Bending over backwards on a global stage as I held my final pose – anxiously waiting for the second pause to be over before the audience would hopefully applaud my Bellydancing performance on my first live TV show.
I never imagined that it would be this platform, this art form and sharing my love of the community who had not only accepted me but encouraged me to be in this very position, which would be my ‘way in’ to my career as a multi-platform Journalist.
That final pose which received rapturous applause during the live finals of Britain’s Got Talent as a 19-year-old student and part-time waitress, was as memorable as the day I discovered Bellydancing aged 14 at a local park multi-cultural festival my mama had organised in Pitsmoor, Sheffield. I finally felt ‘accepted’ albeit in a ‘niche’ community but later on in the more daunting wider world of the media industry.
When we think of communities we tend to just imagine a location and whilst Yorkshire is built on many beautiful areas, communities simply blossom out of shared values or interests. As soon as I spotted the swirling colourful skirts of eight Bellydancers, I was drawn towards the glistening shimmy belts as a magpie would have been to the gold.
It was this treasure at the end of the rainbow that helped catapult me into this new ‘obsession,’ an escapism from the traditional dance and drama industry which had times had ‘spat me out.’ I was “too curvy” to be a professional dancer, I was “too poor” to go to stage school, and most of all, I never felt ‘enough.’
But in this alternative world of Oriental Bellydance I was embraced just as I was. It wasn’t about conforming it was expressing our feminine identity together and for me rediscovering my power as a mixed race young woman with aspirations to work in the media but most of all, a desperate young teen who just longed to perform.
I learnt a lot from attending every class, ‘Hafla’ party and workshop available across the UK and eventually even made a documentary in Egypt for ITV after my stint on live TV.
But the biggest lesson I learnt is that our true power comes from the ‘fire in our belly’ and the strength from within. We need these ‘weird and wonderful’ communities to feed our souls, careers and improve our lives, until we can believe in ourselves.
From YouTube to Burlesque, from Zumba to Yoga and Mental Health campaigning, I have since shimmied my way into many of these ‘communities’ who prosper from shared passions.
Yes, with fierce love can come some conflict too, especially when it becomes a ‘profession.’ But these are only small hurdles to the happiness you feel when you are in that final pose of a dance class or completing the end of a stage show.
My home at times may be that of a Nomad, with shimmy scarves and costumes in suitcases and props hung in my wardrobe from wings to canes and long outfits. But home is being part of a community. It is not always about a place, it is about finding a position you can shine as your true self.
After a couple of Lockdowns without this love, I am back working on my side hustle and now I create the space for others to begin their bellydancing journey.
This is my beloved side hustle which has not only helped me to shimmy through the glass ceiling of the media industry as a young woman with no ‘contacts’ but it has given me the confidence to keep shimmying no matter what hurdles I face in life or work.
As I say in one of my favourite quotes: “If in doubt, shimmy it out.”
For more information, go to: https://sparkleupnorth.com / HTTPS://mamamei.co.uk and follow Sophie @TheSparkleCoach
“BRITAIN’S BEST BELLYDANCER” LAUNCHES CLASSES IN WAKEFIELD
A former Britain’s Got Talent finalist who was applauded for putting bellydance ‘on the map’ and dubbed “absolute star quality” by judge Simon Cowell is back teaching bellydance following Lockdown.
The freelance journalist and entrepreneur by day and bellydancer by night Sophie Mei, said that all women need to try bellydancing “more than ever.”
The single-mum-of two said: “A lot of us have experienced confidence knocks, set-backs and felt isolated.
“But as with anything. We can shimmy through life’ challenge as an inclusive feel-good fitness community.
Sophie teaches classes on-demand online or one-to-one in person and via video call as well as running regular classes from Wakefield City Centre, West Yorkshire and workshops throughout the UK.
Wakefield in-person classes commence in January 2022 on Wednesdays at The Hub inside The Ridings Shopping Centre.
Too book Sophie DM her on instagram @BellydancerSophie or email [email protected].