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

Yang-May Ooi on Resonance FM’s Out in South London talking about Bound Feet Blues with Rosie Wilby

Writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi dropped into the Out in South London studio at Resonance FM earlier this week to talk to Rosie Wilby about Bound Feet Blues, the show and the book. Bound Feet Blues may be about bound feet but it is also Yang-May’s coming out story – and Yang-May chats to Rosie about the metaphor of binding and restriction in the show and how it relates to her emerging lesbian identity. They also talk about friendship and falling in love… of course!

To listen to the conversation with Yang-May, click on the image below:

resonance screenshot

OR click here to launch the audio player

You can also listen to the whole show via the Out in South London Listen Again page for 17 November 2015.

Out in South London

Out In South London is a weekly LGBT radio show on Resonance 104.4FM that goes out live every Tuesday at 6.30pm. It is devised and presented by comedian Rosie Wilby and jointly produced by Rosie Wilby and Sabine Schereck.

Out in South London started as a monthly show on South City Radio in Peckham in December 2008. Rosie was inspired by shows like Out This Week on Radio 5 Live in the 1990s, where she once worked as a trainee reporter. The show transferred to Resonance 104.4FM in late 2009.



**You can buy tickets for Bound Feet Blues via **


Tristan Bates Theatre
1A Tower St, Covent Garden WC2H 9NP

Tue 24 Nov – Sat 12 Dec, Tue – Sat at 7.30pm.
Tickets £16 / £12 concessions.
Q&As post-show, 27 Nov & 4 Dec.

**BUY ONLINE via: **

What LGBTQ stories can teach the world [video] – interview with Yang-May Ooi, writer and performer of Bound Feet Blues

Yang-May Ooi, writer/ performer of Bound Feet Blues, talks about what LGBTQ stories – and esp lesbian stories – can teach the wold about the universal human experiences of love, courage and heroism.

Bound Feet Blues is about more than bound feet. The brutal practice of footbinding in ancient China is a metaphor in the show for the cultural norms that bind us – as women and also in terms of our individual sexuality. An integral part of Continue reading

Read Yang-May Ooi’s article on Coming Out as an Act of Personal Empowerment on Zusterschap for National Coming Out Day

The male gaze has controlled how women look and behave for centuries. In ancient China, that view of women as decorative objects led to the brutal practice of footbinding that crippled Chinese women for a thousand years. Today, women in the West are still expected to be pleasing to men in how we dress and act. In celebration of National Coming Out Day, writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi looks at how coming out as lesbian can be a defiance against that objectifying gaze that is as much about personal empowerment  as it is about sexual orientation….

Read the full article on Zusterchap by clicking on the image below:

zusterchap screenshot

Zusterschap is a blog for women who want to challenge social norms:

“Every woman’s voice is a victory and our goal is to highlight the power of women coming together. No topic is off limits and at Zusterschap we are dedicated to creating a safe space for women.

Our goal is to create a supportive community that anybody can support. We want to encourage people into thinking it’s okay to be different and that it’s okay to want to challenge what society tells us. You don’t have to believe what is being sold to you because it’s all made up anyway.”

Zusterschap was founded March 24th, 2015 by Tara Costello and Katherine Hockley.


You can buy tickets for Bound Feet Blues via


Tristan Bates Theatre
1A Tower St, Covent Garden WC2H 9NP

Tue 24 Nov – Sat 12 Dec, Tue – Sat at 7.30pm.
Tickets £16 / £12 concessions.
Q&As post-show, 27 Nov & 4 Dec.

For National Coming Out Day, read a FREE extract from Yang-May Ooi’s coming out story as told in her memoir Bound Feet Blues, the book

To celebrate National Coming Out Day tomorrow, Sunday 11 Oct, writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi shares an extract from her memoir Bound Feet Blues – A Life Told in Shoes, the book that is inspired by her solo theatre piece of the same name. Bound Feet Blues is as much about Yang-May’s journey to discovering her sexual identity as it is the story of the women in her family. 

Here is the extract from the chapter entitled “Biker Boots” from the book, Bound Feet Blues:

Coming out is a rite of passage.

In the world of debutantes and high society, it is an ancient tradition going back generations. When a young woman comes of age, she is invited to a coming out ball to introduce her to society – and  in the aristocratic classes in Britain, to present her to the monarch. It is her “debut” into the world as an adult – or, rather, as a fertile virgin of a marriagable age. This custom continues to this day among the elite not just in Britain but also, surprisingly, in the ideally classless societies of Australia and the United States.

The coming out ball is the moment when high society gathers to view the future of their dynasties. Debutantes customarily wear white ball gowns, sometimes with long white Cinderella gloves and sometimes with tiaras or both.  If you Google images of  “debutante ball coming out”, you will see that the styles of the ball dresses have changed little since Victorian times and often the young women are indistinguishable from each other in their demure, beautiful uniforms. The eligible young bachelors gather round them in white tie and tails and suddenly, we are back in the world of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey and fairy tale princesses.

For a young woman in that society, to come out is to emerge from Continue reading

Sweet Vintage Photo of Butch and Femme Japanese-style

Bound Feet Blues is as much about my own personal coming out story as it is about the story of great-grandmother with bound feet. Footbinding in the show is a metaphor for the binding up of who we really are, of our natural selves, in order to fit into an social construct of what a woman should be.

The story also explores how I used to be a tomboy and what that meant for me in terms of freedom vs constraint, power vs restriction, heartfelt love vs pretending to be someone I was not. For me, coming out was the ultimate act of unbinding and personal empowerment – signified by the freedom to wear whatever I choose, whether fully female or male attire or an androgynous combination of both….

Two Japanese women featuring vintage cross-dressing.


This vintage photo shows two Japanese women, one in female clothing, the other in man’s clothes. I’ve not been able to Continue reading

First look at the new cover for Mindgame – my lesbian thriller set in Malaysia

I am very excited to share with you the new cover for Mindgame, my second novel and the first – and only – Malaysian lesbian thriller!

The cover is designed by Monsoon Books for the new ebook version that they will be bringing out shortly. It depicts the dark themes of the book quite well, I think:

# the mind manipulation is suggested by the dark swirling cloud to the young woman’s right

# the dream-like, hallucinations bubble up around her, partly light, partly dark

# behind all that, there is an ominous Continue reading