Culture Pie: Bente Engelstoft’s Self(ie) Portrait

To celebrate the upcoming trunk show for The MCB Shop at Sir & Madame (see details below), The MCB Project asked a handful of women in creative fields to submit their photographs  along with their stories for our Self(ie) Portrait series.

I first met Bente Engelstoft after seeing her perform with an ensemble of improvisational actors at Second City Chicago. I was once a student of the Second City Conservatory and I’ve developed an uncanny ability to tell when someone is trying way too hard on stage. Bente was the most natural actor on the stage that night. Her unpretentious style of delivery also made her the funniest person as well. Bente is wearing the S.H.I.N.E x Alicia P turban.

This is her story.

Bente Engelstoft for The MCB Shop

Bente Engelstoft for The MCB Shop


With the exception of a few years in grade school where I wanted to be a veterinarian that only treated dogs, I have always wanted to be an actor.

Growing up, I was (still am) an only child and spent a lot of time around adults. I learned early on that there were two ways to make sure I didn’t get sent to bed from a dinner party: keep very quiet and hope they forget you are there or make them laugh. I chose the latter. I had a whole set, first I’d warm em up with a few jokes that were just a little too old to be delivered by a child, but innocent enough that it was charming, then a few impressions of impressions I had seen on TV and finally a carelessly choreographed dance number as my big finish. The music blasting from the stereo would remind my parents that it was someone’s bed time, and so I would wave to my adoring fans as my mother led me by the hand up the stairs to my room.

In college I majored in theatre arts with the intention of becoming a serious stage actor. On a whim, I took a course in autobiographical theatre. I found that when I shared my real life experiences in my art, my true stories, even the most serious and intimate would turn comical in my delivery. At first I rejected the fact that anyone saw me as a comedian. I was going to be Meryl Streep goddammit! But after a while, I decided to embrace it. And the more I shared, the more I opened up, the more honest I was, the better my work became.

Eventually it would lead me to Chicago, to iO, the Second City, CIC, theaters that would encourage and nurture my desire to use truth for comedy. I learned that we are all the fool. Some of us just hide it better than others. And there is nothing better than holding up a mirror to an audience and helping them to laugh at themselves, by laughing at you.

Editor’s Note: Bente has an Instagram profile under @ijustwokeup; it’s a year-long project where she takes a photo of herself first thing the the morning. Here is what she has to say about the project:

The project has been an exploration of Selfie Culture – let’s document where we are and who we are with and how cute we look – Let’s capture our very best selves.
In this case I aim to capture my most honest self. It is often ridiculous, sometimes repetitive but mostly autobiographical.

You may follow Bente on Twitter as well.


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