Updated: No Fat, No Contract: Meet Zumanity’s Botero Sisters
by Jennifer Jonassen
One of the best days of my life was spent last month at an audition for the Cirque du Soleil!
It has long been a dream of mine to perform with them and I feel like I have finally taken a gigantic step to making that goal become a reality. My official New Year’s resolutions have now become: 1- to learn circus skills and 2- to learn French really fast! True to Cirque du Soleil form the audition itself was quite magical. By the end of the day I was floating around on cloud nine, feeling invincible & left the audition feeling like I had been a part of an actual Cirque du Soleil show.
For me, the powerful message I receive from the Cirque du Soleil is that anything is possible.
I was particularly inspired after seeing an article about Zumanity with a picture of Licemar and Luciene Medeiros aka The Botero Sisters.
The Botero Sisters are part of the racy Cirque du Soleil ensemble that comprise: Zumanity Another Side of Cirque du Soleil (performed in Las Vegas at the New York New York Hotel & Casino.) Clad mostly in feathers & fishnets, Li & Lu strut the stage showgirl style, positively bursting with sensuality and playfulness as they guide the audience through this super sexy show. Last month, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Lu & Li in between their Sunday night performances. Offstage, the sisters are equally exuberant and inviting, laughing a lot and clearly enjoying life with the Cirque du Soleil. I was immediately struck by their absolute confidence. They seem to be completely at home in their bodies! And it is my very great pleasure to share my interview with them to you…
JJ: You come from Eight generations of circus performers-What is it like growing up in the circus?
Lu: In a circus family you get to know everything- acrobatics, juggling, stunts, clowning- everything.
JJ: Is it as fantastical and romantic as it sounds?
Lu: It is a lot of hard work. Especially for the traditional families. Today it is better. Today they don’t push the kids to do it. But before in my parent’s life and my grandfather’s life it was hard. But not for us. We loved it. But our family stopped traveling with the circus for us so we could be normal. Now we’re in Cirque du Soleil so it didn’t work! (laughter)
Li: But when we stopped traveling with the circus we started doing theatre, tap dancing, dance and more. So as a result we grew more- especially for the Cirque du Soleil where you have to be a very versatile artist. One thing is not enough. You have to do more.
JJ: When you originally auditioned for Cirque du Soleil did you know it was going to be a sexy show?
Lu: No. We originally auditioned for Cirque du Soleil in 1997 we passed through the audition and we waited a couple of years until they called us. And we could not come in 1999 then after two more years they called us in for Zumanity. And this was perfect because they said they were going to fit the roles in for us in Zumanity. Because for us, being a team it is hard to replace someone in another show. So we had to wait until they could create roles for both of us. The good part of Cirque du Soleil is that they don’t look at your body they look at your talent.
Li: And it’s not over looking our bodies either- it’s also appreciating our bodies, it’s dressing us in fishnets and sexy lingerie.
JJ: That is what I love about it! The fact is you don’t usually see a lot of larger actresses in a sexy role. Especially in Vegas!
Li: Usually they cover themselves. They play mothers. We’re not. We walk around with feathers, with bikinis, as showgirls.
JJ: Were you comfortable with it right away or was it something you grew into?
Lu: No I was OK from the get-go!
Li: You have to feel sexy!
JJ: Did you grow up with that confidence? Did you have any role models?
Lu: We grew up clear. I think it’s all in your mind. If you think you are sexy you are sexy. And when we walk onstage and see all the beautiful girls in the show with their beautiful & perfect bodies I feel like I am sexy just like them. People believe because you believe. That’s the game.
Li: In Zumanity there are so many different kinds of body types represented onstage.
Lu: We were so excited about Zumanity-when they first gave us the script for it we were so excited we said: Oh my God that’s going to be the show for us! When we arrived in Montreal we looked at everybody and everyone was so different.
Li: Like a zoo!
Lu: It’s a zoo. It’s fantastic. Everybody’s so singular, everybody’s so different everybody is special. Everybody is so sexy and so beautiful how they are!
JJ: You both really exude sexuality onstage and it is very empowering to watch. The fact that you are essentially naked is amazing to watch. It must be so liberating!
Lu: Actually it is a costume.
JJ: But it is so skintight & see through you might as well be completely naked!
Li: Yes in a way you feel naked!
JJ: How did you come to create the characters you play in Zumanity?
Lu: The characters were created in six months. It was hard. Because Dominic Champagne (our director of creation) came to us and said we would be playing twins but we need different personalities. We can’t be the same. One is the good sister and one is the bad sister. But we have a little of both.
Li: The Boteros… they can kiss & bite at the same time. They (the characters) are crazy! They can change minds in the snap of a finger! People in the audience never know whom they are going to get!
Lu: It was hard in the beginning. And the idea was to be a little bit like every single girl in the show. Be sexy like Julia. Be crazy like Abby. Hot like Marcela. Be mean to Arslan.
JJ: I really love that your characters in particular are so multi-layered. Do you have a favorite scene?
Lu: Strawberries-the beginning of the show.
JJ: That’s my favorite part too!! (They feed strawberries to the audience.)
Li: Everyday it’s different! Every single show is different. It’s fantastic to be with the audience.
JJ: Is it a little bit scary to interact with the audience?
Lu: It is. It’s a game. You never know if you’re going to win or if you’re going to lose! (They laugh) You have to be awake all of the time! You never know what is going to happen! Sometimes the wives get jealous and sometimes they encourage you!
JJ: Was being larger ever an obstacle in the circus?
Lu: In Brazil it was difficult for us in the beginning because they believe you have to be skinny to be onstage: you have to be skinny to do acrobatics onstage even to do juggling.
Li: In the beginning it was hard for us because we tried to be skinny. Never happened! And one day we looked at each other and said: let’s do everything the way we are. When we started to do that then everyone started saying, “Oh my God this is great!” Our act was a great surprise to them. And the “Botero Sisters” were born!
JJ: Did you get the name from the artist?
Lu: Yes Fernando Botero. Because he paints only big girls and that’s why we picked the name.
JJ: I always ask women I interview what term they prefer: plus size, large, zaftig, voluptuous, fat etc.
Lu: Well I’m fat!!! (Laughter)
JJ: You know nine times out of ten women say that prefer the word fat! I do too actually.
Lu: We used to say we were fexy. We’re fat and sexy!
JJ: FEXY! I like that a lot!
Li: No fat no contract! Everyone says we’re so lucky!
JJ: That’s my kind of of contract!
Lu: Actually it’s funny because to keep the job we have to stay at our exact weight. We can’t go higher and we can’t go less! And we are playing twins so we have to look the same all the time. It’s harder than you think.
JJ: You have a lot of strength and endurance as well.
Lu: We work out and take classes everyday.
JJ: There is a misconception of large women being weak or unable to move.
Li: People see fat people as being sick or lazy and that’s not true. Fat people can do anything they want. I know some skinny people who are a lot lazier than me for example! (Laughter)
Lu: It’s not all your body. It’s your mind too. If you think you can and if you want to do something you will.
Li: Discover your body and see what you can do!
JJ: Great advice indeed! And for all my readers out there here is some more great advice: if you have any question about what to do for Valentine’s Day this year- let me suggest you run and get some tickets to this hot little show guaranteed to spice up your night. If you are not near Vegas for Zumanity then you should check out www.cirquedusoleil.com and catch a show that is playing in your area. They are all magnificent! In the meantime – I am off to clown class so au revoir mes amis!