MY COMING OUT STORY: From Corporate To Cabaret
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Two years ago, I was a high-flying marketing executive in London’s distinguished financial district, with 20 years’ experience working for the world’s biggest and best businesses.
Today (and I'm talking pre-COVID-19), I’m an artist: with no salary; not even a guaranteed income; and absolutely no idea what I might be doing from one day to the next.
And it was the best move I ever made.
In previous blogs, I’ve talked about my bohemian tendencies and the fact that my executive career was in fact my Plan B.
I’m generally considered outgoing, even extraverted. But I can also be very undemonstrative.
As my husband reminds me, in the early days of our marriage I wouldn’t hold his hand in public. And I suffered from stage fright.
To such an extent that even the prospect of a performer singling me out for audience participation whilst watching a show made me leave many an event prematurely. And sometimes even avoid them altogether.
And yet I had this growing fascination with the world of performance - cabaret in particular. With its unapologetic boldness, bright lights and beauty.
But back then my appreciation was always limited to spectatorship. Because I'd never performed before. The fact that I didn't have any training as a child. And, moreover, I didn't believe I could do it.
Eight years ago, however, all that changed. As did the course of my life thereafter. Although I didn’t realise it at the time.
I was sporty as a child but I never studied performing arts or drama. I was a competitive swimmer, which made my body strong and taught me discipline and commitment.
For most of my twenties and thirties, my fitness regime was at the gym. I was the archetypal gym bunny. But eventually, aerobics stopped challenging me.
So one day, in a moment of spontaneous bravery, I took the notion to book a drop-in dance class. Not any old dance class. Not a classical dance class. Not even a social dance class, like salsa. I went full-out for the exotic variety: a pole dancing class. Which, in my defence, was becoming quite fashionable at the time!
And I got the bug!
So I cast my net far and wide and went on to take classes, courses and diplomas across a range of dance styles. I took private lessons with a professional table dancer and learned Vaganova ballet (Russian technique; the most challenging) from a world expert at the barre.
Then I started to perform.
My very first time on stage was delivering a contemporary dance performance with a wonderful group of women I had schooled with every Saturday for over a year. And the training itself was a beautiful memory.
I was terrified before the show. But the second I came off stage I knew I wanted more. More light. More abandon. More power.
So I got more. I performed in some incredibly iconic shows, like Cats. And had the honour of being cast in a number of fierce female lead characters like Satine in Moulin Rouge and Velma in Chicago.
Jazz dance is my special love and I've experienced a real depth of the genre over the years: lyrical, contemporary, afro, musical theatre, chorus line, commercial, street, revue and exotic.
Cabaret is my strong suit and I’ve had the privilege of doing that on internationally renowned stages such as Hippodrome and The Clapham Grand.
I modelled with an agency during my university studies, but I gave up the opportunity to do it full-time having already invested substantially in my academic studies.
Also, I felt a greater need to prove myself intellectually at that time. And believed, at least back then, that university and business was my only route to achieving that.
So, as I evolved as a dancer and a performer, my thoughts inevitably turned to ‘What might have been…’ had I taken another path. As an artist.
Consequently, in 2018, to establish if my younger dreams of being a model still had legs, I entered Top Model.
After much preparation for the catwalk competition (technically - aesthetically - psychologically), I was selected as a finalist and ultimately crowned the winner. Which gave me the confidence push that I needed. To return. And to take it further.
Following my win, I spent the next 6 months building my portfolio as a mature model. By working on my look, test shooting with photographers, and researching the industry and process as it is today. Which is very different to how it was back then.
Happily, all of this led to me being signed by BAME Models. And, although still in my development phase as a mature, I’ve already begun working with them on paid campaigns. More on this to follow.
I studied French at University and the specialist subject of my Masters was French Cinema. My interest in film has remained ever since. And, as my husband shares this passion, watching movies together is one of our main pastimes.
So, as my theatrical acting studies and experience progressed, I began to think about how I might transition from stage to screen. Or rather, add screen into the mix.
My film and TV training began three years ago. Firstly, in the form of academic teaching in the classroom. Secondly, by acquiring practical experience on-set as a Supporting Artist (extra).
My very first casting as an extra was for a Spielberg film (figuring, I’d start at the top and work my way down!). And being on that set was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The practical recreation of a fictional world. The scale of the set, cast and crew. The tightness of the production process.
I’ve since worked on a large number of productions of varying styles and sizes. All of which has taught me infinite sums about the Big and Small screens.
And so, as my expertise, experience and confidence grew in this space I started to apply for supporting actor roles and leads in short films, music videos and commercials. And, although rejection is a big aspect of this world and a daily occurrence, I'm thrilled to have already been cast in many.
Again, more on this to follow - when the productions themselves are released.
So, what are the next steps? As we famously always ask in the worlds of business and dance!
Given the leaning of my dance interest, learning to sing felt like a complementary piece of the jigsaw and so I began this chapter last year.
And screen combat, given my dance background and fitness passion, is also an area I've started to explore. So, learning more about this will be a key focus going forward.
Also, I’m in the process of launching myself as a solo cabaret artist!
Finally, and very importantly, I've just secured agency representation as an actor and a dancer which will open up many new doors for me in the coming months and beyond. More news on this as soon as the ink is dry ;)
But, in so far as me having the time of my life right now, The Journey has and continues to involve an enormous amount of anxiety and sacrifice.
Particularly, around rejection. Which is a real uphill struggle for me personally. But something I'm working hard to adapt to - and learn from.
Secondly, around financial security. As I've had to swallow my pride (which is huge – I’m Scottish and a Scorpio!) and be creative in finding ways to pay the bills that don't eat up all of my time and energy.
I still work in business as a marketing consultant and an executive coach. But projects aren't regular or predictable. And so, quiet periods have seen me supporting my income in telesales, bartending and cat sitting.
And so, why did I take the plunge? How do I keep going? And what have I learned most about myself through this great adventure?
That is all best expressed, for me, through these bohemian principles which are now my epigram:
Freedom: having felt the need to downplay my eccentricities and vulnerabilities at work for the best part of two decades I now feel free free to play myself and in fact make these features my forte.
Beauty: presenting myself to the world as an artist makes me appreciate myself in ways I’ve never experienced previously.
Truth: the focus of my day used to be hiding or enhancing the truth; now my job is now to uncover and present it to the world in its rawest form. Which, for me, feels more meaningful.
Love: I never grew up wanting to be something or someone. And consequently, I've never had a vocation. Until now. Which fills my heart...
They say life begins at 40, and I can’t disagree!
I would like to thank... ;)
Tony Woodhead, who is my soul-mate and my rock. In spite of me being such hard work (!) and the fact that I left him home alone during my 10,000 hours of training :)
Angelo Ruggieri, director of Ruggieri Dance Academy, who taught me to dance and much much more. Without him, there would be no story.
Suzy Molnar, director of Motion Mill, who carved me into a more accomplished and confident stage performer. And woman.
Other friends, family, co-workers and tutors who have and continue to support me along the way.
Thank you to the following for the photography featured in this blog: Ruggieri Dance Academy, Motion Mill, City Academy, Top Model UK - Colin Chau, The Model Team Scotland, Bame Models, Simone Scott Photography.
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Contact Louise: email@example.com / 07967 312 244