On the Couch with Imogen Kelly

Imogen Kelly AAR On the CouchWho is Imogen Kelly?
Imogen Kelly is notoriously known as Australia’s Queen of Burlesque, and is also the only Australian to be crowned a World Queen of Burlesque by The Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. I’ve been a showgirl for thirty years. I’m a writer, an activist, a film maker and performance artist. I’m also a mother, a breast cancer survivor, a circus performer and puppeteer. My life is full to the brim.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Not a lot. I’m a very content person. I’ve worked hard to forge my own career and I now, after many years of said hard work, have the life I love. I’m looking for a new manager and I’d love to tour more, and be able to train more circus during the week, but that’s just about the nuts and bolts of business (how boring of me!). I can’t say there is much I’d change about my life at all; life is good. Exceptions: I don’t like making school lunches and I would love to revolutionize plastic lingerie. I hate polyester pants – why, oh why, can’t cotton knickers be sexy? It surely can’t be that much to ask…

Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by so many people in life; artists and musicians keep my soul alive. Much of my inspiration comes from the natural world but if had to talk about people, it is many of the women I feature in my show, Herstory – Leading Ladies. In this show, I satirise the ridiculous rumour mill that thrives around women in positions of power. I am entranced by powerful women. When I read their stories, and the adversities they faced in life, it helps me to keep believing that I can do anything, and my gender is far from being a negative.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Is it too much to ask for comfortable, practical yet incredibly sexy shoes for women? Again, I know this is pedestrian but just thought I’d put it out there. My life involves many a pair of sexy knickers and many a high heel – neither are comfortable. Sigh… As I’m not a cobbler, or a lingerie designer, I gather I’ll just have to go on contributing to forcing the end of antiquated, negatively geared, patriarchal systems. I hope to live to see a time when the female voice is not treated with such disdain. I believe my art contributes to activating this change. In the meantime I can at least make you laugh about it all. In all seriousness, I am starting a new campaign called Power Switch (PWR SWTCH). We are asking people to turn off their power switches to let energy companies know they want renewables. Find PWR SWTCH on Facebook. My motto: if you want to make a difference to the world, get off your arse and make a difference.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Hmmm, I’m not much of a holiday type. I travel and have adventures but I wouldn’t call them holidays; I’m not a very restful type. I know I’m supposed to love sipping daiquiris poolside with billionaires (regardless of uncomfortable underthings and stunning, but stupid footwear) but life is short and those people/ situations are entirely dull. My favorite destination so far is Pokhara Lake in Nepal. Why? The view, the air, the climb, the culture, and the people.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I take them to me! I am way more fun than all of those boring landmarks. If we have time I hoon them up to Palm Beach or to Watsons Bay. I try to show them some of our incredible nature… give them some great food. Mind you, seeing a kangaroo and/or koala is always in hot demand but I somehow just can’t do the zoo.

What are you currently reading?
Oh gosh, Homer’s Odyssey… to my daughter. Great for young and old. One of the most awesome things about being a parent is reading so many wonderful books that I enjoyed when I was a child myself. I think next on the list is Watership Down. The last book I read for me was The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley – which is a retelling of Beowulf as told from the perspective of Grendel’s mother. Brilliant!

What are you currently listening to?
I’m preparing for this show so my playlist has everything from Vivaldi to Pulp to Bach’s harpsichord concertos to The Sex Pistols to Nirvana to disco reworkings of Light My Fire by The Doors.  When I’m not in show mode, it’s a great year for music featuring female vocalists and I’m thriving on listening to Wolf Alice, Jack River and Hatchie.

Happiness is?
Flying in the face of adversity and winning!

What does the future hold for you?
Short term: shows in Las Vegas and the Opera House, a tour to Melbourne and a theatre development in Sydney. Mid term: finishing my book, finishing the Code of Conduct for Burlesque artists, working on PWR SWTCH and also doing the final development of my new show Dark Matter. Long term: time off with my family, getting some sleep and trying that restful holiday thing other people do.

Imogen brings her hit sexual satire, Herstory – Leading Ladies to the Factory Theatre: 14 & 15 June 2019. For more information, visit: www.factorytheatre.com.au for details.

Image: Imogen Kelly (supplied)