Bold, beautiful, and full-bodied Fabia Cerra is larger than life! This big-hearted burlesque queen encapsulates the spirit of giving in her charity work, in the classroom, and on stages small and large; and even before all of the UK on the popular show Britain’s Got Talent. For this amazing woman, giving comes naturally, but life for Fabia had a rocky start.
The 39 year-old Italian beauty grew up in Oxford, United Kingdom; the daughter of an Italian father and English mother. Early childhood was grim for young Fabia. She suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother who suffered from alcoholism and molestation by an uncle when she was only eight years old. The continued abuse caused her to compartmentalize her experiences where she pushed the memories deep down, burying them. The results lead to years of struggling with mental illness ultimately diagnosed first as schizophrenia and later in 2003 as bi-polar disorder. Fabia documents her journey through mental illness in her book, In 2 Minds, available on Amazon.com.
It was during the worst years of her abuse that she discovered dance, and threw herself wholeheartedly into it as an escape from reality. “I first learnt to dance in Oxford at Brett's school of dancing from the age of eight. I was a world disco dance champion five times over.”
Even in her success, misery followed her as she was bullied in school by a group of girls obviously jealous of her local celebrity from dance. It made her want to quit dancing which she did for many years.
Once Fabia received the help she needed, she began rediscovering herself and her love of dance. “I went back to dancing in 2008” she says.
So how did she get into burlesque? “I saw a documentary on BBC Three TV Channel in the UK. It was about a teacher called Jo King who has taught many famous Burlesque dancers. Jo was teaching nurses from London; they had never danced before, let alone do a striptease performance in a Cabaret show! I was watching with envy. I Googled for my local burlesque class which was in Reading, and run by PoleStar's dance school. I enrolled for the beginner four week class and I felt sexy and confident again. I also lost 2.5lbs which I knew could only be a bonus!”
Fabia says this all came about after the birth of her son, Leone, in 2005. “I was 22 stone (308lbs) in 2005 when Leone was born, I had gestational diabetes and the doctor said to me that if I didn’t lose weight, then my health would suffer. I didn't want my son to grow up without me running around after him and keeping up with him in the playground.”
What amounted to both exercise and doing something she loved lead to greater things. In 2009, she auditioned for the popular television show, Britain’s Got Talent with judge Simon Cowell (American Idol). “On the 4th class, I came home and put the television on and there was Simon Cowell asking the nation to come and audition for BGT! When he said "Come and show me something I've never seen before" I thought, never seen a burlesque/striptease act before. I just there and then decided I would apply online and that would be the end of it. Little did I know that I would get a letter to invite me down to show my act to the producers of BGT, …and the rest, they say, is history.”
Indeed, the reactions from coaches Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan were priceless. At the final reveal of bodacious tatas at the end of her dance, Piers Morgan said “You are my kind of woman, you know that?”, and Simon responded with “Oh, my God!” She was unanimously voted through to the next round! (See video)
Fabia made it to the finals and was also invited back in 2011 as one of BGT’s favorite acts.
One thing leads to another
Now that all of the UK knew Fabia Cerra, other opportunities came knocking including her successful work as a plus-sized entertainer and burlesque performer. “I am performing with The Moulin Huge UK dance troupe on 23rd November at the Miss Plus-Size International Awards” (for which she is also nominated in the category of Plus Size Entertainer). “I had no idea about this amazing nomination until I received an email from my agent. Congratulations! You have been nominated for a Plus -Size Entertainer Award 2013. I was so shocked; I had to contact Linda Koch, my agent, just to make sure it was not a mistake. I'm so thrilled, as it shows the world you can be curvy and still dance and work in the entertainment industry. Society is now waking up to the fact that none of us, male or female, are built the same. We are all unique and that's what makes the world go around. Actors, models and dancers - live your life and be happy with the skin you’re in.”
Cerra shares that she is also a Plus-Sized model. “As a buxom burlesque dancer, you are always being photographed and filmed. The costumes & corsets are too beautiful to be hidden away, so you get photographers in the industry asking you to work with them, or designer's to model their clothes. My agent is Pose Plus Models: Modeling, TV, Film, Catwalk, Magazine's, Event's, Burlesque, and Erotica.”
Being the person she is, Fabia also wanted to give back and help wherever she could. She began working with Against Breast Cancer “Simon Cowell is the Patron of ABC and his mother, Julie Cowell, is our president. I got a phone call the next day after the BGT semi-finals and was asked if I would like to volunteer and be an ambassador for them. I lost my friend to breast cancer in March ,2011, and another friend beat breast cancer. I held a pink burlesque workshop on 18th October, 2013 in Oxford and we raised £160.00. I bought some pink bubbly and pink cupcakes as a treat for them.”
The burlesque classes have caught on; not only as a great way to fundraise, but also as loads of fun for the ladies. “I work for a company in London called Burlesque Baby. The CEO got in touch after seeing me on BGT in 2009. I host burlesque hen parties in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds in the UK. The only workshops I conduct myself are for Against Breast Cancer. I get sponsored by a dance hall, then I charge £10.00 per person to attend the charity workshop. All proceeds go straight to the charity. I, too, make a £20.00 donation, myself. Business women, school teachers, housewives and even police women come to join in.”
As if that weren’t enough, Fabia takes it steps further. “I also hold a pink nail bar for our A Splash of Pink Day. This is a family fun day where the market square has stalls and entertainment from 10am-4pm. The whole of Abingdon City Centre is involved by decorating their shops pink and the judge is always a very high profile person. Last year our judge was Dwina Gibb, the late Robin Gibb's widow (The BeeGees). Dwina is also our patron for the charity, such an honour...”
And the charity advocacy doesn’t stop there. “I donate money to NSPCC. I was sexually, mentally, and physically abused by members of my family, so this is why I donate on a monthly basis. Help for Heroes is also another charity I help. Every year I help a friend who wants the Christmas lights turned on in his local area which is lovely as my son comes to this. I also make a personal donation to his event. Mind, it is also a charity close to my heart because of my bi-polar disorder. I donate, and when I have time on my hands, I go to their local events.”
It’s a wonder she has the time since her son, Leone, now 8, was diagnosed early with global development delay. The milestones most children reach before the age of two took longer for Leone, but he is coming along nicely and is the love of his mother’s life, along with dad, Dougie Thompson.
From abuse, depression, and mental illness to finding love; for herself, from Doug, and both for and from her wonderful son, Fabia Cerra has triumphed over adversity. With support from great people in her life, she has found confidence in herself, something she hopes to impart on everyone she meets.
“My message to curvy gals is this: You are beautiful, no matter what they say. Words can’t bring you down. Get out there in that big wide world; show them you own that high street every time you go clothes shopping. Hold your head up high and smile. If people are making fun just because you are curvy, laugh it off. Life’s too short to worry about what other small minded people think or don’t think. Have belief in yourself, and…confidence is the best thing a curvy gal can wear.”
What can we expect from Fabia Cerra in future? Aside from two other books she has authored; Ciao Bella and A Beginner's Guide to Burlesque for BBW, (which is for big, beautiful women and waiting for publication with Chipmunkapublishing), she’s auditioned for a Hollywood movie, (more will be revealed in January, 2014), and she continues both performing in the UK, modeling, advocating for causes close to her heart, and being a loving mom.
Keep up with Fabia Cerra at her official website here.
Finally, a heart-felt thank you to this lovely lady who didn’t hesitate to share her story. Fabia, when I’m next in the UK, we’re doing lunch!
Michele Gwynn is a freelance journalist in San Antonio, Texas for Prime Time Newspaper Group/Hearst Corp., and a contributing writer for Sssh.com, Yahoo Voices, FashionErotica Magazine, and Examiner.com. She has authored two books: Harvest, and The Cat Who Wanted to be a Reindeer available on Amazon.com.
All articles by Michele Gwynn are under copyright and cannot be re-posted whole without written consent by the author. Partial re-posting with a link back to the original article is permitted. For consent, questions, or comments, email email@example.com.
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