TRANSCRIPT: Miss Mustardseed (S1:E2)

ROCH = Ferrero Rochelle; ROS = Rosie Verbose; LILY = Miss Mustardseed

ROCH: Hello, hello. Welcome, viewers and listeners, to Invisible Cabaret’s Podcast, episode two. Hello. It’s good to have you all here, we hope…

ROS: (sings) “Life in quarantine, it’s how we all live now.” That’s our new jingle.

ROCH: Yeah. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to have a conversation with real people. It’s just not gonna happen. 

ROS: Yes, it’s strange.

ROCH: I’m gonna be all glitchy when I get out. 

ROS: We’re all gonna be, like, having conversations with people’s noses because we’re used to just looking under their eyeline.

LILY: Everyone’s gonna be like, ‘My eyes are up here.’

(Laughter)

ROCH: As with the previous episode, we have Ferrero Rochelle and…

ROS: Rosie Verbose.

ROCH: And today we have our extra-special guest, the beautiful and incredibly talented Miss Mustardseed.

LILY: Hello. I’m having that deep, guttural Emily Blunt response of like, ‘BLELELEURGH.’ (Laughter) I think we all have that in the troupe pretty universally. Like, when someone finishes an act, we’re like, ‘That was amazing,’ you know, everyone’s like, gushing with praise, and the person is just like, ‘Bleleleurghh, stop talking!’

Lily is doing an impression of John Krasinski doing an impression of his wife, Emily Blunt

ROCH: ‘Oh no, actually I’m not that good at all. I don’t know why I was up there.’

LILY: ‘I’ll just leave, don’t worry.’

ROS: ‘Do you want to do it next time?’

ROCH: In her day job, Miss Mustardseed is a nurse, so today’s episode, we will be talking about the cabaret with Miss Mustardseed and what it means to her, but we will also be talking about how this experience is for someone on the front line, a key NHS worker. And yeah, we’re really excited to have you, and thank you so much for taking some time out of what I can predict is an incredibly busy week, to talk to us. 

LILY: No, not at all. Thank you for having me. Any time. Like, this is what I say about the cabaret generally, not just in the times that we’re having now, is that it is such a valuable outlet outside of work. And, you know, more than once, I’ve definitely felt sort of that classic insecurity, because, for those of us who haven’t come to see our shows, a few of the troupe are full-time burlesquers, and both of you, you know, are also like, proper performers that get paid to perform, whereas – I don’t think I’ve ever… I think I’ve got paid £50 to sing at a friend’s wedding once. So, by no means a pro. So as well as massively appreciating the opportunity, it’s also a huge privilege for me to have that outlet outside of my sort of “Muggle job.” Is that what they call it?

ROCH: Yeah, Muggle job.

ROS: Yeah, we love that. Yeah. 

LILY: There is something magical.

ROS: Although of course, your job is bringing magic and the magic of our society in many ways, so, you know. We don’t clap as a nation for just anyone, do we, you know? 

LILY: Well…

ROS: Very much magic round the board.

LILY: You’re bringing out Emily Blunt again. It’s going to be a disaster (laughs).

bleleleleleurghhhhhhh

ROS: Sorry. This is basically our chance to like, love on you for half an hour, so it’s exciting.

LILY: Ahhh.

ROCH: And just watch you get more and more, like…

LILY: Yeah, yeah, watch me recede, like, ‘Arrghhh.’

ROCH: Is that one of the reasons you have a glass of whisky next to you?

LILY: Baby, baby.

(All say ‘cheers’)

LILY: Some great audio of us just drinking.

ROS: Oh, and fantastic news, Zoom has just told me because we’re new, we don’t have a time limit on our chat, so…

LILY: Hey.

ROS: (sings) “Fifty-hour podcast.”

LILY: Strap in, audience, it’s gonna be a long one.

ROS: So, Miss Mustardseed, and we may call you Lily at some point, if that’s okay.

LILY: Yeah, that’s my Muggle name.

ROCH: Yeah (laughs).

ROS: Can we ask you to, in your own words, describe what you feel Miss Mustardseed is, as a character, as a performer, as an entity?

LILY: Totally. Yeah, so, I mean, the story of my name is a long and rocky one. So it’s really thanks to both of you that I have this name that I love so much and have not only sort of settled on but have connected with. And I think that speaks to a wider point I definitely wanted to mention, which is, you guys are the real magicians, because you, like, again for anyone who hasn’t come to see one of our shows, literally any piece that you see started with one of us coming into a rehearsal and saying, ‘I think it’d be really cool if I did this and then this and it was kind of about this?’ And Rozzi and Rochelle work their magic and like, meld it into an actual story, so yeah, you guys are amazing.

(Ros makes the Emily Blunt sound)

LILY: And much like that, it was a similar process with my name. So we started out, actually, you guys, I’m sure you remember, trying to make a pun to do with nursing. So I think Ivy Drip was floated. I ended up being Amber Lance for a long time.

ROS: Which was tenuous.

LILY: It was slightly tenuous and also…

ROCH: I still think it’s great.

LILY: It is great. They’re both fantastic names. But the reason why I wasn’t really connecting with those names is because the cabaret stuff is quite separate. I wanted to keep it separate from my nursing. 

ROS: Yeah, that’s fair.

LILY: And also because, sidebar, my roller derby name is Poison IV, so there was a bit too much crossover between the two. So eventually we started talking about, we approached it the correct way round, which was the opposite, which was talking about things that I am interested in and things that I explore in terms of my mental health and mental illness. And I think it was a conversation with you, Ros, about like, some kind of Biblical reference, and you made the reference to the biblical passage – I have it here in my notebook.

ROS: Oh my goodness.

ROCH: So prepared.

LILY: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for you.” Chapter and verse, Matthew 17:20. 

ROS: Big up!

LILY: Big up to Matthew.

ROS: Shout out to Matthew if you’re listening, we love your work.

LILY: Love you, Matthew. We know you’re listening. Number One fan. And then also the idea that mustard seeds are actually sometimes used as like, a healing property. And also like a reference to Mustard Seed, like a Shakespearean reference… the idea that it’s small but mighty… and the idea sort of grew, and then it was Rochelle’s genius idea to add the ‘Miss,’ because it would be weird if I was just called Mustardseed. 

ROS: We thought about it though. We went round the houses with it, didn’t we? Lady, Duchess, all kinds of…

LILY: I’m not fancy enough for a Duchess, I don’t think.

ROCH: I think you are.

ROS: I think it’s all in the inside, Lil, isn’t it, you know?

LILY: Ew, what does that mean?!

ROS: If you’re fancy in your heart, then… It wasn’t supposed to be gross.

LILY: Oh, I see what you mean, right.

ROS: Moving swiftly on. Miss Mustardseed. We got there.

ROCH: Do you want to talk about any of your acts, or maybe one of your favourite acts that you’ve developed?

LILY: Yeah, I mean, if it’s cool with you guys, I’d like to talk about a new act that we’ve got brewing. And I definitely want to talk about Judy, as well. She is close to my heart. I think I might talk about Judy first, because it’s one of my favourite acts, and I think the reason, or one of the reasons I love it so much, is we were all terrified about doing it, because we’d convinced ourselves it was not gonna work. And you guys, our wonderful burlesque mothers, were like,  ‘Come on, like, see it through.’ And it’s ended up being, I think, one of the most long-standing acts in our rep. 

ROS: Do you wanna describe it, Lilz, for anyone who hasn’t seen it?

LILY: Yes. So it’s basically an act that explores the intersection between creativity and mental illness, and how in our society, not just at the moment but the decades or centuries arguably, have glamourised the idea of the, sort of the ‘mad genius,’ or the idea that to be extremely talented or extremely creative or extremely funny, you also have to be extremely troubled. And the three figures we initially chose for that were Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and then initially we had Edith Piaf, which then switched to a wonderful 50/50 performance of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. A combination of lip synching interviews and songs, we explore how these three or four, rather four figures, really suffered in an extremely, like, public and therefore arguably even more tragic way, and the scrutiny they came under for the mental illness that they experienced, and how it was accentuated by their fame. So yeah, it’s a really interesting piece. I love playing Judy Garland. I think she’s such an interesting figure. She’s so talented, and the things she experienced in her childhood are just – like, words don’t even describe.

ROS: Mind-bending. Absolutely. Yeah, boggling.

Miss Mustardseed as Judy in the foreground; Blue Monday as Marilyn in the background

LILY: Yeah. And I think the very interesting thing about juxtaposing Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe with Kurt Cobain is that even though they’re from very different times, it’s, the experience is alarmingly similar. And also, just, it blows my mind how much Judy Garland sang about having to be happy all the time. I shouldn’t laugh but it’s kind of like a dark kind of humour thing that she’s always singing like, ‘Smile,’ and it’s like, ‘Judy!’ (Laughter)

ROS: I know, bless her.

LILY: I think that’s one of the reasons the thing that you guys have created is so incredible. In everything that you do for Invisible Cabaret, you know, in trying to explore mental illness through burlesque and through cabaret is – in everything you do, empathy is your cornerstone. Because we’re exploring, you know, heavy, heavy issues, but in a medium that is designed to be, you know, engaging and entertaining. And it’s like you’ve created your own language. You do it so beautifully and so eloquently. And I know it sounds probably a bit barmy to people who haven’t seen the show, but clearly the medium, I think, works well as a vehicle for discussing these issues, because, you know – and I know you guys have had this as well – but I’ve had friends come to me saying that they’ve worked through things as a result of seeing something, or, you know, as well as just opening up the conversation, I think you guys have started to go further than that. You’ve provided, in a way, some sort of method or – I don’t want to say ‘solution’ because mental illness isn’t something that you solve. Like, mechanisms or, like, frameworks for discussing things.

ROCH: I just… You are just one of the sweetest people. I am so grateful for how you…

ROS: Stop Blunting! (Laughter)

LILY: I can’t help it.

ROCH: You’ve just spent a load of time complimenting us. We’re allowed to compliment you.

LILY: No, that’s not how it works. (Laughter)

ROS: One of my big worries with what we create is that people will think it is glib or that we are saying, ‘Yeah, we can talk about anything, because we’re artists!’ And that’s not what we are intending at all. Because I think there is a time for silence and processing. We just hope that through, exactly as you were saying, Lily, so eloquently, with what we create, that people will be inspired to talk or empathise or something through it.

LILY: Yeah. So I love doing that. And then the new one that we’re cooking up, which I’m so excited about, which is another instance of me coming to Rozzi and Rochelle and being like, ‘Hey, I want to do this.’ And you were like, ‘Okay, let’s try and, you know, make this a real thing.’ And it’s ‘Sorry Not Sorry.’ It’s like a pithy, fun reply to the voice in your head that tells you you should be feeling guilty all the time. Because as someone who was raised Catholic, I definitely deal with guilt a LOT. I don’t know if you know, Catholics are…

ROS: Really? That is brand new to me.

ROCH: I had no idea.

LILY: It’s a little-known thing, but yeah, it’s pervasive.

ROS: The more you know.

LILY: Exactly. So it’s kind of like a guilt purge, which is really fun. So, for those who haven’t seen our shows, I do not typically dance, so the amazing Rochelle is teaching me how to dance, but it’s very much like Dad dancing.

ROS: It’s gonna work, it’ll be fun.

ROCH: Shall we talk about the NHS and about the lovely Miss Mustardseed’s role as a nurse? How’s it going, how are you finding things? I mean, you don’t have to go into too much detail if you don’t want to, but more just talking about, really, how are you taking care of your mental health during this, as someone who is a nurse and on the front line, as a human who is going through this, someone who lives in London… Yeah.

LILY: Ooh, well…

ROS: In fifty words or less. Answers on the back of a postcard.

LILY: (Laughs) In three words, how do you describe… No, I’m kidding. Yeah, I mean, well, actually around the time the pandemic started escalating in the UK, my partner was still going to work on the Tube and I was obviously still going into work, and then we actually contracted Covid-19. And because I work for the NHS, we were both screened and it came back positive, and in that sort of 10 days we were at home… We were incredibly lucky, it was just like having a nasty flu, basically, so we were we were incredibly lucky. And thankfully, I was didn’t have to be hospitalised and then return to work. But in those 10 days, when I wasn’t able to work and I was seeing pictures of nurses with pressure sores from wearing PPE and hearing about, you know, sort of, staffing horror stories, that was actually the time when I struggled most with anxiety and feeling incredibly low, because I felt like I wasn’t contributing and I wasn’t doing enough. It was something I actually talked to my mum about, because my mum has a list of pre-existing conditions as long as your arm, and so she’s one of the people that received the letter that said, you know, “If you need some fresh air, you can open a window.” 

ROS: “Thanks, government!”

LILY: Yeah, she’s like, “That’s great!” No, she understands that it’s to keep her safe and then it’s in her best interests, of course, but it’s obviously, that’s a real struggle. And I’ve talked to her a lot and she has said, you know, I feel like I’m not contributing, blah blah blah. And I’m saying to her, just by staying inside, that’s a massive contribution, because you’re keeping yourself safe and keeping other people safe as well. And it’s often that process of talking to other people, which is why talking in the open is so important, that you teach yourself those lessons as well. Not to say that it’s always that easy by any means, but that reminded me that only by staying home and getting better can I then return to work. So I don’t want to sound candid or glib, because I know a lot of carers and NHS workers are really struggling at work at the moment, but I have actually found myself feeling a lot more steady now that I’m back at work. That’s partly because I’m very lucky in that the trust that I work out has a lot of well-being resources, which I feel very lucky for. All of us at work are making a conscious effort to support each other. Something that you guys again posted the other day, which was, ‘Check on your strong friends.’ Nurses definitely have a tendency, if you ask them, ‘Are you okay?’ They’ll say, ‘Fine.’ So that’s, you know, definitely checking on each other. Although actually yesterday, when I came into work, I was talking to a colleague and I said, ‘How are you?’ And she said, ‘I’m feeling much better. I’ve accessed the well-being resources at the trust because I was feeling really anxious, had some phone consultations and I’m feeling much better.’ So, you know, if there is a silver lining to be found, I hope it’s that this means that we are more open about when we’re struggling. 

ROS: That would be a silver lining, wouldn’t it?

LILY: Yeah, or that there’s an increase in resources for NHS workers and carers. And then the only other thing I would say is that on my days off, obviously within the safety measures that are in place, I’m doing those things that, those extra-curricular things. So I’ve been doing some roller derby drills in an underground car park. And obviously doing, you know, as much Cabaret research as I can, which is really fun. So doing my Dad dancing alone in my bedroom, doing wonderful things like this, the podcast, yeah. 

Miss Mustardseed practising her dancing

ROS: So one of the other aspects, Miss Mustardseed, that we wanted to ask you about if you are comfortable.. And we said this before, but just for the benefit of listeners and watchers, we try and implement a ‘tap-out system.’ So whilst we are trying to talk and be vulnerable and open, we realise that sometimes we push the door a bit too far. So obviously, at any point, do feel free to tap out. But one of the things that I know Ferrero Rochelle and I both have seen online is quite a lot of talk about people with eating disorders in quarantine. I wonder if you can speak to that experience at all, and what do you have to say about it? Would be my question.

LILY: So yeah, so, before I launch into what I hope is a coherent reply – yeah, I would say just in terms of the language I’m likely going to use that, whether you feel body positivity or body neutrality, whichever of those you feel is most useful to you, that is absolutely fine. And the movements, I like to think, you know, are based on the idea that whatever shape, size, colour, you are, that is fine. You don’t have to look a certain way. But I know body positivity is not, you know, a comfortable concept or an appropriate concept in terms of your path to recovery, and the body neutrality is a fantastic way to do it as well. 

ROS: Such a great point, so please don’t hurry over that because that’s really important.

LILY: Yeah, no, I just wanted to make that clear in case I say ‘body positivity’ as a way that has helped me, doesn’t mean it works for everyone or that it has to work for everyone by any means, so… And one person, as well, before I launch in, someone I would highly recommend to read material from is Megan Jayne Crabbe, who, I don’t want to speak for her, but from reading her book, the idea I get is that body positivity is something that worked really well for her, but she is a big advocate to the body neutrality movement as well. And if you think body neutrality is better for you, then Jameela Jamil is an amazing advocate for body neutrality. She finds that works better for her as well. And so with that with that weighed out…

ROS: So great, I love it. Introduction: written, done. Bosh.

LILY: And enter.

ROS: Footnotes will be available at the bottom of the video. (Laughter)

LILY: In terms of my own experience, so I had anorexia at school. It started, I think, when I was maybe 12 or 13. Eating disorders run in my family, so, you know, in retrospect it wasn’t a huge surprise, because I am of the thinking that they are contagious as well. So they ran in my family – yeah, it ran in my family, I was at an all-girl school, and so I was in a relatively ripe environment. But I was also certainly encouraged by, you know, rhetoric that young people, actually, all people absorb in their everyday lives. I don’t want to trigger anyone listening any further by talking about things that I did as part of my anorexia. So instead I’ll talk about my sort of process through recovery. First of all, I was incredibly lucky to have close friends, close family who loved me and supported me, and my brother (laughs) ­– so actually, this ties in nicely to the act that I do. So I do a spoken word poem called I Deserve To Eat, and in the poem I reference my younger brother, who was so close to me and, you know, stood by me through the whole thing. And actually one time became so frustrated at the harm I was doing to myself that he slapped me in the face. And I genuinely, genuinely love him for it. He kind of hates that I keep telling the story but… 

ROS: Other modes of getting through to people are available (laughs).

LILY: Yes, I do not advocate physically hitting people who are close to you that have eating disorders but…

ROS: But that’s what happened.

LILY: But I do love that story, because it’s important to remember as well that eating disorders, they affect the people around you as well. And this was a really important thing for my recovery, was that initially, the sort of thought process I was going through, is that I was trying to snap myself out of the anorexia through guilt. So I was saying, ‘I’m making the people who love me miserable, I’m so ungrateful,’ etc etc. But that doesn’t work. Guilt doesn’t work. And the turning point for me really – and this is not to say, this is not prescriptive, this is not to say this is what has to work for you, and it’s not like some miracle thing that happens overnight – but for me, it was a process of gratitude and developing a relationship with my body where I could be, sort of, grateful for the fact that it was keeping me moving and, you know, getting me from A to B. That’s definitely a thought process that is riddled with complications, because it is potentially quite ablest. So if you are disabled and have an eating disorder, that must – I can’t even imagine, that must be really complicated and really hard. But in a less personal way, I’d say, in sort of an overarching way, the most important thing is to try, it’s really hard, but to try and tell people when you’re struggling.

So, and to bring my long rambling answer to a close, just one story I’d like to tell. It’s my two really close friends from school, Anna and Nats, who are probably listening. Hey, guys! I sort of worked up the courage to tell them that one of the symptoms of my anorexia was, I was hoarding chocolates. So when we were at school, if you got, like, you know, if you did well in something and you got a point for your house, if you got three points, you got a big chocolate bar, and if you got one point, you got a little chocolate. And I was hoarding all of them until my locker in my room was, like, stuffed full of chocolate, because it was like a self-validation thing, where I was rewarding myself for not eating that. I don’t want, I definitely don’t take all the credit for it, because it was really them. They loved me so much and they made themselves so open to me, that I managed to show that to them, and that was a really important step in my recovery.

ROS: Wow, that must have been huge. Really huge.

LILY: Yeah. It felt like a big moment at the time. So I hope that the poem, I Deserve To Eat, helps people who watch it. I think one of my favourite memories of doing it, so, throughout the poem, I am basically having a very tense, sort of, scene with a muffin that’s on a table in front of me.

ROCH: A stand-off with a muffin.

LILY: A stand-off with a muffin. And it concludes with, I mean, it’s kind of a spoiler, but… Is like a Chekhov thing, if there’s a muffin in the first scene, then it’s going to be eaten by the second act?

ROS: Yeah, yeah, yeah (laughs). Such a nerdy joke, I love it.

LILY: You’re welcome. Yes, sorry, so it’s not really a spoiler. So it ends with me taking my clothes off down to my underwear, showing my body for what it is, and then eating the muffin. And one time I performed it at the Vaults when we were there, and it, you could hear a pin drop. I was like, oh, so scary, like, that was… but then they clapped at the end, and we got good feedback, so I was like, maybe it was just really intense. And then the next night, I did it, and I took my shirt off, and I dropped my shirt and everyone went bananas! Everyone was like, ‘Wahhhhh!’ and then I heard a woman, I picked up the muffin and unwrapped it and I heard a woman in the front row go, ‘EAT THAT MUFFIN!’ (Laughter) When we performed at The Bedford, Rozzi’s mum went bananas. I just heard her going, ‘You go, girl!’ (Laughter)

ROS: It’s fascinating, it is a lovely piece. It’s fascinating that it can elicit such different responses. You know, the fact that, one, depending on the demographic, some people will be respectful of the journey and be like, “I have not experienced that, but wow, you’re doing a brave thing.” And then on the other, I think it speaks to – I don’t want to generalise, because I know that eating disorders do not discriminate – but it does, there is something about it that does speak to women in a particular way, because of how we are socialised, I think. Because of how much of a conversation there currently, there always is around weight and earning food and having a ‘cheeky’ something or a ‘naughty,’ you know.

LILY: I totally agree. That was a big part of it for me, this idea that you have to earn it. Although if you’ve – and it’s sinful, like, that’s always the language. And because I was raised Catholic, that has big connotations for me. There are two men in my life that I’m very close to that had eating disorders and it’s still not spoken about that they did. It’s still not like, a confirmed, spoken-about thing. So I think it’s heavily stigmatised in a different way. And then something else I would add, is that I had a conversation with someone after our Vaults show about my poem, and they told me that they were non-binary, and it’s definitely an issue again that affects that community in a different way, non-binary and trans people. I’ve also heard gay cis men talking about how the dialogue around the way that your body “should” look is a big thing. That’s not something I can speak about with any authority, because I’m neither gay nor a cis man, but you know, I would recommend, you know, reaching out and reading about other people’s experiences, because sometimes that can help as well. I mean, of course, don’t trigger yourself. Don’t saturate yourself with that, but sometimes reaching out, it can trigger those empathy synapses in your brain, rather than the guilt ones.

ROCH: You can never say that you’re out the other side of an eating disorder, you know. I did want to ask how you’re finding things during this corona period, during lockdown. I’m sure that as you’re working and you’re, you know, less in full-on lockdown than some people, it’s possibly not as prominent of an issue, but, you know, it’s something to consider. Has it affected you at all?

LILY: I massively empathise with people who are self-isolating at home and really struggling, and I really appreciate advocates like Jameela Jamil and Megan Jayne Crabbe who are posting things like, ‘It’s okay to gain weight in quarantine,’ or, ‘It’s okay to gain weight while self-isolating,’ and just reminding people that their worth is not tied to the way that they look or how much they weigh, and I think that’s really important. When I was talking before about a lot of my recovery being tied to being thankful that my – sort of, was more tied to gratitude than it ever was to guilt… becoming a nurse has massively changed my perspective on my body. And looking after people, because I’m a critical care nurse, I’m looking after predominantly ventilated patients of Covid-19. I’m hesitant to say this because the voice of my eating disorder is incredibly frightening, and one of, actually, the most damaging things you can do to someone with an eating disorder is, you know, ‘Oh, just put it in perspective, you know, there are so many other things going on. Put it in perspective.’ That’s really unhelpful, because the voice is more powerful than that.

ROCH: And nastier, I’ve found. 

LILY: Much nastier.

ROCH: And spiteful in a way that, it doesn’t take into consideration other people’s issues. 

LILY: Totally. And it’s so powerful that somehow, you know, it still makes you feel those things and it makes you feel guilty for thinking, like – ugh, it’s just like, it’s like you’re trapped, basically. That’s what it feels like. And that’s what I talk about in the poem as well. So I’m certainly not saying it puts it in perspective. I’m not saying that at all. But I think – maybe it’s just that my mind is so focused on something else that, you know… or maybe it’s just that I’m lucky enough to be able to leave the house on a regular basis. That’s probably it. That I can sort of refresh my mind, reset my mind. I’m not sitting there thinking about it. That’s probably it, that I have the privilege of a distraction. Because that’s probably, I imagine, that’s probably the biggest problem for people with eating disorders who are self-isolating. You’re sort of stuck and you don’t have the distractions or necessarily the coping mechanisms that you’re used to. 

ROS: It’s taking control away, isn’t it, as well? And especially, you know, we joke about state-sanctioned exercise, but if you are someone who clings to exercise, and where and when and how long you exercise for, being, you know, a defining feature, then, you know, it’s not even just like somebody else coming along. It’s the government saying what you can and can’t do. I can imagine that must be an incredibly difficult aspect as well.

LILY: Yeah I know I’ve said her name maybe 500 times, but if you are struggling and you are self-isolating, I would highly recommend reading Megan Jayne Crabbe’s book, Body Positivity Power. If body positivity is something that you don’t relate to you and you find difficult, maybe just try reading some of her Instagram posts, or Jameela Jamil did a great interview in Vogue, maybe try reading that. Just maybe seeking out some resources that will potentially give you alternative coping mechanisms and help you at this really difficult time.

ROS: In case anybody is unaware, that’s @bodyposipanda.

ROCH: I have experience of eating disorders and mine 100% still lives with me and rears its ugly head at the most inconvenient of times. 

LILY: It comes nowhere, doesn’t it? It’s like, ‘What are you doing here?’

ROCH: It’s awful, and it’s really, really bad at the moment and I won’t go into it too much. But what I will say is, whilst I completely agree that there are certain people online that you should look to, who are inspiring, who are, you know, saying all the right things and providing help wherever they can and however they can in really positive ways, I personally find it incredibly overwhelming. Whenever I see something online that BodyPosiPanda, or, you know, not naming names, but you know, when I see people who are doing all of these wonderful things, I feel like, ‘Why can they do it and I can’t? Why can they see or think this way and I can’t?’

LILY: It’s a lot of pressure.

ROCH: And it’s a lot to take on and I find it sometimes incredibly, incredibly overwhelming. So something that I am trying to do, it’s not always successful, but something I’m really trying to do is to take a moment each day to talk about what I’m grateful for. And yeah, in a really almost selfish way, you know, bringing it back to me and something that I can control and that I can talk about and that is my experience, rather than comparing myself to others, which is my biggest issue. Especially in a time like this…

Ferrero Rochelle wasn’t lying: she really does struggle with comparing herself to others!

LILY: I totally agree, Rochelle. Because social media, it’s so much pressure. And that’s why I always try and return to that great thing you guys posted about, you know, it’s okay to be an advocate and still struggle yourself. And of course that’s totally okay, it’s completely natural. And one thing I would add as well, is that I think a lot of people’s recovery is impeded by stuff that is still happening in healthcare. There’s a lot that we still need to change in the NHS around weight. I’m actually doing – well, it’s been postponed now for obvious reasons, but hopefully later this year we’ll recommence a nutrition project about views around the BMI tool.

ROS: Fantastic.

ROCH: Oh, wow.

LILY: And yeah, because it’s just –

ROS: It’s not the one, is it?

LILY: Mind if I tell a quick story? Yeah, it’s not the one. So like, I was at, and this relates to what you were saying, Rochelle, which was very, very true. I went to the GP, and it wasn’t even about – I think I was just getting a repeat prescription, but he just weighed me anyway, I think just to update the records. And thankfully, I’m okay with getting on weighing scales now, but if he’d seen my notes and seen that I’d had anorexia, there are some people who just have to cut weighing scales out of their life. And so I got on the weighing scales and I felt fine. He put it on the system, and he said, ‘Oh, and just be careful because you’re creeping towards the overweight category.’ And like, that is, that’s – and thank God I was, I knew what to do. I left, I called my partner, I text… I think I text both of you! So I was lucky to have that support system, but you know, I really want to change that. I’m passionate about changing that.

ROS: Man alive. And it is so wonderful that you can use that anger to fuel something, you know, that’s  gonna make a difference.

LILY: Yeah, and I wasn’t angry at the GP necessarily, I was just angry at the system through which we’ve been educated. And that is one of the reasons why recovery is so difficult, I think, Rochelle. I don’t think you need to put all the pressure on yourself to say like, ‘Why am I not better? Why aren’t I like these people on Instagram?’ It’s not, you know, you’re not the problem, it’s lots of external environmental things as well. So be kind to yourself, honey. 

ROS: Amen.

ROCH: Let’s finish up. What are you grateful for this week?

LILY: it’s a really silly one. Is it okay to be a silly one?

ROS: Please.

ROCH: It can be a silly one.

LILY: I am grateful for Gay of Thrones, because…

ROCH: What is this?

LILY: Get ready. Rochelle, your evening’s booked up now. You have no plans.

ROCH: Oh my gosh, I’m so excited. What?

LILY: I read Jonathan Van Ness’s autobiography, and I had heard about Gay of Thrones because I’ve heard him talking about it. But it’s basically a YouTube show from, I think it’s produced by Funny or Die, and it’s basically Jonathan cutting people’s hair and recapping Game of Thrones episodes, and it’s so funny. All the characters have different nicknames, so like – and I don’t even watch the show, and I find it funny.

ROCH: No, I don’t watch the show.

LILY: That’s the thing.

ROCH: That’s good, okay.

LILY: You’ll still find it funny.

ROS: I do watch it and I find it funny. So all bases covered.

LILY: Exactly. It’s for all audiences. He calls Danaerys ‘Christina Aguilera,’ like, everyone has a ridiculous nickname. Like, people recapping things in a funny way, and they’re just small three-minute segments per episode, and they are so funny.

ROS: It’s a very quick way to catch up if you ever need to. If you want to just start on Season 7, just get Jonathan to fill you in.

LILY: Honestly. So I know that’s a bit of a silly one, sorry, but I’m grateful for that.

ROCH: If that’s what’s getting you through the week, power to you.

ROS: I also, not to put, you know, a meaning on everything like I bloomin’ always do, but…

LILY: Classic Ros.

ROS: I know, look at me, making a metaphor out of it… I think it’s great that we are talking about the fact that silliness is not just silly. It can actually be the thing that gets us through. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

ROCH: True that.

ROS: And that’s all I’m gonna say. I’m not gonna, you know, write some prose about it…

LILY:  I look forward to the 16 verse poem about this tomorrow on Instagram. I’m very excited.

ROS: I feel read, read for filth.

ROCH: If anyone’s not seen it actually, Rosie Verbose has been doing – is it daily or weekly?

ROS: It was daily but she’s fallen rather behind, and she’s done it as a mental health…

ROCH: What is it, Escapril?

ROS: Escapril, yeah. I’ve been doing it as a mental health exercise, that I’ve fallen behind and I am NOT beating myself up about it.

ROCH: Good for you.

ROS: I will join back in when I am ready and when I feel like it. 

ROCH: Yes! Okay, I love that. Yeah, good for you. I’m the same with ukulele. I’ve told myself I was gonna play it every single day as a way to, you know, make myself feel better and to clear away mental fog, and I’ve fallen behind on it, so… But that’s fine.

ROS: It’s fine. You just hear all that bumpf, don’t you, about, you know, if you haven’t learned a language in this time, or, blah blah blah…

ROCH: “You didn’t lack time, you lacked discipline.” Oh my god.

LILY: (Gasps) That sucks. The main thing is not to put too much pressure on yourself, because the temptation is to be like, “At 6 o’clock, I’m going to get up and do an hour and a half of Latin, and then I’m gonna go on my exercise bike and then,” and all of this, “and then I’m gonna make three cakes…” And it’s like, take it easy.

ROCH: There’s definitely worth, there’s so much worth in giving yourself a schedule or giving yourself, you know, a vague idea of a structure, but I think – me and my school friends were talking about this. Shout out to my school friends if any of you are listening. We were talking about this literally today, you know, there is such worth in having a structure but you can’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t fall, if it ends up falling apart, you know. You’ve gotta think little victories.

LILY: I think that’s what we were saying, really, is that, you know, you can set yourself goals but don’t punish yourself. Don’t use it as a rod to beat yourself. 

ROS: Absolutely.

ROCH: What is Rosie Verbose grateful for this week?

ROS: What am I grateful for? I should have prepared in advance because now I’m going to think on the fly. I am grateful for being at home and being cooked for by my Dad, who is a very good cook. 

LILY: I can confirm that.

ROS: Last night we had sausage, egg and chips, and you know, he just, I don’t know what it is but he just makes it in a way that’s just like, ‘I could eat this until I die.’ Obviously not – not as in like, I’ll die from eating it. I just mean, like, everyday.

LILY: Right, okay, that makes more sense. ‘I could eat this my whole life’ might have been the…

ROS: That’s what I was going for, yeah. I’ve been liking being cooked for. And ooh, and I’m grateful for what was, and it’s now gone, but was some lovely passion fruit gin from our friend Jonathan.

LILY: From Judy Swench.

ROS: Ferrero Rochelle, what are you grateful for this week?

ROCH: Well, I am grateful for things such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Whatsapp video calls… Previously I would have hated this kind of thing. I’m a very, very social person, but I can, I have – my friends know this so well – I have the lowest cringe threshold imaginable, and I cannot bear awkward silences. I just can’t deal with it. So to have to rely on technology to, you know, be so important in my, you know, social interactions, and where there is the occasional awkward silence, when people drop in and out of video calls…

LILY: You’re welcome. (Lily had dropped out earlier in the call!)

ROS: Exposure therapy.

ROCH: I used to be like, ‘Urgh, can we just not? Can we just talk on the phone, can we just do a voice note?,’ like, I don’t like it. And also, I don’t particularly find the angles very flattering. Rosie Verbose, we have had this conversation privately. I find it very difficult to look at my own face. But. But this weekend, my family – my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and my boyfriend – we were all meant to be going to Bruges on a family holiday, and obviously it’s been cancelled. But tonight, we are going to be having a virtual Bruges trip. So we’re gonna all talk on, I think it’s gonna be on Whatsapp video call. We’ve all been given tasks of finding Belgian beers and Belgian food, and we’re gonna have a really nice catch up. And I’m so grateful that we have are able to do that. Yeah, I just think it’s, it’s gonna be lovely, and it means that, you know, we’re not just sitting at home this weekend being like, ‘We should be in Belgium!’ And actually we’re going to be spending time together.

LILY: That’s so nice. I think people are getting really creative as well, which I’m really enjoying. Even my mum who is like, the biggest technophobe ever, she gets really freaked out by anything where she’s, like, communicating through a screen. And we did a family Zoom a couple of weeks ago, and she was so stressed by it but she really wanted to take part, so she did a “Love Actually” and she wrote out cards that said, ‘I know I struggle with this but I love you all so much.’ (Girls all laughing and cooing)

ROCH: That’s too much.

ROS: Oh, that is too precious.

LILY: So technophobes out there, there are ways to get through it. 

ROCH: Even though it is wonderful and I am very grateful for all of the, you know, different mediums that are out there, it’s definitely not the same, so there’s no shame in not wanting to do anything.

LILY: No shame, no shame.

ROS: Absolutely, that’s, that should be a big old mantra. We need to stop talking, like, people have lives.

ROCH: Yeah, that’s true. This is gonna be a big old editing job.

ROS: We could talk alllllll day and some might say we have. Lily, thank you so, so much for chatting and sharing with us.

LILY: Thank you guys.

ROCH: Do you have anything you would like to plug or anything you would like to say, either as a performer, a key worker, a human? Any of the above.

LILY: I’ve many things to say as a human. That kind of made it sound like I wasn’t a human but I was trying to hide it, like, “Yes, I am a human.”

ROS: “Why do you ask?”

LILY: “I am a human woman.” No. As a key worker, I would like to say two very brief things. One thing, I’m so, so grateful to the carers looking after my sister who has Down’s Syndrome. They are doing a wonderful job and I love you. Also please, please, please, if you can, please try and stick by the rules. They’re there to keep us safe and to keep other people safe, particularly vulnerable people safe. And also, just please look after yourself, be kind to yourself, don’t put pressure on yourself. And a mini-nepotistic plug: my brother Charlie spends a lot of his time as Aphrodite, and pre-social distancing, he recorded some sort of singing sessions with Crystal, a fellow drag queen, and you can find those on YouTube.

ROS: What do we search for that, Lilz? It will be at the bottom, but what do we search?

LILY: I was so worried you were gonna ask me that because I don’t knowwww. (Laughs) Click on the link below!

ROS: Okay, so, if people want to find that – oh, very good!

LILY: Smash and subscribe!

ROS: It’s ‘smash Like and subscribe.’ You don’t just ‘smash’ and subscribe!

LILY: Oh, fuck. I never knew what ‘smash’ meant. Every time they say it, they’re like…

ROS: It’s ‘smash’ the Like Button, I think.

LILY: Ohhh.

ROS: I don’t know how I know that. But it’s way better to think of, it’s like, ‘destroy’ or ‘have sex rampantly’ and then subscribe.

LILY: Yeah, have some sex and then subscribe. That’s what I meant to say.

ROS: Can we please have that as our sign-off?

LILY: Yes! Smash and subscribe. Yeah. Aphrodite Jones and Crystal Rasmussen. 

ROS: Lovely, lovely.

ROCH: Crystal, whose book’s just been released in America, I saw.

LILY: Yes, whose book has just been released in America, Diary of a Drag Queen.

ROS: Really good. You can listen to it on Audible. I really enjoyed having Crystal’s voice in my ear holes. 

ROCH: Oh, did Crystal record it as well?

LILY: Yes. Get with it, girl!

ROCH: Does she sing? 

ROS: Not on the audiobook but…

LILY: She does sing on the link below! 

ROCH: There you go. Smash and subscribe!

LILY: Smash and subscribe! 

ROS: Thank you so much, everyone. Please keep following us on social media, our website’s there if you like, send us things. We love you, good bye. Mwah.

LILY: Bye, we love you, take care of yourselves.

ROS: Yes, that too. Bye!

(LILY laughs)

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