In 2012, Selina Jenkins made the biggest and breast decision of her life.
A multi-award winning Cabaret artist, musician, and comedian, Selina’s new show, BOOBS, recounts her personal experiences with body image, and her life-changing decision to have a voluntary double mastectomy. She wasn’t transitioning and didn’t have cancer, but she did have an issue. No Australian surgeon was willing to perform the surgery, and she was forced to seek international surgical advice. In a world where breast augmentation is one of the most popular and common kinds of cosmetic surgery, it seems bizarre that a breast removal is not as easily accessible.
Selina’s last work, Thy Neighbour, had a sold out 2018 season, was nominated for two Green Room Awards (Cabaret ‘Best Artiste’ and ‘Best Production’) and Melbourne Fringe’s ‘Best Cabaret’ Award. She is excited to be bringing her roller coaster of comedy and catharsis to Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the Midsumma Festival season.
Could you tell me a bit about your journey into Comedy?
I began experimenting with character comedy about fifteen years ago. I’d been playing the pub scene in Melbourne as a musician for a while and had noticed two things. Firstly that audiences seemed to enjoy my jokes and banter between songs as much as the songs themselves and that I was often the only woman amongst a sea of male performers. The idea behind performing as a relatable male character who loved telling a yarn and having a sing was initially a bit of a statement about the male heavy scene at the time. It wasn’t long however, before ‘Beau Heartbreaker’, the flannelette wearing farm boy I had created, became a real crowd favourite. In 2006 I entered ‘Beau’ into the Melbourne International Comedy Festival RAW Comedy competition. I made it through to the televised final alongside Hannah Gadsby, Celia Pacquola, and Tom Ballard to name a few. Beau continued to mature as a character from there, delivering award winning full length shows about his worldly adventures to audiences both nationally and internationally. I also performed as Beau as a part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow, touring extensively around Australia for a couple of years and appearing on ABC ‘Comedy Up Late’. I’ve hung my character comedy hat up for now and have been performing as myself since 2018. It’s taken a while to find my voice, outside of the character, but my love for storytelling and musical comedy hasn’t wavered. Losing myself in a ridiculous gag as the audience does the same is pure joy.
Why did you decide to tell your personal story as part of your show?
My writing has always been predominately autobiographical. I find it easier to share my stories than those of a fictional nature. The storyline that weaves through ‘BOOBS’ is a particularly personal one that has taken me seven years to find the courage to speak about. I have been frightened to share this story, and that fear has not been unfounded. The world can be a very cruel and punishing place. But I do feel equipped to share my experiences now, and I think there are people who can benefit from that.
Is it hard to use personal experience as material?
Depending on the material, it can be incredibly emotionally taxing. If it’s a trauma that you’re sharing, the performance itself can feel triggering and re-traumatising at times. But the same can be said for material that evokes fond feelings. This new show ‘BOOBS’ is an absolute pleasure to perform because it feels as though I’ve been hiding a wonderful secret for seven years and I’ve finally found the courage to speak it. I think once you move past worrying about what others may think and concentrate on creating work that you’re proud of, the personal becomes a whole lot less intimidating to share.
Why do you think it’s important for stories such as yours to be shared in the mainstream?
I truly believe that the more stories we hear, the more accepting we become of people who are living different experiences to our own. Exposure to diversity makes us better people, we become more compassionate and understanding. These stories may not always be able to shift the mainstream and it’s way of thinking and behaving, but they do reach out to those who are marginalised in a show of support and acknowledgement.
What can audiences expect from Boobs?
It is probably best for audiences to leave any expectations they may have about this show at the door.
There is a lot of ‘boob’ content, a lot of laughs, gasps and even a natural disaster. But the chances are, you probably haven’t heard a story quite like this before.
BOOBS opens on Wednesday 29th Jan as part of Midsumma Festival.
For tickets and more information, please visit the Arts Centre Melbourne website.