Meet the British amputee set to be the new star of Paris' Crazy Horse cabaret

AFP - [email protected]
Meet the British amputee set to be the new star of Paris' Crazy Horse cabaret

"Bionic showgirl" Viktoria Modesta, who is set to take the stage at the Crazy Horse cabaret in Paris next week, has spoken of how she had to reinvent herself after being treated as an outcast over her artifical leg.


Born in Latvia, 31-year-old Viktoria Modesta (her stage name) grew up in Britain and now lives mainly in the US.

Her most high profile role to date was at the closing ceremony of the Paralympics in London in 2012, where she danced wearing a diamond prosthesis before a crowd of some 90,000.

But her show at the Crazy Horse in Paris, which starts on Monday, June 3, is an altogether more risqué affair, as she says she no longer feels the need to suppress her sexuality in the name of her art: "Here I decided to do the opposite. It's really important to bring our sexual identity into the creative process."

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Dancers in rehearsal for Viktoria Modesta's Paris show. Photo: AFP

She will perform using a different prosthesis for each scene, surrounded by dancers with only lighting effects to cover their nudity.

In one number, an "artistic prosthesis" breaks ice and it has already been viewed 12 million times on YouTube.

She said: "The fact that I had an amputation doesn't make me different. There are millions of people with the same physical situation, it's my perspective and my view on the world that really made things different."

She added that the Crazy Horse experience "perfectly captures the essence of femininity" and would allow her to find "a good balance between strength and vulnerability".

Her message "would be that the modern woman... is someone who chooses exactly who she wants to be... There is no limitation of 'I have to be soft or I have to be hard', the thing is creating your own cocktail of qualities".

"I'm going to explore several facets of myself in this performance" at the Crazy Horse.

Born in Latvia under Soviet rule with a malformed left hip and leg due to an accident at birth, Viktoria was 20 when she chose amputation "for medical and psychological reasons".

"When I was born my mum didn't see me for five days," the British national told AFP, noting that her mother was pressured at the age of 17 to send her baby to an orphanage. 

"My mum... saved me from being sent away somewhere," she said.

"Growing up as a kid, it was a lot of adults making decisions on my behalf. 

"And not all of them were correct and I ended up in a situation where my creative spirit didn't align with my physical ability and I really wanted to fix that."

She recalled feeling the harsh judgements of people around her, such as "old ladies looking at you and saying, 'Oh my God, how are you gonna survive when you grow up, who is gonna marry you?'."

She has said previously that she chose to have her leg amputated below the knee to "improve mobility and safeguard future health".

It took her five years to persuade surgeons to do the operation, which she described as literally severing the thing that was holding her back.

Drawing inspiration from avant-garde British fashion designer Alexander McQueen and US artist Matthew Barney, Modesta said: "Your body is the only thing you truly own... It was a part of survival, bringing me a more fulfilling and happy life." 

She grew up mainly in Britain and now lives in the United States, describing herself as a "citizen of the world".



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