40 OVER 40 Zoe Lyons

September 13, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

40 0ver 40 logo  copy 240 0ver 40 logo copy 2

 

#14

Zoe Lyons

Comedian

Zoe Lyons by Jenny SmithZoe Lyonsby Jenny Smith

 

In an attempt to make my teenage son crack a smile or two, my husband and I booked tickets to see Micky Flanagan at Wembley Arena.  I'd been really busy leading up to this and hadn't realised that there would be a support act on, so when Zoe Lyons appeared on stage we settled in for a bonus half hour or so of comedy.  None of us were familiar with Zoe's work and I didn't hold out much hope of the teenager getting on board, but a few seconds into her routine and all three of us were cracking up.  In fact, at one point the teenager actually wiped tears away from his eyes.  She is hilarious!

She spoke about all kinds of things including her struggles with alopecia (she's an ambassador for Alopecia UK) her midlife crisis and her experience with the menopause.  And as she launched into her final joke (which had my son and I doubled over in hysterics) all I remember thinking was, I need this woman in my project!

I googled her the next day and liked everything I read about her.  Her willingness to speak about her alopecia has helped so many other people going through the same thing and her hilarious take on the menopause and midlife in general is keeping a lot of women in the same boat laughing!

I couldn't believe she answered my instagram message saying she'd love to take part in the 40 Over 40 project. We had a brilliant session down in Hove where she lives, and she was generous enough to allow me to take photographs of her with her wig (Wiggy Stardust) which thankfully she no longer needs to wear. 

Thank you Zoe for being part of this, and for not batting an eyelid when I asked you to squeeze in sideways between two beach huts and strike a post. You're the best.

 

Zoe Lyons by Jenny SmithZoe Lyonsby Jenny Smith

 

You’ve been very open talking about your alopecia which will have helped loads of people, do you mind sharing with us the events leading up to it?  Do you have any words of wisdom for other people going through it?

I first had alopecia when I was a kid at about 10 years old. That was triggered by my parents separation and moving away from where we lived in Surrey to Scotland. I found the whole thing really stressful and my hair loss has always been linked to stress. My hair grew back and I only had occasional small patches through my adulthood until this most recent episode where I ended up losing 80% of my hair. Again it was triggered by stress, lots of things, the pandemic and its impact on work, menopause and things that I had been struggling with mentally for years.It was a really tricky few years and I could feel the stress in my body like electricity and I just knew I was going to lose most if not all of my hair. I watched it disappear down the plug hole over the course of about 10 months. I have to admit it was totally devastating at the time. To feel crippled by the depression and then to look in the mirror and to see that I no longer even looked like myself was quite the challenge. Everything felt out of control and so the only thing I could do was attempt to take back some control, to own it and to talk about it. Sharing my experience with alopecia helped me as much as anyone else who felt less alone by my talking about it. Alopecia is an unpredictable condition, it can be very different for everyone so my advice would be to firstly to get a proper diagnosis. I am now an ambassador for Alopecia UK and they are a brilliant charity who have lots of information. It’s more common than most people know so don’t sit in silence, reach out and get some help.

 

Zoe Lyons by Jenny SmithZoe Lyonsby Jenny Smith

 

The menopause took me completely by surprise with symptoms I had no idea were anything to do with the menopause.  What was your experience like?  

I joke that my menopause arrived one weekend unexpectedly. I went from being fine to having 30 hot flushes a day. I genuinely thought the heater in my car was broken. I went straight on HRT, I had a big telly job coming up and I thought I cant be bursting into a sweat every few minutes. I take a low dose and it helped right away with the flushes. There are of course all the other symptoms that come along, the brain fog has been pretty bad and then there is the itchy skin and those days of absolutely no energy or motivation. At least we talk about it now, my mothers generation really did have to grin and bare.

 

Zoe Lyons by Jenny SmithZoe Lyonsby Jenny Smith

Thankfully we see way more female stand-ups now, certainly compared to what I saw growing up.  What’s your experience been like being a woman on the comedy circuit?  Has it changed much since you started in terms of women in comedy?   

It was quite hard when I first started on the circuit. There was still very much the mentality that women couldn’t do stand up, that women weren’t funny. I was often introduced on stage as if I was a speciality act. What made the experience more difficult was that promotors only ever put one woman on the bill. You were always the odd one out and as a result the audience saw you like that too. Thankfully the circuit is a very different place these days. There are so many fantastic women on the circuit and there is so much more diversity in comedy.

 

Zoe Lyons by Jenny SmithZoe Lyonsby Jenny Smith

 

This project is celebrating women in midlife and beyond - what positives are there for you being the age we are now compared to when we were younger?

I’m 51 now and I am only just beginning to feel like I properly fit my skin. I see my break down during the pandemic as a bit of a gift now. It has allowed me to reconnect with myself and change behaviours/ thought patterns that I had carried through the first part of my life that just weren’t doing me any good. I am very happy to be this age, I am very happy to be here and I am very happy with my new, now curly, hair! I’m excited for the future may hold.

 

Zoe Lyons by Jenny SmithZoe Lyonsby Jenny Smith

 

My podcast welcomes hormonal anecdotes from women (menopausal meltdowns, hot flushes, PMT, etc), do you have anything you’d like to share? 

Women need to keep exercising into menopause to stay strong and there is now lots of research that shows that lifting weights is good for us as we age. I started doing CrossFit a few years ago and I really love it. I have found though that my hormonal clumsiness can get quite bad. My coordination is all over the place so this week at the gym I managed to smack myself in the face while attempting a clean and jerk. It made a proper clanking sound, I was so embarrassed and I woke the next day with a real shiner. I am weirdly proud of it. I’m keeping fit but you need to give me a wide berth as my movements are largely unpredictable. 

 

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Don’t sweat the small stuff and it's mostly small stuff. 

 

Zoe Lyons by Jenny SmithZoe Lyonsby Jenny Smit

I think it's fair to say that our hormones have affected us all at some time in our lives be it puberty, PMT, pregnancy or the menopause.  If that's you then check out my podcast, Dear Hormones, hopefully it'll make you smile. You can listen to it here.
 


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