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Burlesque: My Story

My first Bombshells Ball was very nerve-wracking! My friend had convinced me to attend Jacqueline Furey’s Beginner Burlesque class and I went along for a bit of fun, but I was so self-conscious. I felt uncoordinated, and that being overweight made me stand out.

I had surprised myself and enjoyed the classes, but here I was standing in the Lumen Room theatre, waiting to go on stage! How did I get to this point?!

A few years ago I certainly never thought I could do a burlesque performance.

The day before my 30th birthday, my husband and I found out that we couldn’t have children. That began a long and painful journey down the IVF road.

After 6 cycles, we were blessed with our daughter. We decided to try again, and after two very difficult cycles I was pregnant with our son.

It was a very hard pregnancy. I had severe morning sickness all throughout and spent time in and out of hospital. I kept getting told that it was pregnancy, and it would pass.

Janet McPherson - First burlesque performance

When he was born, it did pass, for a little while. But after a few months the nausea and dizziness returned. I found it difficult to do everyday things.

Thankfully my doctor took me seriously, although the specialists said “it’s just because you're a new mother, you are tired”... That was until I had a brain MRI.

When my son was just 8 months old, my daughter not even three, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour – which I nicknamed blobby.

The weeks that followed were scary and tumultuous. Blobby was benign, but given its location it was too risky to operate. I underwent radiation therapy where I had one big dose of radiation. I got a bit of a burn on my head, and I have a patch where my hair fell out, but initially things seemed fine.

Then one day I woke up and the room was spinning and I couldn’t see properly. I had deteriorated quite quickly and was admitted to hospital with swelling in the brain due to the radiation. I couldn’t walk properly, or see, and spent weeks in hospital, including my 35th birthday. When I came home, I was too weak to look after my children.

The weeks and months that followed were hard. The medication that stopped the swelling also came with lots of other complications. I was on steroids for 3 years and had to wean off them. My adrenal glands stopped working, I lost bone density, and I also put on weight. Lots of weight.

But I was determined that blobby wouldn’t get me down.

I eventually returned to work as an occupational therapist, and gradually built up my days until I was working full time again. I regained my strength and endurance. But I hated the way I looked, and what blobby had done to me.

With my friend Jeanette

That is, until my friend convinced me to try burlesque. That first performance was amazing. Standing on stage with so many beautiful women, of all shapes and sizes, made me realise that it doesn’t matter what you look like, as long as you can bring the personality out on stage!

The cheers from the crowd as we performed was thrilling. I left that night feeling so empowered and strong, and for the first time in years, happy with myself and my body.

I have since done more classes and performances. I have tried my hand at Singing Songstresses, and Vintage Jazz, but have fallen in love with Tap and Tease.

I feel part of such a warm and welcoming community.

We all have different backgrounds, different stories, and different reasons for being in the world of burlesque.

I can’t say that my body image issues have fully disappeared, but I know that up on stage, I can do anything! I am now just about to turn 40. I enter this new decade with a self-confidence that I have never had before.

Thank you to all the women who have welcomed me, and to the wonderful teachers who bring out the best in everybody. Let’s get those ta-tas out!

On stage with Tap & Tease

Read more about Janet's story at

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