Roaming the halls of this year’s London Tattoo Convention, loud applause came from a section of the events centre. A vibrant noise as the Pinup Lounge is headed by Louise Wild, the lady behind PinUp UK.
Hey Louise – please, explain to our readers about the Pinup competition? How you started, when it started, and basically what a contestant needs to do to get involved?
The Miss Pinup UK and Miss Pinup International competitions were created in 2013. I met a Pinup model called Ariell, in at the North Karelia Tattoofest in Finland in Jan/Feb 2013 when we were visiting friends. She ran a competition over there that was all-inclusive and all about making women feel great. Ariell made a great impression on me the night that I met her. My partner and I were travelling home, slightly hungover, and I got a brainflash on the flight that told me to set up something similar here in the UK. There wasn’t a national Pinup competition and I loved being part of the empowering burlesque world and thought the two would work well together in my life. I messaged Ariell as soon as I landed and asked her if she would mind if I set up a competition here in the UK and to honour her inspiration, I suggested that we become sister competitions and that my logo was similar to hers to show our connection. It’s hard to believe that was five competitions ago!
The Pinup UK / All About Pinup competitions are all-inclusive competitions that are open to all women over the age of 18. The title that they enter just depends on where they live and where they plan to live for the following year. We believe in all of the woman, so we ask that they take part in a Q&A round where we find out a little more about them and then a Special Talent round where they can exhibit or perform any talent that best shows who they are to our handpicked judging panel.
Do you have any amusing stories from while being on stage?
There are so many amusing stories! I love watching the audience reaction the most and I can’t help swelling with pride at how every audience, wherever we are, buy into our values and support all of our entrants. In 2014, Fabia Cerra (resigned Miss Pinup UK 2014), brought a gorgeous young man on to the stage to use in her fabulous ‘S&M’ themed burlesque performance. He loved every minute of it, so much so, that we asked her to perform it again after the results and he offered his services again! I love getting the audience involved and particularly at Tattoo Conventions because if you invite a chap up to the stage to show off his tattoos, more often than not, they’re practically down to pants and socks within seconds to show off their tattoos. It’s loads of fun! Of course, as I compére, if stage setup is taking longer than expected between acts, after I’ve shared the usual facts about why we’re there and what’s happening later etc, I find myself sharing amusing stories of my past. Often stripper-related, it’s hard to find amusing anecdotes about being an Executive Assistant to a Chairman!
How did you become a compére or a burlesque performer? Also, what advice would you give someone who wants to enter this field?
I always worked in corporate PA/EA positions and when I lived in London I had many friends from different walks of life including friends from Soho who frequented strip clubs. One in particular was Sunset Strip. This was the start of my life! You could pop in and have a drink at the bar if you knew the owner and my friend and I would do this after work. I loved meeting the girls and watching them on stage. Then one day, I lost my job at a huge global company and headed straight to Sunset to visit my friend who was House Mother there at the time. I got slightly inebriated and she suggested I give it a go working there. I would dance on stage at the rock clubs back in the day, so how could it be any different?! Ha!
So working there, I met the most amazing, incredible, strong, inspirational and empowering women. Some of us are still very good friends now (it was 17 years ago!) and were part of the Pinup Team at the London Tattoo Convention this year and previous years. A couple of the Sunset Strippers had continued within performance and were doing polesque, burlesque and teaching those art forms. They asked if I would compére their first show as I had done the odd stint working in the DJ booth at Sunset and could cobble some rhyming descriptions of performers together and could keep a crowd under control. So I became their compére.
Then I moved to Bristol and set up my own charity burlesque nights in a pub on Church Road, and a dinner and show event at a restaurant in the centre and the rest is history. I’m very particular about hosting the competition parts of the Miss Pinup events. I couldn’t be at the first Miss Pinup Ireland finals at the Dublin Tattoo Convention due to conflicting bookings and that was a real panic for me as I wasn’t there to look after my entrants.
There are so many great compéres out there, quite often show producers and promoters ask for compére’s who can sing and I can’t/won’t (nobody wants to hear that!), so it helps to develop your compére persona and make an act out of it. You’re the glue that keeps the audience together, you’re the person that fluffs them up before the first act and keeps them aroused between acts and then delivers them the happy ending at curtain call when everybody can show for one last time their appreciation for the performers they’ve just been amazed by. I love it, I love getting into the audience and getting them involved, it’s as much their show as it is ours.
Recently Novelty Starr won Miss Pinup at the London Tattoo Convention. How was the three days and tell us more about your winner. What happens next?
This was the first time we had the Pinup Lounge at the London Tattoo Convention. We started in 2013 on the South Fountain, an unused space that people would sit on whilst they were drinking as it was next to Jamaica Inn. We were there again in 2014 and 2015. Then last year they moved us to the Voodoo Crypt (Pinup Lounge) and we shared the stage with various bands and the lovely Vince Ray. We basically took it over and it might as well have been the Pinup Lounge! Wherever LTC put us, we make it Pinup!
It’s 12 months’ worth of work for 3 days. It always goes too fast. There was one less build day for me this year too so there were things that weren’t done quite to my liking. I’m very particular about the experience that our Pinup team, entrants, sponsors and audience get so when I’m super stressed and rushing and I can’t deliver exactly what I wanted and we go over the compromise quota it hurts me. But the prescribed medication after my ‘accident’ helped get over that!
I saw you mentioned in a previous write-up that I was on crutches. I was walking back from the ladies room and wobbled in that blasted York paving stone, put my left leg down quickly to steady myself and spasmed and strained my left hamstring. I managed to hobble a few feet to Big Chris’ desk (he books all the bands and oversees all the other stages) where he called the paramedic. But the show must go on, so somebody helped me over to the Pinup Lounge where I compéred the Engineers of Desire fashion show and then after being seen by the paramedic who thought I’d ripped something, he “nee-nar”-ed me off to A&E. Thankfully not many people noticed I had gone and the Pinup Team seamlessly delivered the results and I came back to find out who would be joining our Golden Ticket winners.
Novelty Starr was a Golden Ticket winner from Norway. She won our collaboration competition Miss Pinup Manillusion. I was blessed to be part of the amazing judging panel for that. What a fabulous competition and such amazing entrants. I performed over there too and it was so much fun sharing the stage with Miss Chan Delier who was last year’s winner and was the currently reigning Miss Pinup International at the time.
We’re making big plans for the coming year and we can’t wait to start making so much more of the Miss Pinup International competition! Novelty Starr is such an amazing performer. She’s captivating and delivers so much character and humour to her acts as well as a real sensual edge, even with her Dirty Housewife act and she’s wearing rubber gloves with fag hanging out of her mouth. She delivers and you just can’t get enough of it. I never want her acts to end. We’ll be doing everything we can to make sure the world sees more of her this year and that we can collaborate with more Pinup competitions around the world to make Miss Pinup International bigger and better.
A music question – name four musicians you’d like to have together as your resident band?
Wow! Do they have to be alive?! OK, if they have to be alive, then Billy Joel, Slash, Dave Grohl and Chris Dale. If they can come back from the grave then Jeff Buckley, David Bowie, George Michael and Tom Petty – imagine the harmonies!
What tunes do you use when performing burlesque? How do you search for the correct track?
I can pretty much dance to anything and there’s so much music that I love! It’s tough to find a track that I love that I would create an act to though. I listen to Spotify playlists, find something that I really think, I can put an act to this” and then buy it, play around with the style/theme and then start creating a costume. That’s the usual series of events for my acts. I love Nina Simone, my “Life Could be a Dream” act has Nina Simone “My Baby Just Cares For Me” and The Crew Cuts’ “Sh-Boom”. I used Nina Simone to strip to back in the day too.
Too many!! OK, for so many reasons, Motley Crüe… or The Baseballs! Talk about diversity! Mick Mars and I have the same condition, we both have Ankylosing Spondylitis. I’ve always loved the Crüe and met Tommy Lee at Ozzfest once. My boyfriend at the time, who manages huge rock bands, introduced me to him as he walked past our car and I couldn’t even speak. I was 13 all over again!
Is there a song by any band/musician that changes the way you feel?
So many again! Billy Joel’s “This Night” and the Beethoven track it was sampled from “Sonata No. 8 Pathetique – 2nd movement” – this will always still me and move me at the same time. It will always take my focus and allow me to feel alive and re-delivered to whatever I’m doing. SL2 “On a Ragga Tip” always reminds me of my brother and the pair of us dancing like lunatics in the front of his Range Rover in the middle of London on a night out once. Pretty much anything from Queen, but especially “I Want to Break Free”.
Then there’s Soundgarden. It broke my heart to hear of Chris dying. I toured with them many, many, many years ago when they supported Guns N’ Roses and they were so kind and caring and it was such a wonderful time. I was blessed to have been there and spend so much time with them and especially Chris. He wore my jacket on stage, a short cut girly leather jacket, to do their opening track “Jesus Christ Pose”. Needless to say, it came to his elbows when he put his arms out.
A bit about tattoos – where did you get your artwork? Will you get more in the future? If so, what? And by whom?
My first piece was done by an artist called Chris who was working at Marcus’ shop Angelic Hell in Soho. Nikole Lowe also worked there at the time. I have ten now, but plans to even them up and expand them into a ‘longline underbust backless shapewear’ type piece have been started. My partner Jim still needs to finish the Pinup on my left leg and then do the one on my right which is artwork by Mel Adams of Madams Pinups and was our 2nd year Pinup mascot.
The piece on the front of my left leg was done in Geneva at the Tattoo Convention this year, it’s by Mamat at Frank’s Tattoo World and we won Best Small Piece Colour with it! He’ll be creating another piece in the same position on the other leg when I go to Geneva Convention next year – maybe we’ll win again. I’ll practice my French for this one – I couldn’t understand what was going on and didn’t realise we’d won. Doh! Plus, Penny Boy will be working on roses for me at Dublin Tattoo Convention next year after the Miss Pinup Ireland Finals. These will mirror the ones on my right side.
Many people get tattoos of pinups. So, being a pinup yourself, will you get a tattoo of a tattoo artist? If so, who? Also, what is it about tattoos and pinup models? There is a connection!
Well, all of my artists are gorgeous looking, so why not?! Have you visited the Bristol Tattoo Club stall at any of the Conventions? So much history! Tattoos are as old as time, but I really love the old sailor type tattoos and these are of pinups, anchors and travels across the seas. Our Pinups don’t necessarily need to have tattoos and I think that some of our performers and entrants not having tattoos at events likes this give it more diversity.
Who would you say is the best burlesque performer you have ever seen?
Holy smokes! I’ve seen Dita Von Teese a couple of times. Once at Erotica and she was amazing, but I wasn’t wowed when I saw her again. Watch out, I’m going to drop a massive load of names here. She performed a fairly personal en pointe performance for Ozzy Osborne at Sharon & Ozzy’s wedding vow renewal in LA and I was lucky to have been there for the ceremony and the after parties. She was and is the most exquisite performer. Through my champagne haze I was totally captivated and may even have drooled a little, she was like a vision, a real life jewellery box ballerina. But to say Dita does seem so cliché these days, but she is unmistakably it!
What are your plans for the rest of 2017 and 2018?
Miss Pinup UK Finals are at the Mercure Grand in Bristol on 21st and 22nd of October. It’s our first ever standalone event! I’m excited, terrified and on the verge of hysteria constantly at the moment. All Miss Pinup UK’s for five years will all be in the same place at the same time. I’m rather emotional about it. I think that this will be the event that shows me what I’ve created. Our values are Inspire, Empower, Support & Family and our Pinup Family is growing every year, it’s simply astounding how lucky I am to be surrounded by all of these unique, incredible and phenomenal women.
Then I take a break!! Then we finish re-working the business model, plan 2018 away with all kinds of awesome and get out there and grow our family.
Plus, I need to make sure that I can remain uninjured long enough to enjoy a holiday in November, but that will take rest and I think you’ve probably guessed by now that I don’t get/want a lot of that. My Pinup bubble is the best place to be and it takes a lot of work.