Being Good to Mama

My signature act is When You’re Good to Mama, sung by Queen Latifah. I debuted as a burlesque performer with it and I’m pretty protective of it, I love it so. However, I knew that after 3 years, it was time to update it. I had a very focused idea on what I wanted to change so my act was still recognisable but had extra pizazz! I’ve realised that quite a lot of my acts have black costumes (what can I say, it’s slimming!) and I wanted to move away from defaulting to black all the damn time. As I planned around the changes I wanted to make I started researching things like prison dresses, quick changes and even glue! It’ll all make sense soon… promise.

So although this version of the act always went down a treat, I know Mama needed a little more colour and sparkle. I wanted to evoke the drama of the fantasy sequence of the movie but ground it in the idea of the prison. I grabbed onto the idea of a quick change move, but despite all my searching I realised that the move is a closely guarded secret among the magicians of the trick. I had to improvise.

I settled on the idea of having a drab, too big ‘prison’ dress, with a gown hidden underneath to be revealed at the right moment. I found a massive button down denim maxi dress in a charity shop that I shortened to knee high, and cut away the small amount of frippery to turn it into a basic, utilitarian dress. I intended to hide snap poppers behind the buttons for ease of removal, but I realised that by using an elasticated belt to hold the reveal dress underneath I could forego the snap poppers, place the buttons over just so and be able to unbuckle the belt and remove the denim dress in one fluid motion. The reveal dress was more difficult to find, so precise was my idea for it. Eventually I just pulled out my sewing machine and hit the fabric shop. I found a gorgeous bronzed gold fabric (on sale!) that was 2 way stretch. I took photos of it with and without flash to see how it would look, and I was so excited to work with it! Easily enough, I turned it into a full length wrap dress with a deep cut back. I fastened Velcro dots in two hidden places at the front, although I’ll probably replace them with magnets eventually.The photo below doesn’t do it justice, it drapes beautifully! While at the fabric shop I also found striped black and gold material which I loved, sort of the mix between the prison and fantasy, as well as looking like prison bars! I made some high waisted pants and covered the cups of a (frankly amazing) Primark bra*.

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I was almost done. Even though I still want to do more to the costume, time got away from me. I was due to perform at Flaming Tease Edinburgh and I’d lost a few days to injury. I was confident with what I had though, and couldn’t wait to see how my vision translated into reality. In front of an audience mixed with people new to the act and people who loved it, I was looking forward to seeing the reaction. Ever get that fist pump, fuck yeah I nailed it feeling? Yup. My gold dress was folded up underneath and completely hidden, so when I dropped the denim dress the audience went wild! I’m grinning so hard just thinking about it. When I came off stage I stood shaking for a solid 10 minutes with pure adrenaline. I didn’t even have that reaction after my very first performance!

Like I said, there’s still more I want to do to the costume. A burlesquer’s work is never done! I want to add black AB crystals to the black stripes of the bra and knickers as well as the gore and wings of the bra, add embellishments to the gold dress that’ll not weigh it down, and get a prison guard badge for the denim dress. I also want this wig, and to update my dollar fan (read – make bigger!). Finally, I’ve spoke to Lady V about doing me new pasties, which I think will look awesome as dollar signs, of course. Mama is all about money, honey!

All in all, I’m super happy with the changes I’ve made to the costume and to the routine. I may have lost the funny ‘can’t get the glove off’ bit, but I’ve gained an amazing new dress from it! I’ll be looking at the make up I’ll now be doing in another post, but for now – whatcha think of my new goodies? When I get the video from Flaming Tease I’ll update this post with it so you can do a proper comparison, I just couldn’t wait to write about this til then!

Sig

*I’ll be doing a separate post on this bra. I’m the first to admit I’m a snob about bras, but this may change my mind on Primark bras!

Wearing the damn crown.

It’s a hell of a process to finally admit when you’re in trouble. Since it felt like my life led up to that one big moment, it was almost anticlimactic when things remained much as they always did. The big reveal was not the end, nor the beginning. It was a clearing of the throat, before continuing to breathe as normally as I ever have.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking through old blog posts, private journals and like. I know now that the shame and embarrassment of a life led like mine isn’t unique. There’s a safety in admitting that you’re not a special snowflake with problems and issues no one else can understand. It’s a relief to recognise that mental illness is not a problem I face alone in the world. My drama queen tendencies are symptomatic of my imbalance, and can be corrected. They are not who I am any more than this illness is. Even through the simple act of ageing, I cut out a lot of the immaturity I once claimed as a vital part of my identity. The work in that department continues, but awareness is a happy byproduct of growing the fuck up.

Still, I often wonder, ‘now what?’ Moving forward, taking ownership – why does life still feel nothing has really changed? Since admitting I needed help, I’ve began really taking my health seriously. I’ve had a few slips but for the most part I’ve took my medication, really examined my past behaviour and current reactions. I am noting the way my physical health affects my mental health, and vis versa. I realise I’m being more introspective and less demonstrative – which is probably a relief to my loved ones! Yet with all that I still feel overwhelmed by life and sometimes that can go to dangerous places. I’m coming to terms with the fact that bringing that side of the darkness to light hasn’t made it go away. It was maybe naïve to think so. There’s still a ways to go and most likely, it’ll just be something I deal with for the rest of my life. Not an encouraging thought, but perhaps a realistic one.

So I’m taking a page out of my old book and writing again. I enjoy it, and it forces me to examine my thoughts. Why online? Why not? Part of this is recognising I’m not actually alone – and really, how alone can I be online? Plus, I’ve received so much support from friends, family, even strangers. I’m never going to turn that down. It helps. And maybe, just maybe – the words I write can help someone else too. The worst thing about being open about mental illness is accusations of attentionwhoretiatis. Even when faced with suicidal ideation, self harming, voices telling you what a horrible worthless person you are – the stigma of playing at it for attention is so terrifying that so many people do not seek real help at all. I sure didn’t. But I’m not playing by that rule book now. It’s not helpful. So if you must, stick that diagnosis in with the others. Frankly, it’s the least of my concerns.

I’m pulling the reins now, and I’m giving them a good snap. What now? Let’s see.

(Title inspired by my ‘hiding in plain sight‘ post)

My top 10 games!

Gof tagged me in this on Facebook, and it turned into a bit of an essay, so I thought I’d post it here!

Ten games that have influenced, impacted me, or I’ve just enjoyed the hell out of.

1. Super Mario 3 (NES, Wii) was the first game I spent hours playing… After I wrestled the controller away from my mum! I still have it on my Wii, N cards still memorised!

2. Goldeneye (N64), my uncle hitchhiked from down south with the console and the game for our Christmas, and I used to stay up nights playing it over and over. I lost months playing that game!

3. Silent Hill (PS) was the first horror game I played, with my then boyfriend. We crapped it over and over, but again – couldn’t stop playing! Never had a more atmospheric and terrifying experience playing a game since.

4. Super Mario Kart (N64) was my first real experience playing with and against other people. Many a family night was spent trying to blow each other up, use dirty tactics and lie, cheat and steal our way to the top. Srs bsns. All clean family fun, complete with life lessons.

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Hiding in plain sight.

tw – this talks about suicide and ideation. It is pretty graphic in places, but I didn’t want to pussyfoot around or downplay the seriousness of this issue. If you feel like this may trigger your own illness, please do not read this and call a group or local medical authority for help. I’ve included 2 numbers for UK and US readers since that where stats tell me most of my readers are from.

Mind – 03001233393 (UK) 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline -1-800-273-8255 (USA)

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KaleidoScot interviewed me!

Just after Glasgow Pride I was asked to answer a few questions about my perspective on gay life in Glasgow. I identify as bisexual although the article did erroneously label me as straight, which they apologised for and offered to clarify (I thanked them and told them it was fine), but aside that, I really enjoyed talking to Jonathan (new friend alert!) and was absolutely overjoyed to be offered a writing position on the strength of that interview! I’ll link any work I do there here, but I figure I’ll let you see this great interview first, and hopefully introduce some of you to the brilliant work KaleidoScot have done! Let me know what you think!

nicola

My Pride 2014 make up!

Lughnasadh

I don’t write about my religious beliefs much. I tried to, but let’s face it – it’s a sticky subject, and a conversation I don’t need to be having with strangers on the internet. That being said, I will say that I am quite spiritual, and have faith. Just not in organised religion. It’s a long and boring (for those of you who aren’t me) story that I may tell another time, and it leads to a greater appreciation and wonder of the world around me.

Lughnasadh has always been a favourite sabbat of mine. More than any other, it reminds me to take note of my hard work, where it’s paid off, and how I need to work in the future. It lets me pause to reap the harvest of what I’ve put into my life, both good and bad – and deal with the consequences of that truth. Right now, it couldn’t have come at a better moment. Almost like what I’m doing and how I’m doing it reached a point where I take what I’ve got so far and run with it. This is what I have to see me through winter, and beyond.

So as I lift my hands and brace myself to work hard, I feel loved and blessed by influences within and without. I ask for the strength, will and determination to see my plans though. I want to give my all. To grow, live, learn and succeed.

This is my prayer to Lugh.

Chocolate Chilli Cheesecake

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I know I did, spent the morning with Gof, watching The Hogfather and drinking my traditional Bailey’s coffee… or 3.  We had Christmas dinner with our awesome friends; Chris, Maggie and lil bit Heather, Mac and Maggie’s brother George. It was very much a collaborative effort – Gof made pea soup, Chris and Mac made black pudding, scallops and crispy chorizo with apple sause (I died and went to heaven) and all 3 guys (mostly Chris and Mac, to be fair!) created the ultimate turkey dinner, with goose fat roasties I could marry and have a short but delicious relationship with.

Of course, I immediately volunteered to do dessert when we discussed it months ago. As time grew closer I was at my wit’s end trying to figure out what would suit everyone. We had a 4 year old, 2 people who don’t eat wheat, and I came to the natural conclusion it shouldn’t be too heavy after the amount we’d be eating. This lead to the idea of cheesecake. People could control their own portions and it could keep for a few days. But what kind? Baked or fridge? Chocolate, orange, berry, banana? It was decided for me when I found THE MOST AMAZING CHILLI CHOCOLATE EVER. Christmas market find, of course. I knew it was risky. I hadn’t tried the recipe, Heather might not like it, and holy bejesus that’s a lot of cream cheese and chocolate in a dessert that’s supposed to be light. Still, I trucked on, convinced it was the right move. I did make orange mousse cups though, just in case. SPOILER ALERT – I needn’t have worried.

Below is the recipe I used, the only difference was I used wheat free biscuits (sorta Hob Nob-like), and I saved the MACCE (as the chocolate will henceforth be known) for the ganache. It set beautifully, and instead of whole chillies, I used red edible glitter for decoration (it was for Christmas after all!) It was a complete hit, and this will definitely be going into my keepers folder. Because more is more at Christmas, I doubled the recipe, made 2 cheesecakes and took  the second to the Boxing Day buffet hosted by my in-laws. Again, it was a great success, with kids and adults alike going back for more. I still have some MACCE left, and am on the hunt for another kickass recipe to use, so if you have one let me know! It’s a dark, but very soft chocolate although it hardens nicely in the fridge. If you don’t want to use plain dark chocolate for the ganache, I suggest using Green and Black’s Chilli Chocolate, since it’s tres tasty too.

In whatever case, make this immediately if not sooner! Make it for Hogmanay! Make it for breakfast! I won’t judge you!

Excuse the highly professional iPhone picture - I had to get in quick before it was demolished!

Excuse the highly professional iPhone picture – I had to get in quick before it was demolished!

200g Plain chocolate biscuits
80g Butter, softened
1 tsp Fine chilli powder
3 tsp Sweet paprika
1/3 cup Cold tap water
5 tsp Gelatin
500g Cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Icing sugar
1/2 cup Milk
300g Good quality dark chocolate
1 1/2 cups Thickened cream, whipped
100ml Cream (for ganache)
200g Good quality dark chocolate (for ganache)
2 tsp Butter (for ganache)

Grease and line a 24cm (base) springform pan.
Process biscuits in a food processor to fine crumbs, and then transfer to a bowl.
Melt butter and add biscuit crumbs. Stir until well combined. Use your fingertips to press into the base of the prepared pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Place water in a heatproof bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the water and stand for 1 minute.
Microwave, uncovered, on high, for 30 seconds so that gelatin is dissolved. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Using an electric beater, beat cream cheese, sugar, chilli powder, paprika and milk until smooth. Stir in gelatin.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water). Stir until melted. Cool slightly. Add to cream cheese mixture. Fold whipped cream through the chocolate mixture. Then pour the mixture over the biscuit base and refrigerate.

To make the ganache – heat the cream in a saucepan until just beginning to boil. Pour over the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Add the butter and stir till combined. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. The mixture should still be liquid enough to pour.

Pour ganache over cooled cheesecake. Cover and refrigerate for 6-7 hours, or overnight.

Release sides of the pan. Place cheesecake on a serving platter and top with small red chillies. Use a warm knife to cut into Slices. Serve with cream.