“I was always a bit out of place; I turned up on my first day wearing a band t-shirt, A LOT of eyeliner, had stretched ears and a pierced lip. And then I sang a Schubert aria!”
Searing, wicked, elegant, graceful … and oh so wonderfully shy and ravishing, Lulu Vesper is one of those ladies we really enjoy covering at MG. Lulu’s a singer, dancer, burlesque performer, and pin up. Oh, and she enjoys a bit of latex as well. Now how many MG nails have been hit on the head right there? About a billion I’d say!
Based in the UK, Lulu’s been singing for quite a few years, but she’s only been performing burlesque since 2014. In that sense, she’s a shooting star zooming through the burlesque/pin up solar system.
A mixture of cheesecake, Vargas, 50s, fetish, and tattoos, Lulu’s a very eloquent lady to speak to. She’s one of those people where a little dash of shyness adds to the slender nature of her character. It’s endearing. And charming. And oh so enjoyable to watch when she slips into performance mode.
Quite simply, Lulu Vesper is a gorgeous burlesque bombshell dancing on the flame of a Molotov cocktail.
Oh, and before we forget, Lulu was also the proud winner of the Miss Pinup UK competition in 2015.
Ladies and Gentlemen … Lulu Vesper!
How long have you been singing and performing? And how and when did you get into burlesque?
I’ve been singing since I was about ten years old and performing was always a hobby for me as a teenager. I studied music at university; we were being trained to be performers but I was always very closed off. I was a very awkward teenager and was a terrible dancer! I’ve been singing professionally for ten years as a wedding and events singer but it’s never been a full time job. I wanted an extra hobby where I could build on my performance skills and really challenge myself. I had always looked at burlesque dancers and wanted to be able to embrace my body and learn how to be comfortable in my own skin.
So I started taking burlesque classes in 2014. I initially did it for body confidence and to meet new people but I honestly just fell in love with it! The course focused on learning the moves, finding your character, embracing your body and then creating your own routine. The classes finished with a public showcase in central London and once I’d performed in that show, I knew I wanted to pursue it as more than a hobby, and I’ve been performing since.
How have the first couple of years as a burlesque performer gone? What have you learned so far? And how fun/satisfying has it been to see yourself evolve?
They have been a brilliant couple of years! I’ve performed with some fantastic people, made it to the finals of the Neo Burlesque Awards, won Miss Pinup UK, and I’ll be performing at London Burlesque Festival in a couple of weeks.
I’ve learned so much, but the main this has to be about character. In my daily life I’m quite an introvert but as soon as I step onstage, I become confident and flirty. By embodying the character it gives me the confidence to go out there and really enjoy myself. Also, I’ve realised how much audience interaction needs to be a part of my act. As I perform cheesecake, I use a lot of facial expressions and the audience generally seem to respond to eye contact. That being said, I recently modelled for a life drawing class and performed in the second half. It was a class of around fifteen and of course, the atmosphere was completely different to a show. No one wanted to look me in the eye! So I had to really work to smile through it and perform as if I would at a show in a theatre. It was an interesting night and I actually feel it’s made me stronger as a performer.
I’ve had so much fun and my newest act has really made me feel like I know the direction I want to go with my burlesque. My first two acts start with me singing the beginning of the song; I then get rid of the mic and start taking my clothes off. But in my newest act I’m singing and taking my clothes off simultaneously. It’s been a challenge but I absolutely love the act and I feel proud that I’ve challenged myself.
How does it feel to be on stage singing and dancing and having a great time with the crowd? Which performances and shows have you enjoyed the most so far? And what has been the most memorable or stand out moment?
I’ve been lucky enough to perform in some fantastic shows over the years. I once sang at a classic car nostalgia weekend. I thought I would just be back ground music, but I turned up and there was a huge stage and I was accompanying the swing dancing! There was glorious sunshine and everyone had a great time. I also danced in the Closing Ceremony at London 2012 and the atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Although, we didn’t get a chance to have a tech rehearsal in the space, so we had to just go out into the stadium in front of about 80,000 people with about a million watching on TV I think. It was ridiculous, stressful, but so much fun!
These were both great experiences but burlesque for me is just something else. It’s extremely hard to describe how it feels, but the adrenalin rush is incredible! When I performed at the London Tattoo Convention, there were photographers and people watching down from the upper level. I know it’s not about having a huge audience but it put everything into perspective really. I’ve never been so nervous in my life, but the crowd were so amazing, it was one of the best experiences. That weekend was what led me to win Miss Pinup UK and I felt like I was starting to establish myself in the industry.
Your performances seem to blend vintage pin ups (Vargas girls), cheesecake, 50s singers, and modern day burlesque (tattoos, pop songs). How much fun is it putting together all of these ingredients to create your acts? And how long does it take to create and choreograph a performance?
Yes, I feel like you’ve summed me up completely! I have so much fun creating acts. I have all these ideas in my head so it’s hard to settle on one and go with it. I’ve just started making my own costumes too so that takes a while but it’s part of the fun of it for me. I’ve sewn for years but I’ve very much a trial and error type. So I recently went on a dressmaking course which has taught me actual techniques! I’m hoping I can use this in my future costume making and I’ve just started making lingerie too.
I went for something a bit different with my newest act and did a brand new arrangement of a song. It look five hours of solid work with my composer friend, but we did an entire scored five minute track! I then started choreographing and sewing. Each act has taken a different amount of time and I tend to do it over the course of a few weeks, rather than solidly put a day or two aside. For some reason, I always seem to have my best ideas when I’m listening to my music out and about. So I then have to try and remember and recreate what I can imagine it to look like! Which is difficult. It does take time to create acts; and I find the act continues to develop after each performance, so it’s almost an ongoing process.
What are the things that you really love about the 50s pin up era?
It has to be the fashion and the styling. I was a huge tomboy throughout my teens, and my twenties have opened me up to make up and girly things! I’ve only had long hair for the past couple of years so I’ve been experimenting with wet sets and victory rolls, and I just love it. I have always been drawn to the 50s pin up era; the girls look so confident and they always look like they’re having fun. A lot of them look very classy and cute, but with a cheeky glint in their eye. Which is something I try and maintain at all times!
Taking inspiration from Elvgren and Vargas makes photoshoots much more fun and gets great pictures. Also, I naturally have a small waist and bigger hips so pinup clothes generally fit me much better and flatter my shape. I try to embrace the pin up look as much as possible but I still feel like I need to expand my wardrobe!
Having listened to your singing, I think you’ve got a very smooth and chocolatey voice -it’s extra warming like a cocktail on a Caribbean night. Seeing as singing takes up a big part of your life, tell us all about it:
Thank you! I’ve actually had quite a journey finding my voice. I’m a classically trained musician and I actually studied opera for four years at a conservatoire. I was always a bit out of place; I turned up on my first day wearing a band t-shirt, A LOT of eyeliner, had stretched ears and a pierced lip. And then I sang a Schubert aria!
Although I loved singing the music and it really challenged me as a musician, I wasn’t passionate enough about the genre to pursue it. I then went to study musical theatre, but I realised very quickly that I just wasn’t the jazz hands type. I graduated again and felt completely confused about what to do. I had a bit of a quarter life crisis and thought, ‘What do I actually enjoy singing and what suits me as a person?’ and that’s when I started singing the jazz and vintage! I find the music almost effortless to sing and it comes quite naturally to me.
I take huge inspiration from Cleo Laine, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. I could spend hours just listening to their voices and learning from them. I actually got nodules on my vocal cords a few years ago and had to take a break. I was working full time as a singing teacher and gigging too so it was very stressful. I had to rest my voice but also keep singing and performing when I could. I was getting huge anxiety before every singing gig, I was convinced my voice would just cut out mid song, even though that’s just not possible! So it was pretty stressful. But I’ve now fully recovered and fortunately haven’t felt like that in a while! Singing jazz has been extremely therapeutic for me and I feel like I have my passion back.
You’re the proud winner of the 2015 Miss Pinup UK competition. An obvious question, but how did it feel to win? And what memories do you have of the competition itself?
I honestly still can’t believe I won! I entered as I was new to burlesque and wanted some stage experience and to meet new people. I don’t think I realised how fantastic the competition was until I was a part of it. Everyone is extremely supportive; you get assigned mentors throughout and I learned so much from them and the other established performers and judges at the events. I didn’t even expect to get through the quarter finals so winning was just a concept I hadn’t even dreamed would happen!
Performing at the tattoo convention was a huge thing for me too as I’m tattooed myself and have watched the entertainment there before. So to be the entertainment was huge! I’ve met some amazing people too and it’s been a fantastic platform to me to take my modelling and performing further. I’ve had some great gigs since, and I believe I wouldn’t have had them without the competition. My main memory is being with so many wonderful pinup ladies! It made the finals weekend so much fun.
We couldn’t do this interview without at least talking a little bit about the latex that you’ve worn in your modelling work. How much fun do you have with latex in your modelling? And how do you feel about latex clothing general? Do you you think you’ll ever find a way to incorporate it into your burlesque shows?
I love latex! A photographer suggested it at a shoot, had an outfit and that was that. I think latex can be so much fun and just something completely different. People think I’m quite innocent but I think my three words to describe me are quirky, creative and crude. I’m always up for trying new things and I’d love to do some darker latex shoots! There are some brilliant latex designers out there. I like that you could wear something pastel, girly and figure hugging, or just go completely fetish.
It also makes me feel absolutely amazing. I wore a high waisted skirt and military outfit in a shoot and it made me feel great. I haven’t worn latex out in my daily yet, but I think this is just me being far too practical about it! I have definitely thought about incorporating it into a burlesque act, I’d just have to really think about how to use it, and how to remove it!
What have you got coming up next? And what kind of acts are you looking to create or do in the future?
I have London Burlesque Festival very soon, which I am extremely excited about. I also have a list of deadlines for other festivals around the world, so I’ll be applying for them too. I am off on the Miss Pinup UK quarter finals tour this year; I’ll be performing at each event and also judging this year’s competition. I also have some lovely vintage singing gigs coming up, and I’m modelling at Sexhibition, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve just created a new act which I’ve only performed once, so I really want to keep developing that. I’d like to keep with the sing’n’fling and explore that more. I also have a great idea for a new costume, involving a body harness and huge heart, but I’ll keep that under wraps for now!