A year ago, Vix Leyton was terrified of speaking in front of people and hated how she looked.
Working in PR, talking was a big part of her job and she hated having to turn down requests for her to speak at events.
But last New Year’s Eve, after a few drinks, she decided she needed a New Year’s resolution and somehow ended up signing to a half-day comedy course.
With no intention of actually doing comedy, she thought the course would just help her build up some confidence.
But 12 months later, Vix, 35, from London, has become a rising star on the comedy circuit, taking part in over 65 gigs and even launching her own comedy night for female comedians.
She explains: ‘It’s completely changed my life and the way I feel about myself. I would never have imagined something like this and I never thought when I drunkenly booked that course, that it would lead to this.’
Vix had always had issues with self-confidence, which later spiralled into her phobia of public speaking.
She says: ‘When I was at university, I lost weight and I really liked how that felt so I just wouldn’t eat properly for months and months. I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder per se but I developed real issues with food and body image.
‘I’m not sure that ever really left me – I made food a bit of an enemy.
‘Because of that, I’ve never been happy with how I looked. I would hate photos or videos and would dread nights out in case I wasn’t in control of the camera.
‘Over time, that led to a phobia of standing in front of people and doing public speaking but at work, that became very difficult.’
Through her job as head of PR at carwow, Vix would go to conferences and events and was always angry when she saw an all-male panel – but she realised that part of the problem was that she was being asked, but never wanted to accept.
She says: ‘It just became a thing in the back of my mind. I’m constantly complaining about this problem but not part of the solution.
‘I turned down a couple of really cool things I would have loved to do and I was absolutely kicking myself.’
So last New Year’s Eve, Vix was enjoying a few drinks with friends when talk turned to resolutions.
She didn’t have one in place but she decided to commit to something – and after a quick google, she found the Stand Up to Stand Out one-off comedy workshop, which she thought would improve her confidence in the new year.
‘At the time, I thought ‘That sounds like something I could do’. I was riding on the new year, new me vibe,’ she says.
‘But then the reality set in and right up until half an hour before I wasn’t sure if I was going to have the guts to do it.
‘I was going to have to speak in front of people and I thought ‘Why am I put myself through this voluntarily?’ I could have just carried on with my life and just continued to avoid this.’
But Vix plucked up the courage to go to the workshop and within 15 minutes, she started to relax.
They worked through simple exercises to get people talking in front of each other and at the end of the day, they each did a few minutes on stage.
Vix adds: ‘I was still very, very nervous but I managed to do my little bit and I did feel like it had helped.
‘At the end of the day, the course leader asked if I was going to do comedy and up until then, I honestly had never even considered it.
‘I loved making people laugh but the phobic element was so all-encompassing that I would never have imagined doing stand up.’
But realising she might enjoy it and how much it had helped her, Vix posted a slightly half-hearted message on social media asking about things she could do.
She explains: ‘I put on Facebook: “I want to do comedy. Does anybody have any ideas of where I can get started?” No one had anything. So I just ticked the box to say I had tried and that was it.
‘But I also tweeted it and I was followed by the comedian Mark Watson. He was one of my favourite comedians in the world. He tweeted me back and said “are you doing stand up comedy now?”’
Vix explained she had done a course and had been considering it – so Mark gave her the ultimate challenge.
She says: ‘He was doing a 26-hour marathon comedy show and getting people to do challenges so he asked me if I wanted to come on and do it.
‘I was a bit horrified because it was pretty high stakes to start with and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, but I also felt like it was a ridiculous opportunity that would never come round again.’
Vix did the show and throughout the 26 hours, she met other comedians and got feedback. She says the whole experience made her fear just melt away.
By the end of the show, she had her first booking for a gig.
From there, Vix’s comedy career has gone from strength to strength.
She says: ‘I feel ridiculous about all the things I didn’t do before because with comedy you have to be all out there.
‘I’ve done over 65 gigs since then. I’ve become a much braver person – if you step up on stage and do material that you think is hilarious but everyone hates it, it’s hard but you survive it.
‘I’ve learnt the only thing you can control in that situation is your response. You can’t control how other people perceive you or react to you.
‘Whether it’s in comedy, a meeting, an interview, talking about a pay rise, I’ve realised that the worst-case scenario is never actually that bad.’
Vix has also created and developed a night to feature female comedians.
She says: ‘There are a lot of women out there like me who want to do comedy but are too nervous.
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‘It’s a sweep generalisation but often men are more willing to just give it a go but women wait years and really have to plan and build up the courage to do it.
‘I’m 35 and I would never have thought in a million years when I was younger that I would be able to do this.’
Although still committed to her full-time job, Vix says comedy has become a welcome break and she hopes to keep developing both her own profile and her night for women in the next year.
‘It’s just the as an element of my life I never realised that I needed that it was there,’ she says.
Follow Vix’s gigs and events on Facebook.
Have you followed a very unusual New Year’s resolution? Get in touch at [email protected]