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Tease without the sleaze… at 71

After losing her husband, Marilyn Bersey age 71, was looking for a way to get her confidence back.  She walked into a burlesque class and hid at the back. One year on, she’s been crowned ‘Miss Burlesque Isle of Wight’ and has never felt more confident.

“I feel healthy and happy. Life is really good at the moment!” Marilyn tells us with a smile from ear to ear.

Marilyn Bersey, aka Foxy La Mer as she’s known on stage, walked into a burlesque class at the beginning of 2017 looking for a way to get her confidence back. Little did she know, it would completely transform her life.

Marilyn wasn’t always the star of the stage, nor did she feel particularly confident or happy in her own skin. “I was always overweight,” she tells us.

Before finding her passion as a burlesque performer, Marilyn had a few turbulent years to contend with. “I was working full time and looking after my husband who was sick,” she says.

During this time Marilyn’s weight yoyoed as she was juggling dieting with the demands of daily life.

“When I retired ten years ago, I could cook properly and not grab food from shops.” She joined slimming groups and was stricter with having a healthy diet, managing to lose five stone.

Sadly, in 2014, Marilyn’s husband passed away and her weight plummeted. Friends and family told her she was looking unhealthy and although she felt OK physically, mentally she didn’t feel her best.

Eventually, Marilyn managed to get back to a healthy weight, and, having moved to a new area, was looking for new ways to get involved in the community, which is when she saw a flyer for a burlesque class.

“Off I went,” she explains, “and sat at the back.” From that moment on, Marilyn was hooked.

Marilyn facing away from the camera holding a feather fan.

It’s an excellent fitness routine, she tells us. There are moves for different muscles or parts of the body and “You can do as much or as little as you like.”

It’s helped Marilyn to maintain a weight she’s happy with and beyond that, it’s boosted her confidence immeasurably.

Before Marilyn got into the swing of things/the throes of burlesque, she asked herself “Can I do it at my age?” Now she beams as she tells us, “To do it at 71 years old… it’s fabulous!”

We ask what Marilyn thinks the perception of people her age is. “At my age, people think you don’t need to be sexy or glamorous.”

But for Marilyn it was about more than that. When her children grew up and left home and when her husband died, she felt she lost the titles and labels that defined her: “You think, ‘who am I and what can I be?’”

Luckily finding burlesque has meant finding her femininity again. “I wanted to be a glamorous woman. I got that back.”

For Marilyn, burlesque has also meant becoming part of a wider community. The younger members of the burlesque group “look up to us,” she says. “We feel like we’re in a young team.”

The feeling of belonging to a group is a big part of the appeal for Marilyn. It offers the opportunity to pass on knowledge and work creatively with the younger girls.

Being naturally artistic, Marilyn buys a lot of her outfits from charity shops and embellishes them herself. “A lot of the younger girls wanted me to make them personalised nipple tassels,” she tells us, showing off her range of customised pieces.

Marilyn sat in a jumper smiling.

Together the burlesque group have made all sorts of items of clothing including corsets, tassels, and bustles that light up.

These outfits are often worn on the last day of the 4-week routine learning period, when the group puts on a final performance.

We ask Marilyn what her family think of her burlesque performing. “I didn’t tell my kids at first,” she says. Then, when she realised burlesque would be a permanent part of her life, she knew she had to let them know.

Naturally, seeing how happy it made her, Marilyn’s children were pleased for her. But the cherry on the cake was when her grandson found out and told her she was the “coolest grandma ever”.

After being crowned Miss Burlesque Isle of Wight in 2017, Marilyn is showing no sign of stopping. “Why should you grow old?” she says.

Why should 71 be different from 21 if that’s how you feel?

Marilyn tells us it’s the best thing to ever happen to her and that it “should be on prescription!” It certainly seems to have worked for her.

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50s life insurance, funeral plans, equity release, pet insurance, home insurance, car insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife?

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services. Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.