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Rhyannon Styles on loving life in 2013

You probably already know Rhyannon Styles - but if not, allow us to introduce you to London's… no, the UK's, in fact - the worlds most fabulous performer, dancer and transitioning artist! She's given birth to balloons at The Guggenheim Museum in NYC, has been suspended above 2000-partying people at Glastonbury while lip-syncing to Alice Cooper, and performed in all the best after-hours haunts London has to offer. This year she received her first Arts Council funding - and 2013 is looking real good with a new solo show in the making, and collaborations lining up. On top of all that, come 22 December (2012), Rhyannon will be 9-months dry on the wagon - yup, hangover free. Here we hear her story from the shy 18-year old village kid, to the uber-savvy, smart-performer who says 'self control is sexy!'  We raise our mocktail and salute Rhyannon-'Love Life' -Styles, and ask ourselves what can we learn from someone setting out to live life their own way. Rhyannon Styles will be performing at The LipSinkers' Legendary Christmas Review at The Courtyard, Thursday, 20 December 2012.

RR: How did you go from jewellery design and sculpture to being a performer, dancer and transitioning artist?
Rhyannon Styles:
Since I was young I’ve always had a desire and energy to create things. Funnily enough though I was never the kid who’d create routines or plays at parties and perform to my friends (I was painfully shy). It took 22-years before I took to the stage. The journey from small rural village to London based cabaret artiste started at Stafford college where I studied 3D design. Aged 18 I moved to London to study jewellery design at Middlesex University. I was attracted to this course because it was very broad - I wasn’t interested in making fine silver rings! I wanted to use photography, dance, and my body to create conceptual pieces of adornment. Towards the end of my degree I began seriously clubbing (much to the disappointment of my tutors). It was 2003 and the beginnings of electro-clash. I was out about five nights a week. I would go to The Cock, Nag-Nag-Nag, Kashpoint, Drama and Trash. For someone like me who’s always felt a sense of ‘other-ness’ seeing the neon club-kids, drag queens, freaks and fashionistas - well, it blew my mind! And so began my new career…

Matthew Glamorre offered me the door job at Alternative Miss World in 2004 and then I got a regular job on the door of Kashpoint. It wasn’t long before I teamed up with another door girl and scene show-off ‘Scottee’. We created a performance project called ‘DOUGH’ and tentatively performed at Duckie and were whisked off to the Edinburgh Festival the same year. Slowly but surely I was beginning to develop my own small pieces of performance/cabaret. I entered Bistrotheque’s ‘Tranny Talent Competition’ in late 2005 and won. As a result I started a long and valuable collaborative friendship with Jonny Woo. We even had our own club night ‘TransKabarett Maxximus’ which ran for two years. I also befriended and started working with Paloma Faith, Fabulous Russella, Marisa Carnesky and Le Gateau Chocolat. In 2006 I gave up my day job as a shop girl in Tatty Devine and threw caution to the wind - I became a full time spectacle!

I started performing at Torture Garden, Whoopee, Duckie, TrannyShack and anywhere else my strange mix of clowning/mime/drag deemed unfit. I’ve danced on podiums in Ibiza, given birth to balloons at The Guggenheim Museum in NYC and was suspended above 2000 people at Glastonbury lip-syncing to Alice Cooper.

In 2008 after performing at the Adelaide Festival with The Very Best of Empress Stah’ I was living out of a suitcase in Sydney. I decided to move to Paris and enrolled in Philippe Gaulier’s theatre school to study clown. World renowned for his teaching methods and ex students (Dr Brown, Sacha Baron Cohen, Spy Monkey) I thought that this would be the course for me. I hadn’t had any ‘official’ performance training to speak of. Previously, I’d attended 2 workshops at the International Workshop Festival (sadly no longer with us) the rest I’d learnt as I was going along. I flopped every day in class – ‘flopped’ is clown language for failed. Whilst I was there I didn’t find my inner clown, I didn’t know if I had one. I moved back to London.

I use the term ‘transitioning artist’ to describe my gender reassignment. I am a MTF (male to female) transgendered person. I embraced this in April of this year, in-fact I used this as a basis for my character ‘The Chariot’ in Marisa Carnesky’s recent show Carnesky’s Tarot Drome.  


RR: Tell us about your collaborations.
Rhyannon Styles:
Well, I've mentioned most of them to you already. But let me tell you something else - something fabulous. I am one of The LipSinkers, we are East London’s original quintet of cross-dressing superstars, having been together for seven years. In-fact I would say that this has been my training in the world of performance. We started with weekly shows in Bistrotheque’s legendary cabaret space. In 2013 we're going to be at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on the 1st Friday of every month.

The LipSinkers are a super-group of individuals; Blanche DuBois (Mexican striper) Lisa Lee (rude grrl) John Sizzle (dj/ Gay Bingo) and Richardette (George & Dragon).


RR: This autumn you received some Arts Council Funding - what for?
Rhyannon Styles:
I got funding for a recent show I’ve just completed called Angel Cake’ which ran for three weeks at the Camden People’s Theatre. The recognition from the Arts Council is important to me; it demonstrates that there is a belief in my work and my progression as a practitioner.  

RR: You've been nearly 9-months on the wagon - what spurred you to jump aboard?
Rhyannon Styles:
I woke up one morning after DJ-ing at the George & Dragon with a pounding headache and I realised that every time I go to work I drink. If I worked four nights a week, I’d have four massive hangovers, and that’s not including actually socialising with friends. Working in clubland has one big perk - free booze! I was really shocked and saddened when Amy Winehouse died, having met her a couple of times. It really woke me up to the fact that we are not invincible to these poisons. I have an addictive personality; I cannot buy a cake and only eat a slice. I’d eat half the cake, then feel so guilty that I’d eat the other half just so it’d be gone.  

I was getting annihilated because deep down I was unhappy. The drink and drugs anesthetised the pain I was feeling about my gender dysphoria. When I was obliterated I felt powerful, I felt like a different person. I knew that eventually my demons might get the better of me, I was not superwoman! Things had to change. So when I woke up with this hangover on Thursday 22nd March (2012) I decided to change and I stopped drinking for a month. After a month had passed by I decided to carry on.


RR: How has it affected your social life?
Rhyannon Styles:
I have missed the social aspects of drinking - you can feel quite lonely when all your friends are down the pub having fun. That being said, the benefits of NOT drinking massively out-way those few hours of good times on the dance floor.

RR: What have you discovered about yourself?
Rhyannon Styles:
I’m emotionally more stable, my moods are manageable. I don’t get depressed or suffer from anxiety or panic attacks like I used to. I am calmer; less stressed and feel more comfortable within myself. Moderation with everything such as drink, food, and drugs is fine but some people can abuse these substances. I’d always recommend a period of abstinence - it's good for the mind and soul. Self-control is sexy!

We live in a time where the social norm' is to get off-your-face and not care about the consequences. When I stopped drinking I thought people would reject me. Some people look horrified when they offer to buy me a drink and I ask for lemonade, like they can’t believe I wouldn’t want alcohol.


RR: Are your senses more alert?
Rhyannon Styles:
I have noticed that my taste and smell buds have got stronger. I have lost weight, A LOT of weight. My teeth are whiter and my skin is clearer. I exercise more; I actually enjoy yoga and Pilates without a hangover!

RR: What's you're favourite mocktail?
Rhyannon Styles:
On NYE I will be in Stockholm performing in a cabaret. I’m looking forward to a hangover free new years day – possibly the first time since I was 15! I'll probably be drinking fizzy water and having a good dance with Kitty Bang Bang and Dusty Limits. I used to love drinking espresso Martini's and Bloody Mary's so now I guess coffee and tomato juice are my poisons - obvs not together!

RR: What plans do you have for 2013?
Rhyannon Styles:
In 2013 I am writing a new solo show, based upon my experiences of transitioning so far. It will look at gender divisions, the gendered world we live in and be a very personal account of the highs and lows of living life your own way. I am also collaborating with choreographer and live artist H Plewis on her one and a half woman show in June. I plan to stay sober too!  

RR: Can you treat us to a Rhyannon Styles London anecdote?
Rhyannon Styles:
I moved to London to find solace in anonymity. I found a whole lot more along the way; don’t let pre-conceived notions stop you from being yourself. Love life, enjoy it!

Rhyannon Styles official sites:

Rhyannon Styles will be performing at
The LipSinkers' Legendary Christmas Review
at The Courtyard
Thursday, 20 December 2012
Bowling Green Walk
40 Pitfield Street
London N1 6EU
Info here: rudegrrl.net/thelipsinkers
Tickets here: thecourtyard.org.uk


If you're looking for a booze-free 'Love Life' 2013 resolution, then you might be interested in this Q&A with Tom Fortes Mayer here - he's doing an event on Sat 26 Jan 2013.

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