There are schools of burlesque the length and breadth of the country, and indeed the world, but not many can boast an award winnning headmistress. Zoe Charles, also known as Lady Cheek, runs the world famous The Cheek of It! burlesque school in London that has been helping ordinary women to find their inner goddess since 2007. At this year’s first London Cabaret Awards Zoe’s hard work and determination was rewarded when she won the Unsung Hero Award for her work with the school.
I run The Cheek of It! School of Burlesque and cabaret, which was set up in 2007 based on three words; inspiration, empowerment and fun! We now train over 700 women per year internationally, and since 2010 90% of graduates entering UK competitions are coming first, second and third including both winners of London Burlesque Week 2011. It is an absolute delight for every woman to see her own beauty and unique magic and this is what we instil in all of our students. Most recently I was lucky enough to win a London Cabaret Award for my contribution as a teacher but I also perform in the UK and internationally as Lady Cheek.
I trained in Theatre and Visual Arts at Brighton University and arrived in London in 2000 in search of good times and glitter. I co-founded a Theatre company called Charles and Cook in 2001 and we set up camp in The People Show Studios. We created cheeky performance and visual art inspired by all things feminine and sensuous, whether that be tempting our audiences down a corridor with the promise of ripe peaches and full bloom peonies or strutting around our studio in seamed stockings and red lipstick. Alongside this I performed with a variety of theatre companies and taught performing arts to adults and teenagers.
I first heard of burlesque through Warren Dent who took on the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club and turned it into an alternative arts venue used to frequent The People Show where I worked, and invited me to see a burlesque show at his club. The tease, cheekiness and humour was so similar to what we were creating with Charles and Cook but here was a whole scene that celebrated this fun and seductive art. I was so inspired that I started performing on the burlesque scene, first as part of the troupe Scarletine Delight and then solo as Lady Cheek.
What I love most about burlesque is the freedom and fun of expressing femininity both as a performer and as a teacher. The combination of humour, tease and fabulousness. Looking to the future, The Cheek of It! is expanding every year, and we see ourselves spreading our magic across the country and beyond over the next 5 years.
We will be launching our accessories range, Cheek of It! uniform, a boylesque course and celebrating our 5th year anniversary with a new show ‘Goddesses are Go’ before the year is out. I’m also writing an autobiographical solo show based on my experiences of teaching burlesque and the wonderful women I’ve met.
Last year myself and a group of dedicated Cheek of It! graduates and friends set up an event called World Femininity Day as a response to the overwhelming feedback from so many students on how being allowed to express and enjoy their femininity without judgement was giving them power and enjoyment in so many areas of their lives outside of the class, and the fact that there are so many women across the world who have no safe access to expressing, let alone celebrating their femininity.
World Femininity Day’s mission is to discover, empower and celebrate femininity in all who choose to embrace it, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or culture, and to raise money and awareness for charities committed to ending the exploitation of femininity and feminine expression. Last year we had events in London, New York, Copenhagen, Rio and Zagreb. On 24th June 2011, the World Femininity Day website attracted over 30,000 visitors from 73 countries.
This year we are hosting The Clittoratti Party to raise money for Orchid Project – committed to ending Female Genital Cutting. To honour this charity we will be celebrating femininity with focus on the Clitoris the only way a burly girl or boy knows how…with glittery merkins. The Clittoratti Party will take place on the 24th June at the gorgeous Paper Dress Vintage in Old Street. There will be a merkin making workshop with Gaby Kennedy and performance from uber sexy songstress Rubyyy Jones, queerlesque from 1st runner up to 2012 World Burlesque Games Boylesque Competition Mr Mistress, ukelele joy from Award winning Tricity Vogue, tease from Evening of Burlesque favourite Hotcake Kitty, vaudeville comedy from Dirty Blonde Toni Galore, charm and cheek from myself with more fun to be announced soon.
Merkin Making will start from 4pm The Show will start at 7.20 pm with all those who’ve made Merkins invited to join in the finale merkin reveal.
If you can’t make the show, you can host your own Clittorati Party with a downloadable ‘How To’ guide to making your own merkin, send your pictures to us wherever you are in the world and we will put them on the WFD site!