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A love letter to Australia

Updated: Apr 12

After seven years of living in Australia, I've just moved back to the UK!


I'm sitting in a café in Berlin, this is the fourth coffee I've tried my best to enjoy after being ruined by Melbourne's finest beans and oat milk. I'm relieved that this particular one is the best yet, so I sink into my chair and try to come up with the words to express my love for Australia, the experiences I've had and most importantly the people I adore.


It is said that every seven years or so, your cells have been so productive that your body has replaced every part of itself. In other words, you're an entirely new collection of cells, inside and out. Someone said to me recently that it was almost like the version I'm taking back home with me is completely new, which feels rather refreshing and helps me stay on path with my optimism. The number 7 is also my favourite number, so there's a slight sense of relief as I romanticise the synchronicities leading up to my next chapter.


I left the UK ten years ago, sold all my belongings - except a few costumes and clothes, gave up Burlesque to travel and explore the world. I'm nomadic at heart, with a thirst to meet as many people as possible from all walks of life. To be honest I'm amazed that I've been rooted for so many years in Australia, which just goes to show how powerful its magnetic pull is within the arts community.


This is a letter to all of the people that were apart of my story down under, so much of me has been shaped because of you and for that, I'm forever yours.


Burlesque artists posing together in Retropolis. Gina Stirling is wearing a leopard print cut out dress

My first shoot in Naarm by Sophia Rose



Life Modelling


Over the years I've had the pleasure of being drawn by Naarm's art community. I have dressed up as Rachael from Blade Runner, I've been a witch, a Soprano's family member, cat woman and also just posed natural. I've connected with so many of you at different events from Top Secret Life Drawing, The Fitzroy Art Collective, Missing Persons, Miss Muse, Hawthorn Arts Society, Gas Works, Buff, North Street Studio and so many more. Not to mention all the online sessions we were able to do during lock down to keep creative and connected. I've made so many friends both models and artists, I've loved seeing your different interpretations of me and witnessing the sweet ways you present your work to me with an endearing modest charm. (This has always amazed me as your work is so good!!)


The gorgeous Jean-Luc and Laura organised a farewell last drawing session for me called 'Exquisite Gina' at 24 Moons. Thank you for all the love you put into this evening and to my Zine - full of beautiful memories from over the years. Myself and JL connected instantly when we met, I've loved all our chats, our French café meet ups and our admiration for one another. You're a special human being, you are dearly loved and you should be very proud of the community you've created, as well as the magic that your events spark within people. And same goes for all the other event organisers for creating a safe space for models and a place for exploration through drawing.


The 'Exquisite Gina' Zine and art work from over the years


Photoshoots


Over the years I've worked with some remarkable photographers around Australia, we've shared many afternoons creating, playing and exploring together. Being in front of the lens has always been a tool for me to track my personal progress, a way to express my emotions, I enjoy being immortalised and as a self love practice I try and embrace myself aging by capturing and seeing it in photos.


My first shoot in Naarm was with Sophia Rose, the image of me tied up with a cigarette in my mouth was a photograph that made me really excited about what I could create. We then went on to do the 'Sex and Candy' shoot at the iconic Kenny Lover Ice cream shop, we created magic that day. I'm so glad we connected, you were just starting in photography at the time and I couldn't believe how much of a natural you were.


Joey of Her Stories on Film will hold a very special place in my heart. We started in your home with Deans and Mikey, those shots are still some of my favourites, but then our next shoot at Lady Peacock was absolutely insane. We had the dream team, location and energy amongst us all. A fond memory is coming round to yours for a viewing party and all of us being so proud of each other. And of course our suit shoot with the one and only Azcadelia. I love you and Deans very much, I'm proud of you both individually and what you're creating for yourselves as a couple.


Frenchie Holiday and I did a fun 60's inspired shoot, we had such a great day together and now I love seeing how much you're killing it, you just keep on evolving and it's so awesome too see. I've loved working with you Marcus Keily on various projects, filming in basements, mimosa shoots, recording my acts and lingerie sets with Evana, you're a gem. I feel honoured to have been the first person that Jayden Byrne shot for his Burleske book. And before I left I got to work with Alexis D Lea, I was so excited that you shot my new blue costume, the photos are exactly what I wanted and you're such a kindred spirit. It was such a pleasure to have the dream team together for my Last shoot for a while in Naarm with The House of Lane on hair and Lavolpe Beauty on makeup.


Thank you too all the people I've worked with when I travel interstate. I've been made into an angel with Chayla Photography and Leah on makeup, Cam Attree giving me such a glow under your insane equipment, Clementines Gallery gave me flower power, C V Chronicles captured one of my favourite shows I was in GRIT, Darien Gomes for getting the trio together, Joel Deverux's editing is to die for, Kat Wild I will always love how you shoot and go to incredible heights, Kyle Goon the alpaca farm shoot will be a memory I'll never forget, Laura Du Ve our shoot was epic and I still dream about those furniture pieces, Matt D for the latex and giant boa, Melbourne Art Natural for capturing my birthday cake smash, Ryan Cara thanks for all the gig shots and our one at Retropolis and to Solitude & Co for capturing me in kitten form with Holly.


There are many more, I'm so glad to have connected with you all.


Photos by my dear friend Joey of 'Her Stories on Film'


Costumes


I have had the absolute pleasure of working with some of Australia's finest costumers. Each designer has been a dream to work with, brining my visions to life and making them even better than I could have dreamed of. They all offered so much more than the final product. Everyone shared their advice, skills and tips with me, empowering me to feel more confident with my own embellishing skills.


Sophie Webber - I was introduced to Sophie when I was in Mama Mia! The musical, she upgraded some of my original pieces that I had bought over from the UK that I'd had for ten years and made me the most stunning panel skirt out of a skirt I found in a charity shop.


Lauren aka Stitch Witch - made my zebra base costume and my Bride of Frankenstein costume, she worked with crazy deadlines and she was also in Perth, so she took measurements online! You're a gem, I'll treasure these pieces and all the hugs from Melvin.


Catherine aka Crystal Pegasus Costumes - made my red showgirl bunny suit corset base. I had been wanting to upgrade my showgirl costume and had admired Catherine's work for some time. Thank you for making this stunning addition to my wardrobe and for being such a sweetheart.


Samantha aka Good Hunter Design - I managed to squeeze in Sam before I left, she made me a beautiful corset base for my cowgirl costume that I'm going to embellish, your quality is insanely good, I feel so cinched in this corset.


Elisabeth Louve - I'm not quite sure where to begin with Lizzy, she made the costume of my dreams, a blue fantasy. I did my first vintage photo shoot around 11 years ago in Liverpool and was gifted a blue dress from the collection. It’s been with me ever since, all around the world and has made many appearances on stages for curtain call. For my next costume I really wanted something that was inspired from this dress, blue is my Moms favourite colour and I knew that Lizzy would just take this inspiration to another level. Thank you for your talent, time and friendship. I gasped when you dropped this off to me and I still can’t believe it’s mine. You out did yourself with all the details and quality, it feels incredible to wear and to take off! The matching jewellery you made also blew my mind how you casually learnt how to make earrings and necklace for the finishing touches.


You can see this costume in action on my YouTube channel here.


Costume by Elisabeth Louve, First photo by Alexis D Lea



Becoming a teacher


l remember when I got the message from Sparkarella in November 2020, she and I had performed in same line up, the Australian Burlesque Festival 2020 (online due to Covid) and she asked me if I was interested to become a teacher at Bottoms Up. I was honestly so flattered, excited, nervous, I hadn't thought about teaching for a long time and originally I was going to decline as I didn't know if I'd be any good or wanted to teach. But saying yes was the best decision I ever made and the Bottoms up community were so encouraging, thank you to all the students, Sparkarella and Elle Diablo for all you support in reigniting my teaching side.


I then joined Maison Burlesque, thanks to a persistent Poppy Cherry, again I was hesitant to take on more teaching, but something within me kept screaming 'DO IT.' I once again pushed my imposter syndrome to the side and stepped into my favourite place in Naarm. Not only is the studio beautiful, the teachers, students and hub that has been cultivated there over the years is nothing I've ever experienced before. Teaching along side Maple Rose, a performer, a fountain of burlesque history knowledge, a mother and teacher I admire deeply is just one of the highlights. Poppy is a genius, a genuine soul and her love for Burlesque shines outwardly into all the Maison world. It is an environment that forges friendships, explores personal growth and uplifts. I planned my departure around being able to do one last showcase with the school, which you can imagine was incredibly emotional. I'll miss coming up the stairs every week to Winter Greene or Joanna's beautiful faces, I'll miss bringing Toby into last class of term, I'll miss the snack cupboard, late night lifts home from Juniper, the students and teachers, the max watts staircase pictures and watching you all shine on stage.


Teaching is now the biggest part of my Burlesque identity - I enjoy it deeply. It has allowed me to tour and teach all over Australia and Europe, connecting with over 2000 people. I offer private mentorship, from act development, business advice to just being your personal hype girl - I love this component as I get to learn how to bring out someone's unique flare. Providing a safe space for people to explore themselves, their sexuality and bodies, gives me the most humbling sense of purpose and joy. I love watching you all grow, become bolder and take up more space, it inspires me to do the same for myself.


Thank you Bottoms Up and Maison for believing in me, for seeing my teaching potential. Thank you from the bottom to the top of my heart to my student's for trusting me, coming to my workshops, opening up to me, sharing your stories and dancing the art of Burlesque with me.

Check out my up and coming workshops here.


"To be alive is to be in a perpetual state of revolution" Glennon Doyle


Sex and Candy series by Sophia Rose


Performing


I've been given some incredible opportunities over the last 3 years since I started doing Burlesque again. Thank you to all the producers who have supported me by having me at your shows, for hosting me in your cities and showing me around.


One of my most excited moments was being asked to headline the Perth International Burlesque Festival 2022, I connected instantly with the Perth community and covered myself in whipped cream in front of you all (which I do not recommend and have now switched to massage oil, as you end up stinking of off cream for ages) It was a really magical weekend for me and the start of many visits to Western Australia.


Another Highlight for me is GRIT the show. Thank you to the amazing Holly for asking me to be involved, I loved your vision and watching you and the show evolve together was really special. From our original cast at Nineteen Ten of myself, Evana, Charli, Roxie, Holly and Jamie, to our later addition, and the Juliet to my Juliet, Skylar. It was so fun to be part of this show and my first fringe experience. And of course our wonderful Holly for always keeping us on track and forever being a wonderful Adelaide host and friend.


We have some epic Queer events around Naarm and one of my favourite moments was with icon Ruby Slippers when she asked me how I identified, as she wanted me to perform at a Queer event. She was the first performer I came out too and at the night of my first Queer show as a freshly open Queer person I was surrounded by my favourite people Winter Greene and Dazza and Keif. I got a standing ovation and I remember feeling so overwhelmed with love, acceptance and support from a room of strangers. The love from the Naarm Queer Community has never been shy of showing their support and I'm so grateful for being held in that way by you over the years.


If you're in Naarm there are so many Queer events you can go too, here are just a few: Beers for Queers will forever be a favourite of mine - the crowd is always there for you, The 86 serving cabaret excellence into the night, SMUT ran by the incredible Juniper Fox, Tomboy delivers every time, Bonez for all the alternative queers, Poof Doof go go sets, Euphoria, Gang Meow, Thursgay, Pride of Our Footscray and so many more.


There are weekly shows at The Speakeasy Theatre - thank you Tammy and Dirk for having me over the years and making me into a cocktail. I've thoroughly enjoyed working at Le Bar Supper Club - their venue is stunning and they have the best Oysters in town and I'm so glad I was able to do Glamour The Show before I left, debuting my new act with you was so special.


Here's a few more shows I've loved being a part of around Australia: Silhouette Experience, Atomica, Royal heart, Red Light, Australian Burlesque Festival, Sapphic, Ardent Artiste, Cherry Bomb, Vanguard, The Wickham, Femme Follies, Shake It, Downpour, Inferno, Nineteen Ten and so so many more.



One of my favourite acts created in Naarm - 'High Class Woman' Video by Marcus Keily



Friendship and Love


There are so many words and people I want to write about, but sentiments have been said in person or over messages. I'm deeply grateful for all the connections I've made over the years and even the ones that have formed in these last few months. I've deepened pre existing relationships and made new platonic and romantic connections. You have made this transition into a new chapter so calm, full of laughter, playful and light. Our time spent together will be unforgettable. Thank you for being there for me.


Before I left Australia, I was treated to a surprise leaving show at The 86 where all the performers, MC and guests cosplayed as me. I’m honestly still a bit lost for words about my leaving party, but it was the best end to an incredible chapter of my life, surrounded by the people and community I love the most. I know I'll see you all again, but the sadness for me comes from the fact that I won't see you every week and that breaks my little Pisces moon heart.


Thank you to the two main organisers Pomme De Terror and Eros Storm, I feel so lucky and honoured to call you both my friends. You made me feel so loved, shocked, shy and emotional all in one go. Thank you for the time and energy you put into this night, you brought everyone together and it was extremely special - a night we’ll all remember. Thank you to Anthony for hosting us at The 86, we love you and the space you’ve created for artists, you’re loved and appreciated greatly. Thank you to all the staff, Andie on sound, Avant Garden of Eden on raffle duty, Florence and Nyx on the door.


Thank you Evana, I’m so glad we got too scissor for Melbourne one last time, I look forward to our next scissoring session, maybe in Europe? You’re my burly duo, mimosa, naked friends on couch and Aquarius sister, I love you dearly. From the first time we met and did the spider man meme, to crying over coffee, I have always been inspired by your generosity and how you uplift those around you. You've taught me so much.


To all the incredible performers: MC - Ruby Slippers, Western act by Winter Greene, CODA act by Clara Fable, Come Together by Eros Storm, Bride of Frankenstein by Azcadelia, High Class woman by Egson Ham, Icky Thump by Dazza and Keif. You all put so much time and thought into your acts, you nailed the choreography, the face expressions and costumes. I know you’re all busy beans, so I appreciate your time that you gave to this event. I think we all agree how epic you were on stage.


To Marcus Keily and 3 Fates Media for capturing the whole thing on video and photos, I’m so happy that this night is immortalised and I just want to watch it over and over again. Thank you to everyone who gifted to the raffle and to Opie for your art work gift!


Thank you to everyone who came, bought a ticket, and supported the event. We were throwing serious shapes on the dance floor after the show. I loved seeing all your faces, sharing stories and laughter together. I love you all, I’m going to need a little while to really let that night sink in, it was honestly one of the best nights of my life. All your support has also gone to helping me and Toby move overseas, I'm so touched by everyone's generosity.


Pomme, we became close after I came out of a 7 year relationship (see! so many 7's) and you have been a constant source of inspiration to me. You inspire me to be better, to put myself out there, to be independent, to play hide and seek at champion level and to be more authentic. You've been an amazing friend during all of this change, my constant support and shoulder to cry on or couch to sleep on. Az, I'm so glad we got this time together and have our little trio vibe, you're an incredible story teller, you're witty and I've loved watching you evolve lately. We did one of my first Naarm gigs together and I saw so much of myself in you. So spesh! I love you both a lot.


I've been so lucky to have my cousins who live in Australia support me over the years and have a sense of family near by, especially with the UK being so far away. From visits to Kiama, singing 'Hot Scary Summer' around the dinner table and rainy dog walks, it's been wonderful connecting with you all. Ryan my op shop buddy, you have given so much support over the years and helped me stay in Australia through lock down. Our friendship means the world to me and I can't wait for all the voice notes to come. Emily, my musical theatre date night companion, one of my first pals in Naarm. It's been a pleasure growing alongside you, I'm so happy for you and just in awe of who you are and getting to know your crew more lately has been the best. To the Scrots, thanks for all the beautiful gatherings over the years and feeling like an extended family from England. Cristel and Clark you made my last few months here so wonderful, thank you. Mike and Ed are the best guncles I could ever hope for Tobes. Thank you to you two, Georgy and Opie for taking care of the boy for a bit whilst I find us a base, he's in the best hands. 



Photos from 'Putting the G in Goodbye' event by 3 Fates Media



" I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself, again and again forever"

Glennon Doyle


It feels quite ironic that I've found myself where I began. I've once again sold all my belongings except some boxes consisting of my dads vinyl collection, a few books, a box of memories and a cushion that I couldn't part with. I have my main costumes, but everything else was sold to all my wonderful friends and students, I've enjoyed seeing you all breath a new life into the pieces and wear them so well.


During my 7 years here I lived in a camper van for a year, I packed tomatoes for my visa farm work, I lived on an alpaca farm, my first job in Naarm was washing dishes, my second was a sandwich maker, I've been an op shop manager, a barista and I'm leaving as a full time Burlesque Artist with 3 pink suitcases full of gorgeous costumes, my queer identity in full swing and the love of my life will soon join me - Toby (my dog). I have no complaints, no regrets, I never wanted the uncertainty of my residence to dictate how I lived in Australia, so I threw all my heart and soul into it.


I've had a lot of personal growth that has been learnt through people, experiences, lovers and mistakes. My biggest lesson recently is learning to not abandon myself, particularly as I enter into a single by choice life style for the first time in my adult life. As a people pleaser this is hardddddd! It can feel scary and powerful all at the same time, but I want to focus on me for a bit and be comfortable with being alone.


I can already feel some of its benefits, especially as I place more love and energy into my platonic relationships. My wise friend Pomme's saying has stuck with me throughout this process of leaving and changes "You did the best you could with the tools you had then" reminding us to show ourselves and others compassion when we think we haven't been our best or missed something. Also reading Glennon Doyle's Untamed just recently has given a lot of lightbulb moments (thank you Cristel for getting me into audiobooks).


These last 3 months since announcing I was leaving has taught me a lot, I've been overwhelmed with all the love that people have shown me. I've often felt imposter syndrome with this, I've had to battle through my own internal dialogue of not being deserving enough and accept the love that has come my way. These months have been a great reminder for me to tell people what I admire about them more, that I love them, cherish them, we don't know when our time is up and I want everyone to feel the way I felt at my leaving party - seen, valued and loved. G x


Photo by Alexis D Lea

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What a beautiful adventure!

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Thank you, it's truly been a wonderful time xx

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