Awesome Women Luisa Omielan
Luisa Omielan is a powerhouse, she is a bombshell. Since debuting her first solo show, What Would Beyonce Do?! (clip here) at Edinburgh in 2012 she hasn’t taken a breath – there’s been 4 ½ years of touring the world over, TV appearances on Miranda and The John Bishop Show, and attracting fans in the millions; she is also one of the most grounded, sane human beings I’ve had the pleasure of talking to. She’s got her priorities right, which, these days, I think needs be become a priority again.
It’s late afternoon when I call, I’ve been watching her shows for the last 24 hours and am drinking a Lilt, so I’m feeling pretty amped up. The phone rings for a while and I think it’s about to ring off when, “Hello! Sorry mate I’ve just woken up from a nap. You know when you just wake up from a nap and you feel really groggy and yore just like ‘Oh god the world’s gonna end, where am I, what am I doing, what time is it?!’”
I love her immediately, but to ensure the feeling is probably not mutual I begin my questioning on the not-so-funny subject of trolls (the internet variety). It turns out she’s mostly trolled on religious grounds or by ‘body fascists’. When I pry as to the sorts of things these trolls say, “devil spawn” is mentioned, as is she “should die,” and “Jesus would not be ok with this.” We both agree Jesus has bigger things to worry about, and if he doesn’t he really needs to reprioritise.
But the ‘keyboard warriors’ are only helping rack up those views on YouTube; she has over 35 million views for her ‘thigh gap’ joke (watch a clip here, NSFW obviously), she’s been nominated for two Barry awards (the most prestigious comedy award in Australia), she sells out 800 seater gigs no problem, her show, What Would Beyonce Do?! has been running for 5 years (very successfully), her follow up Am I Right Ladies?! is proving equally successful; from the outside looking in it appears Luisa is an established, highly successful comic with very little worry about. But she explains how A) she doesn’t even have an agent at the moment and B) that the internet ‘likes’ and views are great, but don’t translate to anything tangible:
“I’m like, am I going to have to get a job in Sainsburys in September? Is that where I’m at?”
“I’ll call you in a year see if you’re by the canned fruits …”
“If you can’t get through because I’m too famous, you’ll just know I’m very happy, you’ll know...she’s in Hollywood. But yeah, it’s a bit like that at the moment.”
So I have to remind her she was named in the Evening Standard's ‘1,000 most influential Londoners’, and, in light of this, what she would like this influence to be: “For women to like themselves… and just to be a bit more truthful about the obvious. My show’s all about being truthful about the obvious. In my show, the thigh gap thing - it’s ridiculous that’s even a thing. It’s horrible. I think we hate ourselves on a daily basis … I’d like it if we could just stop it with the self-hate rhetoric.”
I remind Luisa that she was named in the Evening Standard's ‘1,000 most influential Londoners’, and, in light of this, what she would like this influence to be: “For women to like themselves…"
Luisa explains about being on holiday recently with her friend, and how her friend compared herself with ever woman who walked past: “And I’m like ‘stop it, stop it, genuinely, stop it …,’ but then I’m like, ‘Oh. I feel fat, I feel shit,’ but I’ve only bought into that because I’ve been listening to her saying that. I’m in Mexico, I’ve got white sand and blue water – that’s what I should be excited about. I shouldn’t be going ‘omagad my whatever’…genuinely, who gives a fuck…by all means eat healthier – like I want to get fitter – do that, but this unhealthy frame of mind, it’s a bad sickness and I don’t want my daughter to have that in her face.“
Luisa believes dieting magazines and the “yellow circle” magazines in child’s-eye view are more damaging than a “woman with her boobs out,” - I think both are equally damaging to young girls, so let’s not compromise, let’s just get rid of them both.
Along with ‘body fascism’, one of the hackneyed narratives Luisa wants to get rid of is that of slut shaming, “In my shows I’m very careful how I label and perceive women.” Having watched a few of them I can agree, in a piece about how a friend of Luisa’s slept with a boyfriend a week after they broke up Luisa describes her as, well, I remember it as “spunk riddled princess”, but Luisa corrects me, “I think it was actually ‘a cock guzzling, spunk bucket, anal gaping princess.’” - which I think we can all also agree is more amusing than “slut”. She does admit, “in a show it’s easier, because I can just be like ‘girls, this is ridiculous, am I right ladies?’ but in real life it takes quite a bit of effort to go ‘nah I’m cool. I think I look nice, and I think you look nice, so, we’re good.’”
When I ask Luisa what she thinks of the term ‘empowerment’ in regards to women, she thinks it’s “great!” and compares empowerment to being in a computer game and having full battery, full life...
But empowerment isn’t universal for women yet, “look at the simple things like – in comedy – there’s 20 people on the bill tonight, there’s not one woman and that’s ok and not mentioned or referenced. But if you put more than one or two women on the bill, it’s referenced, and we need to spot they’re showing a difference - it’s like with ‘black lives matter’ movement and someone’s like ‘well, actually, all lives matter,’ it’s like, ‘yeah, of course all lives matter, dickhead.’ It’s a perspective, and it’s showing what you’re dealing with, and a cry to get whoever has the upper hand to see it from our perspective.”
Speaking of perspective, Luisa has some dating tips for guys (advertised on the YouTube site as ‘Too explicit for TV!’ even though TV has hardly avoided the explicit since the ‘80s). I asked her how men have reacted to this, “most men been nice and laughed about it, some have been like, ‘who doesn’t wash their willy?’ and I’m like, ‘you’d be surprised, you’d be surprised.’ I thought the blokes would be a bit shitty, like the trolls, saying things like ‘women don’t wash their vaginas!’ But luckily they haven’t thought of that yet…”
As bolshy and hilarious as Luisa is, there’s no avoiding the fact she’s being sidelined. Men with her successes are treated differently, it’s a fact. At Edinburgh this year, where here “dreams came true” back in 2012, she’ll be flying in for 2 nights to do Am I Right Ladies?! and What Would Beyoncé Do?! in a 1,000 seater venue (“Fuck it why not,” she says), this will be the 5th year of her solo show and it’s going stronger than ever; but, it hasn’t received an industry accolade in the UK, and if a venue makes £15,000 in ticket sales, Luisa will be lucky to earn £2,000. Pretty much everything she’s done, she has done by herself, without the ‘right’ people, through hard work. When she came back from touring Australia to the aforementioned 35 million+ hits on YouTube, “The Apollo were like, ‘Yeah, no, she’s not ready yet.’” I don’t think that many people have seen Jack Whitehall’s standup, and he’s done quite a few gigs at the Apollo now (in fact I checked, they haven’t, not even close, his most watched video just brushing below the million, take note, Apollo).
“I’m not particularly inspired by my industry at the moment if I’m honest,” I suggest maybe the industry needs her to change the situation, “I’m trying,” she says, “but it means having a breakdown.”
It would seem things are quite tough out there for a female who just wants to represent the majority of us “I thought I’d be massive by now, I’m like ‘HELLO, I’m, like, commercially accessible,’” but Luisa’s not taking indifference from the “dudes at the table” for an answer. Though she has taken some time out to reassess her life, gain some objectivity and appreciate the many things she has achieved (I suggest we all do this); she’s also got a lot in the pipeline besides her 1,000 seater shows at Edinburgh: a TV pilot waiting for the green light, and, she has reluctantly written a book, “I didn’t want to write a book, I’m not really a writer, but I wrote a book and its coming out in July 14th – it’s on paper for everyone to see how horrible my writing is.” This self-deprecation will disappear once everyone’s telling her how great the book is I hope.
What does Luisa want to do next?
Other than be ok without success? Take over the world. She wants to run a touring show like her ‘Valentines Ball’ she held for single ladies, she wants to do a TV show, she wants to do a film, she wants to tour all the major cities in the country in big venues (“but you’ve got to get really big and famous before you can do a show about being an underdog…”) and she wants What Would Beyoncé Do?! turned in to a Westend Musical – if Luisa doesn’t end up playing the lead herself (I’d be surprised if she didn’t), I’m sure Sheridan Smith will be queuing for a part.
“I would like something magical to happen in my career.” Just make a wish Luisa, it’s coming!
Am I Right Ladies? is available for download from Luisa's website and What Would Beyonce Do?! is available for pre-order on Amazon.