Beauty and Violence at the Shoreham Wordfest October 2017 – talk by writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi

Writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi will be appearing at Shoreham Wordfest Literary Festival to talk about her memoir Bound Feet Blues: A Life Told in Shoes (published by Urbane Publications). She will be discussing the key theme of the book, Beauty and Violence and why it is still relevant to talk about the brutal practice of bound feet today.

Do come and join her for what will be an intriguing event!



VENUE:  Ropetackle Arts Centre, Little High Street, Shoreham By Sea, BN43 5EG ¦ ¦ ¦ 01273 464440





How much do you love your daughter? Do you love her enough to bind her feet, if that means she can have a life of wealth and luxury?


In this talk about her memoir, Bound Feet Blues – A Life Told in Shoes, writer/performer Yang-May Ooi explores the love that drove mothers to bind their daughters’ feet in ancient China – and why remembering the brutal practice of foot-binding is still relevant for us as modern, Western women today.

Bound Feet Blues interweaves the story of Yang-May’s great-grandmother whose feet were bound, with the author’s own personal coming-out story to explore what it means to be a woman, not just in ancient times in the East, but also for us today in the West.

The talk will be illustrated with historical photos and family archive pictures. Yang-May will read sections from her memoir and also perform a short extract from the stage version of Bound Feet Blues.

You can find out more about Yang-May’s memoir Bound Feet Blues on the book’s Amazon page:

How we perform our selves in every day life [Bound Feet Blues, the BOOK]

Bound Feet Blues, the BOOK, explores the theme of performance in theatre and in our every day lives, using the metaphor of bound feet and fashion. Writer/ performer and author of the book, Yang-May Ooi, explains why performance fascinates her.

Yang-May writes:

Bound Feet Blues, my memoir in book form, opens at my first staged performance of the theatre version of the Bound Feet Blues story. The first chapter describes what it felt like for me to step out in front of an audience under the spotlights to perform the story of my family and my own life.

That first performance at Conway Hall described in the book was captured on video – highlights below:

Acting and Authenticity

We sometimes mistake performance or acting as inauthentic. We think that acting means pretending to be someone that we are not. Of course that is factually true when actors play a fictional role or are portraying a real person on film or in a play but even then actors always seek to be real and honest in the emotions that they depict. For me, portraying myself and my family on stage, it was deeply important to be authentic to my own story and also theirs. The emotions and story I portrayed were real and truthful within the frame of the drama.

The experience of that performance made me reflect on the performance of my self over the last few decades.

“Performing” My Life

In the book, Bound Feet Blues, I write about how I “performed” the role of a Bright Young Thing in my student days in Oxford, going to balls and dressing as a beautiful “China Doll”. Later, I “performed” the role of a high-achieving lawyer in London in the yuppy atmosphere of the ’80s. When I came out, I “performed” as a boyish lesbian in baggy chinos and lace ups. It was only after all this experimentation that I finally came to be able to express who I really am – a mix of feminine and masculine, sometimes high powered, sometimes slobby and lazy, sometimes beautifully dressed, sometimes not.

Yang-May Ooi at Pride “performing” the tomboy self. This photo is one of many in her book, Bound Feet Blues

How do you “perform” different aspects of your character?

We all perform who we are to some extent. Think about how you show Continue reading

Introducing the world of Bound Feet Blues: Going to a ball at Oxford

Bound Feet Blues takes the audience on a journey across Europe, Asia and Australia to tell the stories in writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi’s family and in her own life. We will be giving you a snapshot of these landscapes here on this blog over the next few weeks.

Today, Oxford.

Bound Feet Blues opens with a beautiful young woman walking along Oxford’s High Street  to a summer ball in stiletto shoes…

Here are some photos of the beautiful university city of Oxford and its gorgeous summer balls…


from, thanks to Jessica Keating Photography – (CCL)


from thanks to Queens Ball 2010 – (CCL)

Bound Feet Blues: “young men in black tie and us girls in our beautiful ball dresses” – writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi, aged 20, with “Josh” on the night of the ball

Continue reading

Do our shoes shape who we are? [video] – Yang-May Ooi, writer/ performer of Bound Feet Blues, thinks so

Yang-May Ooi, writer/ performer of Bound Feet Blues – A Life Told in Shoes, talks about how shoes and bound feet in her extra-ordinary theatre piece are a metaphor for who we are – and who we long to be.

Bound Feet Blues – A Life Told in Shoes is a solo story performance written and performed by Yang-May Ooi and directed by Jessica Higgs. A memoir of the same name by Yang-May Ooi is also being published.

In an epic journey from China via East Asia and Australia to England, British-Malaysian writer-performer Yang-May Ooi explores female empowerment and desirability through the oral histories of three generations of her family and the shoes in her life. Yang-May uses the ancient Chinese tradition of footbinding experienced by Continue reading

Boy or girl? A gender busting clothing line from Selfridges

Selfridges is creating a gender blended clothes shopping space so that you can select clothing that is not gender stereotyped. How cool is that!

This news piques my interest because I’ve always been a tomboy. In Bound Feet Blues,  I talk about wearing boy clothes and boy shoes. One of the themes of the show is gender roles and identity within a cultural expectation of what a woman should be like – and look like in the context of her feet and clothing.

You can check out the Agender section in Selfridges website – or go to the store itself –  to see how their clothes may  or may not complement your personal style.

UEG Para Bellum jersey shorts (Black

From what I can see, the clothing seems generally shapeless and baggy so as to hide all curves or forms that might give an observer a clue to the wearer’s gender.

What that made me realise was that I don’t want to look genderless! Despite still retaining a tomboy sensibility, I love being a woman and I enjoy wearing clothes that express the femininity of my physique. It’s just that I don’t go for the particularly “femmey” look involving flower prints, floaty skirts and girly shoes. I haven’t really analysed my personal style before but I suppose it’s still tomboyish but Continue reading

Kick Ass Boots

For a change from the series of wacky high heels I’ve been sharing, here’s a pair of funky strappy  biker style boots that really take my fancy…


Giuseppe Zanotti


They are the kind of footwear that you can stride through life in – and kick ass if you need to…

Continue reading

How to wear a Cheongsam [Extract from Chapter One: Stilettos – Bound Feet Blues, The Book]

As you may know, I’ve been working on Bound Feet Blues – The Book which brings together the stories behind the story of the show. I have just finished Chapter One: Stilettos, bringing it home at 17,000+ words. The chapter goes behind the scenes of the opening sequence of the theatre performance, which depicts me walking to a ball in stilettos and a red cheongsam, aged 20.

I share stories of my coming of age as a young woman at Oxford, falling in love and discovering the power of my femininity – and how I transformed from a shy, awkward fresher into a woman who can sashay along confidently in a slinky evening gown.

” You must be sleek and slim – and curvaceous, but only in the right places”

Here is an extract, describing what it takes to wear the tight fitting, figure hugging, seductive Chinese traditional dress, while walking in heels…

I like this shade of red. The grey backdrop has given me an idea, what about light grey cheongsams for the bridesmaids? That could look really nice and help the bride stand out more.


“There is something about the severity of the high collar and the unforgiving close fit of the cheongsam  that requires a sternness in your upper body as you wear it. You cannot slack if you are to keep the cloth from creasing over your belly or pulling up over any untoward bumps and crevices. You must be sleek and slim – and curvaceous, but only in the right places, which is why the dress has to be tailor made for exactly your shape and cannot be Continue reading

Now that’s what I call Killer Heels

The Guardian has a terrific gallery of photos showing a selection of totally bonkers high heels including this pair of killer stilettos…. – from an exhibition aptly entitled Killer Heels at the Brooklyn Museum, on now till 15 Feb 2015.

Christian Louboutin. Printz,  Spring/Summer 2013 14. Courtesy of Christian Louboutin.


The gallery shows that high heels were also in fashion in ancient China – see this pair below. They emulated bound feet for the ruling Continue reading

Researching the history of the iconic cheongsam, the Chinese traditional dress

On this wet Sunday afternoon, I am feeling very sorry for myself – laid up with a cold – but I am distracting myself by researching the history of the the cheongsam for Bound Feet Blues, The Book.

What I am learning is that clothing has national and political significance. The cheongsam originated with Manchu rule in China when the Manchurians from the North East overthrew the Ming Dynasty in 1644. They required all men to wear their hair in a plait – known as a queue – and everyone had to wear clothing in the Manchu style: with the high collar and side buttons. Those who defied this requirement could be punished by death. It was a way of dominating the Continue reading

Do you have knee high boots like Emma Peel?

I was a great fan of The Avengers when I was a child.

I’d never seen a woman as feisty as Emma Peel before – and it opened up my mind to what a woman could be! Here she is in her famous catsuit and knee high boots…


Wow, or what?

But at that time, I was a tomboy and did not Continue reading