Unseen Iconic Showgirls: Bibi Andersen

How performer Bibi Andersen moved from a neglectful childhood to one of the most recognised figures in the Spanish art scene.

Bibiana Fernandez was born in Tangier, Morocco in 1954. She lived a complex childhood where her parents divorced on Christmas night when she was just 6 years old. Bibi and her brother went to live with their father, who didn’t really spend any time with them. During the day, he worked as a taxi driver, and at night he spent his entire salary on bars and sex workers. Bibi remembers picking him up from the brothels so he could take her and her brother to school.

At 13, in an attempt to escape that toxic lifestyle, Bibi moved from Tangier to Malaga, Spain, and from there to Barcelona, where she tried her luck as an artist. Just as her childhood was not easy, due to her father’s fondness for night-time running, it was also not easy to find her way in the Spain of the time. The extreme right-wing dictatorship of the military man Francisco Franco had a zero-tolerance policy for homosexuality -let alone transsexuality.

Bibi began her career in Barcelona’s Paralelo, an area that concentrated the country’s top theatres, music halls and cabarets. Her first performances were at the Ferrer clubs, where she shared the stage with strippers and drag queens. From there, she went on to perform in the theatrical revue, where she made her showgirl debut.

In this period, she was discovered by director Vicente Aranda, who gave her the lead role in the 1977 film‘Sex Change‘, a movie in which she explicitly bares her pre-op anatomy, causing uproar in the political, religious and journalistic spheres of the time. In a matter of weeks, Bibi went from being just another showgirl to the most recognized figure in the Spanish artistic scene. Her new star status, allowed her to join the so-called Movida Madrileña, a counter-cultural movement that emerged in Madrid during the late-1970s, in which the biggest names in art, fashion and music participated.

In the scene, Bibi befriended film director, Pedro Almodóvar, and under his direction, she appeared on films that earned both of them international fame. With him and his group of unconditional friends, they brought to life the nights of the Madrid scene in the 1980s and also formed the group known as the Almodóvar girls. 

Bibi proved not only to be an excellent artist: actress, singer and dancer, but she also managed to do everything she wanted, even if her family, her situation or even the government forbade it. Today, she is recognized as a trailblazer for trans performers all over the world, and at 66 she is still beautiful and more active than ever.

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