Burlesque performer Fanciforia Foxglove is a Wellington Woman not to be messed with. But Bailey McCormack, her creator, is one of the sweetest people in the city.
For the last few years, Fanciforia has been a regular on the burlesque scene, shaking her sequins, baring her bottom and fluffing her feathers all around town. A lover of pearls, prom dresses and kitten heels, she's known for her outrageously glamorous looks which she pulls off with aplomb.
As Wellington is a small village, I met Fanciforia, and her creator, Bailey McCormack via The Big Dog Walk with Lots of Dogs 2017 which she produce in collaboration with mutual friend, Alice Brine. When I met Bailey, I knew I was going to love her - sweet, gentle and intelligent, she's a generous performer with no ego and friends all around town who love her (including Photographer Kalen Acquisto who I met at the African Fashion Festival in 2016 and my pal Gen Fowler). She even performed for free at a charity event I co-hosted. With an impending move to the Motherland in June, I wanted to catch up with Bailey, and find out how she came to create Fanciforia and how she found her iconic look!
Express yourself! Family life and finding burlesque.
Bailey was born in Invercargill, but she moved away when she was six to Hastings. "So I consider myself more of a Hawkes Bay child than an Invercargill-ite" she laughs. She was born to a fierce, feminist single mother, a self-defense teacher, who moved her family so that she could work in a Ruldolph Steiner School. "I knew how to do the self-defense routine from a young age" she laughs.
Bailey's family-life evolved when her mother met her step father. Despite an adjustment period, Bailey ended up making good friends with her step-sister, Emma. "I didn't know how to be an older sister, so we used to gang up together, against our parents. "We have an eclectic family, where my step father is an artist and a mental health nurse and my mother is a drama teacher who collects vintage like mad!" she laughs.
Bailey went to the Rudolph Steiner school her mother taught at growing up, where self expression and the arts was encouraged. "I did a lot of theater and became a Shakespeare nerd, and I even joined a youth theater outside of school. The pin-up life came from a family interest in history, and being drawn to items from the past. When I hit puberty, my hips spread, and none of the clothes from the early 2000's suited me!" says Bailey.
Being allowed to wear whatever she wanted to the school, Bailey's mum started to buy her vintage clothes and Bailey took to these like a duck to water as the 40's and 50's silhouettes suited her. "It was always peppered through my style. But when came to Victoria University, and studied Theater, it really took off" she explains. After being cast in a play as a burlesque performer, Bailey found herself drawn to the performance and her passion for the art took off. "I knew about Dita von Teese, who was having a moment at that time, so it was something I was drawn to and interested in. But researching the role made me fall in love with the art of the tease."
Over the years, her hair has gown lighter, her outfits more scanty, and she has become more confident with the classic burlesque moves. "When I started, I did a lot of acts to Elvis with a 'Good Girl goes bad' theme. I decided to be a Marilyn blonde - and I've never gone back" she laughs. "I felt ready, and comfortable and it was a real rush."
What questions is Bailey most frequently asked?
Bailey admits that she mainly gets asked about her body. "People think I sit around in corset all the time. These days, I rarely wear them unless I am performing." I also ask Bailey about popular Instagram corsets. "The Kim Kardashian Waist Trainers are bullshit - they're basically like Spanx. They're not changing your body. If you can, you need to get a custom made one. If you buy a cheap one, it will crush your ribs. Do your research before you buy a corset. You get what you pay for" says Bailey.
Bailey also needs to take extra special care of her blonde hair. She avoids heat styling it, and uses "loads" of hair masks, conditioners and oils to keep it in good condition. "I try and avoid curling tongs unless I am in a rush" she admits.
What are the highlights of her career as a burlesque performer?
Highlights of Bailey's work include performing at the Weta Christmas party, at the Roxy cinema. "That's the kind of venue burlesque is fantastic in, because of the art deco interior decorating" she says. She's also performed in a champagne glass, and acted as the muse for a photo-shoot playing the role of Lady Godiva on Liv Tyler's horse from The Lord of the Rings. Another highlight is performing on the Opera House stage.
In June, Bailey departs Wellington for Edinburgh. "I had the chance to travel there when I was 19, and I fell in love with it. I realised when I turned 30 last year that time was running out so I decided to make it happen and go and do it. I've spent the last year planning, and I hope to spend my time performing in Europe and doing shows" she says.
What else does she do?
But if you thought that all Bailey was doing was her burlesque performances, you'd be sorely mistaken. She also works by day for Equestrian Sports New Zealand. "I also produce shows, produced (as mentioned above) The Big Dog Walk with Lots of Dogs, and Lip Sync Battles. Lots of my friends are in the performance business as well, so I catch up with them when we do projects together. I just need to remember to rest - as burn out is always around the corner. However, I've always been a busy persona and I am happiest when I have my hands full!"
Wellington is home for Bailey, and she truly appreciates how it acts as a hub for talent. "My Auckland friends are so jealous of the fact I live here. It's a city that's friendly and not competitive. We are lucky that our city council supports the arts so much and that it is built into our identity" Bailey laughs.