All things Jet Set, Rhinestones, Corsets, Gold and Bananas with Cherry Shakewell

This month @primpmycostume speaks with the UK’s most precious Burlesque National Treasure, “one of Burlesque’s finest shimmy-shakers” (Time Out), @cherryshakewell

"Damn can the girl dance. Not just a pretty-in-time-with- the-beat, wiggling, provocative technically sound kinda way. But screaming the kind of confidence that makes the room shut up and stare.” (Latest 7)

Cherry Shakewell has travelled the world, wiggling and whirling for the likes of Gucci, Fatboy Slim, Richard Branson, Colin Farrell and Robert Downey Jr. She has performed across Europe in Milan, Rome, Venice and the Moulin Rouge in Paris. She has also graced stages in New York, Australia and Marrakech. A particularly notable achievement was her glamorous monthly production of the James Bond-themed variety night “Pussy Galore” at London’s iconic Burlesque Venue, Volupté, which also toured Brighton and Jersey.

Charlotte Pacelli (CP): I’m really excited to introduce Cherry to you all this month. She’s a fellow sparkly resident of the place I have called home now for nearly 10 years, the seaside city of Brighton. She’s known locally as a go-to for A* quality, va-va-voom Burlesque (and for being a full-time legend!). I met Cherry when I started performing at Volupté as a newbie somewhere around 2006 and remember being just as utterly inspired by her performances then as I do now.

Let’s dive in. Perhaps a useful question to start with for newer performers is which of your acts gets booked the most? What is the costume like? 

 

Cherry Shakewell (CS): My Goldfinger act is most booked and also my favourite, so I always pick it if I have a choice. I am my happiest in pale gold as it sets off my blonde hair and honey toned skin. The costume has a fish-tail sequin dress with a bow bustle and strips down to a metallic beaded fringe underwear set, with a gold glitter corset. It was the first proper corset I ever bought, and has had a few tartings up over the years, so it's super comfy now. The finale has an epic tassel twirl finale with Bassey singing 'goooooooooold' for over 30 seconds. It never fails to get a raucous cheer. 

 

 

CP: I can second that. The end to that act is nothing short of epic. With my practical “travelling showgirl” Swarovski crystal hat on, I wonder if you have any good systems for packing your costumes to travel to shows, or for storing them at home? (Or if you’re rubbish at it, who have you seen that has solid packing skills?)

 

CS: I am actually brilliant at getting a lot of costumes into very small cases but I probably damage or squash things in doing so! They tend to stay in these cases in the hallway unless they need washing or repairing. I have individual cloth bags for each costume and try to keep them together as much as possible to avoid those last minute “where's those gloves?!” situations. 

 

CP: I’m totally into having fabric bags for each costume. It has saved me from disasters many times over the years.

Next up, corsets on stage. Traditional fastenings or zips? Discuss.

 

CS: I never strip my underbust corset off, so old school steel busks are my go to as you always get a nicer finished fit, I think. As I'm a curvy girl I like to either do the whole act without one for a 'nude' fan dance, or keep it on and have the tassel twirl with a good cinch as my finale. 

 

CP: Can’t beat the unparalleled glamour of traditional corsetry sprinkled with bling and Preciosa rhinestones! You have a strong and recognisable style aesthetic. I wondered if there are any specific aspects of the way you style your hair or do your make-up that you consider to a be staple of “stage you”?

 

CS: I need height and flow! I add more than one hairpiece to create a structural 60's hairdo but I want the movement of length. Very Bardot. No matter how many pieces or padding I put in, whenever I see a photo I wish it could have been bigger! 

 

CP: Your hair is next level, in all the ways that hair can be. I spotted it across an entire theatre when we were both in the audience for Dita’s Glamonatrix Tour recently. It’s a shining beacon of fabulous! Finally, I’d love if you could describe to us a costume that you’ve seen on stage that really impressed you?

 

CS: It has to be Trixie Little's banana peel act, hands down. It's just so beautiful and funny at the same time. All the little details down to the finger peeling to reveal a rhinestone encrusted banana. This act to me is perfection as it encapsulates the glamour without taking itself too seriously. Trixie is a master at this!

 

To find out more about Cherry Shakewell, here’s where to start:

IG - @cherryshakewell  

Facebook - @cherryshakewellfanpage

Twitter - @cherryshakewell

Photos by Eddie Adams/ VsAnchorStudio/ Caballero Caldero