This guest post is contributed by Hollie Bradley, who gets her kicks on stage as a Western saloon entertainer with a spunky attitude. Read about the origins of her alter ego, Ruby May.
Howdy y’all! The name is Ruby May, aka “Hollie Bradley”. If you have not had the chance to meet me in person, I can tell you this much right now. My stage persona, Ruby May, is taking over my life! And for all of the right reasons!
Now I consider myself a newbie in this whole reenacting Western world, but I love every minute of it. I spend my time performing in dance halls and at festivals and reenactments throughout the Midwest. My talents include dancing, singing, and ropin’ and whippin’. I have the utmost pleasure of belonging to the Wandering Minstrels Theatre Troupe, and we spend a majority of our performances putting on skits of old timey medicine shows and saloon shows.
I have been asked several times, “How did Ruby May come to be?” The short version of this story is that, at one point in my life, I became really weak and had severe low self-esteem. In a nutshell, I was on my way to married life and all ready to say the big “I do”. Everything was perfect; I had the dress, had the venue, just landed a new job, and bought the house that was supposed to be perfect for our future family.
It all came crumbling down when I found out that my Prince-Charming-to-be no longer loved just, but others on the side. I was devastated, felt so torn apart. Everything I had known was flipped upside down. I felt betrayed and so disgusted and sick to my stomach.
So here I was, alone in the big city of Columbus, Ohio, having to start over from scratch, no bed, no furniture, no house, no wedding, no happily ever after. I’m not ashamed to admit it now, but I fell into a really dark place and probably depression. I was not eating right, and my thoughts were always focused on “What did I do wrong to deserve this? Why should I live now? Who is going to love me?”
It took MONTHS, hell a year really, to recover! By far the hardest thing I have ever had to learn in this life is “How do we get better, Hollie? What is next for you?”
I had to learn to trust people again, I had to learn to love again without fear of being lied to, and I had to learn to live again. I have been fortunate to have great support from my dance and reenacting friends and my family in Dayton. I found myself leaving as soon as possible from work in Columbus and driving like a mad woman to Dayton to be with them.
So I moved. I packed my life up again and moved, and it was the best thing I ever did for myself. Along with the move came the opportunity for me to dance and perform for a festival I loved so much. Mind you, at this point, I was still very much heartbroken. I was happy to be near friends, but still was incredibly self-conscious about my hurt and my pain.
I tossed the idea of returning back to a festival that had once been part of my life. Why? I was not allowed to do this festival when I was with my ex. I was supposed to be spending my time with him. From sadness and grieving, I found a burning desire to prove him wrong. I was going to perform at Old West Festival, and I was going to be around people who truly loved me!
My performing at Old West Festival allowed me to create the saloon dancing girl ‘Ruby May’, this crazy, brave, big flirt redhead with a big heart and a soft spot for dancing and the western ways.
My Ruby May persona was everything I wanted and dreamed to be. Honestly, at times it felt like I had two personalities to keep up with. I have a blast whenever I step into my Ruby May dancing heels and take a step back into the Old West. I feel so much more confidence, I feel sultry, and have the greatest sense of “This is who I am and I could care less if you don’t like my spunk!” Sometimes, my normal day-to-day self feels trapped and yearns to be on a dance hall stage. I’m always ready to kick up my heels and get back into my 1870’s saloon gown and make the crowd smile and laugh.
My confidence has grown over time as I have attained more tricks, abilities, hobbies, and friends through performing as Ruby May. Others may stare and shake their heads at my friends and I when we dress from centuries ago, but you know what, it’s what we have a passion for. There is nothing more fulfilling in this world than being able to get up in front of a crowd, make them smile and laugh, and hear applause for a great job well done! I’m truly blessed to work with a group of amazing reenactors who are loving and supportive and like family to me.
My advice for others out there, don’t give up what you love. Bask yourself in the sunshine of what you love to do, and everything else will fall into place!
Till next time, so long partners!