t happen. At this early stage I consult a costumier – Erica of Sewed Souls Costume has worked on most of my recent costumes over the last few years. She can then look at my ideas and tell me what will and won’t be possible (but mostly she can do anything!). Our biggest challenge recently was my art deco opera coat which required over 20 meters of fabric (heavy luscious velvet which is also fully lined). It also has a stuffed and supported stand up collar and 8 meters of diamante trim – as you can imagine, it is a VERY heavy piece of costume. Budgeting is a major factor when planning costumes and pretty much 100% I end up going over budget. I care very much about quality (not excess) so if I do over spend it’s because I view each act as a long term investment and want to get it just right first time round. That doesn’t mean I don’t revisit costumes after a year or two and give them a little spruce up – but I want new acts to be as impacting as possible the first time I air them.
It’s very easy in this business for performers to follow certain costume “templates” and whilst our resources for trimmings, embellishments etc will inevitable overlap – I try my upmost to keep my costumes as individual as I can by sourcing lots of vintage or one off pieces that I know no one else will have. I try not to use too many standard issue sequined appliques to avoid my costumes looking too samey. That’s not to say that I never use them, and they are great for performers looking to add a little extra sparkle to a costume but I feel there is a line… and when crossed, a costume can look like it’s just been thrown together in a haberdashery (in my book, that’s not cool or unique!).
That sounds like I’m anti – sequined appilque but I’m really not – I’m just as much of a magpie in a trimming shop as the next showgirl! I’ve used them plenty enough over the years and still do but I think it’s about finding a happy balance and not relying solely on pre-made décor. There’s a lot of fun to be had in getting creative.
Finding vintage or one off pieces doesn’t have to be hard or costly, Etsy & Ebay are great places for sourcing such things and they can really give your costume that unique feel. I always keep an eye out in vintage shops, charity shops & flea markets not just for the trimmings themselves but items of clothing, which might have an interesting trim that could be removed and re-used.
When it comes to the actual construction of garments I hand the project over to a costumier – then when it’s complete and road tested for striptease-ability I take it back home and set to work on the embellishments. I can stick crystals and sew trims (I even enjoy a little beaded embroidery at times) but I couldn’t sew a sturdy garment together myself! I’m also a bit of a control freak and the ex - art student in me takes pleasure in making those crucial aesthetic decisions… exactly where to place that tassel, or how many rows of what colour crystals will go where, what colour of trim and crystals compliment the base garment, and will each layer of the costume tie together with a visual consistency. No single decision is made lightly and every last bead has given it’s place very carefully. That’s what I think the audience miss when thier watching a show – they get the overall effect, but wouldn’t it be nice if they could see all the painstaking detail?
|Photo byScott Chalmers|
What advice would you give to a girl (or guy) reading this interested in getting into this industry?
I’d say if you are serious about taking up burlesque as a career option – be prepared for a lot of hard work. Nothing happens over night, even if it looks like it does, it doesn’t! I pride myself in being a hard working performer and owe my position in the burlesque industry to 6 years of hard work, sweat & tears.
Think outside the box – although as a performer I fit mostly into the “classic burlesque” category – I have always worked on ideas that excite me, and take inspiration from all over the place. I created my Virgin Mary act nearly 4 years ago – at the time I hadn’t seen anything else like it so it was a big risk but one that ultimately paid off. It’s now my most regularly booked act (despite my efforts to produce other acts to knock it off it’s pedestal!)
Develop good people skills – it doesn’t matter if you have a killer figure, the biggest stage prop or the most Swarovskis on your corset… personality and communications skills speak volumes and will either make or break your ability to get repeat bookings.
What else is coming up for you?
In just a few weeks I’ll be jetting off to the states for The New Orleans Burlesque Festival. I am currently running a crowd funding campaign to help me cover the expenses of this trip, which is only running for a few more days. I’ve had some great sponsorship from What Katie Did, Catriona Stewart Latex & Flashes and Lashes photo studio. Together we’ve produced some limited edition prints, which will only be available till September 1st! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/eliza-s-new-orleans-burlesque-festival-crowdfund/x/4520515
As soon as I get back the UK I have one gig here and then I’m heading off again for a three week residency at the Mascotte Du Palais in Geneva where I’ll be performing nightly.
After that I’ll be back to the UK in time to compete in this year’s World Burlesque Games, for which I am in the running for the International Crown.
Beyond that it’s the Christmas period which is always a fun and busy time. I’m working on a few new projects which I’m keeping under my hat for now – I never like to say anything till I know it’s a 100% certainty but rest assured… I am working on something ;)
|Photo by None More Negative|
I would like to thank Eliza for her time with this wonderful interview. I hope you have enjoyed learning all about Lady DeLite and seeing these stunning new images of her! You can learn more about Eliza and follow her on these links:
Stay tuned for more fantastic interviews coming your way!