Model behaviour with Obus Lover Poppy Smith (aka Velma Vouloir)
Q1. Kylie and you first met at a casting for the Obus Summer 23 campaign and were both excited to work together. How important is it for you to connect with the ethos of a brand before working with them?
Working as a model (which is something I haven't been doing for all that long), nothing is better than getting the opportunity to work for a brand you already have a personal connection with. I first discovered Obus about seven or eight years ago when I moved back to Melbourne and would take my then toddler son for walks down High Street with a (much needed) coffee in tow. Popping into the store is always such a great experience. Meeting Kylie at the casting this year, we connected instantly. Her energy and passion for what she does is so evident, she really is a technicolour human being and you can literally see how it translates into the brands designs. Sometimes in this industry you get booked for jobs where you don't have that inherent connection to the brand or it's not your personal style, which is absolutely fine - it's my job to be a chameleon of sorts, to play a character, which is really fun to do! With Obus however, the day we shot the campaign I didn't need to do any of that, I was really given permission to play and just be myself and I think it's been my favourite shoot day yet.
Q2. Who is ‘Velma Vouloir’ and how does she differ from Poppy Smith?
Velma is my burlesque persona and we've been living side by side now for nearly seven years. She's an absolute femme fatale, loves having all the power and attention on stage, she's bold, she's not afraid of anything and knows how to take charge of anything and anyone. Sometimes she's a golden era seductress, sometimes she's campy and utterly ridiculous - but she definitely always gets what she wants! Poppy is much more an introverted dreamer who lives for lazy days in the garden, piles of books and hanging out with the cats. It's funny because when I used to use the word 'persona' I used to think of it as something artificial or constructed, and these days I don't see it that way at all. Early on in my career I think putting on my Velma hat (and by hat I more likely mean feathered headdress and a sparkly g-string) enabled me to step out on stage with so much extra self-confidence and sex appeal. As time went on, I realised what I was doing wasn't fake or pretend - that I actually did feel this way, that it was fun, that it really was just 'me' all along. Velma isn't a character after all, she's just all the parts of me that I hadn't had the opportunity to share with the world for fear of being 'too much', and these days we're really one and the same.
Q3. How long have you been performing burlesque & cabaret? What do you love about it?
I've been working in the performing arts for about 16 years now and have been a long time lover of burlesque and showgirls since I was a little girl watching silver screen classics like Covergirl and Zeigfeld Follies. In 2017 I decided to create my first ever solo act, and I haven't stopped performing since! I'm lucky enough to have worked all over the country as well as overseas as a solo artist and I also work with the exceptional queer drag cabaret company YUMMY as a soloist and ensemble member. I teach classes and workshops at Maison Burlesque in Melbourne and I'm also the reigning 'Miss Burlesque Victoria' which was an absolute highlight of this year!There are so many things I love about what I do from the brilliant, diverse artists I am surrounded by to the creativity I get to unleash with putting my acts together and making many of my own costumes - however I think what I love most is teaching. Many of the students I work with have no performing or dance background, and seeing them grow and develop their artistry and self confidence is simply the best. Live entertainment is also such a precious art form where no two shows are ever the same, and the audience and the artists are just buckled in for this crazy, electric and intimate ride together, completely present, which can never compare to watching something on a screen.
Q4. What helps you feel confident at work and in life? Give us your tips & tricks!
First and foremost, coffee. Nothing in my life gets done well without a coffee first! Being playful with my clothes and personal style when I'm out and about always makes me feel amazing - I'm a huge fan of dopamine dressing!Other than that, I would say confidence comes from first acknowledging and appreciating that you are unique, there's literally only one you on this whole entire planet - and that's pretty special. Secondly, confidence is more easy to find once you learn that you're never going to please everyone, nor is it your job to do so. There's a brilliant quote by burlesque legend Dita von Teese: "You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches." To me it's a reminder that the most important thing is to just be yourself, because the only version of acceptance we need is our own. If you love the outfit, wear it. If you love the idea, share it. If you've always wanted to learn something or try something new, just go for it. Life is too short to make ourselves fit into other people's ideas of who we are and who we should be.
Q5. What Obus piece have you been coveting this season?
Honestly, this is the hardest question of the bunch. I was like a kid in a candy store wearing all the new collection pieces for the campaign shoot and knew I'd end up buying so many pieces for myself! I think my next purchase will be the 'Frame Of Mind' Kaftan - it can be worn from the beach to a formal event and the print just instantly makes me think of sipping negroni's and eating gelato in the sunshine! Delish!