From performing circus stunts and producing shows worldwide to giving a TED Talk at LSU, LadyBEAST has led an extraordinary existence that includes producing and touring, nationally and locally, with the productions “Vaude d’Gras Circus” and “Levity.” Her newest show, “Marquee,” an ode to New Orleans cabaret, plays Le Petit Theatre from June 6-9.
In “Marquee,” LadyBEAST performs the opening dance number, a vaudeville dance routine, a bottle-walking circus stunt and literally tops it all off as an aerialist suspended above the stage from a chandelier. As if that were not enough, LadyBEAST is also the show’s co-producer and director of movement and choreography.
This “all-in” attitude is par for the course. For example, in 2018, LadyBEAST dangled in a straight jacket from beneath a hot-air balloon, 100 feet above the Burning Man Festival. As an enraptured crowd anxiously watched from below, she pulled a Houdini-esque escape back to safety.
“To say I get a workout during my performances would be a massive understatement,” she says.
A Circus Life
Luckily, working out, art and athletics is in her blood. After excelling at high jumping in high school, LadyBEAST opted to tackle the arts instead of pursuing college sports.
“I wanted to lead the life of an artist, and at the time, I thought a future in athletics would be limited to college,” she says. “But, in the end, I combined the two.”
Reminiscent of life in the circus, LadyBEAST went on the road for college beginning her art studies at the Columbia College of Art in Chicago before transferring to Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she earned a BFA in Painting and Mixed Media. After graduation, she moved to London, England to pursue a career as an installation artist. Influenced by Tracey Emin and Ryan McGinley, LadyBEAST began not only creating installations but interacting with them as well.
“There were a few years where I felt lost without my workout regimen and was sad to not express myself through my body in that way,” she says. “I was always happier when I was doing something physical, which, in a way, led me to what I do now — performance art.”
Returning to the States, LadyBEAST toured the country creating performance art and installations on the road before finding her new home, New Orleans.
“Street performing will always be a part of me, but I craved to push my work forward and leave the fringe lifestyle,” she says. “So, I sought out becoming an acrobat.”
A Different Sort of Training
A unique job requires unique training as LadyBEAST trains four to six hours a day in dance, pilates, flexibility, aerial and, yes, bottle walking. While not balancing atop tiny bottles, she also self-trains at Awakenings Pole Fitness and the New Orleans Athletic Club. No athlete exists without a coach, so LadyBEAST also trains with Lorelei Ashe at Gravity Defying Fitness.
“Lorelei is an aerial coach who mostly teaches people aerial fitness, but my focus is act development with her, and of course, technique training,” she says.
Outside of the gym, she stresses using what you have around you to get fit and engaging in physical activities in your day-to-day life. Walking and biking, as well as yard work, are easy go-to’s for staying healthy. If you’re the type that needs fun activities to work out, then dancing is a wonderful way to exercise. If you want to double your sense of accomplishment and get creative while moving, consider manual labor.
“Making the conscious effort to physically engage with your environment goes a long way,” she says. “My partner, Dominic, and I always build props and set decoration for the show and are currently building out a box truck into a tiny home to use for touring. We’re going to name it BigBEAST.”
Taking care of yourself and listening to your body is another crucial key to proper fitness.
“I work out daily with a day or two off,” she says. “I no longer push through injuries, but I work around them because as a professional athlete injuries are part of the process. I work hard to train correctly but bodies are organic and I’ve learned having compassion for yourself helps you develop as a better performer and reach goals more easily.”
No good workout regimen exists in a vacuum, so a healthy diet plays its role. When LadyBEAST speaks of diets she’s referring to the true definition of the word as she shuns trendy diets.
“Fad diets aren’t helpful” she says. “They cause your body to make changes that won’t stick.”
Instead, she stresses a balanced diet with lots of greens, fruits and proteins for energy and drinking your water. So, basically, what your folks have been telling you since you were a kid.
“It’s true,” she says. “Eating properly not only helps you physically but keeps you mentally sharp as well. As a producer, I work with destination management companies and corporate entities to create shows for clients. There are a million little details that have to be taken care of when running a show and decision-making requires a lot of energy that you won’t have unless you’re eating properly and treating yourself with compassion.”