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The Burlesque Jems student profiles

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Student image "I had been living in the shadows for years. I married young, had my children young, and never had the time to find myself

After a very traumatic couple of years which could well have ended me I started to find some inner strength. I eventually reached out for help and got treatment for my personality disorder, which I had been battling against since I can remember. This changed my life but I had spent so much time being lost that I had no idea where or who I really was inside

At a Burlesque show one evening, I thought 'look at those brave, beautiful ladies. I wish I could be like them !' I wanted to give it a go. After some research I found Jem. What an amazing find ! I nervously contacted her and got such a lovely, positive response that I immediately felt relaxed in her company

That is where at all began, and I have not looked back. I have not only found myself but I have found some amazing ladies and plenty of friends that, even without the burlesque, are now my sisters for life

I now feel so much more beautiful and sexy and I no longer see other women as a threat. I can honestly look at another woman and see their beauty and appreciate it rather than being jealous and insecure because I am beautiful too! I might have a saggy tummy and lumps and bumps that I would rather not have but I do have them and they are part of ME"

Cherry, 31,

Chelmsford, Essex

Student image "I joined the Burlesque Jems because it's something I've always wanted to do. As a child I was always at dance or theatre classes – but as a teenager I began to gain weight and lose self confidence. I carried on performing but only in school and then when I left and started university I stopped completely as it didn't really feature in my future. After studies I started my first full time job, moved out (and away from my family & friends) and got married

I love my job and have a wonderful relationship with my husband but after a while, found myself feeling lonely and bored. I gained loads of weight and after some bad news found myself feeling unhappy all the time

I knew I didn't want to carry on feeling this way. I started to diet and then decided I wanted to find a dance class for exercise. When I searched the internet for 'burlesque in Harlow', Jem's website popped up straight away and I was really excited. I couldn't talk anyone into coming with me and nearly didn't join but my lovely husband talked me into going by myself. Before I knew it, I was in a corset and frilly knickers, dancing around the living room and leaving a trail of feathers everywhere !

I've stopped thinking about my weight and focused more on my shape. I'm proud of my curves. There's obviously still things I'd like to change but I try not to think about it too much. I have met loads of lovely women that share my new passion and make me feel comfortable being myslef. Burlesque has given me back my self confidence"

Jenny, 30,

Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire

Student image "One year ago I moved location, not knowing anyone other than my partner – my childhood home was to be sold a week later, so if things didn't work out, I couldn't go home. I was petrified, but it was something I had to do. I had to move out of my comfort zone, and push myself, gain more independence, and stop being so scared about everything. The first few months were scary, I didn't know anyone, and spent all my time going to work, coming home to my boyfriend, and housework ! That was, until I saw a Burlesque Jem's poster in a cafe window

After several weeks of 'umming' and 'ahhing', I plucked up the courage to contact her, enrolled myself on the Burlesque Jems course, and I haven't looked back since. I danced for most of my childhood and teens, until a back injury forced me to quit. This led to my confidence diving, and for the last 15 years, I haven't really had any confidence at all

Burlesque Jems has been amazing. It is beautiful, and fun, and uplifting in so many ways ! I never knew it would make me feel so good. I love being able to dance again, and I love the community that we have become. That's just the thing, it's more than just a dance class, it's like one huge extended family

A year ago I would never have dreamed that I would be part of something so amazing. People have said how my confidence has grown since I've moved, and most of that is down to Jem and my beautiful Burlesque Jems. I honestly don't know what I would do without it all. Thank you Jem. And thank you to all the beautiful ladies who are part of this – you have no idea how much you have done for me"

Kerri, 30,

Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire

Student image "This time last year I found myself faced with an empty nest and an increasingly empty diary, not to mention a slightly expanding waistline and a distinct lack of confidence and identity. I made a resolution to 'rediscover me' or maybe even 'reinvent me'

I started by getting involved in some vintage-inspired crafting courses, which set the ball rolling by getting me out of the house and meeting new people whilst creating fabulous things. And then I discovered Burlesque Jems !

From the very first class, where I was all covered up in leggings and a huge T shirt like a giant caterpillar, via the very first Burlesque Residential which I attended in June and various fabulous classes and routines – I finally became a butterfly and performed not one, or two but THREE routines at the very first cabaret / showcase evening in October !

I am the proud owner of some steel bone corsets (you can't beat them), frillys, fishnets, long gloves and fans, proud owner too of beautiful Boudoir Photoshoot images – it's been an amazing confidence-booster and I wouldn't give it up for anyone. Love me, love my BURLESQUE !"

Lindsey, 49,

Chelmsford, Essex

Student image "I love watching the newbies being bitten by the Burlesque Jems bug. Nerves became big smiles and maybe a cheeky wink, body confidence issues started to melt away, shuffling became strutting and most importantly laughs a plenty. Welcome to the world of Burlesque Jems ladies, you're gonna love it !"

Lizzie, 34,

Colchester, Essex

Student image "I joined Burlesque Jems classes at a time when my relationship with myself and my body was at an all time low – but decided I needed to push myself way out of my comfort zone, and do something completely different

I found Jem, and thank every divine being there is out there that I did. The classes and the community that have built up around me has been so supportive and accepting from day one

I am a voluptuous lady, and to be in a dance class full of all sizes and shapes but not be judged, to just be one of the girls, accepted and loved was an absolute first for me. I don't think I have ever laughed so much, or felt so comfortable with other women before. I feel so much at ease"

Rosemary, 37,

Chelmsford, Essex

Student image "My Burlesque Jems journey started in January 2012 when I attended a burlesque taster session. I crept in, head down, hair over my face, no confidence and wearing leggings and a T-shirt

Little did I know that I would blossom like a beautiful burlesque butterfly, which is what I feel I have become. As weel as the weekly classes I also took part in the Burlesque Jems Boudoir Photoshoot which made me see myself as others see me and not how I used to see myself

I also did the nipple tassel workshop, and then joined the 'Strip Club', which when you have issues with your shape, age and size is the most liberating experience!

I then went on to attend the first Burlesque Jems residential weekend course where I emerged as me, and not the person who had been made to believe she was fat, useless, ugly, worthless and generally not nice. The Burlesque Jems Residential was the most empowering experience and sent me on the path of recovery and self discovery

I was privileged to be part of the first student showcase Cabaret and that was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. I now perform regularly with the Jems as I love it and I get to spend time with the wonderful ladies who are now my closest friends

We are a very special community with our Mumma Burlesque, Jem, at the helm of our burlesque ship which is spreading the glitz, glitter and glamour of burlesque through Essex. So from the day when I crept into the taster session feeling like a nobody to today where I hold my head high, flick my hair, strut my stuff and am proud and privileged to say I am a Burlesque Jems dancer"

Tracy, 53,

Harlow, Essex

Student image "I got into Burlesque at a time when my self esteem was at absolutely rock bottom. My confidence as a woman had been smashed to pieces. I imagine, like a few of the other girls, I thought it was something I needed to do to make myself sexually attractive again. I was wrong

It has helped me realise that I am, was and always will be a sensual, fun and life loving woman and noone else can give that to me – or take it away

The Burlesque Jems classes gave me the opportunity to shed the suffocating cloak that made me feel that I wasn't allowed to appreciate my individual beauty and instead, made me believe that I was actually attractive & fully capable of so much more !

Now I am allowed to celebrate me. I am learning to dance in a way that can express parts of my personality that I do actually love and I feel like I can achieve anything I want to in any possible way. Burlesque Jems has given me the chance to give and receive genuine support, encouragement and sisterly love to the other women I've been so lucky to meet"

Angie, 50,

Chelmsford, Essex