Today i realised that i have never released a blog post for my TEDx talk . I’ve recently shared my personal story about fighting mental illness and becoming a circus artist very late in life – hoping to inspire other female people of colour and performers to keep fighting. A few weeks ago i ‘ve added a written part to my story with a more detailed view on what happened to me in London whilst building my career in performance. Both parts of the story are added below.
In 2010 MisSa Blue packed one suitcase took €2000 savings and left her previous life behind. She move to London – the most expensive city in the world – to pursue her dream of becoming a full time performer without any formal training in Dance, Circus or Theatre. She knew nobody and the following years she fought hard for her dream and continuously build her career and friendships in the UK never regretting a single day. Working on a no budged basis her first costumes where made out of pound shop items held together with gaffer tape. The first years she performed in London’s underground clubs for fees as small as £10. It was difficult to get recognised as a newbie or respected as a black female performer and her wild untamed approach did not appeal to the bookers of the light & white entertainment style that’s appreciated in London’s chic west-end Burlesque shows. She did not fit into any of the styles and nobody was willing to give comprehensive help to get her booked. But MisSa didn’t give up. She just craved to advance and was committed to her plans. She decided to learn a skill and started rehearsing fire performing illegally late at night on London’s streets. The danger suited her character perfectly. Quickly she was one of the best fire breathers in town. Now with a killer one woman fire act she started slowly moving up the ladder. A few opportunities where taken but the big break through was yet to accomplish. So her search continued. In 2015 her fearlessness finally lead her to sword swallowing. A rare and fascinating Artform so dangerous it nearly cost her her life learning it. But as with everything in her life she pushed though and today MisSa is one of the very few female Sword Swallowers in the world actively practising the skill.
MisSa never stopped at a closed door – and there where plenty. She is a master of using the ‘back entrance’ to secure a booking. She often just walked un-invited right into a gig demanding to be let on stage to show off her skills to then get booked as a regular. Again and again there where set backs. Like her winning the Sexual Freedom Award (awarded out of competition 2015) where the representatives apparently ‘forgot to call her on stage’ during the ceremony so she received the award plus prize money later that night on a train station.
MisSa says: “People where either scared of me or reduced me to an exotic amazon. For a while i played the ‘Grace Jones’ of London’s Underground’ called myself experimental dancer and ticked all the boxes for the predominantly white night club audiences. But soon i got bored of being the animal in a cage. I had big dreams. And as a woman with big dreams i had to stop kneeling down for patriarchy or racism. So i broke out to fly. Once out not even the sky was the limit. I was ready to ‘tear things up’ and opt for change. I stopped trying to fit in and this was the moment where things really started to happen. But becoming a Sword Swallower changed the game. Suddenly there was a responsibility attached to being black and doing something so outstanding. I had realised that this fight was much bigger then my own dream of being a performer. It’s a fight for Black Female Empowerment, Respect and Equal Treatment in show biz!”
Since Female Performers of Colour are still critically underrepresented in international Theatres MisSa has dedicated her work towards creating more visibility around POC. She is actively looking to bring her work to places where Black Performance Art hasn’t been supported yet or into productions that are known for booking predominantly white. Her mission is to educate about and eliminate colourism and open new doors for POC.
For more information on MisSa’s story please listen to her TEDx Talk.
Picture credit: Claudio Rachella