Beauty in the Bush : Rachel Bradley
Talent scouts for Australia's Next Top Model might consider galloping to Cape York communities, judging by recent photographs of their young women.
Rachel Bradley is a children's entertainer, singer, actress, make-up artist, face-painter,and most recently Queen of the Knob at Yorkeys, and she has brought a world of beauty and glamour to the girls and young ladies of the Cape, while highlighting them to the world.
"I was working with children with the Kids Living Safer Lives program for AFL Cape York when I was approached 18 months ago by Jerry Rioli, the officer for the PCYC, asking me to do a teenage program," Rachel says from her home in Yorkeys, where she has set up her make-up table, complete with burlesque sequins and top hat.
"I said, 'but I'm a white girl' and he said, 'but you're working on a spiritual level'."
"That inspired the Beauty in the Bush concept."
Rachel and her business partner, manager and mentor, Terry Doyle, had already been visiting Cape communities for two years with their family fun show troupe, aimed at entertaining children with music, make-up and movement.
Now she has brought Beauty in the Bush to Pormpuraaw, Aurukun, Bamaga and 11 indigenous communities overall.
"I've done 13 tours in three years," Rachel says.
She may have been born in Melbourne but Rachel grew up with the bush lifestyle of Alice Springs so she knows what it's like to live an outdoor and isolated existence, but even then she says it wasn't as bad as it is now.
"The difference is we didn't have the internet," Rachel says.
"They (in the Cape) can experience the outside world but they can't touch it."
"They are frustrated. If someone here sees dancers on TV, they can go and take a dance class."
Nothing or nobody could keep Rachel away from the stage.
She trained in the Victoria College of Arts in stage management, costume design and performance, and worked in the Dracula Theatre Restaurant as a stage manager for seven years.
"It's a family business," Rachel says.
Having a yen for performance though, Rachel had quite a frustrated seven years until she had the opportunity to audition for the lead female role.
The show was based on The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and so Rachel sang The Time Warp, and impersonated stars such as Madonna and Uma Thurman.
In 2002, she came to Cairns, and like many before and after her, she has never left.
Nowadays she performs with the Doyle Family Fun Show around Cairns, face-painting and singing at the same time, regaling her fans with original children's numbers such as You've Got to Behave and You Can Do It.
"It's original, good old-fashioned fun," Rachel says.
She hasn't yet though, lost her love of open spaces.
"The bush feels like home," she says.
"I love the night skies."
When up in the Cape with her Beauty in the Bush project aimed at empowering young women and lifting their self-esteem, Rachel enjoys holding exhibitions of their photographs by hanging them in trees.
She has been delighted with the reaction she has received.
Rachel face paints and makes up the girls, using fluoro colours, and dresses them in show outfits, which they really enjoy.
"I've taken up three lots of my own clothes, from long maxi dresses, to tutu materials, to top hats and burlesque outfits," she says.
"The make-up can be done in three minutes and they are shocked when they see themselves."
She shows me some of the girls, and tells me about their reactions, even though some need a bit of persuasion at the outset.
Rebecca, for example, is a sporty girl and said: 'I don't want to wear no girlie make-up' but was thrilled with her new look, Rachel says.
Community elders have also come on board.
"One Aurukun traditional artist was looking after her granddaughter and said your painting is different to mine so I asked her to teach her way," Rachel says.
"It's a chance for the elders and the kids to get together."
Rachel has a team for the trips into the Cape.
Terry Doyle is the photographer and entertainer; Ulrich Strodl is the clown who teaches tightrope-walking and edits the videos; and there's a community gardener going up next to work in old people's respite centres and safe houses for children.
Now when touring schools around Cairns, Rachel and her troupe show the children the photographs and videos of the children and young ladies of the Cape to encourage them to enjoy the outdoors.
"We're celebrating the Cape kids and showing all the activities they do outside," she says.
"All the images show such a positive outlook so people change their perception of community life."
Rachel's ambition is to make a calendar of Beauty in the Bush, with the proceeds to go to youth groups in the Cape.
She and Terry have already held exhibitions of the girls' photographs from individual communities at Tanks Arts Centre's market days.
Photographs of the girls of Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama will be exhibited at the end of June, and frames are being created in the communities for the photographs, which represent their culture.
"The concept behind Beauty in the Bush is first, that the make-up and photographs capture their beauty and build self-esteem, but secondly decorating the frames and creating calendars representative of each of 11 communities and developed and designed in the communities, will promote entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency."
Rachel hopes to hold a full exhibition of all the photographs by the end of the year.
>>To learn more about the Beauty in the Bush project, contact Doyle Entertainment, Ph: 0418 712 906 or visit: www.doylee.com.
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Pictorial Beauties : Rachel Bradley with photos of the girls of the Cape
Napranum Girls : Gallena Wymarra 14 & Shanique Wilson 13yrs Napranum. Photo by Terry Doyle