Burlesque dancer ‘Lily Bella’ reveals how performing has boosted her body confidence

BRUCE Wayne has Batman, Miley Cyrus has Hannah Montana and now Sarah McLaren has Lily Bella. Caroline Osbeldiston meets a woman with a very seductive alter ego.

Guest blogger Caroline Osbeldiston can be found on Twitter and Instagram @carolineosbel and her blog is cheerupbuttercupx.blogspot.co.uk

Guest blogger Caroline Osbeldiston can be found on Twitter and Instagram @carolineosbel and her blog is cheerupbuttercupx.blogspot.co.uk

By day, the blue-eyed, black haired girl was a timid shop assistant working behind the counters of Boyes department store.

But when night time falls, Sarah McLaren’s sexy alter ego comes out to play.

“I first discovered burlesque by accident but to me there was so something so alluring and different about it that I was desperate to give it a go.

“I found it all just clicked into place that I should give it a go. I’ll try anything once when it comes to new things so I had nothing left to lose when I tried out.”

Based on the character of Lily, a teenage princess, from Scott Ridley’s 1985 film ‘Legend’ and her middle name, Sarah is not the normal stereotypical dancer.

“As a sufferer of BDD [Body Dysmorphic Disorder], I struggle with my body issues. It sounds crazy, a dancer with BDD, but how can she show off her body in that way if she has it?”

Body dysmorphic disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance. It’s estimated that up to one in every 100 people in the UK may have BDD, although this may be an underestimate as people with the condition often hide it from others. BDD has been found to affect similar numbers of males and females.
Sarah McLaren, who works as a shop assistant before her transformation into Lily Bella.

Sarah McLaren, who works as a shop assistant before her transformation into Lily Bella.

Lily Bella was an escapism for the 20-year-old, who appeared in Channel 4’s Bodyshockers programme.

Watching her, and others, perform is something of an experience. It teaches you that even though you may be plus sized, you can either let that ruin your life or you can go out and try new, bold and well raunchy things.

“I usually get really encouraging reactions from the audience seeing a bigger girl own her stage and look confident and fierce in doing so.”

For those with body issues, the qualified makeup and hair artist’s advice is simple.

“I know how it feels. Never ever let anybody put you down, insult your weight, have anything bad to say about you; what you do concerns you and you alone. Unless they’re paying your bills, pay those bitches no mind.”

Sarah believes people should be able to dress how they want and reveal as much as they want. Talking about Rita Ora’s appearance on BBC One’s The One Show and what she was wearing, Sarah thought she looked amazing.

“Personally I think Rita’s cleavage was wonderful, like her body, and she should be more than welcome to show it off. Most of the people who complain about things like that are more than likely to be jealous. It’s her body and she can dress how she sees fit, and if people don’t like that then they don’t have to look.”

As for what she wears on stage, well that ends with only one outcome.

Sarah McLaren as her burlesque alter ego Lily Bella.

Sarah McLaren as her burlesque alter ego Lily Bella.

“Each routine I’ll wear something different, from dresses to leather trousers, but the end result is a pair of pasties [nipple tassles] and panties.”

“When I’m in my day to day life, I’m a reserved, modest, slightly bumbling shop assistant called Sarah and there’s nothing to her. When I’m on stage, I’m a fierce, extroverted and loud lady Lily Bella and there’s nothing that can stop me in my path.”

Influenced by other burlesque dancers such as Havana Hurricane, Satan’s Angel and Immodesty Blaize, Sarah believes burlesque and stripping are often associated as being the same thing.

“I don’t have a problem with people associated burlesque as stripping because it’s usually ignorance or they haven’t looked into burlesque before. Really burlesque is an art form, but stripping is just a counterpart.”

Performing in theatres to nightclubs whenever she can, the audience’s reaction is key for her.

“I usually don’t invite my nearest and dearest to my shows as I can feel a little put off.”

However depending the gig, the audience is mostly women between the ages of 25 – 40 and their husbands/boyfriends, or people more her age in cases of nightclub shows.

“All sorts of people attend these events, from other dancers, photographers, to people who just downright love a bit of burlesque.

“I usually get really encouraging reactions from the audience seeing a bigger girl own her stage and look confident and fierce in doing so.”

However, her number one fan is someone much closer to home.

“My friends and family love seeing me perform, my mother is my biggest fan believe it or not.

“My partner is rather passive to the idea so he hasn’t seen any of my shows but he always says if it makes me happy then go for it.”

Burlesque dancer Sarah McLaren.

Burlesque dancer Sarah McLaren.

“When I’m in my day to day life, I’m a reserved, modest, slightly bumbling shop assistant called Sarah and there’s nothing to her. When I’m on stage, I’m a fierce, extroverted and loud lady Lily Bella and there’s nothing that can stop me in my path.”

The tattooed dancer, who lives in Norton, first found burlesque at 15 but it was when she was eighteen she tried out for any shows.

The ex Egglescliffe Secondary School pupil’s advice for those who want to try out burlesque is to research and get yourself out there.

“Immerse yourself in watching burlesque – go to shows, watch Youtube videos, study their costumes and movements, and there are classes everywhere.”

As for Lily Bella, who knows what the future holds for her.

“I don’t have long term goals personally as I don’t like to avoid disappointment, I keep it as a hobby for now but if it was to go further it would be amazing.”

CONTACT: 

Find burlesque dancer Lily Bella on Facebook by searching ‘Lily Bella’.
Visit her Tumblr site on: http://lilybellaburlesque.tumblr.com/

Guest blogger Caroline Osbeldiston can be found on Twitter and Instagram @carolineosbel and her blog is cheerupbuttercupx.blogspot.co.uk

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