Sunday, 26 May 2013

On being sexy...

Picture this: I'm lying face-down on a table, wearing nothing but a short chemise.  My arse, in all its pink-and-white cotton Primark glory, is out in the open for everyone to see.

I also happen to be covered in strawberries at this point, but that's a story for another day.
A year ago, I would have found this situation mortifying.  These days, it doesn't feel like such a big deal.

This is the second opera this year in which I've performed in my underwear.  It might sound a bit crazy, but actually it's pretty good training for me.  In the course of my opera career, I will probably have to perform many more times in my underwear - or less.

Opera has changed a lot in the last fifty years.  Directors these days want realism.  They want sex appeal.  Gone are the days of buttoned-up corsets and petticoats: modern productions are more likely to show you naked in bed with your lover, or painting your nails in your lingerie.

Showing skin onstage is a pretty daunting prospect.  Whether you're skulking around in a skimpy dress, dancing around in your skivvies, or even doing the full Monty, you can't help being painfully aware that you're being watched.  Not just by yourself or your boyfriend/girlfriend - but by an entire audience.  A whole crowd of people are watching you.   And that means you don't just have to be brave enough to reveal your body.  You have to really sell it.  You have to be sexy.

Hopefully a bit sexier than these blokes.
You know those girls who are always look sexy?  The girls who love to strut around in heels with their gorgeous hair and smouldering eyes, flashing their cleavage and wafting their perfume wherever they go?  Well, I am not one of those girls.

I hate perfume.  I prefer running shoes to heels. And my cleavage?  It doesn't quite, um, cleave. And yes, I have a tendency to wear cotton pants from Primark. They happen to be very comfortable!

I've never really been called sexy.  Cute, maybe.  Pretty, perhaps, on a good day.  But not sexy.  And so I never thought I could be "sexy" onstage.  I could do happy, or angry, or evil, or silly... but sexy?  That was completely out of the question.

When I look in the mirror, "sexy" is not the word that comes to mind.  I'm not overweight.  But I'm not model-thin either.  Nor do I have a perfect hourglass figure like Jessica Rabbit.

I'm sure Jess would have no problem performing in her underwear.
I have cellulite.  I have a belly.  And I have my "wobbly bits", as Bridget Jones calls them.  To a certain extent, I have accepted this state of affairs.  It's my body.  It's the way I am.  Even if I worked out two hours a day, I would probably keep the same basic shape.  Partly because of genetics, partly because of my natural build, and partly because of my insatiable addiction to chocolate. 

Let's face it, that's not going away anytime soon.
But there's a big difference between tolerating what you see in the mirror and being able to parade it around in front of an audience.  The first time I had to perform in my underwear, I felt horribly, painfully self-conscious.  I was certain that nobody would want to see what was going on underneath my clothes.
Eventually, I realised that I could be just as sexy as the next girl.  Sexiness has nothing to do with how you look.  Sexiness is an attitude.

In this first opera, all the women were supposed to be underwear models, so we all performed in various forms of lingerie.  And it was very interesting to watch how different people handled it.  We are not ballet dancers or supermodels, after all - we are opera singers, and we come in all different shapes and sizes.  At first I thought that the slimmer girls would have an easier time of it.  But it didn't work that way at all.  The girls who were built like models were not necessarily the girls who looked like models onstage.  It was the girls who felt confident.  The girls who felt comfortable in their own skin.  Tall or short, thin or curvy - if they loved their body, it showed.  And it was beautiful.

Personally, I was lucky enough to have some positive reinforcement on my side. My boyfriend, bless his heart, was extremely supportive.  He knew I didn't feel confident about performing in my underwear, and so every day that I rehearsed the opera he sent me a confidence-boosting message (my personal favourite: "I looked up sexy in the dictionary and I saw your name").  My boyfriend always saw me as sexy, and he would love it if I could see myself the way he saw me.

But in the end, my confidence couldn't come from my boyfriend or anyone else.  It had to come from within.  And gradually, as I rehearsed day by day, I began to lose my inhibitions and self-consciousness.  I began to own my body, even to be proud of it.  My walk, my attitude, the way I held myself - all of these things began to change.  And I learned what it really is to be sexy.

Playing Junon in Acteon - photo by Emilie Lauwers
Real sexiness has nothing to do with your appearance. Real sexiness is a state of mind. It's about knowing who you are and owning it. Embracing every pimple, dimple, and roll of fat.  Showing them with pride, because they are a part of you. Speaking honestly, moving with dignity, and acting with conviction. True beauty comes from true confidence. Nothing is sexier than that.

So now that I'm performing in my underwear for the second time, I don't really mind at all.  If people are going to see my arse, they're going to see my arse.  It's my arse, and I happen to think it's a pretty good one - even if it is clothed in cheap cotton.

Rest assured, though - I will wear something a bit nicer for the performances.

1 comment:

  1. " . . . Speaking honestly, moving with dignity, and acting with conviction." Well done Brynne!