Following on from my last post I wanted to start a new series to share with you some of my favorite sword swallowing moments from around the world.
Obviously because I work full time as a sword swallower, I travel a lot with my swords to different cities for different contracts and I swallow on some of the worlds biggest and most beautiful stages. But I also I almost always, take at least one sword with me even when I go on holiday, just in case I see an opportunity to swallow somewhere epic.
So this series is going to be pretty aptly coined Epic Swallows (I love a good gag/pun/innuendo)
Traveling with swords is a lot easier than it sounds. People are always asking me how I manoeuver international borders with my swords.
I’ve actually never had any real issues although I do have to be a little sly sometimes in carrying the sword around with me once inside the country, especially if I’m traveling on foot and it’s one of my ‘big’ swords that doesn’t fit into a backpack…
Only twice have they ever even been clocked – when entering into Australia, I did have to declare them to customs (I had to show them all the swords and the customs officer, while examining my dagger, said it actually fell under the ‘concealed weapon’ category because of it’s short length but she said that she could ‘use her common sense’ and see that it was not only blunt but was covered in rhinestones and she was pretty confident that I was, in fact, a sword swallower 🙂 and once when leaving Beijing heading back to Hong Kong, I had to open my case and show some press clippings for the show I was in for them to understand/accept why I was traveling with blades.
Other than that, I’ve been able to slip in and out of Asia, Europe, North America, Russia and Mexico, just like a real live ninja 🙂
Speaking of, I definitely have to start this series off with one of my favorite Epic Swallows which was in Mexico at Hierve el Agua.
(side note; Mexico one of my all time favorite places I’ve traveled to – if you avoid the tourist areas it is one of the most beautiful, magical countries you will ever visit)
Hierve el Agua is a huge natural rock formation, natural mineral spring and petrified waterfall formation. It lies about 2 hours south of Oaxaca (central Mexico) and the springs are said to have healing properties because it is so over saturated with minerals like calcium carbonate and magneisum sulfate.
A good friend of mine lives in Oaxaca (he makes amazing, hand blown glass body jewelry – Gorilla Glass ) and in 2011 during a visit he took us to this beautiful spot.
I took my katana with me, of course, and looking back, I think it may have been the first time I swallowed somewhere beautiful/in nature/not for an audience or photoshoot.
And what a place to start this tradition!
I remember walking to the edge and feeling a little bit ‘oh fuck’ because it really did feel like I was walking on the edge of the world.
When you swallow a sword you have to throw your head right back, which throws off your balance, which means its really hard to do in high heels or when you are up high/on a podium.
There were a couple of other tourists there with us, in the water, and they were alredy a bit gawky eyed at the group of tattooed people, and when I walked to the edge with a giant Katana they stopped pretending not the stare and just got in on the action.
*I’ll add a little video at the end of this post (you can tell it was early Luck Hell because there is no set up, no dramatic speech or bum wiggling and I just walk off afterwards like ‘yeah cool, done’ HAHA!)
We spent the night in one of the two or three cabins located in the area that you can rent for cheap (very, very bare bones, running water and that’s about it – no electricity!) but because I wasn’t used to the altitude (5800′) I ended up getting a bit sick and spent the night in bed/in the toilet.
Even though I was in a fair bit of pain and gross discomfort, I barely remember that aspect of the being there because the overwhelming beauty completely and wonderfully takes up the memory.
Never be afraid to go somewhere out of your comfort zone or challenge yourself. Be it physically or mentally, whether that’s hiking and you’re not athletic, or it’s cut off from modern amenities and you are a total city slicker – the reward is always worth it, trust me.
Because throwing up all night from altitude sickness will never detract from that time I was SWORD SWALLOWING ON TOP OF THE WORLD!
Travel had always been my one (and literal only) life goal. There was nothing else I knew I wanted (needed) to do, it was a vague and passionate driving force in my life and still is in many ways.
Although I’m finally starting to feel like I have some purpose on this earth and I’m even finding comfort in being geographically still, the thirst for travel is still very real and I will always be it’s number one advocate.
I grew up in Perth, Western Australia and I hated it. Not that Perth itself is a bad place, but my memories of living in Perth are pretty painful to be honest. I had kind of a tough childhood. I was an orphan at a pretty young age (lived pretty much on my own since I was 13) and was bullied a lot (so many of us weirdos were..) I changed school too many times to count, I didn’t have a real friend until I was about 15 and was bounced around the social system until I was 16 and
In all honesty, I am so glad it was so hard. I am thankful to all those people that made my life a living hell because it propelled me to get my passport (and gtfo out there)
If I didn’t have this obsession for traveling I would of never moved to London, never met my ex husband and moved to Finland, never of gotten sober, never realized I was able to swallow swords and therefore would definitely not be where I am today.
Nothing else has the power to change you so organically. By exposing yourself to other cultures and foreign ways of life you gain appreciation not only of your own but also a perspective of how you as an individual interact and see the world. It’s startling to realize that the way you see the world, yourself and others in it, is completely shaped by your environment. By stepping out of this environment (read: hometown / read: comfort zone ) you are gifting yourself a chance to be shaped by anything and everything, a chance to really grow and evolve as a human.
The city you grow up in/live in shapes you by a very limited number of ideals, based on geography, religion, culture and politics. You can only learn so much from the same kind of people. Imaging being shaped by an unlimited resource! Imagine how differently people in Japan host dinner parties, or how people in India go on first dates, or even how kids in Finland let loose when it’s -30 celcius – there are so many different ways of life, ways of living and ways of thinking – imagine what would happen to you if you were exposed to even a tiny number of these?
I’m going to be posting more under the travel tag so keep an eye out. I want to tell you all about my first trips outside of Perth/Australia and how I moved to Europe (almost 10 years ago!) there are so many amazing places I have visited since then and so many crazy stories, they each deserve their own post! I can’t wait to share all these with you but for now I leave you with this thought.
Just by observing other cultures you take in so much and it’s a key component of realizing the world is fucking huge and you are but a tiny particle running around worrying about mostly pointless shit and taking things for granted aka learning to be humble (and as westeners, a whole lot of gratitude )
My best friend on this earth, is my passport and the best advice I can give to anyone, is to get their passport and just go. Go somewhere, go anywhere, just get out and go and open your mind.
I have been meaning to cultivate an actual (and what now feels almost analog) blog as opposed to just using social media, for a long ass time.
I love sharing my crazy life (and even crazier profession) with those that take the time to follow and support me, and I think it’s time to offer a little more in depth look, because even though sometimes I feel like my life isn’t that crazy, in reality, it really is.
I’m a professional performer that gets paid (well) to travel the world swallowing swords, it’s pretty f**king cool.
I wanted to start this first ever blog post off with a little introduction to the massive show I am currently performing in as a full time artist (12 shows a week, baby!)
So how come you have heard of the Moulin Rouge but not of the Lido? Because Hollywood didn’t make a movie about the latter.
Not only is the Lido just as famous and prestigious as the Moulin Rouge but it is even considered to be the more high end (read; expensive and fancy) of the two.
Volumes can be said about the Lido by it’s location on “the world’s most beautiful avenue” Avenue des Champs-Élysées (this is the most famous and most expensive street in the whole of Paris/France) and as soon as you exit metro George V the gigantic sparkling Lido de Paris sign and glittering gold entrance is the most glamorous eyesore on the Elysees.
The Lido really is a massive deal here, even to the Parisians who famously never frequent shows like Lido, Moulin or the Crazy Horse (shockingly) and I didn’t realize how crazy it was that I, heavily tattooed, little self-taught bad ass was in the show, until I went on a few dates when I first arrived in Paris (pro tip: don’t date) and the look on people’s faces when I told them where I worked was priceless.
“Where do you work, what show?”
‘Have you heard of Le Lido?’
‘Yes, like Lido de Paris’
*eyes widening mouth dropping open a little/a lot*
“You mean like, Le Lido? THE Lido?!” – cue change in stature, attitude and awe.
It. Never. Got. Old.
The Lido is insanely famous in Paris and it’s known as the ultra top level of showgirl.
The show runs 365 nights per year, it doesn’t close and the glamour never ends (spoiler; it does)
Each artist works 6 nights per week and has a cover for their night off/holidays (my cover are my gorgeous and talented friends Cecile and Roman – bad ass duo straps – they also cover our acrobats and clown.)
The theatre itself is huge and a performers dream.
From our artists entrance you descend a small staircase to the first level of dressing rooms (lodges) offices and costume area, but there are a total 6 levels backstage.
Just above that first level is another costume level of workroom, repairs, storage, plumes, stones and thongs, then the first level is home to the singer and specialty lodges
Me in my (private) lodge
Lucky for me it is private coz I do a lot of this (snapchat)
as well as the artistic offices, costume repair / drying room as well as an on sight nurse.
Next is the second level of change rooms just for the male dancers (buff, testosterone fueled, gay heaven)
Below that you have a quick change hall and stage access.
Then below that you have another floor of change rooms just for the Bluebelles (first line of girls, not topless)
And below that still, yet another floor of girls change rooms for the Belles (second line of girls, topless)and the Sublimes (main line of girls, topless – le main babes)
It’s a revue (topless show, they love a good pair of brecasts here) and being topless as a dancer in a show here is not seen as tacky or classless, in fact, to be one of the topless lines is a actually a thing of status. You have to be chosen to be one of the topless girls and you are considered the most beautiful, if you are topless.
I for one, am a huge fan of this and applaud the French (for allowing me to enjoy boobs at my office)
The female dancers have a minimum height requirement of 175cm (I’m 163cm!) and a 3kg lose/gain restriction in their contract. They are basically beautiful, tall, thin creatures not of this world!
Also, get this – all the dancers in Lido (and the other big shows) must cover all of their tattoos. Really. Every night. With body make up.
There is even a note on the wall about it.
And then there’s me (heavily tattooed, even for people with tattoos) I’m actually the first heavily tattooed artist to be featured in any of these big, iconic shows. Quite a risqué move considering this is Paris and they are pretty judgmental about things like tattoos (shout out to director Franco Dragone for not giving a fuck about societal norms and asking for me anyway)
Inside, the stage areas seats over 1000 people and employs a full kitchen and wait staff (35 cooks and pastry chefs!)
Dinner is served for a premium at 7:30pm and at 9pm the first show starts (you can purchase tickets with or without the fancy dinner) champagne flows from doors open and at around 11pm the first show audience is rounded out and the second show’s attendees filter in.
The show consists of multiple different tableaus (scenes) as well as a singer and circus specialty acts to break up the scenes. That’s where I come in. I am one of 5 circus specialty acts within the show. There are approximately 50 artists working each night along with 15-20 technicians.
My personal highlights of the show are; the opening and general wow-factor of the theatre and stage itself. Just being inside this beauty is awe inspiring and you feel like you are apart of major show history.
Another favorite moment is the giant chandelier
(I am talking, multiple meters tall and wide, with half naked girls covered in sparkling jewels, hanging off it)
I also really love the introduction of the French Can-Can to the Lido.
Even though this is a contested number (it’s a traditional dance and Franco has interpreted it his own way, a no-no for traditions) I love it. Yes it’s different, but so is everything that evolves and lives on. I absolutely love that the costume looks like it’s been designed by a couture designer, because it has (Nicolas Vaudelot who has worked for Dior, Vuitton, Gaultier, Givenchy…) it’s so modern, chic and most importantly its been made sexy again. I’m a lover of the contemporary though (so shoot me)
Daily life for me looks like this;
I usually leave home around 7-7:30pm so I can start makeup at 8pm and and be stage-ready for when the opening music starts at 9pm.
Then it’s two shows then taxi service at 1:30am.
Home at 2am.
I do this 6 nights a week, every week bar holidays. The schedule is rough but this is the kind of once in a life time show you just can’t so no to, at least for a little while 🙂
Working in the Lido is the equivalent of working for the Chanel of circus shows. It’s high stakes, high pressure, out of this world big budget.
It’s easy to feel out of your league in a place like this, but whenever I feel like a phony in this clearly magical land of showgirls, I remember that I was cast in this new Lido show (Paris Merveilles) because it has been directed by Franco (co-creator of Cirque du Soleil / founder of Dragone) and he is a huge champion for weird and wonderful aka me.
I’ve worked with Franco for the past 4 years and he has always been one of my biggest supporters.
He even went on national TV here in France and said that I was the hardest thing for the Lido to accept, he fought for me.
This in itself, is one of the craziest moments to remember in my career.
Franco is like the Quentin Tarrantino of the big budget circus shows. Crazy genius status, often intimidating but with a huge heart and passion for using technology and circus artists to tell beautiful, modern and elegant stories.
If you are ever in close proximity to a Dragone directed show (many of the best cirque du soleil shows still running were directed by Franco so look out for his name) make a point to buy a ticket and be transported/inspired/wowed/left tingling.