I think my blog is in need of a gorgeous, opulent and voluptuous photograph to see in the new year so here it is. This is the delightful, Carina Shero, Founder of the plus size burlesque group, The Femme FATales. I loved doing this shoot for my show, Chicago Lights- we had a lot of fun as she’s very creative.
Here she is, in her own words, in an excerpt from my coffee table book, which is released this Tuesday.
You can’t go to Target and buy confidence and self love – there’s no handbook for it, it’s something that you have to find for yourself and no one can hand it to you.
Imagine there’s this wall in our mind, that is made up of restrictions that society has placed upon it – things like “I can’t show my body in a bikini at the beach”, “I’m too fat to have sex with the lights on”, “I’m not pretty enough to be desirable” and so on.
However, once people see my photos, in which I exude sensuality and confidence and am not at all hiding that I am fat – it starts forming cracks in that wall.
The more representation people see of people being unapologetic about what society deems as undesirable – the more cracks form and the more their own perception of themselves changes.
It will be gradual at first, from – “I have no worth because I am too much of this or not enough of that and I hate my body because of such and such” – to finally breaking large holes out of that wall and realizing: “Holy crap – I actually do have worth regardless of what societal beauty standards say! …maybe I’m even perfect.”
Because in reality, beauty standards are all made up and no one person can ever be what everyone likes and it is not our purpose in life to cater to what society thinks we should look like.
It is the most liberating experience getting to choose how you perceive yourself and choosing to love yourself.
Goodbye to my father Christopher Martin Zakheim, who died on Christmas Day 2018.
Hello to a show that was life changing for me. Hello to a book I had dreamed of for twenty years.
A trip to the dentist in February gave me a rare mouth condition which troubles me daily BUT after endless research I discovered loads of vitamins that helped me and loads of others. I’ve tried to turn every difficult situation into a positive but sometimes life can be gruelling.
My father’s death was too dreadful from brain cancer but instead of dwelling on that, I’d like to celebrate what a character he was. He wasn’t normal or conventional- ever. He was charming and only walked his own path. He never complained and certainly never explained! Ever! I hope I can be that brave. He used to rock up to my boarding school in a shirt unbuttoned to the waist (1970s!) and skin tight jeans. No other father looked like him. The matrons would be staring out of the window to witness his approach, which even then I knew was funny, if slightly embarrassing- for them! He paid my school fees with cash that he had tucked down his sock- he was a true antiques dealer of the old school kind.
Once he got over his 1970s look, he grew into one of the best dressed men I ever met and one of the few men who could actually were velvet and look slick. Brocade waistcoats, perfect cufflinks, brogues – these were the mainstays of his wardrobe. He always loved a character and attracted them wherever we went, especially in his Russian Art Gallery in London’s West End. He would have loved my show as it was packed with extraordinary people.
He was a bit of a rockstar – a mischief maker and a maverick. He got things wrong as he had me at 23, so he was really just a boy, but by his third marriage he had started to work out this thing we call life. I called him at least three times a week to waffle on and on and on (and I can really talk) and he never minded. He loathed FaceTime and would listen but direct the camera to the cat. He said the wrong thing quite often (!) but it could be very funny.
I don’t think that for the rest of my life on planet Earth I will ever meet anyone like him.
Goodbye 2018. No more words about you. Let’s see what 2019 brings.
Film 🎥 by Gunnar Curry shot on Friday 16 November at the Zhou B Art Center for the opening night of my audio/visual show, “Chicago Lights”. Performers featured in this mini film include Theatre Director and actor, Anthony Moseley, Cabaret star the Duchess Darling Shear and Vocal Performance Artist, Kiara Lanier.
The wonderful Candace Jordan, Chicago Tribune Social columnist, ex-playboy centrefold and sparkling human who radiates warmth and sunshine wherever she goes, just wrote this gorgeous piece for her blog which summed up the opening night of my show. It includes photos from the opening night and really captures what it was all about!
How long has she been walking; she’s lost track of time. She can feel the gravel crunch beneath her shoes, the pain of the blisters as they rub and bleed on her heels. Faded curtains blow slowly in the breeze in the house up ahead. The heat is stifling, the front door ajar. She enters, wipes the grimy sweat from her neck, breath ragged.
Music plays faintly from another part of the house. “Is anyone home?” – no response. Flies buzz in the corner over some left overs. All she needs is a glass of water and to use the phone. She takes another step … a floorboard creaks and she feels a creeping sensation in the pit of her stomach. …tbc
Ok, so here we go… after waking up to a number of texts and messages telling me that the link I posted previously doesn’t work in the UK or Europe, I managed to screen shot each page and here is the actual article as it appears in the Chicago Tribune today! Hooray! We are all so global!
Please click on this link to read an article that was just published online in the Chicago Tribune about my show, “Chicago Lights”, which has its grand opening on Friday 16 November at the Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport, Chicago. I am thrilled and chuffed to bits with this. I was thinking about writing a blog piece saying what I’ve been up to this last year and wonderful Rick has done the job for me! Now that’s what I call perfect timing! He has really captured the essence of what I’m doing and he even spoke to some of my subjects about the experience so you really get a proper overview. Anyway, here it is. Please have a read. It takes about four minutes.
I recently lost my sense of humour, hence the reason I’ve been away from this blog for a while too long. My humour is a well worn blanket, a comfy pair of slippers, a friend when I’m in need and an asset when a conversation is flagging or steering into the “woe is me” domain. Without my friend, humour, I’ve felt stranded. Here follows a rather dramatic story behind it’s loss and finally, it’s thankful return…
It was a regular Monday morning back in April – school run, quick dog walk with my two dogs (one, Ginger, adopted the day before, quite by surprise, from a photo shoot) and then a car ride to a shoot. I was off to photograph a gospel singer in a church on the south side so I was driving at a snail’s pace as it’s an unknown area for me. For about ten minutes, the roads were eerily quiet and empty of cars. I was ambling across an intersection just two minutes from my destination when WHAM! CRASH! WHACK! SPLAT- I was HIT with horrendous force by a speeding car and flipped over and over.
My life did not flash before my eyes and I didn’t feel fearful. Instead I felt absolutely, indignantly furious. “What?!” I thought “this is NOT happening to me! I’m on my way to a church for goodness sake! I’ve been putting money in the karmic bank of goodness for years and THIS is how I’m repaid?” Well all these thoughts and more were squashed together into one enormous “NO!” and then suddenly, out of nowhere, I was surrounded by a large bubble (not sure how else to describe it) and felt like I was floating in very slow motion. I heard loud and clear in my head “I am protected. I am ok” and then, as I hung upside down, I found myself wondering how big the car was. Yes dear readers, that utterly prosaic observation was what I thought about at my junction with life and death and life again.
Then the car stopped, stank of smoke and the panic began. I’ve seen all the films where, at this point, the car blows up, so I got out as fast as I could (I don’t know how) and scrambled through a broken window to an arm reaching out for me. Once out and surrounded by at least 40 gaping onlookers, I proceeded to spin about and wail very loudly in my very English accent, wearing my neat mac and tidy shoes. I could see people staring in wonder. “How could this happen to me?” I cried. ” I am doing a project for this city and THIS is my repayment. I am so upset! I am furious! I can’t believe this!” I continued for a while until my inner voice interrupted “How much longer are you going to wail you drama Queen? I think it’s time to quieten down- you’ve made your point- be quiet!”. I must say it’s quite odd to have such a loud inner voice and even stranger for it to be so entirely and utterly sensible. I may have heard it whisper in the past but now it had taken charge and it had the tone of a bossy headmistress! I decided to ignore it until two nice ladies with the look of social workers managed to sit me down on the pavement and calm me.
Then, when everyone decided I was sane, out came the endless questions “Do you have insurance? Were you wearing a seatbelt? Where were you going? Can you call your insurance? Shall we tow your car?” I quite fancied a cup of tea and a hug but needs must so I found myself taking charge from my pavement seat. Then came the police- two very cool looking ladies with mirrored shades. “You are lucky to be alive” they said in unison “hardly anyone gets out of these accidents alive- ever.”
With that, I was strapped onto an ambulance bed and rushed off to a trauma unit. Once there, I was surrounded by doctors who told me they needed to cut off my clothes to check my spine. “Cut my clothes?” I asked them incredulously and in a tone as bossy as I could muster whilst lying down. “You will do no such thing. I have just bought this outfit in London and you are not going to cut it.” “Oh” they replied, looking surprised and chastised. They let me take control and take off my own garments. Once checked from top to toe, I was declared ready to go home and took an uber. Yes really. Friends rallied round and my husband was flown back shocked and shaken from his trip in Hong Kong. For a while my sentences came out a bit topsy turvy and I had a few flash backs but my main thought was one of relief, wonder and gratitude.
Three months have passed and my sense of humour has finally returned. It took lots of small steps, love, friends and a very conscious effort to live in the present and really appreciate every moment, to finally get it back.
My neck still hurts but I do have a great place to go where I get my bones cracked into place by a cheerful lady and then a handsome young Physiotherapist gets me to make double chins endlessly and then laughs AT me whilst I do them, which I find quite endearing.
I look back now and feel like my excess emotional baggage from the past that I was quietly dragging about, exploded on that road and I walked into my present life clean , shiny, free and ready for new adventures.
Valentines Day is nearly upon us. How does that make you feel… excited, indifferent, desperate, desperate to be indifferent?
I received my first Valentine’s card from a boy when I was fourteen. I met him when I was home for the weekend from boarding school and he was visiting us with his family. For some reason we had to go to the local shops together. I remember him being quite excitable about being with me, which as a slightly mean 14 year old, I found slightly vile. In his sweaty excitement, he took a lunge and tried to kiss me! Heaven forbid! Yuck! I managed to duck just in time behind a red letter box (the days of snail mail!) He must have found my indifference alluring as unfortunately on Valentine’s Day he sent me a card. I was sharing a dormitory with about six girls in an old fashioned, creaky, cranky English boarding school set in large, spooky grounds. I’m not sure why I refer to it as a school as it was more akin to a prison. We were watched over by unloving, brittle old matrons with enormous pointed bosoms who marched up and down the corridors to check we were in bed on time and not disobeying the many rules laid down for us. Above and beyond the formidable military atmosphere, it was the relentless tedium that I un-fondly remember.
The “Day Girls”- those lucky girls who actually lived at home – raced off at the end of each school day to their families, decent meals, hugs and comfy beds whilst us boarders stayed at school. It was in this heady atmosphere of teenage hormones and blistering boredom that I opened the aforementioned card. He had written his words of admiration on lilac paper and I do believe he must have poured a whole bottle of perfume on it. I was horrified! I could hear my friends snigger but could also sense their watchful longing. When would they get one they wondered? I on the other hand hoped I would never get one again! Romance – Pah!
As boarders in an all girls’ school, sightings of the opposite sex were rare and enough to get our hearts fluttering. The thought of romance and boyfriends started to permeate the hormone drenched atmosphere – nearly everyone wanted one or at least pretended they did. By this time I had taken to secretly reading books by the notorious writer Harold Robbins (look him up! 70s filth!) and was being informed by the pill popping, sex addicted, drug and drink fuelled fantasy lives of his shady heroes and wild heroines (so much more raucous and exciting than Fifty Shades of Bore!) I have no idea how I came across those books in the sterile atmosphere of school or how I managed to hide them from “matron” but I must have been quite wily.
With all those lurid and decadent images racing through my mind, my very funny friend Jo and I decided to write a novel. We spent a whole month fighting over the first page, both determined to make our mark on it and equally determined to include some “naughty” scenes of our own- what were we thinking? We had absolutely no idea- we were just two completely naieve 14 year olds with only heresay to go on and our imagination as fuel! We finally gave up our burning desire to be literary heroines but not without the thought of romance brewing in our hearts.
My poor maths teacher took the brunt of this. He was one of only two men who taught at the school (brave, brave man!). I remember with shame (and I have to admit, some mirth) how he used to teach me and Jo (yes her again- definitely a trouble maker!) and my great friend Rozanne, an after school club entitled “Skills of the Darkroom.” We certainly had some skills to show him! He was a bit lacking in the looks department, was probably in his late 20s and was sweet and very shy. Each time he turned off the lights to process the image (which was at least 10 times a session) we took it in turns to pinch his bottom! The poor man! He never, ever mentioned it (and we did it every single week) whilst we giggled relentlessly.
Yes, I admit we were awful, but when you lock up loads of girls together, you have to expect some mischief!
Now you might be able to tell from these stories that I wasn’t particularly romantic. On my journey through life, until I met Leo, young men did try and lure me with flowers and romance, one even hired a yellow rolls royce to take me out – but I wasn’t having any of it!
When I finally found Leo I was so relieved that he had no idea at all that he was supposed to display his affection like that. He gave me flowers if he saw some he liked but never on Valentines. The thought of us two going for a romantic dinner with candles surrounded by other couples being “Romantic” would just make us cringe. Even on our honeymoon we went out of our way to avoid the typical, exotic, far flung location with secluded beaches, private bungalows and nightly rose petals adorning our beds. Instead Leo chose Turkey (Air miles! He was so chuffed!) where we filled our days with action packed adventure – from mountain climbing and yoga to swimming and sight seeing. We even joined a tour group who were very surprised we were with them – “Are you sure this is your honeymoon?” they kept asking “Really sure? Here with us?” “Yes” we laughed, “It’s perfect!” We then hired a car to race about the coast line, stopping to stay the night in little places we liked the look of. Yes, this was much more “my cup of tea”.
I am happy to say I think my 14 year old self would definitely approve of the woman I’ve become. So if you have kids (nieces/ nephews/ God kids), take a good look at them now (especially teenagers) as they are already showing you clear signs of exactly who they are going to be!