You are a Burlesque and Circus performer and aerialist (amazing, btw!) – how did you get started in the industry?
From a young age I was always dancing. I would re-watch Shirley Temple films over and over trying to learn the times steps. I trained in as many styles of dance as my parents would allow until I discovered circus at age 12. The National Institute of Circus Arts opened its doors opposite my dance school. I peeked through the window, saw a few acrobats tumbling around and knew straight away I would be a circus artist. Over the years I trained in every circus skill imaginable, finally deciding to specialise as an Adagio flyer and a trapeze artist. I was the smallest and a little afraid of heights but my coaches saw an aerialist in me. Eventually those specialties changed to Lyra and Hula hooping.
However Burlesque came into my life a little later on while I was living in Paris.
It was the Crazy Horse show “Folies” that really opened my eyes and quite literally lifted the curtain on a world of performance I didn’t know existed. I had always been very conservative and here were these talented, trained dancers oozing sexuality and showing me that it was possible to express femininity through performance in a sexual yet tasteful way.
Soon after I celebrated my 21st birthday at the Moulin Rouge. While watching the show I remember thinking, “I can do this”. I spent the next year busking on the streets of Paris with my Hula hoops before returning to Australia a Parisian showgirl ready to take on the burlesque world.
How long have you been performing and what is it about your work that you love?
I have always been performing in some way but I’d say my professional career really started in my early 20’s. For as long as I can remember I have walked my own path in an aesthetic sense, curating my personal life as if it were a work of art.
Creating my acts and onstage worlds for the audience is just an extension of my real life made a little more public. It’s not uncommon for me to be wearing feathers and gowns in my everyday life so I love the way performing allows me to share what I think is beautiful with people. Out of the many things I do, circus will always stay my true love. It challenges me both mentally and physically. One day I’m walking and balancing on champagne bottles with a crystal glass on my forehead and the next day I’m spinning around on my aerial ring. I get to be a daredevil in sequins.
Do you have any advice for women looking to enter the Burlesque world?
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, stay true to your values and integrity as a performer and play to your strengths. Take the time to watch footage of the old greats and notice what makes them special. Choose your role models wisely and figure out how they found their success. The Burlesque world can be intimidating in the beginning but as long as it’s putting a smile on your face create an act and run with it!
Do you have a signature act?
All my acts have a signature style which I would like to think people recognise. They all draw on a vintage circus aesthetic relying more on tricks rather than removing items of clothing. Or even doing both at the same time! A signature skill of mine is doing a one arm balance on a chair whilst removing a glove with my teeth!
I’m really big on keeping it classy and tend to perform more classic burlesque routines involving big feather fans. I like the idea of reviving burlesque to the way it was performed in shows such as the the Ziegfeld Follies. One of my costumes belonged to Paramount Studios and was worn on a Hollywood set in the 1950s. It’s nice to think I restored it for a second life on stage with me.
What has been the biggest learning curve about working for yourself?
The Hustle! You create your own opportunities. As I am the product, it can be sometimes difficult to sell myself. I need to wear many hats from business women/agent to costume designer/creative producer. There’s always something to be done, people to contact, not to mention the actual hours of training everyday. I’ve learnt to trust in the people around me and that sometimes delegating is necessary.
Can you recall a time when something you set out to do has failed – how did you overcome it? What did you learn from it?
I overcame my failures because I didn’t have a choice, giving up was never an option to me. I remember arriving at the venue for my first professional aerial gig. There had been a miscommunication and there was no rope on the drop point rig for me to attach my ring to. Not to mention the ring would be hanging above the audience rather than the stage! The show was ready to cut my act but my friends rallied around me and agreed to go buy a rated rope from Bunnings, 30 minutes before the show. I checked the rigging myself and performed amongst the audience. There was no way I was going to give up and let all my hard work and training go to waste. In the end I had an incredible time performing and my act was very well received. It’s those disastrous situations that I look back on now and laugh with fondness. You can turn any situation around if you set your mind to it, after all we make our own luck.
Why do you think we are so reluctant to talk about our failures?
Perhaps because they make us feel vulnerable or appeal to the little voice in our head that tells us we aren’t good enough.
Rather than seeing your failures as something to be embarrassed about you should see them as hurdles that you overcame to make you stronger.
Often it’s our failures that we learn from most. Mine have certainly shaped me into the strong women I am today and I am grateful for all the lessons I’ve been challenged with in my colourful life. I believe that everything happens for a reason and sometimes our setbacks can lead us to something even better that we never would have considered otherwise.
You will have hiccups in life, and that’s ok.
Life is full of ups and down, good and bad. Our failures not only teach us how to do better and move forward, they also make us appreciate our victories that taste that much sweeter.
What inspires you?
Gosh, everything! Music, books, old movies, poetry, memories, other artists, photographs, old vintage costumes, nostalgic moments, emotions and my friends.
Biggest misconception about women who dress in vintage style?
Perhaps that we are living dolls. I have often found myself being put up on a pedestal due to the manner in which I choose to dress and present myself to the world. People are often surprised when I prove to be more than one dimensional. I like to mix it up a little. Just because I enjoy Billie Holiday on vinyl doesn’t mean I can’t also get down to NAS or Kendrick Lamar. I am a very passionate women with strong emotions. I am human.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Overcoming fear. Fear is a interesting beast. Sometimes it leads to self sabotage in order to protect ourselves from trying and failing. Its taken me a long time to realise the only person that has ever really stood in my way was myself. If you truly want something you have to make it happen. I still get anxious before a big show but I have complete faith in myself and capabilities and know I will be proud of the outcome. Performing involves being vulnerable and in my books vulnerability is strength. Sometimes you need to feel the fear, take a deep breath and walk out on that stage regardless. All it takes is being kind to yourself, believing in your capabilities, a whole lot of drive and a little healthy self love.
How do you deal with feelings of self-doubt?
I like to remind myself of all the lovely things people have said to me about my art. Everyone is unique and has their own way. And hooray for that! To quote the lovely Dita Von Teese, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
I try never to compare myself to other performers, I just focus on playing to my strengths. We are all unique and that is a beautiful thing, it keeps things interesting and provides variety in life. As performers, we all have something to offer. Life is fluid with many twists and turns that can affect how we feel about ourselves but the show must go on!
There was a moment when, although I had experienced a terrible day, I was still expected to razzle dazzle in what was at the time, my biggest show to date. It took every ounce of strength and will power to get up on that stage with a smile. I had an amazing show that night and proved to myself that I can get through anything and keep it professional.
How do you switch off? What’s your favourite way to relax?
I love reading in cafes with a good cup of coffee or curling up in bed with an old vintage film. Taking a bath by vanilla candle light, writing poetry or swaying about to an old record.
And finally – where can people find out more about you?
Keep updated with Minnie at:
Instagram | @whoisminniemonroe
Facebook | minniemonroeartist
Youtube | https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnaTg6H0FJRjJwdT39VcL1A
Bookings can be made via
Check out other interviews in The F – Word Series.