In the spirit of women supporting women, AFIRA designed a custom made, one-of-a-kind piece for singer and Performer Laura Nadia Hunt. Laura wore the bodysuit on stage for her performance in the ‘Art of Drag’ show for the London Underbelly Festival earlier this year. Below Laura discusses femme fatales, personal style and women who inspire her in her professional work.
Describe yourself in three words?
Passionate, intuitive, tenacious.
How did you get into performance?
I have always been drawn to communication by performance and started performing as a dancer from an early age. In my formative years I ended up as a choral scholar at the University to help pay my way through, then transitioned to Classical, Choral music, through to Jazz and all around and in-between. Singing in multiple disciplines is such a thrill; for a time I was simultaneously singing in the semi-chorus with the London Philharmonic, also writing and recording music for TV and creating pop covers with a kitsch jazz twist, so it’s certainly never dull! Conveying emotional messages, making statements, empowering and touching people, making them ‘feel’ through music and performance is everything to me. There is much privilege to that power.
Who is your favourite female perfomer and why?
There’s absolutely a theme amongst my favourite female performers, as they are all wonderful communicators and are strong, passionate, fearless and consummate artists. It’s hard to pick one, so I will be cheeky and name 3! Barbara Streisand for her voice and unashamed strength and control over her performing career and art at a time when the industry was rife with sexism. Kate Bush her for style, charisma, exceptional writing and emotional communication, and Madonna for her ground breaking work in the empowerment and ownership of female sexuality and her dynamite performance work.
Who is your style icon?
This is tricky, as there are so many women I admire. I think the person I return to most over the years is Dita Von Teese. We share a mutual fondness for a feminine silhouette, for vintage Hollywood glamour and a flare for the fatale. I think Dita always looks both stunning and authentic, and for me the two should always be held seamlessly together for someone to be truly iconic.
What is your definition of style?
Style to me is an almost indefinable concept that is both fluid and also intrinsic. My style has retained key elements that I am always drawn to; feminine silhouettes, hallmarks and accents of various eras and the idea of the dark feminine but it has also evolved with my body, age and other influences. So to me, the very definition of style is the expression of the authentic and the inner self.
Who is your favourite femme fatale?
There are so many Femme Fatales depicted in literature, film and theatre I adore and find inspiring! I have been drawn to the idea of the femme fatale from a young age. My Mother was a huge fan herself and introduced me to Theda Bara, Garbo, Dietrich, Merle Oberon, to name but a few, from silent all the way to present day. Many an afternoon was sent pouring over her books and watching movies, observing these Goddesses and all their powers. I discovered there was even a noir Femme with my name (Gene Tierney in ‘Laura’, about the mysterious ghost all men are powerlessly drawn to, ‘Laura Hunt’! Imagine!) There aren’t enough modern day fatales. However, I would choose Mata Hari or Cleopatra as my ultimate FF’s, for they were real. Women who were strong, beautiful and understood the power of their own femininity. My kind of women!
What is your idea of female empowerment?
I managed to sneak an article on this very subject into ‘The People on Sunday’ magazine, which has been my proudest act of ‘Guerrilla feminism’. To me female empowerment is very much about understanding the power you hold within yourself, your ‘divine feminine’ power; the power of your sexuality. Over time culturally, this seems to have been forgotten, but to help people remember, we must first remember ourselves. Power is to be respected and used wisely, but it absolutely should be enjoyed too! Women are Goddesses; we give birth to life and we hold the key to life within us. We are tough, to quote Ginger Rogers, “I did everything Fred did, only backwards and in heels”! To me, an empowered woman understands she is a Goddess. She understands her power. And she wields it like a weapon; with care and skill.
Who has been your biggest female role model and why?
Lady Colin Campbell (Nee Gertrude Blood) was a really fascinating woman. I first came across her in the National Portrait gallery. I read about her after seeing her portrait and just think she’s very inspiring; I used to stop by on my way home whilst studying and working full time and she’d spur me on. A woman who challenged convention, didn’t fear the patriarchy and used her intellect, creativity and femininity to the maximum, inspiring devotion and admiration.
What do you love about the Afira brand?
Seeing Afira’s designs felt a lot like ‘coming home’. She truly ‘breathes’ the female silhouette, the concepts of the fatale and feminine power and creates garments that reflect and extract the wearer’s inner fatale. All women are Goddesses and it takes a Goddess to help others realise that vision. There is currently no other designer I have seen creating work as stunning in this vein.
Tell us about your ‘The Art of Drag’ performance, what is it about and what was your inspiration for the performance piece?
I was cast by my mentor in his showcase of his work as a drag facilitator and teacher. Although I’d sung professionally for over a decade, I had never tried this style of performance and found the course I took (‘The Art of Drag’) and results nothing short of revolutionary. I love drag as an art form and drag has also influenced my ‘vanilla’ performance positively too. My brief for the show was ‘female empowerment’ and as a theme that informs much of my work, I wanted to create a new piece especially for the ‘Underbelly’ Festival. I chose the idea of a frustrated Barbie; trapped in her world of control and subjugation, a powerless plaything. I wanted to create a piece that would visually and musically bring the audience into her liberation and realisation that she is powerful and in control of her own destiny. The absolutely stunning custom body created by Afira and her wonderful team was integral as the ‘reveal’ and I was just so proud to wear it. It helped me to bring my inner Dom to the fore and contributed so perfectly to the visual message. It made the piece for me.
In collaboration with photographer Sing Lo, Laura was photographed for AFIRA.