What started as a small seed of an idea 4 years ago has grown into an international project involving over 250 people, 4 new World Records, hundreds of showgirls, 6 cities and 2 countries as I seek business mentoring with Sir Richard Branson.
Finally, after a 4 year project we met in London on Monday the 3rd October 2016 at the #VirginDistruptors conference.
To get the full background, let’s start at the beginning.
It began when I wanted to take a group of my showgirls to London, to show them the city I discovered burlesque. I changed the lyrics of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” to “My Heart Belongs To Branson” as an online plea he donate our flights and we were successful, our flights were discounted by Virgin Atlantic.
My goal is now simple, I am turning the My Heart Belongs To Branson campaign into a series of fundraisers. Using Virgin Money Giving as a platform, I am speaking out about my experience with mental illness and raising money to help others focusing my album launch on World Mental Health Day.
Yes, I still want to be mentored by Sir Richard Branson but I’ve been thrilled to connect with Virgin Media Pioneers taking part in their Global Entpreneurship workshops Take on Challenges and Change The World. Being part of a community of business owners provides great support and camaraderie.
It all began when I read about Sir Richard’s journey starting Virgin. I realised his tenacity reminded me of my own. I had been around the world 4 times to find the right music producers to record my album. Although Sir Richard sold Virgin Records to EMI in 1992, I realised that connecting with him and showing creative ingenuity with my lyrics and my fun videos could help me launch the next evolution of my music career and label.
I also want to showcase the charities I support, the volunteer work I do with non-profit organisations and I want to ask Sir Richard for business advice. To attain a personal introduction to his contacts in the music industry would be life-changing.
(Oh yeah, he could paint me on the side of plane in my Aussie flag corset any day, too!)
Below is the timeline of events that have lead to this idea snowballing from a small seed of inspiration to an international project that caught the attention of Sir Richard himself and secured support from Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia and Virgin Active.
From one song, I have now created a photobook, soon to be revealed, because the more I find out him, the more I realise, indeed…
MY HEART BELONGS TO BRANSON
My Heart Belongs To Branson – Rough Draft filmed on Sapphira’s iPhone at Caulfield Park
Photoshoot at Artic Studios with Jesse Spezza Photographer
Burlesque or Bust ‘My Heart Belongs to Branson’ Artwork created by Theo Thayer of Sevenmilligram
The “Kissing Petition’ begins at my Student Showcase at the Greyhound Hotel, we succeed in collecting over 300 kisses from fans at our shows taking this poster wherever we go.
“My Heart Belongs To Branson” video filmed around Melbourne by James of Zephyr Productions
I advertise on LinkedIn for a publicist to help with the media and publicity for the campaign and enlist the services of Di Rolle who has worked with Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones and Jerry Seinfeld, to name a few. This famed madame of media knows Richard’s former publicist, Heather Jeffrey.
10th of FEBRUARY 2013
Get Us To London Fundraiser – Charles Billich sketches me to help raise funds to get the showgirls to London. He comments “You have have something in common with Richard, I have sketched him, too. Only he wasn’t naked!”
14th of FEBRUARY
The Valentine’s Day video is released on YouTube and publicised world wide by Di Rolle and my own media contacts. We are featured in the Australian Times, London, The Age, The Port Phillip Leader and on Jamie McIntyre’s website, the entrepreneur that hosted Sir Richard Branson in Australia in 2012.
16th of FEBRUARY 2013
SUCCESS! We receive a response from Helen Clarke, PA to Sir Richard Branson saying ‘he is delighted’, he sends his love back and offers a 10% discount on our flights
We are on our own Australia Post Stamp! The Burlesque or Bust design gets approved and we become the first Australian burlesque troupe to be on a stamp. We raffle off our official stamp set to raise funds for our trip. SUCCESS!
19th of MARCH 2013
We have been supported by Jamie McIntyre, the entrepreneur who hosted Sir Richard Branson at his revolutionary 21st Century Education event in Australia. I meet with Jamie to thank him for posting our story on the homepage of his website and to ask about the best way to approach meeting Richard when he visits Australia this time. He is a lovely guy! He offers to contact Deb, who looks after Richard’s schedule to see if there is 10 minutes I can spend with Richard when he is in Australia… Will this be the avenue I hoped for?
I begin contact with Virgin Atlantic staff and am authorised to use the Virgin Atlantic logo on the Burlesque Or Bust Artwork
I also contact the National Achiever’s Congress, the organisation bringing Sir Richard out to speak in Adelaide and Perth. I forward them the artwork endorsed by Virgin Atlantic and offer to perform at their events. I even send them a link to the ‘My Heart Belong to Branson’ video. They decline. Boo!
At our next student showcase, I get the inspiration to create a “My Heart Belongs to Branson” Harlem Shake. We film this at the Greyhound hotel with 70 students, a gymnast and aerialist!
It was a LOT of fun!
We are getting closer to departure, I know Sir Richard is arriving in Australia and I am seeking out all options to meet him. I have already met Jamie McIntyre, I now seek an opportunity with Amber Jackson in PR and Marketing at Virgin Atlantic in Sydney. I also try the National Achiever’s Congress again, this time recording a new intro to my video and offering it to them to use. Leaving now stone unturned, I offer my video to Virgin Atlantic to play on the plane as Sir Richard arrives into Australia.
None of these opportunities come to fruition. Sheesh!
9th of MAY 2013
I fly to Adelaide to attend the National Achiever’s Congress as a participant. I have received a free ticket from my publicist and then upgraded for $19 for a VIP seat to be closer to the stage.
I go in full showgirl costume. I hope I can catch Sir Richard’s eye as he speaks.
I am surrounded by security just before Sir Richard goes on stage. Circled by heavy set guards, I am persuaded into handing over the Kissing Petition poster which we have lovingly collected kisses on for over 8 months. (I wonder how much of a threat I pose in a corset and fishnets? Weapons of mass seduction, perhaps?)
The guards promise to take my poster backstage to Richard and to text me when this has been done. True to their word, they deliver the poster, both texting and calling me to say Helen Clarke, the PA who authorised our flights, was backstage and had received the poster and recognised me immediately. SUCCESS!
12th of MAY 2013
I am alerted by my publicist, Di, that Sir Richard is dressing as an air stewardess after losing a bet! I find this news hysterical. I get a great idea when I see the YouTube of the day which is titled “Coffee, Tea or Me?”
15th of MAY 2013
We leave for London. I don my Australian flag costume for the 10am flight to Sydney! I want to stand out. We give out copies of our Burlesque or Bust poster to staff and crew, posing for photos with crew and passengers.
26th of MAY 2013
The ‘My Heart Belongs To Branson’ stage show,debuts at Madame Jojo’s in London’s West End. We receive support from Australian press in London. The Australian Times and TNT Magazine.
BURLESQUE FOR BRANSON – READ THE ARTICLE
We also debut our latest creation the “Sparkle Atlantic – Sexy Safety Demonstration”. The piece goes down to thunderous applause and was inspired by the air hostesses on the Virgin Atlantic flights. We also give a tongue in cheek response to Richard’s recent appearance on Air Asia in an air hostess costume, it’s our own tribute – “Coffee, Tea or Me?”
“He really likes you. You certainly got his attention with that video!”
I meet with the Virgin Atlantic press office in Crawley, England. I present them with a poster to say thank you for their support and find out more about the workings of the organisation and how to reach Sir Richard. Whilst there I help out on reception answering phones (see below!) and pick up a copy of the internal Virgin Group Magazine, titled the Roger Collective. In here, I learn of Virgin Pioneers, a mentoring program. An idea starts to form. Hmmm.
22nd JUNE 2013
I make contact with Virgin Management’s Head of Press and send Sir Richard a postcard from London to thank him for his support and for inspiring me.
15th of JULY 2013
Back now in Melbourne, I begin the next phase of my ideas to reach Sir Richard. A series of YouTube videos. A stage show has already been forming in my head. I recruit a new team of showgirls and we head to Carpe Diem Studios in Northcote owned by Jeff Osman.
Originally we had planned only to film our ‘Sexy Safety Demonstration’ but I have just discovered it is Sir Richard’s birthday on the 18th of July so I have also hired a life-size cake to record a special song.
16th of JULY 2013
I rally the support of Graphic Designer, Theo of Sevenmilligram and we create the Happy Birthday Branson artwork.
I also contact Daisy Wallace at Virgin Management and get photo clearance to use the image of Sir Richard Branson that I found on the internet. She gives me the thumbs up!
18th of JULY 2013
Happy Birthday Branson Video
Move over Marliyn Monroe, I go beyond sexy in this rendition of Happy Birthday for Sir Richard. You could I say I like to have his cake and eat it, too! I send the video to PA Helen Clarke who responds to say it was very thoughtful and promises to share it with the big man!
27th of SEPTEMBER
www.myheartbelongstobranson.com launches.TA DA!
It’s a central online blog for all our Branson antics!
20th of OCTOBER 2013
At the National Achiever’s Congress in Adelaide, I had been inspired when I heard Doug Nelson speak about a course called Millionaire Mind Intensive. The course was happening in Melbourne so I signed up and stayed back late at the end of the course to meet with Doug himself. After all, he had shared a stage with my heartthrob, Sir Richard! He was happy to pose for a photo and remembered me from the Adelaide event.
29th OF OCTOBER 2013
Great minds think alike! We had filmed a quirky “Sexy Safety Demonstration” for Sir Richard and the Virgin Atlantic staff in July, we learn Virgin America has launched one of the most successful viral videos with their own take on the Safety Video, created by Virgin Produced.
I contact Brian Skuletich at Virgin Produced and send him our quirky Sexy Safety Demonstration video.
11th NOVEMBER 2013
Sir Richard posts a link to a video documentary about Virgin Records. I watch the video with keen interest. I have started my own record label to release my music, Domina Records. I realise this could be the opportunity I need for a personal introduction to Virgin Records and Director of A&R, Evan Peters to break my album into the big time. With an agenda for “creative distruption” I know the next phase of Sapphira’s evolution aligns with the Virgin Records’ ethos as I bring erotica and electronica together. “Highly finished”… “Velvety & Opulent” – Beat Magazine
All aboard Sparkle Atlantic. Would you like to join the mile high club? We have a
Sexy Safety Demonstration for you!
PS. We think our costumes are just as good as Vivienne Westwood’s new design for Virgin Atlantic.
18th of November 2013
I meet Dita Von Teese. The Sapphira’s Showgirls 2014 Calendar has been completed and I have dedicated it to Dita and other inspirational figureheads in my performance career. The calendar also thanks Sir Richard Branson.
A special Christmas tribute to Sir Richard, with the hope he’ll grant this showgirl’s wish… Paint me on the side of a plane, I’m game!
1st of JANUARY 2014
Sapphira’s Showgirls Calendar 2014 Calendar Launches. We donate 10% of proceeds to Virgin Money, the non-profit charitable organisation supporting those “Where It’s Needed Most” around the world.
14th of FEBRUARY 2014
A new Valentine’s Day declaration – “I want to Skype with You”. We aim to get Sir Richard’s attention in a big way. I recruit 6 showgirls to fly with Virgin Australia to Sydney to deliver a Valentine’s gift for Sir Richard to Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Active and we plan to meet his friend, Luke Mangan at the Glass Brasserie after posing for photos with my dear friend and famous artist, Charles Billich, who has sketched Sir Richard himself.
The Valentine’s gift has one message “I want to Skype with you”. I am asking for 15 minutes of Sir Richard’s time.
We stop at Virgin Atlantic’s head office and then make our way to Darling Harbour!
I record a special video for Sir Richard asking him to by MY darling on Darling Harbour!
15th of FEBRUARY 2014
SUCCESS! I am booked to teach a sassy burlesque masterclass at Virgin Active gyms in Melbourne. I am now part of the Virgin family.
1st of MARCH 2014
6 degrees of separation! I walk into teach a hen’s class and one of the students, in fact, the sister of the bride, who only joined the class last minute says “Are you part of that Branson thing?” It turns out Caris is a Virgin Australia flight attendant and had looked after us on the way back from our Valentine’s Declaration for Sir Richard on Friday 14th of Feb just a few weeks earlier. IT’S A SIGN!
22nd of MARCH 2014
The Melbourne burlesque community united for Burleskathon, a Guinness World Record attempt for the longest continuous 24 hours of non-stop burlesque performance to raise funds for Charity. We decided it was too good an opportunity to miss and took Sir Richard along for the ride performing our song, I Wanna Be Loved By You for him
23rd of MARCH 2014
Virgin Australia were sponsoring the Melbourne Fashion Festival! I took Sir Richard along for the ride!
IN THE PRESS! A major 6 page glossy feature story outlining the adventures I have had in business and with my showgirls. Of course, there is a mention of who know who! You can read or download the mag online!
4th of JULY 2014
WEDDING BELLS! My heart belongs to Tonestepa. I get married to my true love, Antony Silcock. The music producer I have fallen in love with throughout 5 years of writing my album with him remotely from Bristol to Melbourne. We met online whilst I worked at MySpace.com. Sorry, Richard, I still love you, too!
THURSDAY 18th OF SEPTEMBER 2014
Virgin Atlantic takes off with Illamasqua! We learn our favourite make-up brand, Illamasqua, who has sponsored our events and made-over our girls for TV appearances, music videos and all our major photoshoots has partnered with Virgin Atlantic. We had used Illamasqua to do our make up for the Sexy Safety Demonstration we sent to Virgin Atlantic only a year earlier. This time Illamasqua creates Virgin, the Glamore lipstick for ground staff and crew at the airline. Pucker up!
19th of SEPTEMBER 2014
A new Guinness World Record – it’s official! Along with the other performers at Burleskathon, we achieve a new world record – the Longest Burlesque Marathon Relay of 24 Hours Continuous Performance. The Guinness World Record Headquarters confirms the entry was successful. (Our performance was a tribute to Sir Richard Branson, I Wanna Be Loved By You! AMAZING.)
22nd of OCTOBER 2014
News of the group World Record with Burleskathon and my campaign to meet Richard Branson makes the front page headline in the UK. READ THE STORY – click here
19th of NOVEMBER 2014
Virgin StartUp Ignition: an event celebrating female entrepreneurs. I attend the amazing Virgin Start Up event in London and learn about how to get funding for my new business and hear from amazing female business leaders including Jacqueline Gold, founder of Anne Summers.
13th of FEBRUARY 2015
Happy Valentine’s Day, Richard! Our Burleskathon World Record certificate arrives and tributes you. It is sent on in time for Valentine’s Day.
And we receive more press, thanks to Plymouth Herald who credit Burleskathon and the 77 other Australian Artists who achieved the World Record – GO TEAM. READ THE STORY – click here
3rd of MARCH, 2015
I have entered the Virgin Start Up competition for my business idea in the hope I will win and get to be mentored by Richard Branson himself.
I visit the Guinness World Records London head office with my certificate dedicated to Sir Richard Branson and apply for a new World Record Attempt.
13th of FEBRUARY 2016
We did it!
We achieve the RecordSetter Fastest Glove Peel Relay in London. 32 people – 21.02 seconds
Thanks to our supporters, Benefit Cosmetics, Angels Fancy Dress, Miss PinUp UK and Burlesque Jems.
But wait, there’s more… We also set a Record Setter World Record for Most Lip Prints Collected on a Kissing Petition
15th of FEBRUARY 2016
The Kissing Petition is delivered in person to the Virgin Management Head Office in London.
The UK wide entrepreneur search, Pitch To Rich takes place. The prizes include up to £1 million in opportunities and rewards for the winning business. Sapphira’s Showgirls enter!
10th of May 2016We have great success during the Pitch To Rich campaign, including a front page newsstory, thank you to our friends at Plymouth Herald.
27th of MAY 2016
We sadly don’t make the Top 80 in our category but, to our delight, whilst we are in Ibiza setting up meetings for the Ibiza Burlesque Festival, Sir Richard tweets us personally!
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) May 27, 2016
I am thrilled to be invited on a cruise with Thames Luxury Charters by Putney Social Club. They have hired The Edwardian. a boat built by Sir Richard Branson.
12th of SEPTEMBER 2016
When I heard Sir Richard would be in London speaking at the #VirginDisruptors event I launched a Crowdfunding campaing to raise the funds to attend. My heartfelt thanks goes to each and every supporter, to see my backers click here.
At last, I meet this inspirational figure! Thank you to Tamara at Virgin Management and the press office team.
I am now Crowdfunding to raise a stretch target of £10,000 for expanding my business across London and Ibiza.