Behind the scene with Foo Foo La Belle

Stephanie Gawne, founder of Cardiff Cabaret Club, reveals us how she became burlesque performer Foo Foo La Belle.

Foo Foo La Belle Cabaret Burlesque
Photo Credit: Rob W May Photography

Stephanie Gawne pushes the door and greets me with a bright smile. She just came back from the gym but even in her fitness clothes she still looks graceful. Ice blue eyes and pink smiling lips, she is all in laughs and smiles. Her pink lips and maybe the aura of confidence that emerges from her might be the two only clues of the existence of Stephanie’s alter ego, Foo Foo La Belle. But actually this is what burlesque is all about anyway: transformation.  “I mean burlesque is kind of like it’s jading something,” says Stephanie, “so you’re taking something and moving it to something else, jading the idea of it.”

Foo Foo La Belle
Stephanie Gawne during the day and Foo Foo La Belle burlesque performer at night

When she was younger, Stephanie traveled and worked abroad a lot.“So I went to Japan, I went in China, in Hong Kong, I worked in the Swedish national circus, I worked in a tiny little circus in Southern Italy, ” she says smiling, “I did abroad work, I worked in Portugal briefly.” But running away to be part of a circus is not the only interesting aspect of her life.

Stephanie recently co-produced the 1st International Welsh Cabaret which took place at the Sherman Cymru two weeks ago.She explains that she co-produced it with other burlesque performer DiDi Curv’e. “I really wanted to do a bigger festival and  I wanted it to be like a fringe festival, ” she says. The international side was important to her.  “We were really lucky to be able to get a few international performers,” she explains,”it just opens things out a little bit more and kind of connects you globally a bit with what’s going on. “

Foo Foo La Belle ready to perform

When asked which of the countries she’s been to she preferred, she lights up and answers almost immediately: “Japan, I love Japan. The Japanese were so respectful, so kind and not really what I had expected. It was a good place to be.” After becoming a fitness instructor when she was 25, she then get bored of it, put some dancing and singing acts together and moved to Turkey. “I ended up staying in Turkey and then getting involved in belly dance,” she says.

It took until her mid-30s for Stephanie to discover Foo Foo and her love for burlesque but she’d always wanted to perform since she was a little child. “It wasn’t to do with fame,”she says,”it was kind of to do with that it would be my job. I had this background of musical theatre, lots of showgirl work, lots of commercial theatre work and also belly dance. When you put all that together with the burlesque revival that was happening, I mean it just seemed like a very natural step in stone to then go on and perform as a burlesque performer.”

She emphasizes the importance of having a message to pass through her acts. “It’s important to have a message, not just sort of dance around,” she says, “You’ve got to have a reason to be there so you have to have that intellectual thought of what that act is about.” She explains that two Christmases ago, she produced a show called Mother Russia right at the time when Pussy Riot was in jail. Amazingly, few days before the shows, Pussy Riot was freed. “It made what we were doing so relevant and sort of so poignant so it worked really well, ” she says with excitement in her voice.

Stephanie teaches burlesque and cabaret classes


If you decide one day to become a burlesque artist, you will need to think carefully about your name. Stephanie explains us why she chose Foo Foo La Belle as a pseudonym. She didn’t want a name that would sound too much like a drag-queen. “In the UK, a lot of people know that [Foo Foo] from bottom, vagina, as a bad word so it’s just, you know, that play of words and I think it’s quite funny. So it’s like the beautiful Foo Foo and you can take that as you’d like”.  She also insists on the fact that her name works on different levels. “I think a lots of burlesque, good burlesque, is clever on different levels, ” she says, “and that’s what I think you want your name to do.”



If you are interested in burlesque and cabaret, Stephanie runs her classes every week in Conway Road Methodist Church. She explains that the payback for the women following her class is huge especially in terms of self-worth. She says: “At least, you’re taking people outside their norm and you’re giving them this, you know, lovely sort of subplot to their lives.”

Foo Foo La Belle - Burlesque